A few matches remain on Wednesday, such as the second-round encounters of Sharapova and Murray, but we report on the most notable events from a day highlighted by a memorable clash between the past and the future of women’s tennis.
Laura Robson: At 5-5 in the second-set tiebreak, the fiery lefty from Great Britain struck a blazing forehand down the line that illustrated her vastly improved shot-making and the confidence that she always had possessed. Throughout her upset over Clijsters, a match of excellent quality, Robson revealed how far she has progressed over the last year in offense, defense, and the mental game. She did not allow the predictable last stand from the three-time champion to unnerve her, as gallant as it was, and her victory celebration combined excitement with classiness. In a few years, we may remember this match less as Kim’s goodbye than Laura’s hello.
Ferrer: Deconstructing a towering opponent, one of the ATP’s best returners experienced little trouble in marching to a straight-sets victory. The fourth seed in the draw eyes an exceptionally inviting opportunity to reach the semifinals here, so a return to his first-half form after a slight lull may have stemmed from motivation elevated even higher than usual.
Women’s top seeds: Azarenka, Kvitova, Li, and Stosur all rolled through in uneventful straight sets. The lack of first-week drama surrounding them suggests that we might see more second-week drama in the women’s draw than we have the last few years here.
Mallory Burdette: Not content with one victory, the Stanford player comfortably knocked off the dangerous Hradecka in a clean performance that betrayed few nerves. Up next for her, in all probability, is Sharapova on Ashe or Armstrong.
Brian Baker: Receiving a comfortable draw, the survivor of injury after injury extended his improbable comeback to his home major in what must have seemed one of his most satisfying wins this year. Perhaps Baker will earn a more prestigious court assignment than 11 next time.
Gulbis: From what we know of Gulbis, a third-set tank would not have surprised when he lost the first two sets to Haas. Perhaps realizing that he possessed a fitness edge over his opponent, the Latvian nevertheless kept his head in the match and marched all the way back to victory over an opponent who had played eye-opening tennis during the last few months. An upset over Berdych in the first round of Wimbledon perhaps infused Gulbis with more confidence for this situation, and he can learn from his own comeback the value of staying competitive.
Lleyton Hewitt: In perhaps his final visit to the US Open, the 2002 champion registered a typically gritty four-set victory for his fans to savor.
Isner: While he won the crucial points in the fourth-set tiebreak to advance, always a good sign, he will need to finish off opponents like the decaying Malisse more efficiently to conserve his energy in the heat. Isner came within a point of a fifth set in his first-round match, and the accumulated toll of such epics has caught up to him before.
Tipsarevic: In the same section as Ferrer, one of last year’s quarterfinalists eyes an especially comfortable route to the second week. Or so it seemed, until he lost the first two sets to an unknown Frenchman before becoming the eighth man to rally from such a deficit. Since he lacks an overpowering weapon, Tipsarevic needs to work harder for each of his victories and is more susceptible to a streaky player on a torrid streak.
Clijsters: While she might not have scripted her departure from the US Open this way, losing to a teenager before a depleted Ashe stadium late in the afternoon, the three-time champion delighted the crowd with her signature splits and groundstrokes as crisp as they looked since Australia. A tense two-tiebreak affair perhaps concluded her career more appropriately and dramatically than would a routine, sloppy loss to a higher-ranked player. Don’t forget to watch her in singles and doubles as well.
Pavlyuchenkova: A quarterfinalist last year, she will drop 500 points and continue her downward spiral in the rankings following yet another lopsided defeat. Winning only three games from French wildcard Mladenovic, Pavlyuchenkova has shrunk to a shadow of her former self in one of the WTA’s more concerning recent narratives.
Youzhny: Pavlyuchenkova’s compatriot became one of the nine men to lose a first-round after winning the first two sets. After he conceded five total games in those two sets, Youzhny failed to close out the third set from 5-5, lost a fourth-set tiebreak 8-6, and then lost a fifth-set tiebreak 8-6: an excruciating end to a major tournament even by the standards of someone who has specialized in the excruciating.
Dimitrov: The Federer of the future looks at times more like the Gulbis of the future, such as when he fell in four sets today to the enigmatic Frenchman Benoit Paire. Something of an enigma himself, Dimitrov recalls Harrison and Tomic in their struggles to establish consistency, which only Raonic has achieved among those of the ATP’s rising generation.
Cirstea: After a three-set comeback over the 16th-seeded Lisicki in the first round, one might have expected the Romanian with massive but often wayward weapons to build momentum. She did for a set before winning three total games across the last two in a mirror image of her victory on Monday.