U.S. Open Update: Roddick, Sharapova, and Safina eliminated

Isner

Competition just got interesting at the U.S. Open as Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, and Dinara Safina have all been eliminated.

Melanie Oudin’s face was flushed from a mix of exertion and excitement and maybe even a bit of bewilderment — “Yes, I DID beat Maria Sharapova!” running through her mind — when she stepped out of the U.S. Open locker room and saw Mom.

Several hours later, on the same court, another unheralded American who has lived in Georgia pulled off another upset of a past U.S. Open champion: 55th-ranked John Isner pounded 38 aces and eliminated No. 5 Andy Roddick 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5) to reach the fourth round at a major tournament for the first time.

Keeping with the day’s theme, No. 1-seeded Dinara Safina exited, too, a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) loser against 72nd-ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. After escaping the first two rounds with poorly played three-set victories, Safina wasted three match points Saturday night and finished with nine double-faults and 39 total unforced errors. Her departure means the Williams sisters are the only members of the top five women left in the field

On the plus side, at least Roddick was ousted by a fellow American. While I wanted to see Roddick take on Nadal in the final, I’m now completely rooting for this Isner character. The Georgia Bulldogs alum has yet to make his mark during his time on the ATP Tour. This looks like his chance.

Oudin’s story is even more exciting. Not only did she eliminate Maria Sharapova, but she upset Elena Dementieva, a two-time Grand Slam finalist and the Beijing Olympics gold medalist, in the second round. For the sake of diversity, I hope she makes it to the finals.

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U.S. Open Update: Everything taking its course

The third round of the 2009 U.S. Open has nearly finished amidst the surprisingly welcoming weather at New York’s National Tennis Center. So far, there haven’t been many surprises. The top 16-ranked men all advanced rather seamlessly. Serena and Venus have had an easy time as well. Unfortunately, they are in the same draw and will likely meet in the semis. The other top female players are, as always, playing below their rank, as upsets and narrow victories are happening left and right.

This has been a topsy-turvy U.S. Open for the women: No. 8 Victoria Azarenka’s 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 loss to No. 26 Francesca Schiavone on Friday came a day after No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 5 Jelena Jankovic were upset. All told, 11 of the 20 highest-seeded women are gone, and the third round is only halfway done.

No. 1 Dinara Safina made it to Saturday’s third round, but barely. She needed more than 4 1/2 hours to get through two three-set victories.

The best men have faced no such problems: No. 3 Rafael Nadal’s 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory Friday night in the last match of Day 5 means the men seeded 1-16 all reached the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in the 41-year Open era.

Once again, the lovely Ana Ivanovic failed to perform well in a Grand Slam, losing to Kateryna Bondarenko in the first round. Maria Sharapova, however, has advanced to third round and is currently in the third set against American Melanie Oudin. It would be great to see the former No. 1-ranked star face Serena or Venus in the finals.

Woods struggling at U.S. Open, shoots a 74 in Round 1

After rain delayed the opening round of the 2009 U.S. Open on Thursday, play resumed on Friday and perennial favorite Tiger Woods is off to a brutal start.

Woods shot a 74 in Round 1, which leaves him 4-over-par after his first day. The 74 marks his second worst start ever at the U.S. Open, with his worst coming in 2006 when he shot a 76 in the opening round.

For comparison, when Woods won the U.S. Open in 2000 he shot a 65 in the opening round and when he won again in 2002, he shot a 67 in Round 1. Compared to his 74 this year, he would appear to have his work cut out for him, but don’t forget he shot a 72 in Round 1 last year and won his third-career U.S. Open so he’s not out of it – not by a long shot.

As of this post, Drew Weaver and Graeme McDowell lead all play with 69, but not all golfers have wrapped up play yet in the first round. So considering he’s only five shots back of the leaders with 54 holes to play, Woods has a ton of time to make up ground.

Check out the Official Site of the U.S. Open for updated scores and more on this year’s event.

Tiger’s back!

Welcome Back, Eldrick!

That should be on the marquee outside the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Tucson this weekend, as Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA tour at the Accenture Match Play Championship. He has completed his rehabilitation from knee surgery and the next step for him is competing inside the ropes of a tournament. It has only been 253 days since Tiger’s tournament victory at the U.S. Open last June, but who’s counting?

The PGA executives were, that’s who. Their sport is back on the front page of websites and newspapers all throughout the world as everyone anticipates Woods’ return. The turnstiles will be ringing in Tucson this weekend, as golf’s main attraction will be on display once again. And the tour’s corporate sponsors will be smiling; television ratings should go through the roof. The tour has struggled to keep its sponsors, but Tiger’s return should give it a much-needed shot in the arm.


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Nadal-Federer renew their rivalry at the Australian Open

Their epic Wimbledon final from last summer seems like a long time ago but Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will renew their rivalry once again this evening as they vie for the men’s title at the Australian Open. This will be their seventh showdown in a Grand Slam final and it’s quickly becoming a must-see rivalry not unlike the Red Sox-Yankees or Lakers-Celtics for all sports fans.

Losing his #1 ranking in the world after Nadal’s thrilling victory in England has been a major catalyst in the revitalization of Federer’s career. He has added intensity and motivation to his smooth, effortless return volley game and hasn’t lost a match at a Grand Slam tournament (including a U.S. Open title last September) since Wimbledon.

Federer will be making his 18th appearance in a Grand Slam final and a victory Sunday evening in Melbourne will put him even with Pete Sampras at 14 Grand Slam tournament victories. His hard-court surface record is also very impressive, as Federer has won seven of the last eight Grand Slam tournaments played on that surface, including winning five straight U.S. Open titles.

The tennis world anointed Nadal as the new king of the sport last summer. The young Spaniard emerged at a time when tennis needed someone to challenge Federer’s dominance. Nadal will never emulate Roger’s play on the court, his sweating and grunting and his fist-pumping, emotional style are all big parts of his game. His top spin forehand shot will be taught to future generations for years to come.

The key to Nadal’s long-term success will be his play on hard-court surfaces. On clay, he has no equal, but Nadal’s improved play on the hard court and grass last year helped him take over tennis’ #1 ranking. Winning Wimbledon was a memorable moment in Nadal’s career, but winning on the hard-court in Melbourne tonight would be just as impressive.

The tennis world was bracing for an unknown to knock off Nadal or Federer, but for the past two weeks they reminded everyone just how good they are. The match is on in the wee hours of Sunday morning (3:30 AM ET) on ESPN2 here in the U.S., but the network is replaying the match later in the morning.

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