The fortnight of celebrations in New York got off to a poignant start when James Blake sprang a surprise by declaring his intent to hang up his racket at the end of his run at the tournament. “The secret to humour,” said Aristotle, “is surprise.” Well you can be certain that the great philosopher wasn’t thinking of the men and women at the receiving end of some surprising results this past week at the 133rd US Open.
There isn’t a dearth of shocking results in a year when 10 women and 14 men, belied their seeding by dropping out before the round of 32. In this feature, we look at some of the exclamatory moments during the first week at Flushing Meadows.
1. Hewitt topples Del Potro
We live in strange times. It is no longer a real surprise that 31-year-old Tommy Robredo ousted a sluggish Roger Federer in straight sets. But when Lleyton Hewitt, six months older than the Swiss maestro, fought like a bloodhound to overcome Juan Martin Del Potro in a marquee second round match, the Arthur Ashe crowd leapt out of their seats time and again to applaud the heroics of the Aussie.
The injury torn veteran was down two sets to one before scripting his way back into the match to upset the 6th seeded Argentine. Well past 32, Hewitt is probably one of the reasons why Federer still believes he can string together the seven matches he needs to earn an 18th Grand Slam title. Of course, Tommy Haas would be the other man inspiring the embattled Swiss star. The 66th ranked Australian showed remarkable poise and determination to slug it past the powerful Del Potro 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1 to pave the path for a run into the second week.
2. Duval stuns Stosur
Victoria Duval caused a sensational upset when she shocked Samantha Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a first round match last week. The 17-year-old migrant from Haiti reminded the Americans of another teenager who stole their hearts in 2009. Melanie Oudin was also the same age when she put together that rousing run to the quarterfinals, beating Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova. Oudin was brought back to reality by a straight sets loss to Caroline Wozniacki.
Duval though was just not as successful or lucky. The 296th ranked American played a spirited match in the first round to overturn a one set deficit before turning the screws on for Stosur, a former US Open champion. Unfortunately, Duval could not match the guile and experience of Daniela Hantuchova in the second round.
3. Evans shocks Nishikori
Kei Nishikori has been making steady progress, consolidating his position in the top twenty and constantly knocking the doors at the top 10 of the world. The Japanese though ran into a red hot qualifier who forgot his own stature and the gravitas of the stage on which he was performing.
The 179th-ranked Brit outshone himself to score a sensational 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 upset over the 11th seeded Nishikori to register the first big shock of this edition of the US Open. Evans extended his unlikely run of success when he came away winner against the talented Aussie, Bernard Tomic in the next round. Evans defeated the 52nd ranked Aussie 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 to reach the third round. Incidentally, Tomic lost in the second round for the third straight year.
Eventually, it took a four set effort from Tommy Robredo to defeat the resurgent Englishman. The 19th-seeded Spaniard scored a hard fought 7-6(6), 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 to set up a clash with Federer in the fourth round. Robredo surprised himself when he ousted the five time champion in straight sets on Monday.