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Baseline to Baseline from Flushing
NEW YORK (BASN) — The first two days of the U.S. Open is a smorgasbord with every court featuring a match.
On Court 11, 10th seeded Victoria Azarenka faced the Romanian Monica Niculescu in a match that featured occasional Romanian curses, sharp crisp passing shots, an occasional soft serve that couldn’t get you a ticket on the interstate and one up yours gesture from Azarenka.
She won the first set 6-0 but the second set was one of those matches that neither player seem to grab hold until the end when Niculescu finally held serve to clinch the match.
Both players continuously broke the other serve and neither could gain consistency on their serve but in the third set, Azarenka showed the skills that earned her the 10th seed.(Victoria’s stay at the Open would end on Wednesday when she succumbed to extreme heat and possible concussion from a fall in practice before the match.)
In the opening match of the day, Melanie Oudin showed the style and skills that won her fans and plaudits last year. Oudin won her way into America’s heart when she defeated top rank and former titlist on her way to the quarterfinal; becoming the youngest since Venus Williams to reach quarterfinal.
This past season, Oudin had her sophomore slump as she proved to be inconsistent all year but at the age of 18, she has a bright future ahead.
The native Georgian has the tenacity of a bulldog and quick feet that allows her to keep ball in play. Against Olga Savachuk, she dominated the last nine games to take the match 6-3, 6-0.
Following Oudin on Ashe Stadium was the defending champion Kim Clijsters who ran through Greta Arn in the first set. It was as if Clijsters was playing as a machine as she simply hit everything Arn threw at her.
This changed dramatically in the second set as Arn broke Clijsters twice and rushed to a four-game to nil lead in the set. Clijsters finally broke Arn and then she took command as she found the game she had in the first set.
Clijsters won seven of the last eight games to win the set and match.
With sister Serena on the mend from a foot injury, Venus has the pressure of the being the remaining Williams sister going for a title. Williams easily defeated Roberta Vinci but she admitted after the match that her knee still bothered her.
If she is healthy, she is the favorite to win the US Open but if the knee is still bothering her; there will be no final for the Williams sisters.
After Williams dispatched her opponent, Federer reminded the tennis world of how great he can be when he easily defeated the Argentina player Brian Dabul with his usual variety of shots including his patented shot between the leg for a point.
Mardy Fish began his quest for his first major by opening a six-zip first set in which he dominated all phrases of the game. Over the next two sets, his opponent Hajek managed to take the next two sets as he settled his game and even managed to break Fish twice while holding his own serve.
Fish took control of the match when he matched his first set bagel game as he won six straight and then added five more straight games in the final set before Hajek managed to win one game before being dispatched.
The key game was the second game of the fifth set in which Fish managed to break Hajek after a great rally in which both men made great plays. After the game, Hajek merely stood by the stadium exhausted and cramping. From that point, Hajek played wounded and Fish finished him off.
Novak Djokovic managed to escape a five set nail biter in which an upset seemed imminent after he fell behind two sets to one to fellow Serbian Viktor Troicki. Djokkovic sneaked past the fourth set 7-5 and concluded his victory with a 6-3 final set. and past winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova took three sets to progress.
Kuznetsova looked dominant at times over Japanese Kimko Date Krumm who at the age of 40 still managed to stay in the match by winning the second set. Kuzentsova won the third set 6-1 when she put it all together with quick serves along with sharp fast passing sots.
James Blake may be looking at the end of his career but on Louis Armstrong, he bought back the old Blake as he defeated Belgium tennis player Kristof Vliegen in three set. His serve was sharp and his baseline game featured quick passing shots as he appeared one step ahead of his opponent.
Rafael Nadal was forced by Russian Teymuraz Gabashvilli into two straight tie breaks in the first two sets. Gabashvilli won more games in those sets that he had won previously against Nadal in his career.
Nadal did not finally break his opponent until the seventh game of the third set. In the final match of the second day, top seeded Caroline Wozniacki dispatched Chelsey Gullickson with ease 6-1, 6-1
The third day was good afternoon for Americans as John Isner overcame sore ankle to move on to the second round with a three set victory over Frederico Gil and Sam Querrey took four set to defeat fellow American Bradley Klahn plus Venus Williams advance to the second set but had some difficulty in the first set as Rebecca Marino forced a tie break and kept Ms. Williams on her heels.
It took the second set for Williams to straighten her game out to eke out a second round. The biggest surprise was American Ryan Harrison upsetting 25th seeded Ivan Ljubicic.
If the afternoon was good for Americans, the evening was not as good as Janko Tipsavevic upset Andy Roddick in four sets. Roddick won the first set 6-3 and it appeared that he had the match in hand but in the second set, Roddick played defense and for the next two sets, he played lethargically as Tipsavevic took advantage.
The fourth set was desperation as both men held their service game but in the tie break, Tipsavevic broke a Roddick serve to make the score 3-1 and from that point, he went on to take the tiebreak as he held his own serves to produce the biggest upset of the night.
In the opening three days, Kim Clijsters looked like the woman to beat as she easily outpaced Australian Sally Peers for a second round victory. When she puts it all together, she is the best player in the world when Serena is at home watching.
As for the men, the opening days did not produce any surprises except for the seventh seeded Tomas Berdych losing to Michael Llorda thus eliminating one big serving dark horse.
Nadal looked like Nadal and even though he had trouble with his first round, his service game looked sharp on US Open hard court and we may yet see a Federer-Nadal final.