Stick a fork in former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, because she’s done. Take her off the grill. She’s overcooked. And other grilling cliches.
When the Dane was No. 1 in the world without winning a Slam, playing almost every week while Serena Williams and the other big hitters were on the sidelines injured or in slumps, pundits wondered how long the blonde baseline bunter could maintain. But now with Serena back at full strength, Victoria Azarenka at No. 1 in the world and hungry, and Maria Sharapova healthy and seeking more Slam titles, it looks like Wozniacki is destined to go by the wayside as a No. 1 to never win a Slam.
On Tuesday at the US Open the Dane, seeded No. 8 and fighting a knee injury, lost 6-2, 6-2 to Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, who had never beaten a Top 10 player, or much of anyone besides that.
“I still don’t really know what happened tonight…it’s the first Top 10 player I’ve beaten and I’m really happy,” said Begu, 0-5 against Top 10ers entering the match. “I had nothing to lose tonight. I had the right tactics from the beginning and played the same from beginning to end — I served really well, too, which was the key.”
Wozniacki hasn’t won a tour title in over a year, and will now have plenty of time to assess her career to date, and make decisions on whether she wants to pair with a coach who can take a more aggressive approach to her game, or continue to bunt balls in and maintain a career in the bottom half of the Top 10.
“I definitely felt I couldn’t hit through her today like I wanted to,” said Wozniacki, who can count on one hand the number of top players she has hit through on tour. “I’ve had [the knee] examined and I’ve had treatment on it. I think it’s a temporary issue. Hopefully it will get better quickly.
“The Grand Slams this year haven’t been great for me. After the year’s finished I’ll evaluate what was good and what wasn’t so good, and we’ll work from there. But I have plenty of years left in me. And this year isn’t even over yet. Hopefully I can turn it around and play even better.”
Top 10 winners cruising through in straight set blow-outs on Tuesday were (2) Agnieszka Radwanska over Russian Nina Bratchikova 6-1, 6-1; (4) Serena Williams slapping fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-1; (6) Angelique Kerber popping Brit Anne Keothavong 6-2, 6-0; and (10) Sara Errani struggling past unheralded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-1 in the third. Riveting stuff from the top seeds — as the old women’s tennis adage goes, ‘Wake us when the quarterfinals start.’
Other semi-notable seeded winners were former No. 1 and No. 12 seed Ana Ivanovic beating Ukraine qualifier Elina Svitolina in straights, (13) Dominika Cibulkova needing a bagel to beat Swede Johanna Larsson 6-0 in the third, and former No. 1 and No. 30 seed Jelena Jankovic topping the Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko in straights.
Lower-seed upsets were aplenty on Tuesday, led by Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens who toppled (21) Christina McHale in three, followed by American Sloane Stephens who decisively stopped (22) Francesca Schiavone in straights, and Czech Andrea Hlavackova who halted (24) Klara Zakopalova in straights, and Japan’s Ayumi Morita who surprised (26) Monica Niculescu in straights, and Belarus’ Olga Govortsova who startled (29) Tamira Paszek in straights, and finally Russian Elena Vesnina, who stopped (32) Peng Shuai in straights.
Former No. 1 and unseeded Venus Williams was also a decisive winner, dismissing fellow U.S. Fed Cup teammate and wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1. The elder Williams sister will next face Top 10 German Angelique Kerber.
“I have to put a lot of balls in the court and execute my game well if I want to win against her,” Williams said of Kerber in some startling insight into her strategy. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Qualifiers also had a banner day Tuesday, including winners Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino of Spain (d. Shahar Peer), German Tatjana Malek, Russian Olga Puchkova beating American Irina Falconi in three, and Brit Johanna Konta.
Women’s highlights Wednesday are (1) Victoria Azarenka vs. Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, Brit Laura Robson vs. (23) Kim Clijsters, French threat Alize Cornet vs. (5) Petra Kvitova, (19) Nadia Petrova vs. scamperer Simona Halep, and Canuck Aleksandra Wozniak vs. (15) Lucie Safarova.
The three Top 10 seeds in men’s action Tuesday at the US Open advanced in easy fashion: No. 2 Novak Djokovic rolled Italian Paolo Lorenzi losing only two games; No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rolled 30+ Slovak Karol Beck in straights, and No. 6 Tomas Berdych tamed rising Belgian midget David “The Boffin” Goffin in straights.
Yawn. Djokovic, at least, thought highly of himself.
“I tried to analyze my game, and my game was great from the start to the end,” said Djokovic, who was broken in his first service game but swept to victory in a little over an hour. “It’s also important for me to try to be as economical with the time I spend on the court as possible, but obviously not underestimating any opponent. I played really focused, tried to get to the net also. It was great all in all.”
Let’s get on to the non-walkovers.
No. 15 seed Milos Raonic tried his best to choke away a match to Colombian Santiago Giraldo before coming back from 1-2 sets down and a break to win 6-4 in the fifth.
“I’m just happy with the outcome and that I managed to sort of make the most of that moment and just find a way to win,” said Raonic of avoiding the choke. “Everything else I’ve gotta hope gets better in the next round. I don’t think I struggled with my serve that much in a long, long time. A lot of double faults, and it wasn’t just one double fault per game. When I double faulted, I double faulted consistently a couple times in a row, so that made my job a lot more difficult and it gave him a little bit more freedom at the same time.”
No. 10 seed Juan Monaco was shown the hotel shuttle by Spaniard Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, who from two sets down won 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3).
Other seeded winners on the day were No. 11 Nicolas Almago, No. 14 Alexandr Dolgopolov, No. 18 Stan Wawrinka, No. 20 Andy Roddick, No. 27 Sam Querrey, and No. 31 Julien “United Colors of” Benneteau.
In unseeded results of note, slumping Aussie Bernard Tomic was a winner, Pablo Andujar ambushed Thomaz Bellucci in four, Taipei’s Jimmy Wang beat “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic in four, and Fabio “So Short I Don’t Have to Bend My Knees” Fognini topped Ed Roger-Vasselin in five.
Dr. Ivo hit 32 — yes thirty-two — aces in his four-set loss.
Men’s highlights on Wednesday at Flushing Meadows are (9) John Isner vs. Xavier “X-Man” Maliise, the big-serving Kevin “Mr.” Anderson vs. (4) David Ferrer, (7) Juan Martin Del Potro vs. David Nalbandian, (21) Tommy Haas vs. Ernests Gulbis, (19) Philipp Kohlschreiber vs. the net-rushing veteran Michael Llodra, and (28) Mikhail Youzhny vs. big bomber Gilles Muller.
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