unforced errors

Serbian Celebration Following Davis Cup Win with Comedic Moments

It was an evening no one will soon forget as Serbia defeated France for the coveted Davis Cup trophy, edging them out 3-2. Belgrade Arena was filled to capacity over the weekend as fans, fellow athletes, invited guests, and even the President of Serbia attended the finals. There was even a camera crew filming the player’s joy in the lockerroom (video link and translation below).

In the first match, Janko Tipsarevic took on Gael Monfils, but could not produce the shots or push away the nerves he felt coming in. His emotions got the better of him after a rough referee call and it was difficult for him to turn things around in the third set. Even though Tipsarevic played a statistically sounder game in the second set, his 38 unforced errors, to Monfils’ 14, cost him the match. and he lost 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-0.

The second rubber pitted Novak Djokovic against Gilles Simon. Even though Djokovic walked away the winner of this match, don’t let the one-sided scoreline tip you off. Simon gave a fight from the beginning and delayed Djokovic’s eventual win as he evened things out at 5-5 in the third. Djokovic plummeted 62 winners onto Simon’s side of the court, while the Frenchman had more unforced errors than winners, missing easy volleys and key pressure moments that cost him gaining any leeway. The Serb won 6-3, 6-1, 7-5, and evened the score out at 1-1.

The match everybody had a hard time calling was the anticipated doubles contest, with Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki taking on Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement. The match lasted well over 4 hours and kept fans on the edge of their seats until the last moment. The Serbs went up 2 sets to none, but the momentum had changed in the tiebreaker of the second in favor of the French. They took advantage of another bad call against Serbia and gave them a rude awakening as they won the next two sets. The French won only 4 more total points than the Serbs, but that was enough to give them the win, 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

France would need to win just one of the two singles matches left to play in order to walk away as Davis Cup champions. But it was not meant to be.

The final two matches were blow-outs in favor of the Serbs. Djokovic thumped Monfils, booming his effective serve just out of Monfils’ reach. When Djokovic’s serve is working, it’s a thing of beauty to witness and his motivation and optimism increases with it. He was simply unstoppable as he took out Monfils, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. As the deciding fifth rubber was required, Captain Vladimir Obradovic subbed in Viktor Troicki for Janko Tipsarevic and Captain Guy Forget replaced Gilles Simon with Michael Llodra. It was their first meeting, so it was anybody’s guess. Surprisingly, Llodra, known for his excellent serve-and-volley game, faltered at the net, winning only 10 of 41 points, while Troicki won 13 of 15 points at the net. Troicki simply exposed Llodra’s age and inability to recover quickly from their doubles match the day before. The Serb won more points on his serves and had a better returning game, allowing him to run away with the win at his second matchpoint (photo below), sealing the score at 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

Upon realizing what he had just done, Troicki walked backwards on the court stunned, throwing his racket and anticipating his teammates quick pounce onto the court in his direction. The first to hug him was Captain Obradovic, followed by his teammates, trainers, and friends. His smile quickly turned to tears as his teammates hoisted him in the air, but I think something else was on his mind when the tears began to fall: he remembered that he and his team had vowed to shave their heads if they had won the Davis Cup. Having to shave my head would bring me to tears as well! It seems that Zimonjic also had to carry a smiling, but defiant, Djokovic to the on-court barbershop.

If you’ve ever wanted to party like a Serb, now is your chance. Watch matchpoint as Troicki brings Serbia it’s first Davis Cup title and the awards ceremony that follows their triumph. But the two show-stealers in this video are Troicki and Djokovic with their on-court interviews. First up is Troicki who struggles to find words to express his emotions. He cuts the interview short when he grabs the mic and says” Neznam sta da kazem … moram na sisanje!” which translates to “I don’t know what to say … I have to get my hair cut!” (Video via underPFC)

Djokovic then takes the mic calmly, but when he begins talking about his team’s friendships and bond he finally bursts into emotion yelling, “Najjaci smo! Sta da kazem?! Najbolje smo!” translating to “We’re the strongest! What can I say?! We’re the best!” When the reporter asked where they will celebrate, Djokovic answers that they will “celebrate on the streets of Belgrade, where else?! To the center [of the city], we’re going naked!” Afterward, the camera caught the team in the lockerroom and it’s difficult to explain the hilarity that ensues. Djokovic exclaims “Never again bald, never again” before putting on a shirt that holds the Cyrillic letters for “Champion.” Troicki admires his new do in the mirror while the Serbian team finishes shaving Tipsarevic’s head, meanwhile wondering how Tipsarevic’s new wife Biljana will respond. Zimonjic waves at the camera with his “new face,” and Tipsarevic at the end tells the cameraman to turn around so he can change. Adorned with beanies, the Serbian team also partied in the streets later as promised, fireworks, dancing, and all. Can’t beat that carefree and proud Serbian mentality! (Video via FueBuena)

More photos of the celebrations below!

A tip from “The Slice” (http://www.the-slice.com) also gave me this great find: commemorative Davis Cup stamps featuring all the players, for sale in Serbia.

The players also jumped onto the table during the press conference to sing the famous Serbian song “Mars na Drinu” aka “The March on the Drina [River]” which has become a symbol of bravery and adopted by many Serbs as their anthem. (Screenshot below, but full video can be found here: http://sport.blic.rs/Tenis/189135/Pogledajte-Slavlje-u-Areni-i-oko-nje-provod-tenisera-u-gradu)

The Davis Cup team and other prestigious invitees celebrated at the club “Bejbis” afterward.

Caroline Wozniacki Beats Maria Sharapova in Fourth Round of US Open

Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki  beat former  US Open champion Maria Sharapova  in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 Monday in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Sharapova, who won the 2006 title at Flushing Meadows, hurt herself with nine double-faults and a total of 36 unforced errors – 26 more than 2009 U.S. Open runner-up Wozniacki.

It’s the first victory for Wozniacki in three career meetings against Sharapova, who was seeded 14th this year in New York.

In the quarterfinals, Wozniacki will face 45th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova, who eliminated 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (4) Monday.

Schiavone Wins Worst Match of the Day: 2010 US Open Opening Day

Francesca Schiavone, the No. 6 seed and reigning French Open champion, defeated Ayumi Morita of Japan 6-1, 6-0 in 58 minutes in the WORST MATCH OF THE DAY of Day One at the 2010 US Open.

Schiavone won each set in 29 minutes in the opening match on the Grandstand court. If you waited on line for the bathroom or had trouble getting your Amex Radio, you probably missed this match (which would be good!)

Morita hit 17 unforced errors, which is nearly a set in itself and hit six winners. Schiavone hit an impressive 28 winners.

“It was a good match, because I was really fast when I hit the ball,” said Schiavone. “She couldn’t hit so easy the ball, but she is good…Maybe the score, you say, 6-1, 6-love, but nothing is easy. I played very good points. Sometimes we went to deuce.”

Schiavone may face American teenager Melanie Oudin in the third round.

Don’t Sell Your Federer Stock Just Yet – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Tumble Continues – One of the big headlines at the All England Club this past Wednesday was the dismissal of six-time champion Roger Federer at the hands of Tomas Berdych.  Despite Federer’s history at SW19 and the difference in seeding between the two, I have trouble calling this a big upset. Berdych possesses a big game, he clipped Federer earlier this year, and over the past few months, Berdych has been the better player. There’s no doubt this was probably the most painful loss Federer has suffered since his 2008 defeat to Nadal, and the early loss also means that Federer will slip to No. 3 in the rankings, the first time he’s been out of the top two since 2003. It will take time for him to bounce back from this one, but I’m not ready to sell my Federer stock just yet. The fact is, any year you win a major is a good year. Plenty of players would still gladly trade places with Federer. It’s the nature of the beast that he has set the bar so high that any loss such as this is that much more monumental because it happened to one of the greatest players to have ever picked up a racquet. Fans of the man from Switzerland are going to have to get used to these losses coming with more frequency, but don’t stick a fork in him. He’s not done yet.

Roddick Rocked – Wimbledon has continued to see a few more shockers this week, and one of the biggest was Roddick’s exit to Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei. Lu played an incredible match beginning to end and most amazing is the fact that he found a way to cross the finish line even as he admitted that he never believed he was going to win the match. But as happy as one might have felt for Lu, there had to be some sympathy spared for Roddick. Had he been told prior to the match that he was going to hit more aces, less unforced errors, more winners, have more break chances, and win more total points, I’m sure he would have liked his odds at advancing.   But just as with last year’s final, it came down to a handful of big points and one crucial break in the final set. The loss isn’t as gut-wrenching as his 2009 final loss to Federer, but he’ll want to look to get something going fast on the hard courts, or he’s apt to start slipping into a slump.

Venus Vanquished – The women’s quarters also provided a surprise when Tsvetana Pironkova routinely upended Venus Williams 2 and 3. It was a lackluster display from Williams, who despite hitting 10 more winners than her younger opponent also hit 23 more unforced errors. The fact that the elder Williams never found a way to win the match wasn’t an entire surprise, as neither Williams sister is known for having game plan B when the wheels come off. The good news for her is that an early loss, irrespective of the tournament, rarely tends to have any hangover effect. She’ll still be considered a strong contender during the US Open Series and the final major of the year.

Double Trouble – I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of upsets in the doubles competition. The Williams sisters, on what seemed an inevitable path to becoming just the third team in history to accomplish the Grand Slam, lost to the hard-hitting combo of Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. On the men’s side, Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman also denied seeing history made, at least for the time being, with their defeat over the American team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The Bryans were aiming to break their tie with the Woodies for most titles won as a team just a week prior to the induction of the Australian pair into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As disappointing as the losses must have been for each of these losing teams, they will be back with a vengeance in New York, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bryans standing atop the mountain alone for most titles won before the final major of the year.

Fine Time – Earlier this week, Rafael Nadal was slapped with a $2,000 fine for illegal coaching. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier could hardly be blamed for giving Nadal the warning, having given him an unofficial warning to stop the chatter with his box earlier in the match. The case was made even stronger given that in his defense of this particular incident, Nadal basically admitted to having received illegal coaching at other times.  But Nadal is not the only player guilty of this offense. Justine Henin is notorious for this, as is Maria Sharapova, and many more could be added to the list. I’m not naïve enough to think that illegal coaching will ever be completely eradicated, but it was refreshing to see someone have the backbone to try and enforce the rule and reduce it. Coaches are paid to scout the competition, and it’s up to the player and coach to devise a game plan prior to a match. Once a match starts, it should be one-on-one out there and up to the players to make the necessary adjustments to come out with a W. That’s one of the unique aspects of tennis. So I hope that the officials continue to do their best and enforce the rules at all levels of the competition and preserve the integrity of the game.

Wozniacki Ends Melanie’s Dream

NEW YORK – Four straight unforced errors ended one dream and continued another.

Although the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd was loudly pulling for her, Melanie Oudin’s dream run at the US Open ended Wednesday night when she was overwhelmed 6-2 6-2 by ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.

“She had a great run, beaten so many great players,” said Wozniacki, the first Danish player to reach the semifinals in a Grand Slam tournament Wozniacki made sure Oudin’s “great run” didn’t continue, instead controlling the points with her consistent baseline game, moving her 17-year-old opponent all around the court and finding answers to every problem the Marietta, Georgia, right-hander posed. In the final game, Oudin won the first point, then netted a forehand, attempted a backhand drop shot that didn’t even make it to the net, sailed a forehand long and was wide with a backhand on match point.

With a spot in the championship match awaiting the winner, Wozniacki will next take on Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, who won her quarterfinal earlier in the day, 7-5 6-4 over Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine.

Oudin became the darling of America’s premier tennis tournament when she unexpectedly mowed down a series of Russians in her march to the quarterfinals. Although she had upset Jelena Jankovic en route to the fourth round at Wimbledon, she was a pleasant surprise here on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The youngster started off by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, then followed that up with victories over fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva, 29th-seeded Maria Sharapova and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. With each successive upset, Oudin’s dream grew more vivid along with the expectations from growing legend of fans.

Only two years older than Oudin, Wozniacki never was in trouble against the American, repeatedly hitting with heavy topspin, making the ball jump up high to Oudin’s ground strokes. It was Wozniacki who was dictating the pace and the points.

“She’s such a strong player. She doesn’t give you anything for free,” Oudin said of Wozniacki. “She plays incredible defense. Makes me hit a thousand balls and really is a really great player.”

Unlike Oudin, Wozniacki wasn’t an unknown entity when she began the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. She was seeded ninth after entering the US Open having won the 56 matches, the most of any player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. And she has captured three titles this year, including the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, the day before the US Open began its two-week run.

Wozniacki said she wasn’t bothered by the crowd’s overwhelming support of Oudin.

“It’s always tough to play against a home favorite,” Wozniacki said. “I had this experience in Australia this year where I played (Australian) Jelena Dokic.

“I knew how I was going to feel to be out there and the crowd, but I just used the energy and tried to convert it into some good tennis.”

Oudin’s never-say-die attitude, her big forehand and her constant pressure caused her Russian opponents to eventually collapse. Not so with Wozniacki.

“She beat some great players,” Wozniacki said of Oudin. “I knew that it was going to be tough and I knew that she was going to fight to the last point. I just thought about one point at a time, one ball at a time and tried not to think too much about the score.
“I’m a fighter, so I don’t give up. I fought to the last point.”

Like Wozniacki, Wickmayer is playing in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time. Her lone WTA Tour singles title came on clay in Estoril, Portugal.

Wickmayer started the US Open by upsetting 16th-seeded Virginie Razzano. Since then she has not had to face another seeded player.

“Before this my best result was second round (in a Grand Slam tournament),” Wickmayer said. “So of course when you get to the third, fourth round, you start surprising yourself. But actually I’ve been staying pretty calm. I’ve worked really hard for this.”

Top-seeded Roger Federer advanced one step closer to a sixth consecutive US Open men’s singles title when he ended the night by dodging an inspired Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-0 6-3 6-7 (6) 7-6 (6).

It appeared as if Federer would sail through the quarterfinal against the man he beat in the French Open final. But Soderling stepped up his game in the third set, and after Federer swept out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak, Soderling roared back to win it 8-6.
The two battled evenly through the fourth set, Federer using his huge serve and Soderling his big ground strokes.
Then, suddenly, Soderling ripped a forehand crosscourt that sailed wide, the only mini-break in the tiebreak, but one that gave Federer the match at 8-6.

“It was so close towards the end, a great relief to come through,” Federer said. “The beginning was a bit too easy. But he showed what a great player he is.”

The Swiss superstar is in his record 22nd straight major semifinal – Ivan Lendl had the old mark at 10 – and is seeking to become the first man to win three consecutive majors in one season since Rod Laver completed the Grand Slam in 1969.

Federer also is bidding to become the first man since Bill Tilden in 1925 to win six consecutive US titles. He is the only man to win five or more successive titles at two Grand Slam tournaments, having won Wimbledon from 2003 through 2007.

In the semifinals, Federer will face fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic, a 7-6 (2) 1-6 7-5 6-2 winner over Fernando Verdasco.

Clijsters comes through again, reaches Open semis

Kim Clijsters pulled off another upset that didn’t really look like one. Now, she’s only two wins from a U.S. Open title hardly anyone could have seen coming.

The mother of 18-month-old Jada, Clijsters dismantled 18th-seeded Li Na, 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, punishing China’s top tennis star with deep, stinging groundstrokes that were part of a game that looked about like it did when Clijsters retired two years ago.

Or maybe better.

The 26-year-old Belgian is back at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2005, when she won the tournament, and now has a winning streak of 12 matches at Flushing Meadows. Her next match will be against the winner between No. 2 Serena Williams and No. 10 Flavia Pennetta.

Clijsters has already beaten No. 3 Venus Williams and two other seeded players, and nothing seems like too big a stretch at this point.

“I’m glad I got through it again, stayed focused on my game,” Clijsters said. “I wanted to be aggressive and I think that’s what helped winning those important points today.”

The few important points there were in this one came midway through the second set, after Clijsters had lost a break to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-4 tie. Li responded with four unforced errors to give away the ninth game and the match was over a few minutes later.

Clijsters became the first unseeded player to make the U.S. Open semifinals since Elena Dementieva in 2000. Clijsters was unranked because she hadn’t played enough tournaments in her comeback to get on the board, but she’ll be in the low-50s or better when the next rankings come out.

As efficient as she has been—moving better now than she did when she was constantly battling injuries toward the end of her last stint—her run through this tournament might also be seen as a statement about the state of women’s tennis.

Serena Williams is the only top-five seed left. Three of the players on the opposite side of the draw—the “Melanie Oudin side”—are ranked 50 or higher, joined by No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki. All are playing in their first major quarterfinals.

“I saw her when she came back in her first tournament,” Li said, referring to Clijsters. “I knew she was at a high level. She’s much stronger than other girls, so I knew, if she was going to come back, it must be a strong comeback.”

The men’s tournament, meanwhile, is going much more to form.

Roger Federer breezed through his fourth-round match Monday with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 14 Tommy Robredo for his 38th straight win at the U.S. Open. The world’s top player is going for his sixth straight title at Flushing Meadows.

Clijsters’ match was followed by one between No. 2 Andy Murray and No. 16 Marin Cilic.

Third-seeded Rafael Nadal, winning less impressively so far—possibly because of an abdominal injury that caused him to call for the trainer in his last match—had a match against No. 13 Gael Monfils later Tuesday.

Kops-Jones Loses In Opening Round at US Open

The US Open is where Fresno native Raquel Kops-Jones first burst into the spotlight last year, but she bowed out quietly this year in a surprising first round loss.

Seeded No. 15 in the women’s doubles draw with fellow Californian Abigail Spears, the American team never managed to find the range on their shots, falling 6-4, 6-1 to the all Russian team of Vera Dushevina and Anastasia Rodinova.

With all the players holding serve early on, Kops-Jones missed a forehand in the first break point of the match on Rodionova’s serve to go up 4-2. The Americans lost that game and then Kops-Jones committed two double faults in losing her own service game.

“That was one of the big turning points in the match,” said Spears. “We played decent tennis, but they were solid and didn’t miss many balls.

An ace by Dushevina gave the Russian pair the opening set, 6-4. Kops-Jones won her service game to start the second set, but the Americans began to make unforced errors early on in the rallies. Spears quickly lost her serve with the set tied at 1-1, and Kops-Jones soon lost hers to send the American pair down 4-1. Kops-Jones and Spears had two break points on Rodionova’s serve to break the losing streak, but failed to convert on their chances, missing two volleys to trail 5-1. Three points later, a low forehand winner from Rodionova sent the Russian pair into the next round.

Kops-Jones and Spears reached their first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open last year, and came within two points of reaching the semifinals. The result spurred on the best result of Kops-Jones’s career. She won two WTA Tour doubles titles during the spring in Estoril and Warsaw, in addition to reaching the finals in Birmingham. The results have brought her to a current ranking of No. 33, two spots away from her career high of No. 31, which she achieved this May.

“There was definitely pressure to defend our points from last year, but there’s pressure no matter what,” said Kops-Jones. “We were more focused on just playing well as opposed to winning or losing.”

Since the beginning of 2009, Kops-Jones has also largely cut back on her singles events, primarily becoming a doubles specialist on the WTA Tour.

“I was having better results in doubles and ultimately making more money there,” said Kops-Jones. “After not being able to defend a lot of points at the beginning of the year, my singles ranking really fell and I couldn’t really get into WTA events anymore.”

Both Kops-Jones and Spears are heading to Asia for a series of WTA events in Guangzhou, Seoul, and Beijing. Kops-Jones will go to Europe directly from there, where she will compete in tournaments in Moscow, Luxembourg, and Linz.

Safina Stumbles but Survives

NEW YORK – It was not a performance to cherish, but it was one to celebrate. After all, Dinara Safina survived –barely.

Just before becoming the first top-seeded woman to be ousted in the opening round of the US Open, Safina pulled her game together enough to escape a wild-card entry from Australia, Olivia Rogowska. And it wasn’t pretty.

Even Safina called Tuesday’s 6-7 (5) 6-2 6-4 win “ugly,” but added, “I pulled it out, and that’s what counts for me.”
Her “pull” was aided greatly by her opponent’s mistakes and miscues.

Safina is the world’s top-ranked player; Rogowska, who gained a wild card entry into the US Open through an agreement between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Tennis Australia, is 167th in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. But they had one thing in common: both were seeking their first Grand Slam tournament title. Now only Safina still is in the running to do that this year.
The 18-year-old Rogowska matched Safina stroke for stroke, even, unfortunately, double fault for double fault in the sloppily played contest.

Never before has the women’s top seed fallen in the opening round at America’s premier tennis tournament. But it appeared as if Safina would do just that as Rogowska won the first three games to begin the third set. The two then took turns breaking each other’s serve before Safina held at love, the last point on her first ace of the day, to level the set at 4-4.

Rogowska fell behind 0-30 with two unforced errors – two of her 65 in the match – before winning the next three points. But her 12th double fault of the day took the game to deuce. Then came one of the most critical points of the day, one that was a glimpse at why Safina won and Rogowska lost the 2-hour, 35-minute battle.

The point began like most of the day’s battles were contested – long-range baseline rallies with both players using the entire court, keeping their opponent on the move while probing for an opening. It was Safina who blinked first, chipping a shot short, bringing Rogowska to the net.

The Australian replied by chipping a backhand down the line with plenty of spin. Safina caught up with the ball and returned a running forehand crosscourt. There was Rogowska, waiting at the net, but she failed to put away the volley and gave Safina another chance.
This time Safina threw up a short defensive lob. Rogowska again failed to hit a winning smash, and instead popped a weak overhead back across the net.

Safina needed no more chances. She rifled a backhand crosscourt pass that caught Rogowska making an off-balance stab at the net. The youngster sat down on the court and both watched the point while it was being replayed on the giant screens atop Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“When it comes like this tight, it’s not easy to swing,” Safina said. “I saw like her volley was not good. I was like, OK, so she’s not so comfortable. First of all, she had an easy smash and she didn’t went for it. Then when I made it, it was like, ‘OK, come one. Make this break now.’”

Yet another forehand error by Safina made the score deuce again, and again Rogowska followed with a double fault. There was one more deuce, earned with a sharply hit inside-out forehand, before Rogowska made her 34th and 35th forehand unforced errors of the match.

Four points later, Safina had a spot in the second round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where she will take on Germany’s Kristina Barrios, a 6-4 6-4 winner over Urzula Radwanska of Poland.

“It doesn’t matter how I’ll play, but I will run and I will stay there forever,” said Safina. “I will do everything to win the match.”
In the day matches, two seeded players failed to make it into the second round. Sixteenth-seeded Virginie Razzano of France was ousted by Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-3, while 32nd-seeded Agnes Szavay of Hungary fell to Israel’s Shahar Peer 6-2 6-2.
Among the seeded players joining Safina in the winner’s circle Tuesday included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, Sorana Cirstea, Caroline Wozniacki, Nadia Petrova, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Alona Bondarenko, Sabine Lisicki, Patty Schnyder, Alisa Kleybanova and Zheng Jie.

In the men’s singles, American qualifier Jesse Witten upset 29th-seeded Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4 6-0 6-2.

“Last couple weeks I’ve been playing well and I’m not even sure why,” Witten said. “I’m just going to roll with it.”

Other early winners in the men’s singles included Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Gonzalez, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, Fernando Verdasco, Sam Querrey and Viktor Troicki.

NCAA Champion Cecil Loses In Opening Match at US Open

Despite losing in the first round of the US Open, Spartanburg native and NCAA champion Mallory Cecil chalks it all up to a learning experience.

Playing in front a packed crowd on Court 8, Cecil, who received a wild card into the main draw for winning the NCAA championships earlier this summer, found herself overwhelmed by the occasion and her opponent’s game. Committing 38 unforced errors, the American never managed to impose her game as she lost 6-0, 6-1 to Tathiana Garbin, the veteran player from Italy.

“I’m just really lacking experience at this point,” said Cecil. “This is all new to me and matches like these show me what I need to do to play against players at this level.”

Cecil, who turned professional this summer on August 14th, opened the match with two unforced errors as Garbin seemed content to guide down the ball the middle of the court, allowing Cecil to dictate the tempo of the match.

The American held a game point on her serve early on in the first set and held a break point one game later, but backhand errors cost Cecil the chance to get on the scoreboard, allowing Garbin to run take the first set, 6-0.

“With players like Garbin, it’s pretty much all up to you,” said Cecil. “I was trying to control the points, but also hitting shots I didn’t necessarily need to go for. It was tough to do anything with her slice because it stayed so low, but in order to be a top player, you have to learn how to handle anything.”

Cecil held serve to level the second set at 1-1, but it would be the only game she won in the contest. Committing unforced errors early in the rallies, Cecil dropped serve two more times before a missed drop shot sent Garbin into the second round on her first match point.

“I’ll obviously talk about the match with my dad and my coach, but obviously I need to try and put this behind me as quickly as possible,” said Cecil.

Despite the loss today, Cecil has shown potential this summer as she looks to break through the pro ranks. She reached the quarterfinals of a $50,000 challenger in Texas, and in the first round of a $50,000 challenger in Kentucky, served for the match against No. 63 ranked Julie Coin before losing in 3 sets.

“I can definitely compete against players in the top 100, but those were smaller tournaments and there wasn’t perhaps as much as attention as there was in this match,” said Cecil. “I’m just in a bit of a slump and need to try and move past it.”

Cecil said she plans to either play several challenger events in the US this fall, or head to France for a five week stretch of challengers. By this time next year, she plans to be in the US Open off merit, rather than a wildcard.

“By this time next year, I want my ranking to be high enough to get into the US Open qualifying (approximately No. 250) and then qualify into the main draw. Having a wild card was great, but I want to be able to do this on my own.”

John Isner Advances Into Second Round at US Open

Although it looked like an upset on paper, John Isner’s form this summer has shown he is ready to start beating the top players on the ATP Tour.

In a match between two of the tallest players in pro tennis, Greensboro native John Isner fought off 10 set points in one of the longest tiebreakers in US Open history, and advanced into the second round with a 6-1, 7-6 (14), 7-6 (5) win over Victor Hanescu of Romania, the No. 28 seed in the event.

The first set was dominated by Isner. Holding serve easily and taking advantage of the lack of depth in Hanescu’s groundstrokes, Isner charged the net relentlessly, breaking Hanescu’s serve twice in seizing the opening set, 6-1.

“I started off so well,” said Isner. “That first set and a half was as well as I’ve played in a long time.”

After Isner broke serve early in the second set and held a break point to take a commanding 4-1 lead, the end result appeared to be a foregone conclusion. Hanescu saved the break point with an ace and Isner’s forehand suddenly began to betray him. Isner dropped serve at 3-2 with three forehand errors and a missed overhead.

“It doesn’t look like he’s that fast out there, but he gets to a lot of balls,” said Isner. “He was making me hit a lot of extra shots and unfortunately, I started missing a few.”

The two players traded service holds throughout the rest of the second set to force a tiebreaker. A missed backhand sent Isner down a mini-break as the Romanian seemed content to guide the ball into the court, forcing Isner into unforced errors.

Hanescu soon found himself serving with triple set point at 6-3. That’s when Isner began to do the unthinkable.

He fought off one set point with an ace, then another with an overhead smash. A forehand error by Hanescu leveled the tiebreaker at 6-6. Isner fought off five more set points in a row, mainly with crushing groundstroke winners that clipped the baseline. Isner reached his first set point at 12-11, but was unable to convert and sent a forehand into the net.

Isner fought off two more set points to level the tiebreaker at 14-14. A poorly executed drop shot by Hanescu allowed the American to rip a backhand up the line, giving him a second set point. At 15-14, a forehand volley winner gave Isner the second set as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

“I started off a little bit slow and obviously didn’t really want to go a tiebreaker,” said Isner. “I think he had five (set points) on his serve, and each one of his points I played really well. I told myself if I could just get one advantage, I might be able to take it.”

Isner and Hanescu easily held serve throughout the third set, with neither player facing a break point. In the tiebreaker, two consecutive forehand winners by Isner allowed him to go up 2-1. He held on the lead for the rest of the match, converting on his first match point with a forehand winner to advance into the second round, where he will play Marcel Ilhan of Turkey.

Just three months after being diagnosed with mononucleosis and missing Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Isner has been able to achieve semifinal performances this summer at Indianapolis and Washington D.C, as well as a quarterfinal finish at Los Angeles. Isner said he is still working on regaining full fitness, but has been producing the most consistent string of results in his career.

“Missing the whole European swing might have been a blessing in disguise,” said Isner. “I’ve felt fresh ever since I started playing in the States.”

With his ranking currently at a career high of No. 55, Isner said his immediate goal is to reach the top 50 and ultimately, to be talked about as a player well beyond the American swing.

“I want to become a big name in tennis, not just American tennis,” said Isner.