Four days in, the 2012 U.S. Open has had its usual surprises, dominant performances by the top players and, of course, the rousing and always entertaining New York crowd.
In all, the final Grand Slam of the year—and the only one featuring some of the best and most famous matches under the New York lights—has been an interesting one. American players have come out in droves and are so far experiencing a fair amount of success.
It is on the men's side that top seeds have already gone down, that players have given up two-sets-to-love leads and that one former American hope announced his impending retirement. Incredibly, all of these things happened on Thursday.
So in celebration of the fourth day of U.S. Open action, here are the top four winners and losers of the men's side from Thursday's Grand Slam action.
The biggest winners of the day had to be the American men. In all, five were in action, including world No. 25 Mardy Fish and other popular names in Sam Querrey and James Blake. Nineteen-year-old Jack Sock, America's latest hope for a future star, was the other American to advance. Tim Smyczek, a wild-card qualifier, was the only American male to lose on the day.
With so many players both young and veteran mixed into the draw, the Americans always seem to field a huge contingent of players for their home Grand Slam. This year was no different, but unlike in the past, the American men have really played well thus far.
In all, 20 American males were entered into the draw. Six of them played matches against each other. Twelve advanced to the second round, including the top six ranked Americans: Fish, Blake, Querrey, Andy Roddick, John Isner and Ryan Harrison. Of the five that so far played their second-round matches, only one did not advance.
In the midst of one of the best years of his career, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the fifth seed and No. 6-ranked player in the world, finished his 2012 season with a result no one expected.
After easily winning his first-round match, Tsonga was matched to play the No. 52 player in the world, Martin Klizan. In just his second U.S. Open appearance, Klizan had already recorded a career best by winning his first-round match.
Tsonga was on a presumed collision course for a quarterfinal matchup with Andy Murray and potentially a semifinal matchup with Roger Federer; Klizan was supposed to be an easy win.
Unfortunately, Tsonga may have underestimated his opponent. After being broken in the first set, Tsonga came back to take a dominant 6-1 victory in the second. It looked like the momentum was on his side until Klizan broke early and often and took a 6-1 victory himself. In the fourth set, he broke Tsonga within the first few games to take the set and eventually the match.
As the No. 5 seed, Tsonga is the victim of the U.S. Open's biggest upset. His loss is the gain of others, as now the bottom half of Federer's quarter is a little more open, with Murray being a clear favorite to reach the semifinals.
You don't have to be an avid follower of tennis to know that Roger Federer is a winner. In fact, with now 17 Grand Slam titles to his name including a run of five straight at the U.S. Open from 2004-08, an Olympic silver medal from 2012 and numerous other accolades, maybe other than the New York Yankees, this is the guy who most associate with the definition of "winning."
For Federer, however, who is once again back atop the world rankings, he hasn't been a winner at Flushing since 2008, and he has Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to thank for that.
When it was announced that Nadal was forced to pull out of the U.S. Open due to a lingering injury, Federer instantly became the biggest beneficiary. Then, when he dominated Djokovic in a tuneup as part of the U.S. Open Series, it once again looked like he would hoist the trophy when all was said and done.
On Day 4, Federer won again. He easily won his first-round match, and with the same finesse and ease, he quickly took care of his German opponent on New York's version of Centre Court: Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The win was enough to make Federer one of the biggest winners of the day, but what puts him over the top is that with his win Thursday night, he moved his career record to 23-0 in night matches at the U.S. Open.
Nikolay Davydenko is going to be thinking about his second-round loss to Mardy Fish for a long, long time.
In what was supposed to be one of the most competitive matches to be played on Ashe up until this point, Davydenko looked like he would dispatch Fish in straight sets early on.
After besting Fish in a close tiebreak in the second set, Davydenko held a two-sets-to-love lead and all of the momentum going into the third. He was playing better tennis than Fish, and it looked like a foregone conclusion that he would be moving on.
Unfortunately for Davydenko, it's trendy to lose such a lead at this U.S. Open. Fish woke up and began to serve better, hit his forehands better and moved better around the court. He took the third set easily with a 6-2 victory.
Whether Davydenko just ran out of energy or if Fish straight-up outplayed him, something in the match changed after the first three sets. With the Russian seemingly out of gas, Fish quickly and easily took the next two sets with early breaks and consistently well-made shots.
Make no mistake: This was Davydenko's match to win. Unfortunately for him, Fish just never got that memo.
Jurgen Zopp of Estonia is not yet a professional on the tour. He is ranked No. 80 in the world and was making his U.S. Open debut. Tomas Berdych, the sixth seed and No. 7-ranked player in the world, should have beaten him easily.
Berdych has been playing great tennis lately, and it was more of the same in his second-round match against Zopp. He took the first set easily with a victory of 6-1. He was tested a bit as Zopp battled in the second, but Berdych was the one with the break and the win. He dominated again in the third set with a final score of 6-2.
If anyone made his second-round match look easy, it was Berdych.
It is probably unfair of me to call Fernando Verdasco a loser for Day 4. After all, he did win his match in four sets, even though it did require two tiebreaks. He is advancing to the third round, and that is never a bad thing, right?
Verdasco gets the designation of being a loser for the day for one reason and one reason only: His third-round match is against Roger Federer.
When Fed was ranked No. 3 in the world, he was still somebody that nobody wanted to find themselves facing in a Grand Slam draw. Now that he is back to No. 1 and playing the best tennis he has in some time? Well, good luck to anyone that draws him.
For the 25th-seeded Spaniard, it was a good ride that will likely end in this next round. Who knows, though, maybe he will become a winner after all.
That is, if he beats the winningest man in tennis history first...
Following a tearful goodbye earlier in the year at Wimbledon, Andy Roddick formally announced his retirement on Thursday.
For many, the announcement that Andy Roddick would be retiring did not come as a surprise. Not only did the recent injury history, lack of success and declining skill hint at a retirement, but when he teared up and bowed to the fans at Wimbledon, everyone pretty much knew what was coming.
There is a lot that can be and has been said about Roddick and his career. Some say he is a failure, having only won one major. Others say he is one of the best tennis players from the U.S. Some still claim he was born into the wrong era, and that had Federer not existed, he would have won at least four majors in his career.
Say what you want about the 30-year-old American—who tastefully chose his birthday to make the big announcement—but what can't be denied is what he meant to an American generation longing for a successor to greats like Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.
Marked with some controversy and no doubt fiery passion for the sport he so loved, Roddick will probably also be remembered for the pressure that was on him.
For years, he carried the hopes and dreams of an entire nation squarely on his shoulders. As a result, his every move was scrutinized. Had there been other Americans winning Grand Slam titles at the time, maybe Roddick wouldn't have taken so much heat for just being able to win one in 12 years.
At the Davis Cup, he was a U.S. hero and perhaps one of the best of all time to ever play the event. His record of 30-0 in singles and 12-0 in clinching matches was part of the reason why his American teammates looked to him. Whether they were younger or older, Roddick was the guy. He was American tennis.
Bruce Jenkins of Sports Illustrated reported that Roddick explained why he was retiring. Roddick said:
I don't know if I'm healthy enough or committed enough to go another year. Just the way my body feels, the way I'm able to compete, I don't feel it's good enough. Whatever my faults have been, I've always felt like I've never done anything halfway. I don't want to disrespect the game by coasting home.
Love him or hate him, tennis is losing a great competitor, personality and ambassador of the game with Roddick's retirement.
The Croatian, currently ranked No. 13 in the world and seeded 12th in the U.S. Open, was smooth sailing in his second-round match against Daniel Brands of Germany. That was until he hit a bit of a rock and watched what could have been a straight-sets victory turn into a grueling five-set match.
Marin Cilic did in fact beat Brands, but it was the additional effort needed that could cost him. With this being the last tournament of the season following a long and extended summer, every minute you get off the court quicker, every point you save yourself from having to play, will be beneficial in the end.
While Cilic was spending time on the court, fighting to win a fifth set after having led the entire match, his third-round opponent Kei Nishikori was already in the showers and relaxing back in his room, as his match only took three sets.
It may or may not affect Cilic, but ultimately if he loses to Nishikori, he could wonder if winning against Brands in three sets could have made the difference.