A disheartening day for Oudin, Roddick, Azarenka at a hot US Open

By Eddie Pells, AP
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oudin, Roddick lose and Azarenka falls at US Open

NEW YORK — One woman’s exit from the U.S. Open was jarring and sudden. Another’s came off as sad and not all that surprising.

Victoria Azarenka and Melanie Oudin said goodbye to Flushing Meadows in starkly different manners Wednesday — Azarenka, a concussion victim collapsing on the overheated court and Oudin a straight-set loser to a player who cared little about the 18-year-old’s dreams of a fairy tale repeat.

All part of an anticlimatic day that ended with the loss of the highest-ranked American man, No. 9 Andy Roddick, who carried on a running argument with a lineswoman over a third-set foot fault, but couldn’t find the fire to overcome 44th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic.

Tipsarevic used his big groundstrokes and 66 winners to quiet the crowd of nearly 23,000 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4) win.

“He played very high-risk and executed for four sets,” Roddick said. “I kept telling myself, ‘You know, this has to have an expiration date on it.’ Unfortunately, I needed another set for that.”

The Roddick loss was the big news of the evening session.

To start the day, 10th-seeded Azarenka, an up-and-coming 21-year-old from Belarus, went down while trailing 5-1 to Gisela Dulko on the Grandstand court, where the temperature had reached 90 degrees by 11:30 a.m.

After stopping suddenly while chasing a ball on the baseline, Azarenka stopped and crumpled to the ground. “I was scared,” Dulko said of her reaction to seeing her opponent hit the concrete.

Azarenka was treated like a victim of heat exhaustion — covered by a towel, sheltered by an umbrella, rolled off in a wheelchair, ice pack on her neck and a doctor checking her pulse. Several hours later, she revealed that she had fallen and hit her head during pre-match warmups. She was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a mild concussion.

“I was checked by the medical team before I went on court and they were courtside for monitoring,” Azarenka said in a statement. “I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell.”

Though she said her injury wasn’t heat related, this was, nonetheless, another day when the weather was on almost everyone’s mind. Temperatures on the courts reached into the 100s, and for the second straight day, tournament officials put their extreme-weather policy in effect, giving women the option of taking a 10-minute break if they split sets.

“It’s tough to play out there,” Dulko said, before she knew it was a concussion that forced Azarenka out of the match. “It’s really hot, really humid. You sweat so much, sometimes it’s impossible to hold the racket.”

Heat didn’t have as much of an impact on Oudin as did nerves during her late-afternoon match in Armstrong Stadium, which by that time was covered in shadows.

Last year, she took the city by storm, showing all that heart and grit en route to a surprising trip to the quarterfinals that made her as big a star at Times Square as she was on the stadium court.

Since then, she has endured a more even-keeled year of learning — ranked 43rd in the world and with only one victory in the first three Grand Slam tournaments of 2010. She came back to New York wondering if something about this city and this tournament might inspire another run. She left with a disheartening 6-2, 7-5 loss to No. 29 Alona Bondarenko and the sinking realization that even in the Big Apple, encores can be hard to come by.

“I guess I’m a little tiny bit relieved now,” Oudin said. “I can kind of start over from all the expectations from last year. And now I can just go out and hopefully do really well the rest of the year and keep working hard.”

Her loss and Roddick’s took out two of America’s favorites. Another — 18th-seeded John Isner of 70-68 fifth-set Wimbledon fame — moved on with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Frederico Gil.

“For my second-round match,” Isner said, “I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon.”

Other American winners included No. 20 Sam Querrey and 18-year-old qualifier Ryan Harrison, who beat No. 15 Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4. And, of course, there was No. 3 Venus Williams, who dispatched Canada’s Rebecca Marino 7-6 (3), 6-3 in a match that went practically unnoticed amid all the strangeness of Wednesday.

No. 7-seeded Tomas Berdych was the highest seed to lose, though Roddick’s setback figured to generate more buzz in New York.

He got into it with a lineswoman in the third set after she called a foot fault and said it was his right foot that touched the line. Replays showed it was his left, something Roddick knew had to be true. He challenged her repeatedly and she stuck to her story, even though she was wrong.

“It was the fact that I couldn’t get her to admit that it wasn’t the right foot that just infuriated me,” Roddick said. “The lack of common sense involved in that was unbelievable to me.”

He conceded, though, that the foot fault had no real impact on the match and that, yes, he probably did let the situation get to him a bit.

Earlier in Ashe Stadium, a much nicer story.

No. 2 Kim Clijsters steamrolled 19-year-old Aussie qualifier Sally Peers 6-2, 6-1 — though Peers left with a smile on her face.

When she was 10, she painted her face yellow and green, headed to the Davis Cup in Australia, found Clijsters and got her picture taken with her childhood tennis hero. A few months later, at the Australian Open, Peers got Clijsters to autograph the picture. Today, that picture still hangs in the lounge room at her house in Melbourne.

Quite a thrill, then, nine years later, to get a chance to play Clijsters at the U.S. Open, regardless of the result.

“This is probably a dream come true,” Peers said. “When I was 10, if you’d told me I was going to play Kim Clijsters at Arthur Ashe Stadium, I’d have not believed you. To do that, it’s really, like, ‘Wow.’”

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