By Lisa-Marie Burrows
On Tuesday it was only the second day of the US Open main draw action in New York, but yesterday served up some fantastic round one matches which entertained for hours and thrilled the audience.
The three five set matches involving Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco vs Guillermo García-Lopez, Fabio Fognini vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Jesse Levine may not have featured the infamous rivalries between the top guys that we have been so accustomed to seeing, but last night at Flushing Meadows, audiences both at home and on site were treated to matches worthy of that caliber.
The matches that took place between the players mentioned above showed the spirit and the fight of a toe-to-toe match reminiscent of the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On Grandstand Argentine and No.10 seed Juan Mónaco had an extremely tough first round opponent against Spain’s Guillermo García-Lopez who proved to be more than a handful for Mónaco. The Argentine took the advantage quickly as he led by two sets and 4-1 up in the third, but García-Lopez had other plans – he was not giving up that easily.
In a match that was played with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster and with such determined grit from both players, you would not have thought it was a first round match, the way the players fought and with such heart, you would have been forgiven for being fooled into thinking it was a Grand Slam final and they were fighting for the trophy, not a place in the second round.
Mónaco and García-Lopez fought against their nerves and against each other as it clearly meant so much to them to win. They ventured into the all-important fifth set tiebreak, after Mónaco broke back twice in the set from the brink of defeat and stopped the Spaniard from serving out the match. With a Davis Cup atmosphere on the tennis court and football style chants heavily in the favour of the Argentine with ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé, Pi-co, Pi-co,’ the match was there for the taking and it all boiled down to who could hold their nerve and the realization suddenly dawned that one of them was going to win… but also that one was going to lose and it would be a painful loss.
The joy and jubilation belonged to Guillermo García-Lopez after playing a very solid tiebreak, releasing his heavily weighted forehand continuously and used his well placed serve to give him the upper hand. After his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) victory a very relieved and emotional García-Lopez sat in his chair with a tear in his eye, whilst Mónaco visibly annoyed and understandably upset quickly exited the court.
Up next for García-Lopez is Fabio Fognini of Italy who was also involved in an epic five-set encounter against Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The Italian will be equally as tired going into his second round match against the Spaniard as he too was on court for nearly four hours with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory against the Frenchman and will be relieved of the day off to recover from that match.
It was during the key moments that Fognini was able to withstand the pressure and contained his fraught emotions to claw his way back into the match. As match point dawned on the Italian, the atmosphere around the court was raucous with expectation and disbelief with what Fognini was about to achieve. The Italian was clearly delighted with the turnaround of the match, but visibly tired too, as he and his weary legs exited the court knowing that he had finally booked his place into the second round.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself caught up in a difficult opening round against home country hopeful, Jesse Levine on court 17. The first two sets did not go as planned for the Ukrainian who played some loose service games which proved to be costly as he was suddenly staring at defeat after losing the first two sets.
At the start of the third set, Dolgopolov was quickly broken again and found himself 0-4 down and two games away from packing up his belongings and leaving New York. As Levine became tight, Dolgopolov began his revival and battled his way back into the match. Despite facing a heavily partisan crowd, Dolgopolov kept his composure to break back and take the third set 6-4 and stamped his authority in the fourth set by taking it 6-1.
Eyebrows were raised at his comeback and it was evident that Levine was disappointed with the renaissance that Dolgopolov was bringing to the court. Eventually the Ukrainian won 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and he will now play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.
There was so much entertainment and drama in one evening and we are still only in the early stages of the tournament, but it shows that for all of these players, it does not matter whether it is the first round or the final, they will fight for the win – yesterday they were the comeback kings. Their matches may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and they will be happy to take it all the same and improve ready for their next battles.
After the matches feelings of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained were evident – and that was just me! I don’t know how the players do it!
By Romana Cvitkovic
Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm is in Strasbourg, France covering the WTA Internationaux de Strasbourg tournament live all week.
The second round was underway with victories by Francesca Schiavone, Anabel Medina Garrigues, and American Sloane Stephens.
Schiavone made quick work of Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic with a solid 6-1, 6-2 win in just an hour. Medina Garrigues fought a tougher battle against Su-Wei Hsieh and won in two tiebreaker sets, 7-6(9), 7-6(2). Stephens beat a former juniors player foe in three rollercoaster sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and saved 10-of-14 break points.
Other winners include French players Pauline Parmentier and wildcard Alize Cornet, qualifier Alexandra Panova, Japanese player Ayumi Morita and Swede Johanna Larsson who brought number eight seed Tamira Paszek of Austria tumbling out of the tournament.
Likewise, the doubles semifinals are set:
 Grandin/Uhlirova (RSA/CZE) d. Chang/Chuang (TPE/TPE) 75 64
 Govortsova/Jans-Ignacik (BLR/POL) d. Gámiz/Hermoso (VEN/MEX) 62 75
 Babos/Hsieh (HUN/TPE) d. Naydenova/Pereira (BUL/BRA) 63 64
Cadantu/Keothavong (ROU/GBR) d. Adamczak/Bengson (AUS/AUS) 63 63
ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012
CENTRAL Start at 11:00 am
1. Ayumi Morita vs. Sloane Stephens
2. Johanna Larsson vs. Francesca Schiavone (NB 1:00 pm)
3. Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. Alizé Cornet (NB 3:00 pm)
4. Pauline Parmentier vs. Alexandra Panova
COURT 1 Start at 2:00 pm
1. Cadantu/Keothavong vs. Govortsova/Jans-Ignacik
Check back each day to catch all new action direct from the courts by our photographer Rick Gleijm! Scroll down for today’s full gallery of over 90 photos below.