2011 – 2013, US Open
The Grand Slam tournaments of the years 1980-2010 are created here as a compilation of articles of different contributors, entwined with my blue-notes. The years 2011-12 are consisted only of my entries written on voodemar.com
US Open, New York
It was early afternoon on Monday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and Rafael Nadal’s father, Sebastian, and other members of the Nadal clan were wandering through the United States Open Court of Champions snapping photographs of the plaques honoring inductees past. There was a time, not so long ago, when Nadal looked like a long shot for a place on that wall. He was a clay-court champion first and foremost, then a grass-court champion. But he is among the greats on all the Grand Slam surfaces now and on Monday he put an exclamation point on the most astonishing hardcourt season of his career by beating his new arch-rival, Novak Djokovic, 6-2 3-6 6-4 6-1, to win the United States Open championship. “For a few things, this season is probably the most emotional one in my career,” said Nadal, a 27-year-old from the Spanish island of Majorca. “I felt I did everything right to have my chance here. You play one match against one of the best players in the history in Novak and No. 1 in the world on probably his favorite surface. I knew I had to be almost perfect to win.” Watching him with no tape on his left leg and no ball seemingly too far out of reach, it was frankly difficult to believe that he had seriously considered skipping hardcourt tournaments altogether earlier this season to protect himself from a recurrence of the knee problems that had kept him off the tour for seven months. But Nadal, perhaps the most relentless competitor in the sport’s long and talent-rich history, is nothing if not resilient; nothing if not competitive. He plays, by his own confession, not just to win titles but for the puritanical pleasure of working for each and every point. “I am a positive player, not a negative player,” Nadal said. It is the process more than the destination for Nadal, but he still looked more than satisfied when he had finally finished off Djokovic on a night with a sliver of moon visible in the sky and more than a few tears visible in his eyes and the eyes of those closest to him. “Grande, grande, grande, grande, grande,” came the shouts from his camp after he had picked himself up off the court and eventually jogged to the edge of the court to commune with them. This victory, more grueling than the score line would suggest, gave Nadal a second United States Open title to go with the first he won in 2010 with another four-set victory over Djokovic. It also gave him a 13th Grand Slam singles title that seemed anything but unlucky (60th title overall). “Thirteen is an amazing number,” Nadal said. But perhaps the most remarkable statistic after a victory that generated a mother lode was that it preserved Nadal’s perfect record on hardcourts this season. He is 22-0, a figure that would have seemed unthinkable in the years when Nadal’s most emblematic rival, Roger Federer, was winning five straight titles at the Open. For now, Federer remains the career leader with 17 Grand Slam singles titles, but Monday’s victory thrusts Nadal ever more into the conversation about who deserves to be called the greatest player of this era. “Let me enjoy today,” Nadal said with a grin, resisting the place-in-history questions. “For me is much more than what I ever thought, what I ever dreamed. I said that when I had a few Slams less, but is true.” Nadal has won eight French Opens, two Wimbledons, two United States Opens and one Australian Open. He also holds a winning record over every one of his major rivals, Federer of course included. Djokovic, a 26-year-old Serb, has given him plenty of trouble: never more than in 2011 and early 2012 when he reeled off seven straight victories against the Spaniard and seemed to have extinguished some of Nadal’s self-belief and competitive fire. But Nadal, a great tennis player as well as athlete and fighter, has now won six of the last seven. By the epic standards of their nearly six-hour final at the 2012 Australian Open, Monday’s match was a sprint at 3 hours 21 minutes. It also gave Nadal a huge payday: $2.6 million in prize money and an additional $1 million for winning the U.S. Open Series. “Thirteen Grand Slams for a guy who is 27 years old is incredible,” Djokovic said. “Whatever he achieved so far in his career is something that everybody should respect, no question about it. I was saying before, he’s definitely one of the best tennis players ever to play the game.” Djokovic, who has faced him 37 times and trails, 15-22, is particularly well placed to know his strengths and weaknesses. They have played more than any men in the Open era (overcoming the record of Ivan Lendl & John McEnroe who faced each other 36 times in the official meetings), though less than rivals from earlier eras like Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, the Australians who played more than 100 times. Laver, the only man to complete two Grand Slams by winning all four major titles in a calendar year, was on hand to flip the coin before the start of the match. Nadal concurred that he had rarely played better than he did in the opening set, breaking Djokovic twice and striking the ball with consistent venom and precision. When it ended after 42 minutes, Nadal said he went to his chair and thought that the match was beginning “now” because he believed there was no chance of sustaining that level and that edge for two more sets in a row. That proved true, as Djokovic began taking greater risks with his forehand in the 2nd set and pushing Nadal back from the baseline to a position more familiar to those who watched Nadal play on quick hardcourts in the early years of his career. Djokovic finally broke Nadal’s serve in the sixth game to take a 4:2 lead, although it required him to win a 54-shot rally. “I played especially against Rafa on different surfaces and different occasions points like this where you feel that there is the last drop of energy you need to use in order to win the point,” Djokovic said. “Sometimes, I was winning those points; sometimes him. It’s what we do when play against each other, always pushing each other to the limit. That’s the beauty of our matches and our rivalry, I guess, in the end.” It should thus have come as no surprise that Nadal, instead of letting his shoulders slump, came right out and broke him back in the next game. As Djokovic sat in his chair on the changeover, he screamed in frustration and anger, his lean body shaking. He then slapped himself on both thighs and proceeded to go back out himself and take the next two games and even the match at one set apiece. That could have been the cue for another marathon final, but Nadal had too many answers this time, and although Djokovic carried his momentum into the 3rd set, taking a 2:0* lead and a break point in the next game on Nadal’s serve, the Spaniard willed and hustled his way free. A set that looked as if it belonged to Djokovic was soon repossessed by Nadal. The No. 1 ranking presumably will come next later this year. But numbers are not the heart of the matter with Nadal. “During the match, the thought that kept coming to my mind was that I was watching a genius,” said Wojtek Fibak, the former Polish player hired by Djokovic as a coaching consultant. “It’s like Chopin who was born to compose music. Nadal was born to win tennis matches.” Stats of the final.
World number one Novak Djokovic reached his fourth straight US Open final with a stunning five-set win over Stanislas Wawrinka in New York. Djokovic came back from a set and a break down – as he had against the Swiss ninth seed at the Australian Open in January – to win 2-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 6-4. A brilliant match peaked with an incredible 21-minute game at 1:1 in the decider (12 deuces), which saw Wawrkina fight off five break points and both men pause at one point to take the rapturous applause of 23,000 spectators on Arthur Ashe Stadium. “Wawrinka was a better player for most of the match because he was aggressive and played better tennis,” said Djokovic. “I just tried to hang on and fight and be mentally tough and believe all the way through I could actually win. And I sincerely believed that as the match progressed maybe I would have that physical edge over him. Also, being in these kind of matches and situations and playing on a big stage in semi-finals, maybe that experience could give me a little bit more confidence mentally.” The 1st set was an absolute disaster for Djokovic as he was broken three times, made 14 unforced errors and won only 11% of the points on his second serve, double-faulting at key moments. Andy Murray had been driven to distraction against Wawrinka, and Djokovic looked to be heading the same way when he furiously smashed a ball away early in the 2nd set. Wawrinka, in contrast, was in full flow and Djokovic was given a code violation for receiving coaching from the stands after he fired a forehand long to drop serve in game five. Whatever insight coach Marian Vajda had been trying to pass on, it was 28-year-old Wawrinka who brought his man back into the match with an edgy service game at *2:4 (15/30) that ended with a forehand framed into the stands. Djokovic broke back in game eight, and took advantage in the tie-break, but if the Swiss had Melbourne in his mind after being pegged back to one set all, he banished it quickly. A break point was saved at the start of the 3rd and a tight set developing when Djokovic inexplicably produced another woeful service game at 3:4, netting a forehand to lose it to love. Wawrinka came through a titanic rally at 30:30 to serve it out and regain the lead, but things began to unravel for the Swiss in the 4th set. If Djokovic’s temper had frayed in the early stages, Wawrinka well and truly snapped – as did his racquet when he clattered it into the ground – after falling 3:0 down, and following an earlier warning for “ball abuse”, the outburst cost him a penalty point. More seriously for his hopes of winning the match, Wawrinka left the court for a medical timeout two games later, and a pumped up Djokovic finished off the set clinically on his return to force a decider. Djokovic had vastly more experience at this level than an opponent playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, but there was nothing to choose between the pair in an epic third game. Wawrinka held on magnificently, but Djokovic was back to his best on the return now and he put his opponent under constant pressure until the Swiss floated a backhand long in game five to give up the break. After 4 hours and 9 minutes, Djokovic finally arrived at three match points and, after netting a forehand on the first, the 2011 champion fired an ace down the middle. “At the end of the third set I started feeling my right leg, and at that moment I knew I was going to be out of fuel if I had to play a long match,” said Wawrinka. He added: “In the Australian Open I had to play my best game to stay with him. Today I had the feeling when I was still fit, when I was still healthy, I had the match in control. I think I was playing better than him. I was doing much more things better than him. But he’s not number one for nothing.” Djokovic improved to 15-2 having a 3-0 record in five-setters (the only other H2H with 3-0 for one of players: Aaron Krickstein vs. Stefan Edberg).
Second seed Rafael Nadal powered past France’s Richard Gasquet to set up a US Open final. The Spaniard, 27, was tested in the 2nd set but came through 6-4 7-6(1) 6-2 in 2 hours and 21 minutes. Nadal, the 2010 champion, extended his unbeaten run on hard courts this year to 21 matches – despite dropping serve for the first time in the tournament (as he led 2:1 in the 2nd set). “Last year I didn’t have the chance to play on this court,” said Nadal, who was sidelined for seven months by a knee injury that some speculated might prevent him from returning to the very top of the game. “To have the chance to play in the final on Monday is just a dream for me. It has been two amazing weeks. Novak is a great champion and will be a tough final for me, but I hope to be ready for that.” Gasquet, 27, was up against a man who had won all 67 service games in the first five rounds, and the Frenchman made the worst possible start by dropping his own serve in a loose opening game. He managed to fashion a break point – only the seventh against Nadal during the tournament – but the Spaniard cracked a forehand winner past him and rolled through the set in 43 minutes. Gasquet had found some testing angles and a couple of flashing winners off his superb backhand, but with a 10-0 record in previous meetings it looked ominous when he was broken again at the start of the second. It therefore came as a surprise when the Frenchman became the man to finally break Nadal after setting up the chance with two backhands, and with his own serve now functioning well it took an ace and a fine body serve for Nadal to prevent the double break. The Spaniard had lost his previous tie-break in the fourth round, but after Gasquet opened with a double-fault he raced into a 5:1 lead at the changeover. Gasquet offered up another double-fault to fall two sets behind, and with that his challenge was all but over. Nadal saved a break point at the start of the 3rd with a beautiful drop shot and then arrowed a forehand down the line to create a chance for himself, which the Frenchman handed over as he framed a backhand skywards. There was no stopping Nadal with the finish line in sight and there was a sense of inevitability about the ending as Gasquet buckled under the pressure, double faulting for the fourth time on match point. “I don’t know if it’s a victory to win his serve,” said Gasquet as he reflected on defeat. “I’m not sure about it. I think it’s better to win one set or more. In a Grand Slam it’s even tougher to play against him because it’s three sets to win. I did not play a bad match, but it was three sets to zero, so at the end he was the best on the court.“
Quarterfinals: ESPN, BBC
Andy Murray‘s US Open title defence ended tamely as Swiss ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka outplayed him in the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows. The Briton, seeded third, failed to earn a single break point in a 6-4 6-3 6-2 defeat on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Murray has struggled to find his best form since winning Wimbledon two months ago and his frustration was clear when he was given a code violation for racquet abuse. “It was a tough day for me,” Murray told BBC Radio 5 live. “He played exceptional tennis and served very, very well. He hit a lot of lines on big points, went for his shots and they all went in today. He played too well.” In a match many had predicted would go to five sets, it took only 2 hours and 15 minutes for Wawrinka’s brilliant attacking game to prevail on a hot and blustery afternoon in New York. The 28-year-old moves on to his first Grand Slam semi-final, where he will face world number one Novak Djokovic who beat 21st seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-0 in the night session. Murray, 26, won his first major title at last year’s US Open, but even the return of Sir Sean Connery to watch his fellow Scot could not inspire a similar level of performance. Wawrinka was the last man to beat Murray in the first week of a Grand Slam, at the 2010 US Open, and he inflicted another painful defeat on the British number one. The conditions caused both players problems in the early stages, with Murray netting a straightforward volley before Wawrinka played an air shot on his usually brilliant backhand. It was the Swiss who looked the more threatening though, with Murray failing to find any potency on serve and barely winning more than half of the points in his service games. He was made to pay in game 10 when he let found himself at set point down with three errors, and after a 16-minute tussle Wawrinka converted his sixth set point thanks to a loose Murray forehand (8 deuces). That prompted the champion to smash his racquet in anger and he was quickly in trouble in the 2nd set, but came up with a second-serve ace down the middle to stay on terms. Wawrinka spoke before the match of how he had become a more confident player in recent months and the belief flowed through him as he took a grip on the match with successive love games. A rasping backhand winner got him the break and a 4:2 lead – but it came after Murray had offered up three errors, and the Briton looked a dejected figure heading into the 3rd set. Murray’s record from two sets down is impressive but there was no sign of a comeback this time, and a double fault gave Wawrinka the lead at 2:1 before another terrific pass all but sealed victory for the Swiss with a double break. Wawrinka held his nerve from 0/30 to serve out one of the biggest wins of his career, and ensure Murray would not be defending his title in the final on Monday evening. “I was playing well enough to get to the quarters,” added Murray. “It’s not an easy thing to do – there’s only eight guys in the tournament who have been able to do that.” Wawrinka said: “It’s amazing for me to be in the first semi-final in a Grand Slam, especially after beating Murray, defending champion. He just won Wimbledon, too. He’s a great champion.” Youzhny was broken once in the opening set and twice in dropping the 2nd set – the second time thanks to a cruel net cord as a result of Djokovic’s deadly backhand slice – but the Russian was not about to capitulate. With the night crowd desperate for a contest, Youzhny stormed into 4:1* lead in the 3rd set and held off a Djokovic fightback when the Serb double-faulted to hand over a second break. Djokovic had made an uncharacteristic 16 unforced errors in that set and was not in the mood to give his opponent any more help. Stepping up the intensity markedly he left Youzhny helpless in the face of 10 winners, reeling off the last six games and securing victory with a forehand deep into the corner. “I have been very satisfied with my performances overall in the whole tournament so far,” Djokovic added. “And even tonight, even though I dropped a set, I feel I was in control of the whole set. I played great. To finish off the match with a 6-0 win against Youzhny, it’s definitely encouraging for me for the next challenge.”
It’s as though Rafael Nadal never left. If anything, he’s playing better than ever. A year after skipping the US Open because of a bad knee, Nadal powered his way back to the semifinals at Flushing Meadows, overwhelming 19th-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-0 6-2 6-2 on Wednesday night. “I’m sure that’s the way I have to play to keep having chances to be successful in every surface, but especially on this one,” said the second-seeded Nadal, who is 20-0 on hard courts in 2013. “I was able to do it today. I hope to be able to do it in two days.” On Saturday, Nadal will face No. 8 Richard Gasquet, who edged No. 4 David Ferrer 6-3 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-3. That one took nearly 3 ½ hours, and was filled with plenty of ebbs and flows, allowing Gasquet to reach his first major semifinal in six years. “I thought he was a little bit nervous in the wind, so I played on that,” said Gasquet. “I was a little bit tired but the last game was amazing for me. It’s wonderful for me to be in the semis. It means a lot.” Gasquet entered the quarterfinal having lost five straight matches to Ferrer, all of them in straight sets, so he knew he had to apply something new to give himself a chance. And from the very beginning he was more aggressive than ever before, playing like it was a best of three match. The risky tactics cost him losing easily sets No. 3 & 4, but regrouped and managed to save a break point at 1-all in the 5th – it was the crucial moment. He broke to 15 at 3:2 and held his next two serves (both to 30). Nadal, meanwhile, was never challenged even the slightest bit by Robredo, who was coming off a fourth-round upset of Federer. That stunning result scuttled the possibility of a Nadal-Federer showdown, which would have been the rivals’ 32nd meeting on tour, but first at the US Open. Robredo had been 0-10 against Federer before finally beating him Monday. Perhaps that allowed Robredo to enter Wednesday believing he’d have a chance against Nadal, despite an 0-6 mark in their previous matches. So much for that. This one lasted 1 hour, 40 minutes, and it really was over after 22 minutes. That’s how long it took Nadal to dominate the 1st set, not only winning every game but also 24 of 29 points, including all seven that lasted 10 strokes or more. “I played great the first set,” Nadal said. “It’s my first set so far this year 100 percent.” “He was up very quick,” said Robredo, who is 0-7 in Grand Slam quarterfinals (Open era record), “and then there was nothing else to do. He was too good.” It took Robredo 39 minutes to finally win a game, the ninth of the match, and some fans stood to applaud, probably hoping for a more competitive evening of tennis. At the changeover moments later, the videoboards in Arthur Ashe Stadium showed Donald Trump in his suite, and the cheers turned to boos. With loud grunts, Nadal announced his violent, uppercut forehands, and they cut through the 20 mph wind, thick with spin, landing right near lines. Through two sets, Nadal compiled a 19-2 edge in winners – the final tally was 28-10 – and that forehand of his also forced Robredo into plenty of errors. Actually, every aspect of Nadal’s game worked. One backhand lob was curled so well, Robredo tossed his racket up in the air toward the ball, knowing he had no chance of reaching the perfectly placed shot. Nadal never faced a break point. Comparison of Wawrinka & Gasquet before their US Open ’13 semifinals.
Fourth round: ESPN
Right from the start, Roger Federer looked very little like, well, Roger Federer. In the opening game of his fourth-round match at the US Open, the owner of 17 Grand Slam titles got passed at the net twice, sailed a backhand long, then missed two forehands to get broken. In the second game, the man who has spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than anyone else dumped a backhand into the net, then shanked two other backhands several feet wide. No longer the dominant presence he once was, Federer lost in the round of 16 at Flushing Meadows for the first time in a decade, surprisingly beaten 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 by 19th-seeded Tommy Robredo on Monday night. “I kind of self-destructed, which is very disappointing,” said Federer, who made 43 unforced errors and managed to convert only 2 of 16 break points. “It was a frustrating performance.” “We all know the way he plays, how easy he can do everything,” Robredo said. “But I think the difference today was the break points conversion.” Prior to that match, Federer had won all 10 matches against Robredo, dropping just one set! Heading into Monday, the buzz at the US Open was all about looking ahead to a potential quarterfinal between Federer and his nemesis, Rafael Nadal. Owners of a combined 29 Grand Slam trophies, they have played each other 31 times – including in eight major finals – but never in New York. Federer’s loss means they won’t fix that gap in their rivalry this week. When Federer’s match was ending, the second-seeded Nadal was just getting started in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the Spaniard wound up improving to 19-0 on hard courts in 2013 with a 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory over 22nd-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber. Nadal, who won the 2010 U.S. Open but missed it last year with a left knee injury, faced only one break point, and Kohlschreiber blew it by putting an overhead smash into the net. Nadal has not lost any of his 56 service game so far through four matches. “I don’t want to lie. Happy for that. But I felt at the beginning today, I didn’t serve my best,” Nadal said. “In the next sets, I am very happy the way that I served. I was able to win a lot of points and… start a lot of points in a good position.” In the 1st set, Nadal squandered a triple set points leading 6:5*. David Ferrer battled his way into the quarter-finals with a hard-fought 7-6(2) 3-6 7-5 7-6(3) win over Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic at 1:07 a.m. Ferrer, seeded fourth, retained his composure after dropping the second set to win a grueling slugfest that took nearly four hours to complete after being moved to one of the smaller showcourts because of a lengthy rain delay. “It’s a good court. I don’t mind,” Ferrer said. “My goal is to win the matches as possible and to be consistent. Now I am in quarter-final. After tomorrow, I will play in center court, perfect. If I do not, don’t worry.” The tenacious Ferrer the third Spaniard to reach the men’s quarter-finals, joining Robredo and Nadal. “It was a very tough match. Janko and me, we played a very good match. We had a lot of chances,” Ferrer said. “I think it was my best match this week. The key was in the third set. He was *5:4 (40/0), three set points up. I don’t know what would have happened if I lost that set.” Tipsarevic also led 5:4 (30/0) in the 1st set… Although Ferrer has not won a Grand Slam, the 31-year-old baseliner has proven himself to be one of the most consistent players on tour. He has reached the quarter-finals or better at each of the last eight majors and was a finalist at the French Open in June. Richard Gasquet overcame a match point and 39 aces from big-serving Milos Raonic to make his second Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(9) 7-5 victory Monday night. No. 8 Gasquet came in with a 1-15 record in Grand Slam fourth-round matches. Raonic’s 39 aces were third most in U.S. Open history. He had match point at 8:7* in the fourth-set tiebreaker, but Gasquet came to the net and Raonic couldn’t get a passing shot by him. The match went 4 hours, 40 minutes on a steamy night in New York. Gasquet’s only previous fourth-round victory in a Grand Slam came at Wimbledon in 2007. He had lost 10 straight fourth-rounders since. Gasquet had to work harder than Raonic for his points the entire match. Raonic was topping out at 143 miles per hour – and seemed to win his points after two or three strokes, whereas Gasquet required twice that. Gasquet, a Frenchman, said that he went through two pairs of shoes, six pairs of socks, four pairs of shorts and six shirts. “I fight so much,” he explained in the best English he could. Gasquet was *4:5 (15/30) in the 2nd set, and saved a mini-match point at 3:4 in the 5th set. For about 45 minutes Tuesday, Novak Djokovic couldn’t miss and his opponent couldn’t find anywhere to hide. Showing the sort of beginning-to-end focus he’ll need to win the U.S. Open, top-seeded Djokovic strung together 13 straight games to close out a 6-3 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Marcel Granollers and advance to his 18th straight Grand Slam quarterfinal. “Today, second and third set have been some of the best tennis that I’ve played on Arthur Ashe in my career,” said Djokovic, who has made the final here the last three years and won it in 2011. “It all comes at a great time for me. It was something I was wishing to be more aggressive as the tournament progresses and to be able to stay committed to play every point, to win every point, regardless of the score.” The match took all of 79 minutes. Defending champion Andy Murray went into Ashe and encountered some problems along the way to a 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory over 65th-ranked Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. Ahead 5:3 in the opening tiebreaker, Murray dropped four points in a row. Serving for the second set at 5:1, Murray hit a volley-lob that Istomin tracked down and, back to the net, sent back with a between-the-legs shot. What should have been an easy tap-in winner became a flubbed volley, and Murray put his hand to his face. But he wound up taking that game, and was on his way to improving to 30-2 over his last five Grand Slam tournaments. “Might not be that easy to see from the side, but in the court, there was a strong breeze. We were both struggling with the timing, but I thought we played some entertaining points,” Murray said. “Sometimes when it’s very breezy like that, you can get some fun points.” Next for Murray is a quarterfinal against No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka, who reached the round of eight at the US Open for the second time by beating No. 5 Tomas Berdych, 3-6 6-1 7-6(6) 6-2 in Louis Armstrong Stadium at night. In the crucial 3rd set, Berdych broke back twice to force the tie-break in which led 4:1* & 5:4. Rejuvenated at age 32, Lleyton Hewitt was two points away from reaching the US Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. Mikhail Youzhny would not let the tournament’s 2001 champion close the deal. “It’s one of the hardest games to win – the last one,” Hewitt said. The 21st-seeded Youzhny finished the back-and-forth, nearly four-hour match strongly, taking the final five games and coming back to beat Hewitt 6-3 3-6 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 on Tuesday. How close was it? Hewitt won more total points, 146-145. Wearing his trademark backward-turned white baseball hat, he got within two points of winning while ahead 5:2* (30/15), then served for the match at 5:3, before fading down the stretch. “I left it all out there,” he said. “There’s not a whole heap more I could have done.” Amazingly experienced in five-setters Hewitt, never before wasted such a big lead in the deciding fifth set. Youzhny praised Hewitt as a “great, fighting player… who is fighting every point, every match.” Every time it appeared one man or the other was pulling away, the other got right back into it. Hewitt trailed by a set and a break before going ahead 2-1 in sets. Then he grabbed 11 of the first 12 points to start the 4th, going up 3:0 and 4:1. But Youzhny responded with a six-game run. In the fifth set, Youzhny broke in the first game by making a long sprint, then sliding wide of the doubles alley, for a backhand winner. Sticking to the match’s pattern, Hewitt broke right back. In 80-degree heat (27 Celsius), both Hewitt and Youzhny often appeared content to hang out at the baseline for lengthy exchanges, often slicing backhands or simply placing forehands in the middle of the court. Points would last 10, 20, 30 strokes. “Obviously,” Hewitt said, “could have gone either way.” Back and forth they went, two of 12 active men who have made it at least as far as the quarterfinals at all four major tennis tournaments. At 2-all in the 5th set, Hewitt tore some skin off his left elbow while diving on the hard court for a shot. After Youzhny won the point to get to 15/30 on Hewitt’s serve, play was halted for a medical timeout while a trainer treated the bloody scrape on the Australian’s arm. Later in that game, Youzhny had a break point to nose ahead, but he missed a forehand, and Hewitt wound up holding. What appeared to be the final momentum swing came in the very next game, when Youzhny was a point away from making it 3-all, before coming undone. He put a forehand into the net, missed a backhand, then double-faulted to hand Hewitt a 4:2 lead. Hewitt then was two points away from victory at 5:2, but Youzhny held serve there. With Hewitt serving for the win at 5:3, Youzhny earned a break point by stretching for a volley winner with both players up at the net. Hewitt then missed a backhand to make it 5:4. That was part of a stretch in which Youzhny took 12 of 13 points. When Hewitt pushed a forehand long to get broken again, Youzhny led 6:5, and there would be no more shifts.
Third round: ATP
Novak Djokovic continued his dominant run of form at the 2013 US Open, ousting Joao Sousa 6-0 6-2 6-2 on Sunday evening. With the victory, the World No. 1 advanced to his 18th consecutive Grand Slam fourth round, where he will face 43rd-ranked Marcel Granollers. Djokovic relinquished five games or fewer for the second time this tournament and is now 22-2 in New York since a semi-final finish in 2009. Djokovic relishes his opportunities to play under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium. “It’s the biggest stadium we have in the sport, 23,000 seats. I don’t even see the top. But I can hear you very well,” he said in an on-court interview following the match. “New York offers a unique vibe, especially in the night.” The Spaniard advanced to his second Grand Slam round of 16 after edging the last American in the draw, Tim Smyczek, 6-4 4-6 0-6 6-3 7-5. It marks the first time no Americans advanced past the third round in US Open history. Smyczek went up an early break in the 5th set after ripping a backhand cross-court passing shot, but would eventually give the break back at 4:2. “He came up with some amazing shots,” he said “I didn’t feel like I played a bad game to get broken back, but maybe one or two loose errors. He just came up with some great passes.” Despite striking 73 winners, Smyczek could not overcome 64 unforced errors, including a forehand that sailed long to give Granollers the deciding break in the fifth set. Granollers, who was struggling with his movement earlier in the match, would hold at love to seal the victory. “I love playing these types of matches,” said Granollers in Spanish, referring to the electric atmosphere on Grandstand court. “If you win, it’s even better. The fans were supporting him much more but that’s normal. I’m just very happy to come away with the win.” Granollers won third consecutive match in a five-setter; just like in the previous round he was two points away from defeat at the end of the match. World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is through to the fourth round of the US Open without losing serve. The 2010 champion dismissed Ivan Dodig 6-4 6-3 6-3 on Saturday to set a fourth-round clash with Philipp Kohlschreiber. “I think I played a correct match today,” said Nadal. “To be able to win against him in straight sets is great news. I played better today than in the previous matches. Always a positive thing. Every win means a lot. I’m happy with the way that I am playing, and trying to be ready for the next [match].” For the second consecutive year Kohlschreiber denied John Isner a return to the Round of 16 of the US Open, prevailing 6-4 3-6 7-5 7-6(5) in 2 hours and 47 minutes. Kohlschreiber defeated Isner in a memorable five-setter a year ago, ending at 2:26 a.m. and resulting in the German’s first fourth round appearance in New York. “That said, he played a smart match,” Isner added. “He was better than me, simple as that.” Denis Istomin fired 24 aces and snapped a streak of Andreas Seppi, who won seven consecutive five-setters in 2013, with a 6-3 6-4 2-6 3-6 6-1 victory in just over three hours. Between Wimbledon ’12 & US Open ’13, Istomin & Seppi played four matches at majors, every time it was a five-setter, and each of them won twice! Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka, both lurking quietly in Murray’s quarter of the draw, moved into the second week of the US Open ahead of him with victories of contrasting quality on Sunday. Of the two, Berdych, seeded No. 5, was first through and impressed more in beating the sometimes dangerous Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-0 6-3 6-2 in under two hours. Wawrinka, meanwhile, took an hour and a half longer and dropped a set here for the first time before getting past the stubborn Marcos Baghdatis 6-3 6-2 6-7(1) 7-6(7). Wawrinka served for the match at 6:5 in the second tie-break but Baghdatis dragged him to the net and slid the passing shot into the empty space; but the Swiss made no mistake when presented with his second match point. The Swiss player in third consecutive match won one tight set, he saved three set points against Radek Stepanek in round 1, and one set point in the following round against Karlovic. Perhaps only Andy Murray can appear to be grappling with the the complications of his own existence while simultaneously winning a tennis match and that was how he dispatched Florian Mayer from the US Open in straight sets in the suffocating bear pit that is the Arthur Ashe Stadium. To be fair to him – to both of them, in fact – the air at court level was so dead and hot it could have becalmed a yacht but Murray still produced moments of magic to win 7-6(2) 6-2 6-2 and advanced to the fourth round here in defence of his title. Roger Federer wanted to make a distinction about the way things have gone for him in 2013. “It’s been a tough year,” Federer acknowledged, “but it hasn’t been a horrible year.” He’s looking pretty good so far at the U.S. Open, working quickly to move into the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the 13th consecutive time. Finishing points with early winners from all angles, 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer raced through a 6-3 6-0 6-2 victory over 63rd-ranked Adrian Mannarino of France in only 1 hour, 21 minutes Saturday night. Through three matches, Federer has spent 4 1/2 hours on court, dropping a total of only 21 games. “You come to New York, and if you’re not excited anymore, you’re in the wrong place. You don’t like the sport the way you should,” he said. “If you don’t put in 100 percent effort here or in other places that really you care about, then southing’s wrong with you. I’m just totally excited being here. I have always enjoyed playing here. Have never had a bad tournament at the U.S. Open.” This is the 56th consecutive major tournament Federer has entered, tying the men’s record held by Wayne Ferreira.
Second round: ATP
He didn’t have it all his own way in the early exchanges, but World No. 1 Novak Djokovic finished strongly to defeat Benjamin Becker 7-6(2) 6-2 6-2. The Serb was denied on early break point chances in the 1st set before Becker seized his opportunity to break for a 5:4 lead. The German was unable to close out the opener despite two set points, and Djokovic was in charge in the subsequent tie-break. Djokovic dropped only 10 points on serve in the following two sets as he raced to victory in 1 hour and 51 minutes. “It was very tough,” said Djokovic. “It was a lot of unforced errors, very windy conditions. You couldn’t really read and kind of predict where the ball is going to go, so you have to be very alert. At the start I had difficulty with my footwork. But as I won a set after that, it was very much, much better.” The Belgrade native next will face Joao Sousa for a fourth-round spot. World No. 95 Sousa backed up his first-round upset win over Dimitrov with another five-set victory, knocking out Jarkko Nieminen 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4. The 24-year-old Portuguese player is enjoying his best run at a major championship. Also Marcel Granollers won second consecutive match in five sets: the Spaniard prevailed in five sets for a second straight match, rallying from two sets down to beat American Rajeev Ram 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-3 7-5. Granollers was two points away from defeat serving at 4:5 (30-all) in the 5th set. Tommy Haas advanced to the third round with a 6-3 6-4 7-6(3) victory over Yen-Hsun Lu. The German, who at 35 is the oldest man in the draw, is bidding to reach the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for the fourth time. World No. 13 Haas came into the US Open on the back of a third-round effort in Cincinnati, where he pushed Federer to three sets. The right-hander has a 41-17 match record on the season, highlighted by winning his 14th ATP World Tour title at the BMW Open in Munich. “Obviously I’m really happy to have played two solid matches now, and that gives you confidence going into the third round,” said Haas. “Obviously tough opponent again who is also experienced. I’m just going to go out there and try to be ready for that and do my best to try to win that match. Putting yourself in a position to get further and to try to get the W, that’s where you want to be. That’s where I’m at right now, so it’s just a matter of seeing where it takes you.” Tim Smyczek doesn’t do easy. He grinds out wins, wears down foes and uses resolve, superior fitness and some surprising pop to advance. On Friday, he ran up against an opponent who does the same: Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. The result was as predictable as it was punishing, a five-setter that stretched just shy of four hours before Smyczek prevailed, 3-6 7-6(6) 2-6 6-4 6-4. The last set alone lasted 54 grueling minutes, and even the encounter’s shortest stanza, the third set, lasted 40 minutes. The play on the court was as close as the score indicates, with Bogomolov winning 173 points to 169 for Smyczek. But the 25-year-old wild card from Milwaukee remained on the aggressive, and that made the difference, pushing his 5-foot-9 frame for 21 aces (to eight for Bogomolov) and 68 winners (to 39 for the Russian). Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dropped just nine games between them as they eased into the third round. Federer, still aiming to add to his record collection of 17 Grand Slam singles titles, brushed aside Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-2 6-1. “For me it was pretty straightforward, to be honest,” Federer said. “It’s one of those matches I expect myself to win if possible in straight sets and gain confidence in the process.” Nadal made short work of Rogerio Dutra Silva, beating the Brazilian qualifier 6-2 6-1 6-0 in just 1 hour and 32 minutes and extending his record on hard courts this season to 17-0. Defending champion Andy Murray took care of one Mayer on Friday, defeating Argentine Leonardo Mayer 7-5 6-1 3-6 6-1. After a straightforward opener against Llodra, Murray came under pressure in the 3rd set Friday, facing seven break points and losing his first service game. He regrouped and came back strong in a 32-minute 4th set, limiting Mayer to three winners, compared to 36 over the first three sets. “I didn’t feel like I served as well today as I did in the first match,” said Murray. World No. 5 Tomas Berdych was made to work hard for his second-round win, battling past American Denis Kudla 7-6(3) 7-6(3) 6-3 at Flushing Meadows. Berdych prevailed in 2 hours and 45 minutes, losing serve four times, but responding with five service breaks of his own. He committed 47 unforced errors, but was aided by 59 mistakes from Kudla’s racquet. It was his first meeting with the No. 104-ranked American. “It was not easy at all. He made me work pretty hard today,” said Berdych. “His game is quite well suited for the hard court. He plays a lot of flat balls. I prefer a bit when the ball jumps higher.” Berdych led *5:1 having a set point in 1st & 4:2* (deuce) in 2nd set. Lleyton Hewitt prevailed against Juan Martin del Potro, 6-4 5-7 3-6 7-6(2) 6-1 in a blockbuster second-round meeting between former US Open champions, Friday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium. “This is why I still play. To have moments like this,” he said in an on-court interview. World No. 6 Del Potro found himself in a precarious position early on, with Hewitt holding two chances to go up two sets to none. Three unforced errors later, including a pair of double faults, the momentum shifted in Del Potro’s favour. He won the next four games to go up 2:0 in the third set. Though Hewitt recovered the break, Del Potro drew ahead again. Hewitt earned his next opportunity to serve out a set after going up 5:3 in the 4th. Though he lost the game, the spirited 32 year old refused to be counted out, surging to a 6:0 lead in the tie-break. He broke the Argentinian three times in the final set, clinching the victory after just over 4 hours. “I was obviously trying to regroup but the conditions were tough out here,” said Hewitt. “He was struggling with it for a set and a half, and then he started to find his range a bit more and I was sort of playing a bit more defensive. I had to try and turn the tables. I felt physically I was starting to get a little more on top of things through the fourth set. He played a great game to break me when I served for the fourth set as well. I played one of the best tie-breaks of my life.” Hewitt will next play unseeded Russian Evgeny Donskoy, who fought back for a 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 win over German Peter Gojowczyk. The 23-year-old Muscovite, who entered the US Open at No. 102 in the ATP Rankings, reached the third round at the Australian Open earlier this year on his Grand Slam main draw debut. Ninth-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka advanced with a 7-5 7-6(8) 6-4 win over Croatian Ivo Karlovic, and next faces Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis. The former Australian Open finalist dismissed No. 17 seed Kevin Anderson 6-2 6-2 6-2. Last night’s raucous Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd chose showmanship over national identity, throwing vociferous support behind rallying Frenchman Gael Monfils in a dramatic struggle finally won by the U.S. Open’s highest-ranked American, John Isner. Only when Isner stung an inside-out forehand to bring up match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker did the fans suddenly turn back to home, chanting “U-S-A.” Monfils’ netted forehand at last ended Isner’s 7-5 6-2 4-6 7-6(4) victory. Hours after 26th seed Sam Querrey was shown the door by France’s Adrian Mannarino, 7-6(4) 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 6-4. Querrey lost his serve (25 aces) twice – in the first game of the match (after 8 deuces) and the last one (losing three points in a row from 30/15). The 6-10 Isner had held the 39th-ranked Monfils at bay for two sets with his thunderbolt serve. But Monfils’ stylish, go-for-broke play turned the crowd decidedly in his favor, clearly unsettling Isner, who took a nine-minute break after the 3rd set to change his shirt and shorts. Chants for Monfils repeatedly rose in the crowd, giving a sense that the two men were playing a Davis Cup match for their home nations. “He’s a class act,” Isner said of Monfils after their mighty struggle, “and it was so much fun to share the court with him. He gets cheered on wherever he goes.”
First round: ESPN
Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz felt as if a knife were stabbing him in his right side every time he tried to serve. The Pole, seeded 14th, hurt his lower back three days before his first-round match at the U.S. Open, and he lost in straight sets to qualifier Maximo Gonzalez  on Tuesday. Gonzalez advanced with a 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory. The 30-year-old Argentine hadn’t won a main draw match on the ATP Tour since April 2011. “I couldn’t jump,” Janowicz said. “I couldn’t make a service movement. It’s still better than yesterday.” He had a painkiller injection Monday, which allowed him to rotate to hit his backhand. But he described his serve during his match as “a push.” At one point in the 3rd set, he even tried one underhand. Janowicz took an injury timeout in the 2nd set for a trainer to massage his back. Janowicz had never been past the third round at a major tournament before his run at Wimbledon, which ended with a loss to eventual champion Murray. The combustible 22-year-old fell in the first round at Flushing Meadows last year in his only previous appearance in the U.S. Open. He had 11 double-faults and 53 unforced errors Tuesday. Another of the big-game, big-personality youngsters also was sent packing Tuesday: Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria fell to Joao Sousa of Purtugal 3-6 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-2. Dimitrov, who is dating Maria Sharapova, said he ran out of gas physically in fifth set vs. Sousa and doesn’t know why. At this point in his career, Roger Federer recognizes the importance of a little extra work. That’s why the owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, and the man who spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than any other, was out there on a U.S. Open practice court late Tuesday afternoon, putting in some training time shortly after finishing off a 6-3 6-2 7-5 victory over 62nd-ranked Grega Zemlja of Slovenia. Top-seeded Novak Djokovic saved seven of eight break points to start with a 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory over former junior world No. 1, Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania. The victory took only 82 minutes for Djokovic, seeking his second title and fourth straight final at Flushing Meadows. It was a quiet evening at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the packed crowd barely cheered during the most routine of matches. One of the few exciting moments came on the first point of the 3rd set, when Djokovic lobbed Berankis and the Lithuanian replied with a backward shot between his legs that Djokovic calmly flicked away for a volley winner. The top-seeded Serb hit 28 winners, with only nine unforced errors. “I played every point like it’s a match point,” Djokovic said. America’s top two men, John Isner and Sam Querrey, each won their first-round matches Tuesday. No. 13 seed Isner beat Filippo Volandri of Italy 6-0 6-2 6-3 (Isner’s first main-level set won to ‘love’), and No. 26 seed Querrey eliminated Guido Pella of Argentina 7-6(3) 4-6 6-1 6-2. The slips and slides of the soft clay have been replaced by the squeaks of sneakers on the hard courts. Nobody is handling the switch better than Rafael Nadal. He improved to 16-0 this year on the hard surface Monday, defeating American Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-2 6-2. “It’s difficult to analyze now,” Nadal said, when asked if he’s playing the best hard-court tennis of his career. “I am playing well. Happy the way I was playing. I don’t know if it was the best or not, but it was very good because I was able to win.” The victory in front of a half-full Arthur Ashe Stadium marked the first for second-seeded Nadal on any Grand Slam surface other than clay since the first round of Wimbledon in 2012. “If you’re 30 years old and you’ve only got a number of Slams left, then maybe you’re upset with it,” Harrison told The Associated Press on Sunday, when asked about his draw. “I’m 21. I’m excited. Every single time I get to play a match like this, it’s hard not to be excited. And if I don’t want to play the top guys in the first round, then that’s kind of an incentive to get seeded.” Earlier Monday, British qualifier Daniel Evans stunned 11th-seeded Kei Nishikori in straight sets for the first big upset of the tournament. The 179th-ranked Evans won 6-4 6-4 6-2. He was making his debut at Flushing Meadows and had been 0-2 in Grand Slam matches, both at Wimbledon. The 23-year-old had to rally from a set down in his final match of qualifying to make the field. “I was pretty calm today,” Evans said. “It wasn’t that much of a big deal what was happening on the court. I wasn’t nervous serving it out.” Also 23, Nishikori was already playing in his 17th major tournament. He was a quarterfinalist at the 2012 Australian Open. Both players faced nine break points Monday, but Evans converted six to just two for Nishikori. Eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet eliminated American Michael Russell 6-3 6-4 6-2 (they’d faced each other in New York nine years before and Gasquet was defaulted in the first round of the qualifying event). Bernard Tomic rallied past Albert Ramos in five sets, winning 6-3 3-6 4-6 7-6(1) 6-3 in nearly four hours. Defending champion Andy Murray reached the second round of the US Open with less than an hour of the third day remaining as he beat France’s Michael Llodra in Wednesday’s night session. The Briton, 26, completed a 6-2 6-4 6-3 victory at 11.33 pm local time in New York. “It’s nothing to do with me being defending champion, there were quite a few matches [still going on Wednesday evening],” Murray said. “Anyone that knows sport knows that playing seven matches over 13 days is harder than playing seven matches over 15 days.” Juan Martin del Potro overcame delays from the rain and his opponent to pull out a grueling four-set win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Wednesday in the first round of the U.S. Open. The 2009 champion was frustrated by the 74th-ranked Spaniard’s repeated calls for a trainer to work on his left leg. Del Potro, seeded sixth, though won 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(7) in 4 hours, 13 minutes. The Spaniard wasted a 4:1 lead in the 4th set, then saved three match points in the final tiebreaker before Del Potro put him away with an emphatic backhand winner. “We play every time long rallies,” Del Potro said. “I got to make three or four winners in the same point to win the point.” His eyes red, James Blake‘s  voice never wavered as he talked about civil rights and history and diversity. He embraced the symbolism of starting his last tournament on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, an African-American tennis star inspiring young players. It was just past midnight when his match, and career, ended. Blake was always comfortable sharing his rousing back story. He was also proud that his game was bigger than that. He walked off the court at the US Open for the last time as a singles player early Thursday morning after blowing a two-set lead and losing in a fifth-set tiebreaker. The 33-year-old American fell 6-7(2) 3-6 6-4 7-6(2) 7-6(2) in the first round to Ivo Karlovic  being two points away from victory at 6:5* (30/15) in the 4th set. Afterward, he talked about tennis but also causes dear to him. Blake has joined an organization working to end homophobia and anti-gay bullying in sports. He lamented an athletic culture “where you’re too often seeing a lot of macho sort of showboating when everyone should feel comfortable.” Blake ended his career 4-15 in five-set matches (0-3 as far as deciding 5th set tie-break is concerned), which is the worst Open era record among players to participate in 15 five-setters at least. “I definitely won’t sleep a whole lot tonight,” Blake said. “I’ll be thinking about opportunities I had.” In other dramatic five-set contests which were concluded in the 5th set tie-break: the rising star Vasek Pospisil  lost to Rogerio Dutra Silva  6-4 6-3 6-7(9) 2-6 6-7(10) blowing seven match points (the most in the best of five set match in this decade) – all of them in the decisive set, and Alex Bogomolov ousted Benoit Paire 7-5 2-6 6-4 5-7 7-6(3). Paire was serving to win the match at 6:5 (30/0), but lost four straight points. The Frenchman served career-high – 29 aces… 33-year-old Xavier Malisse , who made his debut at the US Open ’99, played his last main-level match losing 3-6 6-3 5-7 5-7 to Andreas Seppi . The Belgian was broken in the 12th games of the last two sets.