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Maria dives; US girls lose; US boys win

Sock outplayed by Roddick; Ginepri by Isner

September 03, 2011 | 07:36 AM

Flavia Pennetta is no stranger to the US. In the last two years, she's played a role in consecutive defeats of the US in the Fed Cup final, going 4-0 in singles. She was the first Italian woman to break into the top 10, a year before her team-mate Schiavone followed in 2010. Her ranking has dropped to 27th, but she showed #3 Sharapova how tough she was under pressure. Maria hadn't lost a 3rd set all year, winning 14 in a row. Today, it was Flavia's turn to hang tough, and as usual Maria created problems of her own with a double faults and errors (60 of them, in all, counting a dozen DF's). In 2.5 hours it was over, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, and Serena's odds just went up even further (now 1/2, they don't have much room to improve).

YUSHies (Young U. S. Hopefuls) didn't have a great day on the WOMEN'S side, exiting without winning a set:

- Christina McHale dueled well, defending her side in long rallies with #25 seed Maria Kirilenko, but lost 6-3, 6-2. This Maria did not succumb to nerves and moved into the 3rd round for the 6th time as a 24 year old.

- Irina Falconi fared less well, losing 6-0, 6-2 in 52 minutes and winning only 1/3 of the points while failing to hold serve once against the 22nd seed Sabine Lisicki. The 21 year old Lisicki is popular in the betting parlors in England, where she reached the semis of Wimbledon in 2010. Reaching the 3rd round is her best showing in 4 tries at the Open.

The other excitement of the day was the longest women's match on record in the Open, 3 hours, 16 minutes: Sam Stosur (#9) outlasted Nadia Petrova (#24), 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5.

AMERICAN WOMEN in action today (on Ashe):

- Vania King v Wozniacki on Ashe at 11am (CBS).

- Sloane Stephens v Ivanovic (#16) at 7pm.

- Serena v Azarenka (following the Federer v Cilic match in the day session on Ashe).

With the first two women both on the verge of a top 100 ranking and Serena facing a tough competitor, today is huge or the USA.

On the MEN'S side yesterday:

- John Isner and Alex Bogomolov advanced in straight sets over and will face each in the third round. Isner fired 20 aces and put away another aging American, Robby Ginepri, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 (Robby's dropped from a high of #15 6 years ago to 363). Bogie put away Brazilian Da Silva, #114 in the rankings, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

- 5th seeded David Ferrer was too much for 31 year old James Blake, another come-back kid 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

- Donald Young, in the most exciting match of the day session involving an American (this 5 setter - his first ever - was THE match of his 7 year career), came back from 2 sets to 1 down to upset #14 seed Stan Wawrinka, 7-6 (7), 2-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1). After 6 years on the tour disappointing the high institutional and family hopes for him - he struggled in Majors and was ranked mostly below the 100 ranking threshold - Young lost his backing and was reduced to teaching tennis on Long Island last year (mentioned with astonishment, if not horror, by Patrick McEnroe). This win felt like "a new beginning" for him, and since it has put him back in the sights both of fans and of USTA Player Development Pooh-Bah Patrick, perhaps there will be support for coaching in it (Todd Martin is prowling the grounds for coaching prospects, we saw him watching Steve Johnson's singles against Bogie on Tuesday evening). In the 3rd round (only the second time he's gotten this far), The Little Donald has what may be the best draw possible for a 22 year old American: 32 year old #24 seed Juan Ignatio Chela.

The most closely followed match of the day had to be Murray's, as the Scot dropped his first two sets to 24 year old Dutchman Robin Haase (#41). Banging 21 aces and 55 winners, Andy can't be unhappy with his performance after coming back to win, 6-7 (5), 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. Of all people he has, and seems to need, endurance. His cold starts are like long winters in his native land, but once he warms up he can run the highlands with the best of them.

In night action, 29 year old Andy Roddick proved too solid through two sets, winning the majority of points from his post way behind the baseline and serving with more than his 140 mph heater to 18 year old Jack Sock, two time US Under 18 singles and 2011 doubles champion. Sock almost matched him with aces and 130 mph bombs, and showed prowess on both sides (he scored with 10 FH winners before Andy had 2). Sock also showed ability at the net, winning 15 of 24 in the first two sets. But Andy served his way out of the break points and converted 3 of 3 to take the first two sets 6-3, 6-3.

But after being broken in his first service game in the 3rd, Sock quickened his steps and got to the net earlier in rallies, and broke back on his 7th chance of the match. At 2-2, it appeared to be a new match, but when Roddick broke for the 5th time in five chances, the older statesman from Nebraska (Jack's home state as well) was in charge again, and served it out 6-4 with the loss of just two points in his last three service games. Next up for the re-juvenated Roddick is another veteran, France's Benneteau, ranked 81st.

Still, Sock's stock rose during the match: he took over from 1st round loser Ryan Harrison as THE US fan favorite to first reach the top.

Today, Mardy Fish faces his first major challenge on Armstrong versus big serving S. African Kevin Anderson.



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