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2013 US Open Tennis: The Biggest Surprises from This Year's Grand Slam

Jeffrey RuthFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2013

2013 US Open Tennis: The Biggest Surprises from This Year's Grand Slam

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    The 2013 U.S. Open provided a special sampling of surprises.

    Bagels were on the menu, late and tasty.

    Flavia Pennetta refused to go away. Mike and Bob Bryan refused to stay.

    James Blake said goodbye. Eighteen qualifiers said hello.

    Although the championships themselves would play out much to form and expectation, there was more than enough to enjoy well before the final day.

    Surprises, anyone? Welcome to the last Grand Slam of the year!

Flavia Pennetta to the Semifinals

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    Pennetta saved the U.S. Open from predictability.

    In a tournament that would eventually see No. 1 play No. 2 on both the men's and women's sides, the unseeded Italian righty made a mad run through the field.

    Douglas Perry of The Oregonian even offered seven reasons why everyone should have picked Pennetta to win the whole thing.

    It is simply not enough to mention that she made it to the semifinals. She defeated No. 4 Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-1, in the second round. She then mowed down No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 21 Simona Halep and No. 10 Roberta Vinci.

    It is actually not even enough to mention those upsets. Pennetta won all those matches in straight sets.

    One final note: Pennetta came into the 2013 U.S. Open ranked No. 114 in the world.

    She left ranked No. 31, a jump of 83 spots.

    Per The Scotsman her performance left her with no regrets.

    This is Pennetta's 13th year as a professional tennis player. If No. 13 was indeed her unlucky number, then what can be expected from season 14?

6-0, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in Quarterfinals and Beyond

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    Bagels are most often served to journeymen (and women) in the opening sets of tournaments.

    Somehow, a bakery opened up late on the grounds of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

    On the men's side, No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny lost a love-set to No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Joining him was No. 19 Tommy Robredo (at the hands of No. 2 Rafael Nadal).

    The women's side offered up zeroes to unlucky quarterfinalist No. 18 Carla Suarez Navarro, who decided that two would be better than one when she fell to eventual champion No. 1 Serena Williams. According to Chris Chase of USA Today, that double bagel was not just a surprise, but was in fact an historic occasion.

    Four love-sets would not satisfy the surprise quota.

    Semifinalist Na Li, the No. 5 seed, even got to eat one against Williams.

    As much as those on the losing ends of these scores must have rued their performances, one must imagine that the fans' trips to the bakeries were not sweet, either. They were left wanting and have begun packing their bags for 2014.

    Surely the Australian Open will run a bit more to form, right?

Mike and Bob Bryan Bid Adieu

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    Mike and Bob Bryan win the calendar-year Grand Slam!

    That might be the headline in 2014, but it didn't work out this year at the U.S. Open.

    Sadly for fans of the top-seeded Bryans, they fell just short of their goal, losing to fourth-seeded Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.

    If the Bryans were disappointed, however, they really need to learn how to show it. Instead, they showed their maturity, professionalism and class during their post-match interview and press conference.

    It turns out that they are satisfied with the Golden Bryan Slam, holding all four Grand Slam titles and the Olympic gold medal at the same time.

    Hopefully for fans, they will have higher ambitions next year.

18 Qualifiers Win Matches in Main Draws

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    This is the dawning of the age of the qualifier.

    That may not actually be true, but the 2013 U.S. Open put on full display just how much parity there is now in the men's and women's games.

    For those fans and naysayers who claim the game has become predictable because of the fact that the top seeds have made it to yet another championship, the easy answer is, "Watch the first week of the tournament!"

    Not only is that the easy answer, it is the right one.

    Eighteen players who came to New York hoping to somehow make it to the main draw went home very, very happy. It is a struggle just to come through the qualifying tournament...that's right, the qualifying rounds represent their very own tournament that has to be won even before a player begins to think of the "actual" tournament.

    For example, Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, the No. 172 player in the world, had to win three matches before he won two in the main draw. His reward was to face the No. 4 player, David Ferrer.

    Camila Giorgi, a player with so little professional experience that her U.S. Open profile read "N/A" after the words "turned pro," made it to the fourth round.

    Because they all deserve mention, the other qualifiers advancing in this year's U.S. Open were Peter Gojowczyk, Donald Young, Somdev Devvarman, Ivo Karlovic, Stephane Robert, Maximo Gonzalez,  Frank Dancevic, Daniel Evans and Rogerio Dutra Silva.

    The other women were Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, Coco Vandeweghe, Kurumi Nara, Michelle Larcher De Brito, Julia Glushko, Victoria Duval and Ajla Tomljanovic.

    Qualifiers like these possess not only talent, but drive as well. They will be seen in Australia 2014.

James Blake Says Goodbye

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    James Blake retired at the end of the 2013 U.S. Open.

    Unfortunately, there were nearly as many members in attendance at his final press conference as there were his final match.

    Although that is not quite accurate, there is no doubt that Blake deserved a better goodbye than the one he got. Fellow Americans Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick played their finales to a much larger crowd.

    So did Pete Sampras, for that matter, but then again championships are always fairly well-attended.

    Agassi and Roddick had a vast following during each one of their potential last appearances, something like a death watch. Blake got cheated of that satisfaction.

    Andrew Friedman of Tennis.com offered an excellent postmortem of both the final night at the Open for Blake, and for what his legacy meant for tennis in America. The final analysis for the unsung hero?

    He deserved better.

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