Defending Champions, Turkish Rookie First-Day Winners

NEW YORK – Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams are in the second round of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. So is Kim Clijsters, who is playing in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament for the first time since winning the women’s singles in 2005.
Also advancing to the second round on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was Marsel Ilhan, who on Monday became the first Turkish player in the Open Era to play a Grand Slam tournament men’s singles match.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

Where Federer, Williams and Clijsters took care of their first-round opponents in straight sets, Ilhan needed five sets to overcome Christophe Rochus of Belgium 3-6 6-3 3-6 7-5 7-5. Rochus served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set and had a 5-3 lead in the fifth. Each time the 22-year-old Ilhan went on a tear, winning four straight games.
It doesn’t get any easier for the 6-foot-3 (190m) Ilhan. His second-round opponent will be American John Isner, who ousted 28th-seeded Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-1 7-6 (14) 7-6 (5) on Monday. That winner will more than likely face fifth-seeded Andy Roddick in the third round.
Federer began his march toward becoming the first man since Bill Tilden in 1925 to win six straight US championship titles, and just the fourth man in history to win the same Grand Slam title for six successive years. Richard Sears and William Renshaw also did it, but the Challenge Round was in existence when they played, meaning they only had to win one match to defend their titles.
Devin Britton, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) champion from the University of Mississippi, was the latest blip on Federer’s march into history, falling 6-1 6-3 7-3 before a huge crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I was just a little nervous,” the 18-year-old said, referring to not only his opponent but also the 23,700-seat arena, the largest tennis stadium in the world. “It’s just 100 times bigger than anything I’ve ever played in front of. It was a little overwhelming.”
Britton, runner-up in the US Open Junior Boys last year, barely had a chance to catch his breath in the opening set, which was over in 18 minutes. But once he settled down, he showed flashes of the game that made him only the fourth freshman to win the NCAA men’s singles as he twice broke Federer’s serve.
That, however, only awakened the Swiss superstar.

“He had some very good spells, and I had to make sure from my side that I stayed with him and come back, because I was down a break in the second and in the third,” Federer said. “So it was good to still get through in three sets.”

The top-seeded player makes history almost every time he steps onto the court. His first-round victory made Federer the first player to earn USD $50 million in prize money. He also is attempting to win both Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year for the fifth time; no other man in the Open era has achieved it more than twice.

If Federer wins America’s premier tennis event, it would be the third time in his career that he has won three consecutive majors and the fourth time that he has won three majors in a calendar year. If he is playing on the final day of this two-week tournament, it would mean he had become the first man in history to reach all four Grand Slam finals in the same year on three separate occasions, following 2006 and 2007.

“I think this is stuff you can talk about when my career is over,” Federer said.

Serena Williams needed a set to get her game in sync. Then it was an easy 6-4 6-1 win over fellow American Alexa Glatch. The tournament’s second-seed is seeking her third Grand Slam tournament title of 2009, having won the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Surprisingly, those are her only championships this year.

“The girl I played today,” Williams said. “She’s American and she’s actually a really good player. She can be really good.”
It was the fourth US Open for Glatch, but her first appearance as a direct entrant. She didn’t fold against her heavily favored foe, matching her game for game through most of the 32-minute first set. The second set took only two minutes less time to play, but there was no doubt about the outcome.

Clijsters made her first New York appearance since winning the title four years ago. Since then she retired, got married, gave birth to a daughter and unretired. Against Viktoriya Kutuzova, it looked as if Clijsters had never gone away.

The former world number one player pounded out a 6-1 6-1 victory to open this year’s Championships.

“Obviously the girl made a lot of mistakes today, but I really felt like I was able to do what I had to do and work on the things that weren’t going as well in Cincinnati and Toronto,” Clijsters said. “Now it’s a matter of trying to go keep this going.”

In other early men’s matches Monday, eighth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Germany’s Dieter Kindlmann 6-3 6-4 7-5; 12th-seeded Robin Soderling stopped Spain’s Albert Montanes 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-4; and 14th-seeded Tommy Robredo eliminated American Donald Young 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-3.

Among the women winners Monday were eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, 6-1 6-1 over Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru; 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-0 over Romania’s Edina Gallovits; 12th-seeded Agnieszska Radwanska, 6-1 6-2 over Austria’s Patricia Mayr; 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli, 6-1 6-0 over Paraguay’s Rossana De Los Rios; and 15th-seeded Samantha Stosur, 6-4 4-6 6-4 over Japan’s Ai Sugiyama.