While the opening three days of the U.S. Open haven’t exactly set the world alight with shocks galore, five-set barnstormers and edge-of-your-seat action, some intriguing events have still unfolded across the grounds at Flushing Meadows, New York. Seeds have fallen, and teenagers have risen. Let’s rally through some of them now.
Coric Beats Rosol
Croatian teenager Borna Coric raised some eyebrows by hammering recent Winston-Salem title winner Lukas Rosol 6-4 6-1 6-2 in the opening round on Court 8. Seventeen-year-old qualifier Coric, who won the U.S. Open junior crown last year, was playing in his first-ever Grand Slam match. He is definitely someone to watch out for as he rises up the rankings and gets more experience at the top level.
Coric’s fellow Croat Ivan Ljubicic tweeted:
When a player gets a nick name from @bgtennisnation [Brad Gilbert], then you know he is for real #bornaidentitycoric.
To which Gilbert replied:
The young fella is the real deal, if he were a stock I would put a strong bye on him right now.
Peng Shuai dealt the biggest upset of the championships so far by sweeping past fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3 6-4 in the second round.
Radwanska had been in excellent form after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal, beating a surging Venus Williams in the final and then losing just one game in the opening round in New York.
Allez Les Bleus
The all-French first-round affair between Benoit Paire and Julien Benneteau was certainly an endurance-tester. Paire eventually won a topsy-turvy clash in five sets, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, in over four hours. Paire hit 14 aces and 85 winners in the match.
We can hardly fail to begin with the ongoing saga that is Andy Murray. His opener against Robin Haase on a boiling Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday afternoon was typically dramatic.
It was also hugely concerning, particularly for those with a wager on the Scot to claim his third Slam. He’s one of the fittest guys on the circuit and had a strong, promising training block in Miami post-Wimbledon, after which his body was feeling the best it has for a long time.
Yet, on Monday, his body let him down. After just 90 minutes of play, where the 2012 U.S. Open champion was comfortably two sets up despite not playing anywhere near his best tennis, cramps were writhing through his mortal frame. He was clutching parts all over his body.
Fortunately, Murray’s immense mental strength didn’t escape him. He somehow managed to battle through in four sets. That’s why he’s a two-time major champion. He said after the match, per The Guardian:
With the training I do in Miami, the conditions are more challenging than they are here [New York]. I don’t know why it happened. It’s strange. It can be a combination of a number of things...I woke up today [Tuesday] with no aches or pains. It would suggest it was something I hadn’t eaten or drunk before I went out there.
It seems though that Murray will be physically fine heading into a second-round meeting with German qualifier Matthias Bachinger. Grand Slam events can provide the greats with massive challenges at unexpected moments, and the Briton has just overcome a giant obstacle in his first match by conquering his own body.
Barring the constant force of Serena Williams, American tennis has not exactly been flying of late. Sloane Stephens has again failed to live up to the hype, being surprisingly beaten by the unseeded Johanna Larsson after taking the first set. But step up 15-year-old CiCi Bellis, who stunned Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
CiCi, whose real name is Catherine Cartan, inherited a wild card after winning the U.S. Open girls’ national championships and is ranked junior No. 2. But she stands at a massive No. 1208 in the WTA rankings.
That defeat just about puts the cherry on top of the Slovakian Cibulkova’s horrid spring and summer. Since brilliantly reaching the title match in Melbourne in January, she has lost in the first round of seven tournaments, including recently on the hard courts of New Haven and Cincinnati.
For the American teenager though, it’s her biggest ever victory and at her home Grand Slam to boot. It’s fair to say that her name will be remembered throughout the U.S. for a few years yet.
Nick Kyrgios became a name known around the world just this summer in SW19. It’s certainly installed within the memories of Rafael Nadal fans. You might also remember that he did this.
But the fiery, powerful Aussie teenager is now ripping up the blue surfaces of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. He downed No. 21 seed and former semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny in four sets, 7-5, 7-6, 2-6, 7-6, in a fantastic contest.
Fiery and powerful is absolutely the way to describe his performance too. He was given three code violations, for swearing and hitting a ball out of the court, and thus got a game penalty in the fourth set. Another violation and he would have been disqualified.
Besides Kyrgios’ antics though, the match was an intense battle, pitting the Russian’s silky one-handed backhand pitted against the raw power of the Aussie’s forehand. The latter served 26 aces too.
Next up, in the second round, is a relatively winnable match against the inconsistent Andreas Seppi. Then, potentially a third-round meeting with Simone Bolelli or Tommy Robredo.
Asked about the temper tantrums, Kyrgios said, per The Telegraph: "I guess it was just heat-of-the-moment stuff. I was just frustrated the way I was playing and it was just an outburst."
The Australian clearly needs to get that sorted, though, before it costs him a match. If we look at the model of the top players in the game right now, they very rarely, if ever, vent frustration in a way that is enough to pick up a warning from the person in the tall chair.
At the same time Bulgarian boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov was rolling past Ryan Harrison across the way on Louis Armstrong, sweet-toothed Maria Sharapova became involved in a bit of a second-round dogfight on Arthur Ashe.
For the first set and a half, world No. 95 Alexandra Dulgheru was more than living with the 2006 champion. She was phenomenally consistent with her groundstrokes, making a lot of balls and working them precisely around the court. Sharapova was also making a fair few errors as a result, and the Romanian took the opening set, 6-4.
In typical style though, the Russian responded with controlled power to progress to the third round in three sets, where she will face Sabine Lisicki, which could be a blockbuster clash.
But Dulgheru really gave a great account out there as day changed to night on Arthur Ashe and the lights flicked on. Her consistency in the opening set produced some excellent rallies, and the Russian No. 5 seed really had to hit a higher gear to prevail.