NEW YORK —Today was yet another amazing day of tennis. Here we go:
Out!: #3 Seed and 2006 US Open Champion Maria Sharapova is out of the tournament after a run-in with Italy’s #26 Flavia Panetta. Sharapova again dropped the first set, as she has done many times this past year. Until today, the #3 seed was 12-0 in all 3-set matches, so she likely had confidence into the deciding set. But today was different, as the Italian prevailed in the decider, leaving a wide opening in that section of the draw.
Following the Bryan brothers exit, another highly ranked doubles team has hit the showers. The #2 team of Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor were defeated today by the British doubles team of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins.
American Wom(e)n (and men): While Sloane Stephens and Vania King will continue their runs tomorrow, Day 5 featured more American women, although both matches resulted in losses. Unfortunately for native New Yorker Irina Falconi, she ran into #22 Sabine Lisicki, who has been on quite a roll this summer. Falconi was powered off the court, as Lisicki moved on in dominating fashion 6-0, 6-1. The local star of the tournament, Christina McHale, struggled against the 25th seed Maria Kirilenko, falling to the Russian veteran 6-2, 6-3 in only 90 minutes. Even with the disappointing loss, McHale’s ranking will improve with her three rounds at this year’s Open.
A more successful American story today involved Donald Young. Young, aged 22, has, in some circles, been considered somewhat of a disappointment because of his career record and, to some extent, his behavior. The Atlanta resident, however, had a great victory today over #14 Stanislas Wawrinka from Switzerland, convincingly taking a 5th set tiebreak 7-1. Up next, Young will face Juan Ignacio Chela. And finally, in the Youngster-Meets-Idol category, Andy Roddick was victorious against 2010 and 2011 Junior Champion and fellow Nebraskan Jack Sock, winning in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
A couple other American veterans played today, with differing success. Connecticut-based James Blake also exited the tournament, losing to Spain’s #5 David Ferrer in straight sets. But lesser known Alex Bogolomov, Jr. won against Rogerio Dutra Da Silva of Brazil, and will next face fellow (and significantly taller) American John Isner.
The Usual Suspects: #2 Rafael Nadal, #5 David Ferrer, #18 Juan Martin Del Potro, and #26 seed John Isner moved on easily today. Peng Shuai , the #13 seed, also moved on in straight sets, defeating #19 Julia Goerges.
More Court Casualties: The bug is still here. Today’s retirement was France’s Nicholas Mahut, who will forever be linked with the longest match in Wimbledon history against John Isner. Mahut retired in the third set of his match against Rafael Nadal, after dropping the first two sets to the Spaniard 6-2. After a slightly tougher match than usual for Nadal in the previous round, no doubt the #2 ranked player welcomed the easy victory.
Grinders: By far, the Completely-Crazy-Going-the-Distance-Match-of-the-Day belongs to Andy Murray and Robin Haase of the Netherlands. Murray started off slow, losing the first set in a tiebreak. He then seemed to go away completely, losing the second set 6-2, and a buzz started in the crowd that another top seed might be eliminated. Murray returned to form, taking the next two sets (including a 6-0 fourth set) and was up 4-0 in the fifth set before the wheels began to fall off again, as Haase evened the deciding set at 4-4. Finally, however, the Scot prevailed, and was jubilant in the victory. Murray will need the massage therapist and rest, as he next faces 25th seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Australian 9th seed Samantha Stosur also had a marathon match (timed at 3 hours and 16 minutes) with Russian veteran Nadia Petrova, winning 7-6, 6-7, 7-5.
The Nice-Guy-Award-of-the-Day: …goes to Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro faced his fellow countrymen (both were even born in the same town) and good friend Diego Junqeira. The much shorter Junqueira (Del Potro is 6’6’’) struggled to stay in each point, diving and putting forth significant effort. At one point, Junqueira fell during a point, sliding several feet. Del Potro, looking concerned, went over to his friend’s side of the net to make sure he was okay (he was). The crowd oohed and ahhed appreciatively, of course.
Wait. Who are You Again?: As the US Open draw is, as all tournaments, constructed to increase difficulty for the top-seeded players, thus an unexpected defeat or withdrawal of those players causes a ripple effect in the schedule. This year, holes left by the departures of the #5 seed Petra Kvitova and #12 Agnieska Radwanska mean that either Germany’s Angelique Kerber or Monica Niculescu, both relative unknowns to the casual fan, will be a 2011 US Open Quarterfinalist.
Day 6 Preview: Day 6 is expected to bring even more competitive play, as more seeded players begin to meet in the draw. A likely entertaining pairing will be between the 11th seed Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and #19 Fernando Verdasco. American teen Sloane Stephens will face #16 Ana Ivanovic, while Vania King will meet #1 Caroline Wozniacki. Another great match should be the (highly underranked) 28th seed Serena Williams against the #4 Victoria Azarenka, a match that under other circumstances might be a semifinal match. Roger Federer, Mardy Fish, and Novak Djokovic will also be in action.
Photo courtesy of onthegotennis.com