seeded player

Caroline Wozniacki: Girl With a Keen Fashion Sense

So what do you do if you are the top seeded player at the women’s at the US Open 2010 tournament and you have overcome some of your biggest foes on court by playing well and working hard?  Yes, you take a break  and attend the “Fashion’s Night Out” in New York City.  The largest public fashion show in the history of  New York City.

That ‘s where Caroline Wozniacki was last night and she did it in style. The delicious Dane looked hot in her dress and no doubt grabbed much of the attention of media and photographers at the New York event.

In her own words Sweet Caroline told us on Twitter what she wore at the Fashion’s Night Out event:

Sweet Caroline has a keen fashion sense after reading the US Open interview of September 6 where she told the press the following:

Q. How important is it to look good on the court for you?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Well, I’m so lucky that I am the face of adidas and Stella McCartney and I have my own special line that no one else is wearing. I think that’s really nice. For me it’s important to feel good on court and of course to look good. Then I can focus on my tennis at 100%.

Q. In this case, don’t you think it’s a bit short, your dress?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I think it’s nice. I definitely am sure I’ll get a lot of male fans now (laughter).

Legg Mason SFs: Exclusive Berdych Update; Press Conferences & Analysis on Cilic, Baghdatis

It’s the final Saturday of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic and that means only one thing: a showcasing of elite tennis as the final four men were in action for a spot in tomorrow’s finals. Surprise semifinalists Xavier Malisse and Marcos Baghdatis played each other in the day session as veteran David Nalbandian took on the last seeded player left in the draw, Marin Cilic. I also had a chance to catch up with Tomas Berdych and ask a few questions about his presser the other evening when he mentioned being frustrated with the tournament schedule and possibly not coming back next year. Let’s get into that and then the matches!

After Tomas Berdych’s doubles win today to go into the finals with partner Radek Stepanek, a few reporters were able to interview him in the players’ dining room before he left the site. The main topic at hand was whether any new developments occurred after his honest presser yesterday saying he may not come back to D.C. next year since he felt that he wasn’t treated well as a #1 seed. He responded that it was “just the next day” and nothing would really change, “there is still the year to go.” He seemed annoyed to address the topic as it still affected him. I asked if any tournament officials had contacted him to address his issue and he seemed to hesitate for a second. It could be a telling hesitation or a language barrier, but he simply said “No, nobody.” This was an interesting response because a reliable source had told me that the tournament director had spoken to him about it and essentially told him that it was unfortunate, but that all players had the same scheduling problems. I’m not sure if he chose to not reveal this in fear of further questioning or if it simply was not a big deal to him. Only time will tell, but I sincerely hope he comes back. He’s a powerful player to watch live.

But now, on to the tennis matches of the day!

The first matchup on stadium court was between two newly resurgent players on the ATP tour, Xavier Malisse and Marcos Baghdatis.

They had faced each other twice last year, both times on the Challenger-level and both times Baghdatis had prevailed in straight sets. While each executes well from behind the baseline, Malisse has a tendency to venture too far back into the court and Baghdatis tends to stay near the baseline. Baghdatis plays smart tennis and knows how to play the important points well. He has a compact backhand and changes the movement of the ball well, easily going from defensive to offensive, throwing his opponent off. His forehand is quite stiff and he doesn’t accelerate the ball well, but he has a little more variety in his shots than Malisse. Malisse’s strong point is his topspin forehand and a flick of his wrist speeds the ball up even more. He plays a very high-risk game going for winners and uses his backhand more to setup his forehand than as a weapon itself. The match depended mostly on service points won and who could dictate play more.

In the first set, Malisse held his serve in the first game but then lost the next two, finding himself down 1-5. There were glimmers of great tennis from Malisse as he fired forehands past a scrambling Baghdatis, but his winners to unforced errors were 15 to 27. He was sending balls well beyond the baseline or throwing them straight into the net. Malisse’s composure only slightly changed when he was broken to go down 1-4 and you could sense his helplessness. He, however, rebounded in his next service game to bring it to 2-5. There were several netcord encounters that saw the ball flicking off of the net and bouncing high into the intended court. During one of these points, Baghdatis was on the receiving end shuffling for the short ball. He followed through, and with exceptional body control put away a winner crosscourt. Although Baghdatis may carry around a few extra pounds not being as lean as other top pros, he nevertheless is quick on his feet and reads the ball well. It was clear that he was also staying right on top of the baseline for most points dictating play and thus pulling Malisse farther and farther back making him play defensively. In the final game of the set, Baghdatis hit an ace and followed it up with three more easy points to seal it 6-2.

The second set lasted twice as long with neither player being able to break the other’s serve until the 11th game of the set. Malisse continued playing the same tennis: taking the ball late, keeping well behind the baseline and not approaching the net and changing it up. Baghdatis was attacking the ball and smashing winners away with his backhand, which was really working today. At 2-all, Malisse finally followed his shot to the net for two points in a row and won both times, to go up 3-2. He, however, stopped approaching the net after those points! Malisse instead kept probing Baghdatis’ forehand but to no avail. At 4-2 for Baghdatis, Malisse sent a shot behind Baghdatis to his forehand side and Baghdatis changed his footing too quickly. He tweaked his left ankle and fell to the ground grabbing it. Almost nobody moved except Malisse. He right away yelled across the net: “Ice? Do you need ice?” He hurried over to the ice bin behind his seat and pulled out a bag and ran it over to Baghdatis who took it willingly (see photo).

Words were quickly exchanged between the two before the trainer appeared on court. In the midst of his injury, Baghdatis’ ‘foe’ was the first to respond. Luckily, Baghdatis got his ankle taped up and continued play. His ankle was tested on the very next point. It was a long rally but he won it with no sign of discomfort or limitation in movement. He went on to fire two aces in the tiebreaker and take the second set 7-6(4). Even though Baghdatis’ first serve percentage was lower than Malisse’s, he was winning 87% of the points. His return game was also more effective, pressuring Malisse until the last point. Baghdatis fell on his back in joy and as is his custom, kissed the court.

As I had gotten accustomed to players bailing on the press conference after a loss, I was surprised to see Malisse willing to and with a smile. It might seem strange to be optimistic about a loss, but then again, it was a loss in the semifinals of a 500-level tournament. He spoke that Baghdatis “served better, especially on the important points.” He remarked that he felt like he played really well all week so he can’t complain. He’s also happy because his ranking takes him to #50 in the world come Monday morning. He also learned earlier today that he was given a ‘special exemption’ into the Rogers Cup held next week in Toronto, Canada. The ATP rule allows any player who plays a semifinal or higher in the weekend prior to a qualifier event he is entered it, to be granted a special exemption into the draw because they can’t be present to play the qualifier. He was also asked about Baghdatis’ injury in the second set. He said that he was aware that Baghdatis has been injured before and didn’t want it to get more inflamed, so his natural reaction was to help him. “When I gave him the ice he said he will probably be OK.” He said it was helpful knowing this because mentally you begin wondering if he’s going to be OK, or stop play: “It put my mind at ease.”

Baghdatis came into the interview room casually, wearing his ‘Love Cyprus’ kit and old Adidas shoes. He felt that he had played really smart and he was “proud of that.” He mentioned twice that he was “fitter than Malisse” and was able to “play the right shot at the right time,” taking Malisse’s angles away from the forehand. He also commented on the ankle saying he would rather have been cautious than gotten up and played right away. It was uncomfortable for a bit, but he feels good currently and hopes the same for tomorrow. He said that he knows Malisse very well from the tour and that it was typical sportsmanship from him. He’s done it before but some guys wouldn’t. “It doesn’t happen every day” for players to reach out like that. He feels there are “no limits” to how much he or any other player can improve and that he tries to “fight for every match.”

The second semifinal featured David Nalbandian and Marin Cilic.

The key for Cilic was holding his serve, moving well and attacking the ball. Even with his 6’6” stature, he plays a baseline game but is very flexible and can get low on his backhand side. Nalbandian, on the other hand, needed to keep his return game high, attack more cleanly with his forehand and not get fatigued.

In the first set, it took Nalbandian just one game to warmup and find his rhythm, unlike last night where it took him the entire first set. Nalbandian was putting balls away from both wings exceptionally well and his return game stayed in the upper 60s. Nalbandian moved Cilic well laterally, causing him to hit most balls off-balance and gave Cilic only two winners against seventeen unforced errors. Truly, most of those unforced errors were a results of Nalbandian’s impeccable placement and angle on the ball, pressuring Cilic. Cilic could do nothing to keep the points short and prevail as Nalbandian was winning all rallies longer than four shots. Nalbandian sent a crosscourt forehand winner that clocked in at 98 MPH and then went on to break Cilic’s serve and take the first set 6-2 in just 36 minutes.

The second set took a similar tone. Cilic didn’t change his strategy and barely came up to the net. Nalbandian took advantage of his opponent, gained even more confidence and his forehand became lethal. The match came to a close as Cilic sent a backhand sailing into the net to give Nalbandian the win, 6-2 in the second. The statistics are even more staggering in the winners to unforced errors ratio. Cilic had only six winners to 27 unforced errors, while Nalbandian had fourteen winners to twelve unforced errors. David Nalbandian is quickly proving to be a nightmare for players and it will be interesting to see where he falls in the draw at the US Open once again.

Cilic made his way into the press conference subdued and quiet. This tends to be his personality typically, win or lose. He was quick to admit that his serve was “not good” and that he wasn’t aiming well. He felt that Nalbandian took away his setup time for shots since he takes the ball so early. When asked about how well Nalbandian was returning, Cilic joked that he “can’t count on my hand how many returns he missed.” He feels that Nalbandian anticipates the ball well and spatially recognizes where it will go. He was happy though, to improve on his showing here from last year, losing in the first round, especially since he hadn’t played a tournament in the last 3-4 weeks. He felt that it was a good gauge of where he stands and what he can improve on. When asked about not traveling with his coach, but only his oldest brother, he replied that he doesn’t always want “someone telling me what to do.” Sometimes he wants to figure it out for himself. He did say he will reunite with coach Bob Brett for the next three tournaments in Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open.

Nalbandian came in smiling, clearly on cloud nine. After the first question was asked, he answered: “I’m playing good all week. … When I’m playing this good, it’s tough for anybody [to beat me].” He said the main difference from last night’s slow start to today’s rapid start was that he mentally got himself to “push harder from the beginning.” He was very confident in his match tonight and again mentioned that when he serves well, returns well, hits off both sides well and finds the tricky angles, it’s hard to be his opponent and come out victorious. When asked about Baghdatis, whom he plays tomorrow in the finals, he replied that “we know each other” and we have “similar styles of play. … I must keep pushing and playing well.”

ATP REVIEW WITH VOO

Robin Soderling came to Rotterdam having lost his last six matches and started the tournament by losing the first set in his opening match with Florent Serra. But since then, he played some of best indoor tennis and won nine consecutive sets, at 6-4 2-0 for him in the final, a 2007 champion Mikhaily Youzhny was forced to retire because of right hamstring. Youzhny had beaten a new No 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal in two tie-breaks. “It’s been a very good week overall,” said Soderling who won his fifth title. “I started out struggling a bit in my first two rounds, struggling to find my form, but I worked hard and managed to get better with every match”.

Fernando Verdasco claimed his fourth career title (first indoor) after beating Andy Roddick 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the final of SAP Open in San Jose. For the Spaniard, it was the first ever indoor tournament in USA. Verdasco broke Roddick’s serve at 1:1 in the second set and at 4:4 in the third set to finish the match with his 15th aces (Roddick served 10). Roddick has already won 13 matches this season, second best after Marin Cilic (15). The 19-year-old Ricardas Berankis (No. 255) of Lithuania, became the first man from his country to reach an ATP singles quarterfinal.

Juan Carlos Ferrero needed only 60 minutes to demolish Lukasz Kubot 6-1 6-0 in Costa Do Saupe, Brazil. Ferrero who celebrated his 30th birthday during the tournament, won the 13th title in his 30th career final. “You never expect to play a one-sided final like this,” admitted Ferrero. “One is always nervous in the beginning of a final, and it wasn’t different today. I thought I played well from the beginning and with two breaks of serve ahead quite early in the match I never looked back”. Kubot reached his second final of his career and for the second time lost to a top-seeded player (lost to Djokovic the final in Belgrade 2009). The Pole had had very busy Friday – he won two singles matches and one doubles (losing only 13 games in the process) before overcoming Igor Andreev in the semifinal despite being down 1:3 in the final set.

DAVYDENKO’S LONGEST WIN STREAK; TSONGA’S FIRST FIVE-SETTER; FEDERER’S HEWITT RIVALRY IS EPIC

* Nikolay Davydenko has been on a tear of late and now it is officially the best run of his career. The Russian’s almost four-hour 6-2, 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-3 win over Fernando Verdasco Monday in the Australian Open fourth round was 13th win in a row, besting his previous best ATP winning streak of 12 set last year. “In the fifth set I was fighting my serve, just winning my serve,” Davydenko said. “It was also not so easy beginning [of the] fifth set, but it’s good fighting for me. It was four hours, and some good points in the fifth set.” Davydenko now sets up a highly-anticipated quarterfinal match with world No. 1 Roger Federer, whom he has beaten the last two times after losing the first 12 meetings with the Swiss maestro.

* Against Davydenko, Verdasco served 20 double faults. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com) the most double faults ever hit in a me’s match at the Australian Open came when Gerald Patterson hit 29 in 1927. In the Open era Guillermo Coria holds the mark with 23 back in 2006.

* Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has finally played the first five-set match of his career and won it against Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7(6), 9-7, saving two break points at 6:6 in the fifth set. The 24-year-old Tsonga had played 19 four-set-matches prior to this match, posting a 13-6 record, but he surprisingly never extended to five sets. “The last set, I think he was serving unbelievable,” admitted Almagro. “I couldn’t do anything. He’s playing well. I think he has [a] chance to be on the semifinal or in the final.” Before his match against Tsonga, Almagro won six consecutive five-setters and now has a career five-set record of 6-6.

* No. 14 seed Marin Cilic beating No. 4 seed Juan Martin del Potro 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 after 4 hours 38 minutes gave him the distinction of being the only player outside Top 10 who advanced to the men’s quarterfinals. A similar situation occurred last year, then the only seeded player outside Top 10 in the last 8 was Fernando Verdasco, who was seeded with No. 14 as well. Verdasco’s higher-seeded victim was also the No. 4 seed, Andy Murray, whom he also defeated in five sets.

* Roger Federer has improved his record against former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt to 17-7 with his 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win Monday night, his 15th consecutive wins against the Aussie future Hall of Famer. The Federer-Hewitt rivalry is the seventh longest head-to-head in the Open era in terms of number of matches. The top 10 are as follows

36 – Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe (21-15)
35 – Lendl vs. Jimmy Connors (22-13)
35 – Boris Becker vs. Stefan Edberg (25-10)
34 – McEnroe vs. Connors (20-14)
34 – Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi (20-14)
27 – Edberg vs. Lendl (14-13)
24 – Federer vs. Hewitt (17-7)
22 – Sampras vs. Todd Martin (18-4)
22 – Agassi vs. Michael Chang (15-7)
21 – Becker vs. Lendl (11-10)
21 – Federer vs. Andy Roddick (19-2)
21 – Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic (14-7)

BAGHDATIS NETS REVENGE WIN OVER HEWITT

There are no seeds left after quarterfinals at Medibank International in Sydney as local favorite Lleyton Hewitt, the only seeded player in quarterfinals, was defeated Thursday 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Marcos Baghdatis.

“The first set and a half I was hitting the ball pretty well, and I was happy with my ball striking,” said Hewitt. “Even after that, my ball striking wasn’t too bad.”

The match was a re-match of a famous match where Hewitt beat Baghdatis two years ago in Melbourne in latest finish match ever (4:34 AM). In the semifinals, Baghdatis will play Mardy Fish. The American ousted the other Aussie, Peter Luczak, 7-6, 6-2 in the night match.

In Auckland, Albert Montanes advanced to his first hard-court semifinal after 6-3, 6-3 over qualifier Michael Lammer. He meets next John Isner, who reached first semifinal outside United States by upseeting No. 1 seed Tommy Robredo 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, recovering from 1-3 in the third set.

Shockingly, Clijsters In Women’s Final

NEW YORK – Suddenly, too suddenly, Kim Clijsters was back in the women’s singles final at the US Open. She had, it seemed, just loaned out her title for a few years.

But while the Belgian mother earned her semifinal victory on the court Saturday night, the final point in her battle against Serena Williams came when the defending champion was given a point penalty at match point for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Clijsters appeared stricken by the sudden end of a match that had been delayed by rain for more than 24 hours.

“I don’t think she actually understood it was a point penalty, which meant that I lost that point, which meant that I lost the match,” Williams said.

Williams trailed 4-6 5-6 15-30 when she served a fault. On her second serve, a foot fault was called, taking Clijsters to double match point at 15-40.

As she started to the line to begin her next serve, Williams turned and said something to the baseline judge who had called the foot fault. Not content with that, the tournament’s second-seeded player then walked over to the left side of the court, wagging her finger and heatedly talking to the linesperson.

Umpire Louise Engzell summoned the linesperson to the chair and asked what had been said. Then she summoned the tournament referee Brian Earley. After a consultation that included the player, Williams, who earlier in the match had been assessed a code of conduct warning, was given a point penalty.

Because it was match point, Clijsters advanced with a 6-4 7-5 victory.

“She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty,” Earley explained. “And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

“It’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” Clijsters said. “I still – to this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there because I was so focused. You know, just trying to win that last point for me.

“So then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”

Clijsters will be heavily favored to win her second straight US Open women’s singles title – the last was in 2005 – when she faces ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark on Sunday night. Wozniacki advanced with a 6-3 6-3 win over another Belgian player, Yanina Wickmayer.

They were finally able to get some matches played on Saturday despite a steady nearly day-long rain. That was much better than Friday, when the entire program was washed out by rain.

Earlier Saturday, Rafael Nadal completed his 7-6 (4) 7-6 (2) 6-0 quarterfinal victory over 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.

The match began on Thursday before rain halted play with Nadal leading 3-2 in the second set tiebreak. After waiting all day Friday, the pair finally made it to the court early Saturday afternoon.

Gonzalez lost both of his serves to begin play, giving Nadal a 5-2 margin. And when the third-seeded Nadal won the next two points on his own serve, he had a 2-0 lead in sets.

Nadal then raced through the next six games in 31 minutes, aided immensely by 21 unforced errors by Gonzalez, who finished the match with 59 errors against 37 winners. Nadal, on the other hand, had only 20 winners, 11 coming on his fearsome forehand, but committed just 13 unforced errors.

“I get like afraid maybe in the tiebreakers,” Gonzalez said. “I went for it. I think I did a good play, miss one. The next play I miss another one, then I miss another one.

“What else can I do? I try my best.”

The men’s semifinals are scheduled to be played Sunday, with the forecast for sunny skies and warm temperatures. Nadal will take on sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, while Roger Federer, seeking his sixth consecutive US Open men’s singles crown, will meet fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic.

“He’s good. I think he’s a complete player,” Nadal said of del Potro. “I try to be ready to put one more ball than the rest.”

Clijsters beat Venus Williams in the fourth round and became just the second player to defeat both Williams sisters in the same US Open. The other was another Belgian, Justine Henin, who beat Serena in the quarterfinals and Venus in the semifinals in 2007. Henin, who went on the stop Svetlana Kuznetsova in the title match, has since retired.

Clijsters is riding a 13-match winning streak at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She won the women’s singles in her last visit to Flushing Meadows, in 2005. An injury stopped her from defending her crown in 2006, then she retired early in 2007, got married and gave birth to a daughter.

The US Open is only her third tournament since she returned to the tennis tour.

“I’ve spoken before about what for me was really important in Cincinnati and Toronto and those tournaments was knowing that I was capable of competing with those top girls,” Clijsters said., “I think that’s where I kind of made a click, but I never really expected to be beating Venus and beating Serena. You try and you try to bring your best tennis, but, no, I mean, you don’t expect things to be going this well this soon.”

She also is the first wild card entry to reach a US Open singles final. Jimmy Connors received a wild card in 1991 when he reached the semifinals at the age of 39.

And Clijsters is trying to become the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

Oudin Mastering Russian at US Open

NEW YORK – Yes, it’s the US Open, but Melanie Oudin has used her exciting run to the quarterfinals to master Russian.

The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, played – and beat – four Russians to become the youngest American to reach the women’s singles quarterfinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since Serena Williams in 1999. Williams went on to win her first of three US Open titles that year.

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki cut off Oudin’s Russian lessons by reaching her first quarterfinal Monday night when she eliminated sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3).

Oudin completed her Russian sweep with a 1-6 7-6 (2) 6-3 upset of 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. She had advanced to the fourth round with victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova, the 2006 US Open champion who was seeded 29th this year.

At number nine, Wozniacki is the lone seeded player left in the top half of the draw.

Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium will take on Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in the other top-half quarterfinal, Wickmayer advanced by whitewashing Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 6-0 6-0 and Wickmayer outlasting Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 4-6 6-4 7-5.

“I don’t think they had weaknesses,” Oudin said of her Russian opponents. “I believe all the matches I’ve played have been really close, and it’s just been – I’ve just been able to pull them out.

“Every single match has been so competitive and so close, and I’ve been able to pull it out in the end.”

Using her quickness to run down the ball and her powerful ground strokes to hit winners or force her opponents into mistakes, Oudin once again dropped the opening set before rallying for victory. So far this year Oudin is 17-4 in matches where she has lost the first set.

“Going into the tournament I did believe that I could compete with these girls, but it was just figuring out a way to win in these tough matches and these pressure situations actually coming through and winning,” she said. “So now, even if I get a set down, I like believe in myself and my game. I know that if I fight as hard as I can, do the best I can, hopefully I can do it.”

The women’s quarterfinals will begin Tuesday when Williams, seeded second this year, takes on No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters, the 2005 champion, continues her comeback when she faces No. 18 Li Na of China.

Oudin made her US Open debut a year ago, losing to Australia’s Jessica Moore – in three sets, naturally. She suffered a first-round loss at the Australian Open in January, then made Wimbledon her coming-out party, shocking Jelena Jankovic on her way to the fourth round on the grass on SW 19.

Prior to her Wimbledon run, Oudin won consecutive USD $50,000 tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit. She entered the US Open ranked number 70 in the world, making her the third highest ranked American behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams.

Her run on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows has boosted her already high confidence.

“I know that I can compete with the best in the world now, and I will know that forever,” she said.

“I think it’s just mentally I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all. So if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”

For the first time in the Open Era no American will reach the men’s singles quarterfinals. The last American standing, John Isner, was eliminated by 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Isner said. “You know, I wanted to go further. But I played pretty well. Maybe I could have played a little bit better, but I just got outplayed today.”

The big-serving Isner eliminated America’s top player, fifth-seeded Andy Roddick, in the third round.

“We got a lot of people to the round of 32,” Isner said of the American contingent. “Then obviously I played Andy, so that assured one of them was going to move on and one was going to stay back. … It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get that many past that.”
Besides Verdasco, other fourth-round winners in the men’s singles during the day were top-seeded Roger Federer and No. 12 Robin Soderling.

Clijsters rolls in return to Grand Slam play

NEW YORK (AP)—Four years and one baby later, Kim Clijsters still looks like a contender.

The 2005 U.S. Open titlist cruised through her return to Grand Slam tennis Monday, defeating Viktoriya Kutuzova 6-1, 6-1 in the opening round in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Next on that court, Roger Federer extended his U.S. Open winning streak to 35 matches with a 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 victory over NCAA champion Devin Britton.

While Federer is seeking his sixth straight title at Flushing Meadows, Clijsters played her first Grand Slam match since the 2007 Australian Open, after which she retired to start a family. She had a baby girl in May 2008, but recently decided to return to competitive tennis.

It has been a good return thus far, one that has included four wins over top-20 opponents in two tournaments in August. Granted, this was only the first round of the U.S. Open, but her 58-minute win over Kutuzova included very few signs of rust.

“Now it’s a matter of trying to keep this going,” Clijsters said.

She won the first seven and last 11 points of the match and grinded through her few hiccups, including three double-faults in the third game of the opening set, which extended to seven deuces before she pulled it out.

The win guaranteed she’ll be ranked at least 148th after the Open, when she’ll have played the three required tournaments she needs to return to the list.

“I still feel like I can improve,” she said. “But I’m definitely comfortable where I am right now.”

Other winners in the first round included eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, 12th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and 26th-seeded Francesca Schiavone. Paul-Henri Mathieu, No. 26 on the men’s side, was the first seeded player to lose, beaten by Mikhail Youzhny 2-6, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.

The Williams sisters were both on the schedule, as were Andy Roddick and James Blake.

Another American, Sam Querrey, will debut later this week, bringing with him some lofty expectations—he might be the next great American tennis star in a country looking for just that.

“Everyone is doing what they can,” said Querrey, who is seeded 22nd. “A lot of times, even if you go back 100 years, you’ll have a period of 10 years where you’ll have four or five guys in the top 10, and then years where you might just have one guy. It’s kind of like a rolling wave.”

As much as anywhere else, the search for America’s next great player resonates at Arthur Ashe Stadium, inside the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of America’s Grand Slam. It’s the place where Connors and McEnroe, Chrissy and Tracy Austin, ruled during a golden era that feels more like ancient history with each passing year.

Patrick McEnroe is in charge of putting together the program that will keep the pipeline filled, with hopes of producing multiple stars in the future.

“I think it’s going in the right direction,” Roddick said. “I think even with younger kids going back to 14, 15, 16 years old in Florida, from what I hear, it’s a lot more” organized.

That’s the future.

The present belongs—could belong, that is—to guys like John Isner (ranked 55th), Donald Young (185) and Jesse Levine (135). No. 25 seed Mardy Fish is on this list, too, but the 27-year-old withdrew Sunday with a rib injury.

And Querrey.

He stands 6-foot-6 and ranks third on tour with 696 aces this year, a stat that is allowing him to become more aggressive in his return game, as well, because he’s more confident about holding serve.

He is 21-6 since Wimbledon and has played in four finals, including a victory in Los Angeles. He won the U.S. Open Series, a grouping of hard-court tournaments leading to this week. That pushed his ranking from barely inside the top 50 to a career-best 22nd. It also earned him a chance for a $1 million bonus if he wins the Open.

His biggest win this summer was a 7-6 (11), 7-6 (3) victory over Roddick, one that may not signal Querrey is ready to rise all the way to the top, but certainly serves as a confidence builder.

“It also helps if you play Federer or Nadal,” Querrey said. “Andy’s beaten those guys. Hey, he did it, I beat him, why can’t I beat those guys? So it kind of gives you that extra edge against them, too.”