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Thursday, September 2, 2010
A first round to remember at the U.S. Open


What a first round we had at the U.S. Open. The likes of Rafa, Novak Djokovic, and Robin Soderling were tested, while French artist Michael Llodra ended Tomas Berdych's fine summer. Bye bye to the Wimbledon finalist. Jelena Jankovic, the fading 2008 U.S. Open finalist, and French Open runner-up Samantha Stosur narrowly escaped.

Oh, did we mention the heat? It was hotter than a vindaloo curry in New York. Not even close. Relief comes Friday.

We look back on the best of Round 1.

Master of moxie

That goes to Djokovic. The Serb has struggled big-time in steamy conditions, and when he trailed countryman Viktor Troicki two sets to one on Tuesday afternoon, the fat lady was warming her throat. Troicki was up a break in the fourth, too, and in two games had chances to go up a double break. He didn't capitalize, and the world No. 3 recovered to win in five.

In truth, Djokovic didn't seem to be bothered by the heat as much as we expected. It was a huge win and it bodes well for him the rest of the way, especially after Andy Roddick's upset loss.

Five-set flabbergast

How about Mardy Fish's encounter against Jan Hajek? Fish inflicted two bagels but was still pushed to five sets, claiming the fifth 6-1 against the seemingly ailing Czech journeyman.

The elimination of fellow dark horse Marcos Baghdatis means Fish has a nice-looking path to the fourth round, where Djokovic awaits.

In total, 13 men's matches -- or around one-fifth -- went the distance. The only two-set comebacks were engineered by Spaniards, Albert Montanes and Marcel Granollers.

And we're not on clay.

Best legs

Although debate continues about Roger Federer's trick-shot video, no one can argue about the validity of his effort against Argentine Brian Dabul on Monday night.

Similar to his stroke against Djokovic in last year's semifinals, Federer chased down a lob, went through the legs, and sent his reply deep into the court for a winner.

"I turned around and couldn't believe the shot landed in the corner," Federer said. "The ovation was fantastic. Crowds went wild."

In the blink of an eye

Last year's darling, Melanie Oudin, began proceedings on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Oudin staved off Olga Savchuk in the first set, then crushed the Ukrainian 6-0 in the second.

Savchuk won a paltry two points in 18 minutes.

Unfortunately for Oudin, there was no happy ending in 2010. Oudin fell to another Ukrainian, the hit-and-miss Alona Bondarenko, in the second round.

Quick with a quip

Ivan Ljubicic's promising season was cut short by injuries, and the towering Croatian has won one match since the French Open. (Croatian tennis isn't so great at the moment.)

On Wednesday, after losing to promising American Ryan Harrison, Ljubicic was asked if the men's tour, like the women's, should implement a heat rule.

"I would be in favor of an indoor tour altogether," he said light-heartedly, drawing much laughter.

Maria Sharapova, never one to mince words, downplayed the complexities of her service motion on Tuesday.

Q: What goes through your mind when you toss the ball up to serve these days? Trying to think of some sort of image that I could describe as you're staring down a break opportunity. You hit some great second serves in the match.

A: You're making this a little way too dramatic for what it was. [That was] like a Shakespeare poem.