Wednesday, August 29, 2012

US Open Report: First Three Days

Like last year, the weather made an early impact at this year's US Open as a deluge of rain interrupted play for two hours on the first day of play. Thankfully, that was pretty much it for rain delays and the weather has been perfectly cooperative since through the first three days of the tournament. I actually ended up going to the opening night session on Monday to see Kim Clijsters and Roger Federer play. It was my first evening session and first time back at the tennis center for at least a couple years and it was glorious. Onwards to some of the stories of the first three days...

Kim Clijsters Bids Farewell

Three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters called it a singles career after losing two tiebreak sets to Laura Robson during her second round match. Despite the loss, Clijsters was able to show glimpses of her champion's mettle throughout the match fighting off two match points and even doing some of her trademark splits to the delight of the adoring crowd who gave her a standing ovation. One of the friendliest tennis players you'll ever meet, Clijsters was admired for her affable personality as much as her titles. She ends her career with 41 singles titles including 4 Grand Slam titles, three of which she got after coming back from her first retirement. Today's match is not her final goodbye, however, as she is still slated to play doubles and mixed doubles. After those, the sky is the limit for her. I'm just really got I got to see her play live one last time.

Five-Set Comebacks for Everyone

In honor of Clijsters who has one of the best comeback stories in tennis, it's interesting to note that through the first round this year, nine men have come back from a 0-2 set deficit to win the match. This matches a US Open record and again it's still the first round. Among the winners are 8th seed Janko Tipsarevic and 12th seed Marin Cilic. Among those who let a 2-0 set lead get away from them are 10th seed Juan Monaco, 21st seed Tommy Haas, and the perennially unlucky Nicholas Mahut. Not sure if this adds anything to the ongoing debate of the necessity of five-set matches that's been the go-to topic since the Olympics, but it's definitely something to note.

Americans Find Hope in Hometown Slam

And continuing with the theme of comebacks, Brian Baker, the tennis comeback story of the year, leads a slew of Americans out of the first round. For Baker, his first round match was his first win here since 2005! He is joined by male newcomers Jack Sock, Dennis Novikov, Steve Johnson, and Bradley Kahn into the second round. And even though they are far from their prime Andy Roddick and James Blake also win their first round matches. As for the American women, sisters Venus and Serena Williams moved through easily taking down younger American players while Mallory Burdette and Varvara Lepchenko shock with third round entries.

Germany's Troubles and Other Seeds Fall

Not everything is an inspiring story as a handful of seeds fall early including 8th seed Caroline Wozniacki who was getting over a knee injury. Already mentioned are 23rd seed Clijsters, 10th seed Monaco, and 21st seed Haas. Haas is one of five high-profile Germans who tumbled early. The others are 16th seed Sabine Lisicki, 18th seed Julia Goerges, 22nd seed Florian Mayer, and last year's quarterfinalist Andrea Petkovic. Other notable seeds to fall early include 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 21st seed Christina McHale, 22nd seed Francesca Schiavone, 28th seed Mikhail Youzhny, and 29th seed Victor Troiki.

Night Session Blow Outs

On the other end of the spectrum, the traditional night sessions of the US Open has seem the past three nights to be a little more than exhibition matches where the top seeds school their outmatched opponent. As I said previously, I got to see Federer and Clijsters win in straight sets that first night. The next night Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams lost four games between the two of them against their opponents while tonight Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray were business as usual. In fact, other top seeds have moved easily through the first round which should bode well for the later rounds.

I'm looking forward to going back one more day this year, specifically during the upcoming Labor Day weekend, but even though I've only been forced to watch the matches at home, it's been a pretty great experience mostly because of ESPN2's comprehensive coverage as well as the wonderful livestreaming video at the website enabling me to watch matches from six courts in great quality. Yay tennis!

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