Although Tuesday at Carlsbad featured a lengthy sequence of matches, little occurred that left a lasting impact on the draw. Among the events of greatest significance was the loss of Stanford finalist Coco Vandeweghe , who confirmed impressions of her poor attitude by refusing to shake the umpire’s hand for no particular reason other than general dissatisfaction with the latter’s performance. Likely more dissatisfied with her own performance, Coco accompanied the woman whom she defeated in a three-set semifinal last week to the door as Wickmayer retired after a set.
The most intriguing match of Tuesday featured a rollercoaster battle between fellow Americans Melanie Oudin and Sloane Stephens. Since both have witnessed their stars soar in recent months, the US Open Series offers an ideal opportunity for each to consolidate their momentum on home soil. After a set and a half, it appeared as though Stephens would succeed in that task better than Oudin, but the 2009 US Open quarterfinalist showed flashes of her fabled tenacity that tournament in surviving two match points to steal the second set in a tiebreak. A stunned Stephens offered little resistance thereafter, as one might expect from a player of her inexperience. As she matures, she will develop a sterner competitive mentality on which she can rely in such situations. Displaying that sort of resilience on Tuesday was the highest-ranked young American in Christina McHale, who dropped serve just once in two tight sets while striking nine aces. Since she has not compiled a reputation as an intimidating server, that statistic indicates that the Carlsbad courts may play faster than usual this year.
On Wednesday came an even more formidable serving performance from an American woman older than McHale but not much more seasoned at the elite level. Still unbroken in the tournament, Varvara Lepchenko never faced a break point in dispatching Vandeweghe’s eighth-seeded conqueror, Chanelle Scheepers. One sympathized a bit with Scheepers for playing in the afternoon on the day after her night match when most of the other entrants had received more comfortable scheduling. Although she faced only one break point herself in the first set, she appeared to lose hope early in the second set after she double-faulted on a break point. Tasked with toppling another, more respected seed, qualifier Alexa Glatch could not repeat Lepchenko’s gift to the local fans. Credit the overmatched Glatch for recording a competitive effort against Nadia Petrova, a recent champion at the Dutch Open, but the Russian never faced a break point and thus never felt the pressure that has remained her Achilles heel over the years.
The only match of the day that did not feature an American proved a slight disappointment for those who have watched the WTA’s rising stars with eagerness. Producing inconsistent results despite a playing style predicated on consistency, Heather Watson fell to the qualifier and doubles specialist Yung-jan Chan, who converted all seven of her break-point opportunities. Chan has assembled a technically solid arsenal and can strike every shot except her serve with authority, but the ninety rankings positions between them suggested that the British 20-year-old should have found a way to survive. Instead, she struggled on her service games throughout the match, failing to serve out the second set and winning just half of her first-serve points overall. Considering her extended, unaccustomed success over the last few tournaments, perhaps a lull was inevitable.
Proof that service struggles need not doom a player to certain defeat came in the Wednesday night session, when world #10 Bartoli somehow navigated around 18 double faults to mount a third-set comeback against Vania King. The last of those donations came in the crucial seventh game of the deciding set, during which the top seed and title favorite faced two break points that would have offered King a chance to serve for the match not once but twice. Among the most notable of Bartoli’s many qualities is her determination, however, which resurfaced again as she fought to hold serve and then exploited the momentum shift to reel off the next three games. Denied a berth in the Olympics, she alone of the top women can focus on the North American hard courts, an area in which she has enjoyed some of her greatest successes outside the Wimbledon final in 2007. As top players ration their reserves of energy between Wimbledon and the Olympics, a woman who lost early at the first and will not play the second can feast upon the vulnerable draws that ensue. Throughout her rise to the highest echelon of the game, Bartoli rarely has allowed such opportunities to elude her.