Dementieva and Jankovic Out -- Other Seeds Fall
September 3, 2009 -- It was a day for tragic endings and a day for new faces, as two of the women's top seeds -- Elena Dementieva (#4) and Jelena Jankovic (#5) -- lost back-to-back second-round matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium court. At the lower end of the women's draw, Sabine Lisicki (#23) and veteran Patty Schnyder (#19) were defeated later in the afternoon by women most ardent tennis fans have never heard of.
With Dementieva and Jankovic out, the floodgate is wide open for Dinara Safina. She is the lone seed left in that quarter of the draw. Her road to the semifinals now seems assured, but one can never tell especially after today's outcomes. Safina triumphed, however, in her three-set struggle against German Kristina Barrois. Safina committed fifteen double faults, but kept her winners/errors ratio about even, a step up from the dismal performance in her first match of the Open.
On the bright side, Melanie Oudin's win over Dementieva has to rank right up there with her upset of Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon earlier this summer. The 17-year-old Oudin, who hails from Marietta, Georgia, kept up a steady offensive as she moved Dementieva around stadium court and pressured her normally aggressive game into submission. In the third set, Dementieva held serve once while the firecracker Oudin, with her left thigh heavily wrapped, ran away with the win 57 64 63.
Dementieva was expected to penetrate deep into the second week or, even, win her first Grand Slam title. Jankovic was the Open's 2008 runner up. Expectations for her this year were high, too. Both players had also won titles this summer. Dementieva won the Rogers Cup in Toronto in August, and Jankovic won in Cincinnati. They were thought to be primed for the fortnight.
The battle between Jelena Jankovic and Yaroslava Shvedova kept fans guessing up to the last minute. Both women played their best tennis as the match came to an end.
Shvedova won the first set and Jankovic tied up the match, winning the tiebreak in the second. In the final set, Shvedova went up a break and had a match point, but Jankovic's defensive skills and champion's mindset sent them into a tiebreak where Jankovic got up a mini-break. However, a one-point advantage against a player going for broke is not enough. Defensive play has to yield to offensive tennis and Jankovic, like Dementieva, couldn't quite get the job done. In all fairness, though, Shvedova hit like there was no tomorrow. She drilled the Serb with baseline-deep groundstrokes that left her flatfooted. Shvedova won the match 63 67 (4) 76 (6).
Sabine Lisicki's day proved tragic for the 19-year-old German who rightfully could have made it to the second week. She'd won her first title this spring at the Family Circle Cup, was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, and had just returned to the tour after rehabbing a sore right shoulder. But unfortunately, she didn't close today's match when she had it on her racquet at 5/4 in the third. So in what would turn out to be the last point of the match as she ran down a ball, she rolled her left ankle and fell to the court in tears. Her opponent, qualifier Anastasia Rodionova, returned Lisicki's improbable shot softly into the open court and won the match 63 36 75.
Patty Schnyder's loss was less traumatic. The 31-year-old lefty, playing in her 12th U. S. Open, has had an up and down year. In a good season, Schnyder can fall from grace without cause; her matches are erratic and unpredictable. Today, the Swiss player lost to Sara Errani, a feisty Italian who has stood at the doorstep of a major breakthrough for some time.
Grand Slams, and all other tournaments, can be transformed in a single day. Today could be that mysterious one Safina heralds as her lucky one while Sabine Lisicki may have months of rehab ahead, unfortunately. The 19-year-old was a force to contend with a serve that matched both Williams' sisters.
Maybe the word is out, a murmur in the ranks of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour that it's shaky on top, that bright light can shine on those prepared to set aside fear and pressure. However, there was little pressure on these women matched against the top seeds. This is one reason why early rounds are tricky and difficult for them. Their opponents have nothing to lose. They risk more and possibly gain more. Today was such a day for them. We will see if their energy, intentions, and skill can remain consistent... the essential quality of champions.