Former No. 1 Maria Sharapova is being touted as the one to watch at the 2010 US Open — but on Tuesday it became the one to watch possibly exit in the first round. The Russian was taken to the mat by hard-hitting Aussie-via-Czech Republic Jarmila Groth, who won the first set but eventually mentally imploded in a flurry of errors 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
“You just want to hang in there, get through it,” said Sharapova, who made only 17 errors to Groth’s final tally of 48, in the midst of temperatures that reached 96 degrees at the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. But in the first set it was all Groth, pounding the ball for winners or just hitting so hard and heavy that Sharapova couldn’t get out of the way — one Groth groundstroke hit Sharapova in the foot in the air.
“She came out firing, didn’t give me many opportunities,” Sharapova said. The 2006 US Open champ will next face the Czech Iveta Benesova.
Another former No. 1 struggled when No. 4-seeded Jelena Jankovic, the runner-up in New York two years ago, had to come from a set down to defeat the newly-breast-reduced Romanian, 18-year-old Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Halep unsuccessfully served for the match at 5-4 in the third, and both players struggled to hit winners in the hot, muggy conditions. Both players yanked each other around the court, but were reluctant to finish points at the net during drawn-out groundstroke rallies that were hard to watch.
“The conditions were tough,” Jankovic said. “But I didn’t want to think about that. I just wanted to focus as much as I could on the match and play each point one point at a time.”
Jankovic and top seed Caroline Wozniacki can both overtake the injured Serena Williams for the No. 1 ranking by winning the US Open title. Jankovic next faces Mirjana Lucic, who won a US Open match for the first time in 11 years by beating Aussie Alicia Molik 7-6(5), 6-1.
Wozniacki, the final night match on Tuesday, was set to face American wildcard and reigning NCAA champ Chelsey Gullickson.
Other Top 10-seeded winners Tuesday were (7) Vera Zvonareva beating Slovak qualifier Zuzana Kucova, and (9) Agnieszka Radwanska topping Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja, both in straights.
Three seeds were shown the door, all going the distance, when the Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko upset (8) Li Na 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, Austrian qualifier Tamira Paszek beat (26) Lucie Safarova 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, and Spanish qualifier Lourdes Dominguez Lino outlasted (30) Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Other seeds escaping upsets were (11) Svetlana Kuznetsova outlasting 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm 6-1 in the third, (22) Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez eventually rolling American wildcard Jamie Hampton 6-0 in the third, and (31) Kaia Kanepi likewise dismissing France’s Alize Cornet 6-0 in the third in the oppressive heat.
Un-seeds of note advancing included Swiss Patty Schnyder over Kirsten Flipkens, former “can’t-miss” Peng Shuai beating American wildcard Shelby Rogers in three, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands winning the three-namer battle over Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-1 in the third, and American wildcard Beatrice Capra rolling “The Spreminator,” Croat Karolina Sprem 6-1, 6-3.
Matches to look for on Wednesday include unseeded former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic vs. (21) Jie Zheng, Canuck human sacrifice Rebecca Marino vs. (3) Venus Williams, Aussie comer Sally Peers vs. (3) Kim Clijsters, scrapper Melanie Oudin vs. (29) Alona Bondarenko, Gisela “Sgt.” Dulko vs. (10) Victoria Azarenka, and (20) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Indian princess Sania Mirza.
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