NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were the headliners Friday on Day 5 of the US Open Tennis Championships.
But who is Josselin Ouanna or some of the others who were playing second-round men’s matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center?
Pablo Cuevas, for example? Daniel Koellerer, for another? Thomaz Bellucci? Denis Istomin? Paul Capdeville?
Whoever they are, two of them are in the third round of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.
By beating Cuevas 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4, Koellerer increased his paycheck to at least $48,000 for his week. He also earned the third-round slot to go up against sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro advanced with a 7-6 (6) 6-3 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer of Austria.
“I love to play here,” del Potro said of the hard courts at Flushing Meadows. “I like the surface. I like the city. I like everything here, the crowd, the stadium not too big. I always dream with this moment. It’s my favorite.”
Also grabbing a spot in the third round was Istomin, a right-hander from Uzbekistan who outlasted Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 2-6 6-4 46 7-5 7-6 (4) in a marathon battle that lasted four hours, 48 minutes, the longest match in the tournament this year so far.
A native of Austria, the 26-year-old Koellerer used quarterfinal appearances in Acapulco, Mexico, and Kitzbuhel, Austria, to improve his ATP ranking to 61st in the world, giving him direct entry into the US Open. He has career wins over Argentina’s David Nalbandian and Alberto Martin of Spain, but most of his success has come on the minor league Challenger and Futures circuits.
Three times Istomin has received the “Asian wild card” into the Australian Open. His next match will be Istomin’s first third-round appearance in a Grand Slam tournament.
In one of the most inspiring matches of the tournament, a jubilant American Taylor Dent won a battle of serve-and-volleyers, edging Ivan Navarro of Spain 6-4 5-7 7-6 (1) 7-5 7-6 (9).
After he hit a backhand down the line to close out the match, Dent commandeered the umpire’s microphone and thanked the boisterous Grandstand crowd.
“You are unbelievable,” Dent said.
So was he.
Dent had undergone three back surgeries and was told by doctors that he may not walk again. Now 28, he has not only returned to tennis, but proved he can win again.
“A select few get to play professional sports,” Dent said. “It’s all just gravy right now. I can’t ask for anything more, come out here and play the sport I love.”
The fans loved it too, chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” as Dent circled the cozy Grandstand court, giving high fives to the crowd before sticking around and signing autographs.
Next up for the right-hander will be second-seeded Andy Murray, who advanced with an easy 6-2 3-67 6-0 6-2 win over Capdeville, a 26-year-old from Chile.
“Murray’s tough,” Dent said. “We’ve played twice before and he beat me both times. I’m going to go out and try to give him everything I’ve got.”
Ninth-seeded Gilles Simon eliminated Brazilian qualifier Thomaz Bellucci, who reached the second round at Flushing Meadows a year ago. The score was 6-3 6-2 6-4.
Ouanna, playing in his first US Open, was ousted by 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-4. The qualifier from France reached the third round at the French Open earlier this year and has a career win over Marat Safin.
Jose Acasuso of Argentina knocked off 18th-seeded David Ferrer of Spain 6-3 3-6 1-6 7-5 7-6 (4). Julien Benneteau of France ousted No. 30 Viktor Troicki 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-0.
Among the other winners on the men’s side Friday were No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 13 Gael Monfils, No. 16 Marin Cilic, No. 17 Tomas Berdych, No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and No. 32 Nicolas Amagro.
The women played third-round matches Friday with only one upset as No. 26 Francesca Schiavone of Italy eliminated No. 8 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Other winners included three former US Open champions, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters. Others who advanced to the fourth round were No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, No. 10 Flavia Pennetta, No. 18 Na Li, and No. 22 Daniela Hantuchova.
Clijsters, who won the US Open in her last appearance at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2005, next takes on Venus Williams, who won America’s premier tennis tournament in 2000 and 2001.
“It’s something I already look forward to now,” Clijsters said. It’s these kinds of matches that make it very special.
“It’s obviously going to be very tough as well. I think she’s been a little bit up and down in her match, but I think overall when she has to bring it, she’s been able to bring it.”