Sharapova through, Kvitova flops


Maria Sharapova survived an early scare at the US Open Monday after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had been knocked out of the year’s final grand slam, which began on time and in perfect conditions after a week of wild weather in New York.
It was business as usual at the National Tennis Center in Queens as the earthquake that rattled the US East Coast last week and the deadly hurricane that killed at least 21 people were momentarily forgotten. “On Tuesday we had an earthquake. Who knew we lived near a fault? Luckily it wasn’t a double fault,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped.
Jon Vegosen, the chairman of the US Tennis Association, chipped in: “Small things like earthquakes and hurricanes aren’t going to stop us. The Open is now open!” he said.
Thousands of spectators streamed through the gates at Flushing Meadows on a glorious summer day, while players holed out for most of the weekend in Manhattan hotels bounded on to the courts to weather their own storms.
As a former champion and a sweetheart of the New York crowds, Sharapova was given the honor of being one of the first players on Arthur Ashe center court and, as expected, the Russian made it through to the next round.
But her 3-6 7-5 6-3 win over British teen-ager Heather Watson was an unconvincing performance from the former world number one, who won last week’s lead-up event in Cincinnati.
Watson won the junior title two years ago and was making her first appearance in the senior draw but she was able to frustrate and torment the more experienced Sharapova for more than two and a half hours before she finally succumbed. “I knew that I wasn’t playing my best tennis,” Sharapova said. “The best thing about this match is I gave myself a chance to play another one.” Czech Kvitova, the fifth seed, left the Louis Armstrong court almost sobbing after falling 7-6 6-3 to unseeded Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru. Kvitova has been a marked woman since her surprising win at Wimbledon in July but this time she was the architect of her own downfall, making a whopping 52 unforced errors.
Her early exit has further opened up a women’s draw which was already looming as one of the most unpredictable in years.
Kim Clijsters, the champion in each of the past two years, is missing because of injury and there are plenty of unanswered questions about the older brigade. Sharapova has not won a grand slam since 2008. Serena Williams is back at the US Open for the first time in two years and her older sister Venus is not seeded. But they have been installed as favourites, mostly because younger rivals have yet to win a grand slam, including current world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, the number two from Russia. Zvonareva was a finalist at Wimbledon and the US Open last year and made a bright start, thumping Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France 6-3 6-0. Venus beat Vesna Dolonts of Russia 6-4 6-3 in the first of the two night matches.