Isner, Querrey going against the grain
Asked Thursday about the worst effort of the Open era at the US Open -- only three U.S. men into the second round, four fewer than the lowest previous number -- John Isner said frankly, "I just focus on myself. I'm not worried about the whole state of American tennis.
"I'm just doing what I can do as best as I can. Simple as that."
Seeded No. 13, Isner swept past Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 to reach the third round for the sixth consecutive year. The 29-year-old North Carolinian cracked 30 aces and has won all 31 of his service games so far.
Isner, who advanced to the quarterfinals here three years ago, will meet Philipp Kohlschreiber -- the German who has beaten him in the third round the past two years -- on Saturday.
"I wouldn't really call it a problem," Isner said. "I have beaten him more times than he's beaten me overall. But he's beaten me here.
"I remember last year, I wasn't disappointed with how I played. He just played better than me. Simple as that. In a few days' time, I'm just going to have to try to be better than him."
Querrey took out No. 28 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and finds himself in the third round for the fifth time in six years. Twice, the 26-year-old Querrey has advanced to the fourth round here. He has never reached a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal. Querrey, too, has a difficult third-round opponent: No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic, a 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 winner over Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Djokovic has reached only the past four finals here, winning 27 of his past 30 matches.
Smyczek may be feeling a little historical pressure when he plays; the fewest American men to reach the third round in the Open era was two (Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi a decade ago). With a win, he can help this group avoid that low-water mark.
Vika finds her form
Two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka isn't accustomed to scuffling.
But after suffering a foot injury prior to the Australian Open and, more recently, a knee problem, it's been a dicey 2014 season for the feisty Belarusian. Thursday's match against American Christina McHale (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) was only her 19th match of the year, and it started poorly.
Down 3-0, Azarenka rallied to win 12 of the final 14 games and won going away 6-3, 6-2. Azarenka hit 23 winners, along with 24 unforced errors, but won all 24 of the points when she advanced to net.
Azarenka made the finals here the past two years, but a three-peat will be challenging. Even if she gets past Elena Vesnina, she could potentially face Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the fourth round and Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard in the quarterfinals.
Another Robredo comeback
Give yourself a gold star if you knew that Simone Bolellei had never, ever blown a two-set lead in a major. That's right, the Italian was an impressive 11-0 in those matches -- until Thursday night.
Thirty-two-year-old Tommy Robredo mounted a stirring comeback, 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 for his 101st Grand Slam singles victory.
It was the seventh time he's come back from two sets down; only five men have done it more often in the Open era -- Boris Becker, Aaron Krickstein, Vitas Gerulaitis, Todd Martin and Roger Federer.
Robredo forged an intriguing third-round matchup with 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios, who defeated Andreas Seppi 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Kyrgios, the one that knocked No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal out in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Kyrgios had 22 aces and now has 48 in two matches.
Shy ... and still retiring
It was 10 degrees cooler at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center on Thursday, just scraping past 80 in the afternoon, but the rash of men's retirement continued.
First it was Spain's Pablo Andujar, who lost the first two sets (6-4, 6-1) to No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori, checking out with an undisclosed injury. And then Michael Llodra, nursing a sore left arm, retired to Kohlschreiber one point into the second set.
It was, astonishingly, the 29th time in his career that Llodra has retired from a singles match. Appropriately, the 34-year-old Frenchman will be retiring for good at the end of this season.
That brings the men's retirement total to eight. That's only three shy of the all-time record, 11, set three years ago. And there are still 11 days to play.
Michael Russell and Jared Donaldson defeated Stefan Kozlov and Noah Rubin 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4 in a spirited All American affair. But while Russell is 36 years old, the other three are all teenagers. In fact, Russell has more years than any combination of two of the three; Kozlov is 16, Donaldson 17 and Rubin 18. "Your career is longer than my life," Donaldson said to Russell during a postmatch interview. Actually, that's a bit of a stretch; Donaldson was born in 1996, and Russell turned professional two years later. Was this Russell's last US Open? "I don't know," he said. "We'll see how long I can drag it out. I'll play the fall and see how it goes. It could be."
No. 5 Milos Raonic defeated Peter Gojowczyk 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (3). ... Don't look now, but Petra Kvitova is only one victory from equaling her best effort here. The Wimbledon champion pounded fellow Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-4, 6-2. Kvitova has won her past six matches -- and all 12 sets. She's also working on a 9-0 streak at the Grand Slams. The last lefty to win the title here? Monica Seles in 1992 ... No. 9-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Aleksandr Nedovyesov 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. He's won eight of nine matches (including the title in Toronto), and he'll have to keep playing well; Andy Murray is the potential fourth-round opponent, and the No. 1-seeded Djokovic looms in the quarters. ... 17-year-old qualifier Borna Coric lost to the Dominican Republic's Victor Estrella Burgos 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 - a man exactly twice his age ...