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2010 U.S. Open: Day 1 Recap

| by Sports Nickel
Men’s and women’s singles play got underway on Monday at Flushing Meadows, the last Grand Slam tournament of the season finally arriving on the calendar. The courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center were full throughout the day as the first-round matches played out amidst the heat of the New York summer. And to kick things off, Arthur Ashe Stadium hosted last year’s All-American darling Melanie Oudin as she tried to put an inconsistent 2010 behind her with another showing like last year’s revelatory quarterfinals run. 

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Her opponent, Olga Savchuk, had little to no chance with the partisan crowd firmly behind their gilded Georgian gal. Oudin dispatched of her Ukrainian foe 6-0 6-3 and yielded the court so quickly that fans were left with a gap between the first match of the day and the next on the program. Oudin might not have been one of my 32 picks in the pre-tournament bracket I drew up, but she has apparently arrived in Queens super-motivated to make amends for a letdown season.

It was the perfect way to kick off a day that offered up some strong showings by many a contender, a few choice upsets and more than one scare for a favorite. Without further ado, let’s get to looking at where each bracket stands after a day of play…

WOMEN’S SINGLES

After Oudin and Savchuk cleared the premier showcase court, it was defending champion Kim Clijsters’ opportunity to show that she’s the woman to beat this year once more. She had little trouble of her own, taking out Hungary’s Greta Arn in straight sets (the first a 6-0 drubbing before the 7-5 closeout) and setting up a second-round date with 19-year-old Australian Sally Peers. Peers is currently 1-0 lifetime in Grand Slam play, her appearance this year at the U.S. Open her first time reaching a main draw since turning professional this year, after beating Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak in the opening round in just 48 minutes (and allowing the vet just one game total in the 6-0 6-1 slaughter). Clijsters should advance, but she’ll have to watch out for the 2009 Wimbledon girls’ doubles champion.

Louis Armstrong Stadium hosted two big women’s matches back-to-back during the day. First #24 Daniela Hantuchova, making up for a recent loss in WTA play, vanquished former world #1 Dinara Safina in a grudge match that ultimately saw the Russian regress right back to her sloppy form that had only looked to be getting less erratic. Hantuchova broke my bracket with her win, but ultimately the better player won on the day. Right behind the Slovak and the Russian, #5 Samantha Stosur survived dropping the first set to Elena Vesnina to storm back for a 3-6 7-6(2) 6-1 win. It was a strong show of resilience from a woman many wrote off in this tournament. After all, the victory over Vesnina made her just 3-6 lifetime at the venue, and she is coming off an opening-round loss at Wimbledon. Stosur looks motivated once more and able to claw her way out of a hole, a dangerous fact for the rest of the contenders.

Ana Ivanovic announced just how dangerous she could be in this tournament as an unseeded darkhorse with a convincing opening-round win...

The Grandstand court served witness to Francesca Schiavone’s return to Flushing Meadows after capturing the first Grand Slam title of her career earlier this year in Paris. Schiavone made light work of Ayumi Morita, advancing on a 6-1 6-0 victory that should help build her confidence going forward in the draw. Her second-round opponent, Maria Elena Camerin, has never advanced beyond the second round in eight appearances at the U.S. Open and is unlikely to go any further this year. To bookend women’s play in the Grandstand, Ana Ivanovic easily skirted by Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-2. Another former world #1 like Safina, Ivanovic has also fallen in the rankings but has seemed to be turning the corner once more as the U.S. Open approached. Unseeded in the tournament due to her current #40 world ranking, every one of the 32 seeded players will be wary of facing Ivanovic in the draw.

Other pairs of big names advancing through easily on the outer courts include #13 Marion Bartoli (6-3 6-2 over Edina Gallovits) and #19 Flavia Pennetta (6-2 6-1 over Irina Falconi) on lucky Court 13; #16 Shahar Peer (6-4 7-5 over Jelena Kostanic Tosic) and #21 Jie Zheng (7-6(0) 7-6(1) over Timea Bacsinszky) on Court 4; and #20 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6-4 6-1 over Kristina Barrois) and #28 Alisa Kleybanova (7-6(4) 6-2 over Johanna Larsson) on Court 6. #32 Tsvetana Pironkova (6-3 6-4 over Renata Voracova on Court 7), #27 Petra Kvitova (6-4 7-5 over Lucie Hradecka on Court 10) and #12 Elena Dementieva (6-1 6-2 over Olga Govortsova on Court 11) also had no problem booking passage to the second round.

The only real near-upsets on the women’s side (aside from my personal frustration at expecting more than I probably should have from Safina) came on the outer courts as well. #29 Alona Bondarenko had a scare against Vera Dushevina, dropping the second set 7-5 after bageling Dushevina in the first set. She closed out the oddly-balanced 6-0 5-7 6-4 victory to pull through, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Likewise #10 Victoria Azarenka, a heavy darkhorse favorite prior to the tournament based on her current form, stumbled as well in her second set against Monica Niculescu in a strangely similar 6-0 5-7 6-1 scoreline.

And in prime time, the sole Williams sister at this year’s U.S. Open made her debut under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium and advanced once more. Her first-round foe, Italian journeywoman Roberta Vinci, could offer up little resistance as the two-time former champion started her bid for a third U.S. Open in full force. Showing no signs of the knee troubles which kept her out of the summer hard-court series, Venus played smooth, effective tennis to close things out 6-4 6-1. If she can continue to heat up as the calendar winds into September, the woman a decade removed from her greatest New York successes could be right back in the thick of things…

MEN’S SINGLES

It was a birthday celebration for Andy Roddick as he earned himself a place in the second round with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 over Stephane Robert at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Playing before Venus and Vinci took to the court, the now-28-year-old Roddick looked as strong as he did in reaching the semifinals in Cincinnati before this Slam. The #9 seed may not be as powerful as in his past, but no longer suffering the setback of mononucleosis — the same illness that saw Federer off his game in 2008 — should help Roddick keep his momentum going forth into the second week of the fortnight. The standard-bearer of American men’s tennis sees the sand dropping in the hourglass and knows not too many more good chances are going to come up for him in his career. So this Flushing Meadows takes on added significance for a domestic great.

We’ve also seen his most recent nemesis, Roger Federer, make an impressive first impression in the 2010 U.S. Open at Ashe when he cruised past Argentine journeyman Brian Dabul. Hitting well all around the court, Federer certainly looked like the man whose dominance of this tournament has been nearly unhindered the past six seasons. Andreas Beck is up next, and unlikely to seriously offer any resistance to the Swissman’s second straight victory as Federer sets out on a new streak. (Last year’s finals loss to Juan Martin del Potro, absent this year, was his first defeat in Queens since 2003, a span of 41 contests undefeated.)

2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt couldn't catch up enough to what Paul-Henri Mathieu was returning and bombed out of the 2010 U.S. Open in the first round...

Some of the seeded players had real trouble advancing through. Five different seeds were battled all the way to a fifth set on Monday — and only four emerged from the quagmire to advance to the second round. #5 Robin Soderling blew a two-sets-to-none lead before finishing off qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer. Likewise #13 Jurgen Melzer blew his own two-set lead, forced to a tiebreaking fifth set by Dmitry Tursunov before living to play another day. #17 Gael Monfils was battled the whole way by American hopeful Robbie Kendrick, losing his first set before rebounding to scrape through in five. And #21 Albert Montanes emerged from the brink of elimination, down himself two sets to love at one point, before whipping off three straight set wins and stealing victory from the clutches of defeat (and Poland’s Michal Przysiezny).

The one that couldn’t survive the test, though, was a former winner a decade removed from his best. Lleyton Hewitt, who came into the tournament seeded #32, was dealt a healthy dose of humble pie when he left Louis Armstrong Stadium a defeated man. Paul-Henri Mathieu scored one of the biggest wins of his career with the defeat, leaving the 29-year-old Hewitt to wonder whether sticking with the sport is the wisest decision for another few years or whether it’d be better to simply cut his losses. Down two sets heading into the third, it appeared as though all was d0ne for the Aussie. But Hewitt pulled back one, reeled in another and it was winner-take-all from there. He was gassed by that point, though — the Frenchman got the better of his more esteemed opponent this time through, capturing the upset 6-3 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-1 to earn a date against Guillaume Rufin in the second round.

Also gone is #27 Fernando Gonzalez, who retired while all tied up a set apiece with qualifier Ivan Dodig. Dodig, 24 years old, scored one of his biggest wins by default when Gonzalez left the court with the score 6-7(2) 6-1 1-0. Dodig ultimately got the better of the Spaniard no matter what the final score reads. Gonzalez had committed more than twice as many unforced errors as his opponent by the time he withdrew, and Dodig fully deserves the place he earned opposite Dutch up-and-comer Thiemo de Bakker in the second round…

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