Each year, the U.S. Open brings us incredible entertainment, excitement and non-stop storylines right here in our own backyard. The 2009 U.S. Open was no different and it did not disappoint. As expected, the competitors came through and delivered two weeks worth of high intensity drama, upsets, Cinderella stories, hard-fought comebacks, introduced us to new stars in the making, and in the end, two new champions were crowned.
Juan Martín del Potro
On the men’s side Juan Martín del Potro came in poised for a breakthrough, but not many expected he would run through the gauntlet of Rafael Nadal in the semis and then Roger Federer in the finals to win his first Grand Slam title. It was quite an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a 19-year-old Argentinian who, coming into the U.S. Open, had never played in a major final let alone was victorious. Del Potro’s victory came in the form of an epic five-set battle against five-time defending champion Roger Federer in the finals that served as the perfect ending to a fantastic 2009 U.S. Open tournament.
On the women’s side, has there ever been a story quite like Kim Clijsters? Having spent two years in retirement, she returned to the tour only a month before the 2009 Open, the new mother to an 18-month-old daughter, and then proceeded to take out both Venus and Serena Williams en route to claiming her second U.S. Open title. Her last U.S. Open title was in 2005, which was the last time she played the event. Clijsters, who was granted a wild card into the Open and was unseeded, now is back in the top 20 in the WTT’s rankings.
America’s newest sweetheart
Coming into the tournament, Melanie Oudin was ranked 70th in the world. Her first round victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was a nice win. What followed, however, quickly made her nothing short of the Cinderella story of the 2009 Open, with wins over number four-seeded Elena Dementieva, 2006 champion Maria Sharapova, and the number 13 seed, Nadia Petrova. The clock finally struck midnight in the quarterfinals, however, as Oudin was defeated in her first night match on Ashe Stadium Court to the ninth seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who went on to advance to the finals. Oudin certainly made a name for herself and will be looking to build upon her 2009 Open performance heading into 2010.
Heading into the women’s semifinal, Serena Williams was the odds on favorite to pull through and advance to the final where she would have overtaken Dinara Safina for the world’s number one ranking, however, one ugly incident changed everything. Serving to stay in the match at 5-6, 15-30, she was called for a foot fault on her second serve which handed Kim Clijsters two match points. Visibly upset over the call, Serena stepped to the line to serve and then decided to have some choice words with the official who made the call. The outburst led to a point penalty being assessed, which, because it was already match point against her, resulted in Williams being defaulted out of the match entirely. This was probably one of the strangest endings to a tennis match in history, but to have it happen in a Grand Slam semifinal match made it all the more stranger and that much more memorable.
The field of American women
Other than the previously mentioned Serena Williams and Melanie Oudin, there were a few other American women in the field. Of course there is Venus Williams who came in as one of the top threats to win the Open title. She had a disappointing tournament for her standards as she fell in the fourth round to eventual champion Kim Clijsters. Young Americans Vania King, Bethanie Mattuk-Sands and Shaenea Perry advanced to the second round , while Americans Alexa Glatch, Gail Brodsky, Meghan Shaughnessey and Mallory Cecil all bowed out in the first round.
On the American men’s side ...
During the early rounds of the tournament, things were looking up for the Americans. Andy Roddick, James Blake, John Isner, Sam Querrey, and dark horses Taylor Dent and Jesse Witten, were still alive and seemed to be headed in the right direction. By round four, all who remained was Isner, after he upset top-seeded American Andy Roddick in five sets. Isner could go advance no further as he lost a four-set match to 10th seed Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. His loss ensured that, for the first time in the history of the U.S. Open (dating all the way back to 1881), that no American male player reached the quarterfinal round. This was a huge disappointment for the United States. The hope is that this is shown to be an aberration, rather than a trend.
On the local front
Scott Lipsky of Merrick, N.Y. played in this year’s men’s doubles draw. Lipsky, along with his partner, Eric Butorac, got a tough draw, having to face the fifth-seeded team of Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram of Belarus in the first round. Lipsky and Butorac put up a good fight before falling 6-3, 6-1.
Long Island Tennis Magazine chose the following six players as players to watch before the U.S. Open. Here’s how they fared:
Upset Andy Roddick in the third round before falling to Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round.
Lost a tough second round match to Tommy Haas after defeating Martin Vassallo Arguello in the first round.
Beat two Americans, Michael Yani and Kevin Kim, before being defeated by 12th-seeded Robin Soderling in the third round.
Defeated Anastasiya Yakimova in the first round before losing to 15th-seeded Samantha Stosur in the second round.
Received a tough draw and lost in the opening night match to Serena Williams 6-4, 6-1
The Cinderella story of the tournament. Melanie advanced all the way to the quarterfinals, before losing to eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Along the way, Oudin defeated Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to reach the quarters.