2013 US Open Tennis: Biggest Surprises from Flushing Meadows so Far

Jeffrey Ruth@@ruthjeffreyaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2013

2013 US Open Tennis: Biggest Surprises from Flushing Meadows so Far

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    At the 2013 Flushing Meadows' U.S. Open, surprises take many forms.

    Seeds slip out in the early rounds, unexpectedly opening up the men's and women's draws. Qualifiers shock with their determination and results, further confounding the draw-sheets and upsetting the balance. An aged group of players seemingly bands together and rises to former glory.

    A combination of the above brings upsets, both large and small, to the fields.

    Finally, James Blake retires. For Americans, enough said.

    Here's a look at the biggest surprises that the last Grand Slam of the year has brought thus far.

Seeds Slip Out in Early Rounds

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    No one really expects all 64 men's and women's seeds to advance to the third round. But only 40?

    That's right, 10 seeded women and 14 seeded men failed to make the Round of 32.

    Apart from any particularly shocking upsets, which make a category of their very own, the draws really opened up due to this exodus. Some of the more notable, though not screamingly shocking exits on the women's side include:

    • No. 29 Magdalena Rybarikova lost her opener to qualifier Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria. The Austrian came into the Open ranked No. 140. Her previous four attempts at getting into the main draw didn't go so well. She failed to qualify twice, and lost in the first round of the other two.
    • Nadia Petrova, the No. 20 seed, also lost to a qualifier in the first round. Julia Glushko is ranked No. 128 in the world and has yet to break into the top 100 in her career. Her victory over Petrova is the only time she has advanced beyond the first round at a Grand Slam.
    • Dominika Cibulkova was beaten in Round 1, too. Elina Svitolina defeated the No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-3. This is a bit of a resurgence for the player from Ukraine, who has previously won two singles titles. Nevertheless, this is her first second-round appearance at the U.S. Open. Per UPI, Svitolina had already gained 32 spots on the rankings list even before her second title this summer.

    For the men:

    • No. 25 Grigor Dimitrov was sent home early by Joao Sousa in a five-setter, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 2-6. Dimitrov has been considered an exciting up-and-comer for some time now, but disappointed once more. Nicholas J. Walz of USOpen.org notes that Dimitrov is now 0-3 in his U.S. Open career.
    • Right below Dimitrov in the draw was Benoit Paire. The No. 24 seed lost in a five-setter in the first round. His heartbreak was a bit worse, though, as he fell in a tiebreaker in the ultimate set, five points to seven. Alex Bogomolov Jr., the No. 73 player on the ATP Tour advanced to the second round of a major for the third time in his career.
    • No. 16 seed Fabio Fognini had been having a strong year, winning titles in Hamburg and Stuttgart, Germany. He also reached the final at Umag, Croatia. Despite the fact that these are clay-court tournaments, much more was expected from Fognini. American Rajeev Ram dismissed him easily, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. He never saw Round 2.

Qualifiers Slide into Round 2 and Beyond

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    Qualifiers are usually quite excited just to have made it into the main draw of a Grand Slam. They are much happier when they actually advance from that point.

    That means there were 19 players who were much happier on Day 2 of the U.S. Open. Eleven men and eight women moved their careers along in the right direction in New York over the first rounds. Most of these had never actually won a first-round match at a Grand Slam.

    The paychecks will make them smile.

    On the men's side, Mikhail Kukushkin took this one step further. Not only did he defeat Andrej Martin, 6-4, 7-6(2), 7-5, but he beat Andreas Haider-Mauer of Austria in the second round, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.

    Two qualifiers advanced to the third round and beyond on the women's side of the tournament. Julia Glushko of Israel won two matches before bowing out to Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3, 5-7, 6-7(4), in a spirited contest.

    Qualifier Camila Giorgi, the No. 136 player in the world, is still alive. She beat Jana Cepelova, Su-Wei Hsieh, and No. 6 seed Caroline Wozniacki to bring her to Week 2.

    Wayne Coffey of NewYorkDailyNews.com described the win over Wozniacki as shocking the crowd. However, he was much closer to the context of the situation when he also reported that the Danish woman really has been on a downward spiral lately.

    Giorgi will face the No. 10 seed Roberta Vinci in an all-Italian matchup in the Round of 16. 

Tournament for the Old Folks

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    Nearly a third of the men's and women's players in the Round of 16 are 30 years of age...or older.

    That is 10 of the 32 that are left.

    Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer lead the men. Both are 32 this year, with the Australian six months older. They have met in the U.S. Open three times, with Federer winning all the encounters. Hewitt would love to get one more chance. They could meet in the final.

    Reuters' Will Swanton was quick to report that, ironically, Federer and Hewitt helped each other in their endeavor. Of Hewitt's win over Juan Martin Del Potro, Federer simply said, "I'm happy for him." Will he end up regretting their practice sessions?

    Serena Williams is the veteran of the women's draw. She is only 31, but turns 32 on September 26. A trophy would be a fine birthday present for her.

    Two other women are 31 this year. Na Li and Flavia Pennetta could meet in the final, though it would be unlikely as well as highly entertaining. The final two aged players among the women are No. 10 seed Roberta Vinci and Daniela Hantuchova. That would be a nice semifinal clash, if they can last that long.

    The men who round out this list are Mikhail Youzhny, David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo, all 31. For fans of the way-back, it was Robredo who won the under-16 Orange Bowl singles tournament in 1998.

Upsets Among Men's and Women's Draws

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    The 2013 U.S. Open is not lacking for big upsets.

    Neither the men's nor the women's draws have been free of this bug.

    In the interest of brevity, three matches on both sides should not be missed.

    Women's upsets:

    1. Sixth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki lost to qualifier Camila Giorgi, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in the second round. Although Wozniacki did lose in the first round of last year's Open, she reached the semifinals or final in her last three visits. Coming into New York, Wozniacki had reached the semifinals and quarters of her previous two tournaments. Losing to a qualifier is especially painful.
    2. No. 4 seed Sara Errani was defeated by Flavia Pennetta in the second round, 6-3, 6-1. Being in the same quarter as Wozniacki, this really opened up that portion of the draw. Although Errani had not had a particularly inspiring summer, she must not have imagined this loss. Her last defeat at the hands of Pennetta came way back in 2010, and in their most recent meeting, Errani triumphed in the final of the 2012 Acapulco tourney, winning 6-0 in the third.
    3. Alison Riske of the United States absolutely crushed No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 6-0, in the third round. It is one thing for the 81st-ranked player to win at this point in a Grand Slam, and yet another to defeat someone in the top 10, but to do so with such easy dispatch is shocking.

    Men's upsets:

    1. Lleyton Hewitt defeated Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1. The No. 6 seed never really looked like he was going to win the match. By contrast, Hewitt always looked like he expected the victory. Del Potro had done well this summer, reaching the semifinals in three of his last four outings. He is also eight years younger than Hewitt, but looked noticeably more fatigued.
    2. Marcos Baghdatis beat Kevin Anderson, the No. 17 seed, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, in the second round. Anderson has reached his career-best ranking, and had earlier reached the final of the hard-court tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, and the semifinals of the Bogota, Colombia hard-court as well. He looked to make a good run against the veteran Cypriot. That was not the case, though, as Baghdatis blitzed through in only one hour and twenty-five minutes.
    3. When a qualifier knocks off a seeded player in the opening round, it is a major upset. No. 11 seed Kei Nishikori felt that shock when he speedily lost to Daniel Evans, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. He won 22 fewer points than his opponent, and offered up nine break points. Evans broke six times. Nishikori had never played the No. 179 player in the world before and likely hopes they never meet again.

James Blake Retires

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    James Blake will retire at the end of the 2013 U.S. Open.

    That is all that really needs to be said.

    Cindy Boren of the Washington Post reported that Blake joins Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick as Americans who have surprised the world with their announcements in New York. Check out ESPN's coverage in the video, above.

    Blake, who turned pro in 1999, decided not to be an active player when he reached age 34 this coming December. It's hardly the Christmas present the J-Block or the rest of his fans were looking for. He will be remembered by all as a likeable champion of 10 tournaments, a dedicated Davis Cup player, and one of the greatest comeback figures in sports history.

    Sadly, unlike Sampras and Roddick, Blake's final night on tour came before a less-than-packed house, in a less-than-auspicious match.

    Good luck to you in your future, James Blake, and thanks from all.

    We hope to see you again, perhaps in the commentator's booth.