Commentary

More major meltdowns by top seeds

Halep and Kerber join the list of the unfortunate favorites at the US Open

Updated: August 29, 2014, 6:37 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- How to assess the carnage at the top of the women's field here at the US Open?

On Friday, No. 2 seed Simona Halep went out in straight sets to a 32-year-old qualifier ranked No. 121 among WTA players. And No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber was swept away by a 17-year-old from Switzerland playing in her first US Open.

That means half of the top eight seeds -- including No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 8 Ana Ivanovic -- won't be around for the second week.

[+] EnlargeSimona Halep
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaWorld No. 2 Simona Halep had not lost to a player outside the top 100 in more than a year.

By contrast, at the time they fell out of the draw, the top 20 men's seeds were all still alive.

So, this is a major meltdown by the favorites -- or a tribute to the depth of women's tennis. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

Halep, who lost to Maria Sharapova in the French Open final this year, led the first set 5-2 and actually had two set points but fell to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 7-6 (6), 6-2. It was the sixth straight win here for Lucic-Baroni, who won three qualifying matches and managed to reach the Wimbledon semifinals 15 years ago.

That was the previous time she had advanced to the second week of a Slam. How big an upset is this? The Croatian is the first qualifier to beat a top-2 seed here since 2008, when Julie Coin beat then-No. 1 Ivanovic.

"[A] good mood I didn't have because sometimes after you lose a set from 5-2, you lose a little bit of the confidence," Halep said later. "Everything was in for her. After she came back really well, I couldn't hit very long the balls. So was too short, my game."

Kerber, too, came up on the short end, falling to Belinda Bencic 6-1, 7-5. This was no fluke. For while Bencic, at 17, is the youngest in the WTA's top 100 -- and the second-youngest player in the draw after 15-year-old CiCi Bellis of the U.S. -- she can play; she beat Maria Kirilenko and Sara Errani as a qualifier in Charleston and wound up in her first career semifinal.

Bencic looks up to fellow Swiss players Roger Federer and Martina Hingis. In fact, her coach of nearly 10 years, Melanie Molitor, is Hingis' mother. Bencic has been practicing with Hingis, who is playing doubles and mixed doubles here, for more than half her life.

"We have similarities in the game," Bencic said. "But I try to play my own game. It all started in Australia where I had a good run. I qualified and I won a round, so from there I started believing that I can play with these players."

So watch out for No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic. In this, her 11th US Open, she had her easiest win ever here, a 6-1, 6-0 score over Johanna Larsson. Jankovic, who won 57 of 84 points, has made the fourth round in four of her past five majors. With the departures of No. 21 seed Sloane Stephens (who would have been her opponent in the third round) and Radwanska, Jankovic's quarter of the draw has opened up. Next she plays Bencic.

The draw also opens up for Sharapova, who could have faced Halep in the quarterfinals.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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