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But for the on-form favorite, more than mere heat stroke was at play. Apparently before the match Azarenka had sustained a concussion while warming up before the match, and the medical staff was especially at the alert precisely because they were monitoring Azarenka for any change in her physical state. The heat certainly didn’t help matters, but concussions are a real fear for every athlete — all Azarenka had done was trip while jogging to warm up, hitting her head and her arm in the process. Indeed any of us can endure their effects at any moment. The Azarenka case cautions vigilance in any instance where a head injury is part of the equation. So with a sense of treading softly in mind, let’s wade through what was a virtual minefield for seeds throughout the Grand Slam as Day 3 action got underway at the 2010 U.S. Open…
In addition to Azarenka’s sad demise, there were other upsets sprinkled throughout the women’s draw. In the first match of the day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, for instance, former world #1 Ana Ivanovic continued her resurgence against #21 seed Zheng Jie. The 27-year-old Chinese woman, who in the most recent hard-court Grand Slam reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January, couldn’t find a way to thwart the ambitions of her Serbian opponent. Ivanovic finished the match off before noon even struck, a 6-3 6-0 victory sending her through to the next round. There she will meet not #13 Marion Bartoli but Virginie Razzano, Bartoli’s fellow Frenchwoman who took their second-round encounter 7-5 6-4 on Court 13. Razzano, who reached the fourth round in Queens four years ago in the 2006 U.S. Open, is playing well as of late after seeing her ranking plummet twenty spots following the Australian Open. This third-round tie will be a battle between women trying to return to their previous competitive apex.
#28 Alisa Kleybanova was far too easily dispatched by Sara Errani 6-2 6-3 over on Court 4. And the last upset for the women on the third day of play came for the last seeded player amongst the 32. Tsvetana Pironkova, who had been playing some stellar tennis heading to New York, found herself up against a hot qualifier in Mandy Minella. The 24-year-old Luxembourger journeywoman, playing in her first-ever Grand Slam main draw after winning her three qualifiers, made things difficult all the way for Pironkova as the favorite lost out 6-4 6-0. By the end the Bulgarian seemed only to be going through the motions, wholly resigned to her fate as an early ouster in the tournament.
So instead of facing off against Venus Williams in the third round, Pironkova returns home… and instead it will be Minella who continues her storybook run. A win against Venus would seal the deal and mark Minella as one of those late-blooming up-and-comers on the WTA Tour. Even now Luxembourg smiles on her efforts, as proud as they are of the exploits the Schleck brothers perpetuate throughout cycling.
With the entirety of the bottom half of the bracket complete (including the early exit of American hopeful Melanie Oudin, unable to replicate last year’s quarterfinals run), everyone else held their seed into the third round of play. The top half commences tomorrow, with Wozniacki and company getting their own chance at advancement… hopefully there are no more concussions nor heat-related problems on the courts going forward, for the women or the men…
The upsets didn’t stop on the women’s side, by any means. If anything, the gentlemen went for quality over quantity as two top-ten males were issued their walking papers on just the third day of play. And there was no bigger name to fall on Wednesday than Tomas Berdych. The Czech late-bloomer had been enjoying the best year of his career to date, reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros before one-upping himself and facing down Nadal in the Wimbledon final. But in New York Berdych was no match for Michael Llodra. The rising tide has lifted all French ships in this field, it seems, as Llodra — ranked 27 spots lower than Berdych heading into the tournament — added on to an already-stellar season with another scalp for his memory box.
And American hopes took a huge tumble when Andy Roddick lost a tense five-set match versus Janko Tipsarevic. Playing under the lights, in prime time, was an unkind proposition for Roddick this day, as the Serbian pretty much mopped the DecoTurf with the aging American. Roddick managed to take the first set 6-3, but that was as close to the third round as he would get this time around. Tipsarevic wouldn’t give another opening past that, earning himself the advancement. The fascinating part, looking at the statistics, is that Roddick was hardly dominated — as his slide in the rankings this summer shows, age and the miles of wear are finally starting to bring Andy back to the pack.
Though, for all the talk about how Roddick’s demise would signal the end of American men’s tennis as we know it, the field aside from Roddick is all still alive. Taylor Dent gets a shot at #5 Robin Soderling in the second round, James Blake faces off against Peter Polansky for a chance at playing Djokovic the next round, and Ryan Harrison snuck up on #15 Ivan Ljubicic. Three more remain amongst the 32 seeds as well — bunched together in the top twenty, #18 John Isner, #19 Mardy Fish and #20 Sam Querrey all avoided the fate of Roddick. Any one of these three could easily be hoisting the trophy come two Sundays from now, with Fish the most likely, Querrey next and Isner lagging only because of a nagging ankle injury. The future is bright for the American hopes at their home Slam indeed…