Monday, August 29, 2005

Russian Shocker On Day One

It didn't take long for a huge upset to take place at the U.S. Open. For the first time in the Open era, a defending women's champion was eliminated in the first round when Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova fell victim to countrywoman Ekaterina Bychkova 6-3, 6-2.

The fifth seed never got untracked against the 97th ranked player in the world, spraying 45 unforced errors to just 15 winners in a lackluster day. Though she cashed in all three break chances against Bychkova, it didn't matter because her opponent converted six of 11 opportunities enroute to a straight set victory. Kuznetsova was equally as bad on first and second serves, winning just 48 percent on both.

It took 65 minutes for little known Bychkova to complete the stunner. For the 20-year-old Russian, her grand slam debut was a surprising success. Entering the match, she had only four career wins on tour against six defeats, improving her record to 4-5 this year. Now she'll take on the winner of Ivana Lisjak-Emilie Loit in the second round.

What this means for top seed Maria Sharapova is an even easier road to the semifinals. Kuznetsova was the big name at the bottom of Sharapova's draw and potential quarterfinal opponent. Now, that part of the draw is wide open with ninth seed Nadia Petrova left along with rising star Nicole Vaidisova. Both won in straight sets to advance to the next round. American Laura Granville eliminated 22nd seed Silvia Farina Elia easily 6-2, 6-1 to advance.

On Sharapova's side, 21st seed Dinara Safina and 28th seed Flavia Pennetta were ousted in three sets, leaving only Aussie Alicia Molik as the lone seed who could be in her path of cruising to the quarters.

Other seeded women's winners included: Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova, Francesca Schiavone, Ai Sugiyama and Vera Douchevina.

On the men's side, Australian Open champ Marat Safin pulled out of the tournament due to a sore left knee. The 2000 U.S. Open winner played through pain at Wimbledon, losing in the third round to Feliciano Lopez before having surgery. He returned a couple of weeks ago at Cincinnati making the quarters before losing to American Robby Ginepri. Clearly not 100 percent, Safin withdrew from New Haven last week and decided not to play in Flushing Monday.

His loss will be felt in the men's draw where third seed Lleyton Hewitt potentially has an easy road to the semis if he gets through his half which includes Taylor Dent, David Ferrer and Dominik Hrbaty. The opposite end could open up for Tim Henman, Mario Ancic or Max Mirnyi if form holds. If not, a darkhorse like Fernando Verdasco, Paul-Henri Mathieu or Justin Gimelstob could emerge.

One upset on the men's side was ninth seed Gaston Gaudio going down in straight sets to 20-year-old American wildcard Brian Baker 7-6 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Gaudio was a potential fourth round opponent for Andre Agassi.

The slam debut of American phenom Donald Young was spoiled by Italian Giorgio Galimberti who defeated him 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-2. Though Young lost, he showed some good signs in the first set breaking Galimberti to force a tiebreak. But with a 4-2 lead and in control, Young dropped the final five points to lose the set. It was too much to overcome for the 16-year-old lefty.

Day One men's seeded winners included: Rafael Nadal, Mariano Puerta, Ivan Ljubicic, Jiri Novak, Mikhail Youzhny, Tommy Haas and Tomas Berdych.

First round matches were still in progress entering the night session, which features Sharapova and Agassi.

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