America’s Grand Slam … Day One

By Jane Voigt

August 29, 2016 — The U. S. Open, the last slam of the season, is a celebration of all things tennis and American. So ... let’s take a peak at a few of the home-teams’ performances from day one. 

Men

Nothing was more exciting than two Americans battling on the new larger-capacity, hexadecagon — 16 sided — Grandstand Court. Eighteen-year old wildcard Francis Tiafoe drew John Isner (No. 20), who had never lost to an American at any Grand Slam. Yet history stood on the brink of a re-write when the teen blasted off the first two sets on the six-foot-nine Isner. Tiafoe had done one better, too. He broke Isner in both sets, a feat normally left to top-ranked players.  

But Isner kept his cool and played to his strengths, as Tiafoe’s magical takeoff gave way to unforced errors and misjudgments. Tiafoe broke to 5-4 and serve for the win in the fifth, though, but couldn’t stave off aggressive returns and keen ball placement from the seasoned Isner. 

“You got to see two Americans battle this out,” Isner told ESPN moments after his comeback win, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3). “One is 13 years older.”

Another five-setter went the wrong way for Brian Baker against lefty Federico Delbonis of Argentina. American Baker lost 3-6, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Baker, in the main draw on a protected ranking, mounted yet another comeback at The Australian Open after a 2 1/2 layoff due to injuries. The former teaching pro and Junior Roland Garros champion has had 11 operations over his shortened professional career. 

In his first-ever main draw appearance, Wildcard Ernesto Escobedo defeated Lukas Lacko when the Slovakian retired in the fourth set, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3. The match was headed to familiar five-set territory. No matter, the ‘w’ goes to the American. He’ll play Kyle Edmund of Great Britain next. He took out the lackluster thirteen seeded Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

Women

Former U. S. Open finalist and world number one Caroline Wozniacki squared off against American qualifier Taylor Townsend for the inaugural match on the redesigned Grandstand Court. Wozniacki, who was seeded number-five last year but is now ranked No. 74, defeated a disappointed Townsend in just under three hours, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. 

California native Coco Vandeweghe (No. 28) couldn’t find her rhythm on her favorite hard courts, losing in three to Naomi Osaka of Japan, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4. The Japanese woman is ranked No. 81. Vandeweghe took a bathroom break after the second set, but Chairumpire Fergus Murphy apparently berated her. She had not told him she would change her kit. Incensed by the slight, Vandeweghe wouldn’t shake Murphy’s hand after  the loss. “I don’t think he deserved to have my respect,” the New York Post reported. “It’s unfortunate the chair umpire has to influence himself on the match to make him feel important.”

Squeaking in to the main draw ranked No. 101, six-foot-two Samantha Crawford gave Belinda Bencic (No. 24) and real run for her Swiss Francs, losing 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4. Bencic had a 4-0 lead in the first-set tiebreak. “I had so many chances, which I didn’t covert,” Bencic told the press afterward. “Honestly I didn’t deserve to win this set. And always when I was leading I was super tight.” Crawford, playing in her fifth Open, has never progressed beyond round one in singles.

Rogers vs. Kvitova Roland Garros 05 27 16 LB 00050-4

American Shelby Rogers at Roland Garros this spring. The South Carolina native meets sevens-year-old American Cici Bellis next at the Open. 

French Open quarterfinalist and Charleston native Shelby Rogers beat Sara Errani (No. 27) today, 6-4, 7-6(3). Rogers is headed for an American blockbuster in round two when she takes on Catherine ‘Cici’ Bellis. The 17-year-old qualifier and soon to be Stanford freshman has only played in one other Open in 2014 when she lost in the second round. Today she defeated Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-3.

Vinci vs. Mladenovic US Open 20150908 LB 0103-3

Roberta Vinci was ranked No. 44 in 2015 when she upset Serena Williams in the semifinals of the Open. The Italian is seeded No. 7 this year. 

And, finally, New Jersey girl Christina McHale advanced to round two, defeating Mona Barthel, 6-2, 6-2. Comfortable commuting to and from her home during the Open, McHale’s confidence has grown after taking a set off Wimbledon champion and tennis idol Serena Williams this summer. “There were a lot of positives I took from my Serena match,” McHale told tennis.com. “The and most important for me being that I can compete with the best. That match has really motivated me to keep working and improving.” 

Next for McHale is Roberta Vinci, the woman who stopped Serena Williams from a calendar-year Grand Slam at last year’s Open. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013