Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens

*As expected after wrapping Day 6, the once packed field of the 2012 US Open is dwindling down to the toughest and maybe luckiest competitors of those who started out.Grand Slams are grueling, both physically and emotionally, and at the end of the tournament, the man and woman who were able to manage both those components most effectively will walk away with the hardware.

We’ve been following the great number of Americans – including several new faces with major buzz – who made the initial cut, earning the fighting chance to have their name etched on the US Open’s Wall of Champions and win one for the home team, but at this stage, not many remain.

Among those left are the usual suspects: John Isner (def. Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2); Andy Roddick (def. Bernard Tomic 6-3 6-4 6-0);  Mardy Fish (def. Gilles Simon 6-1 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3) and Serena Williams, who exacted revenge on lefty Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) for ending her 2012 Australian Open campaign earlier in the year.  The Russian also brought her A game to New York and held close to Williams for the first set, but collapsed under the weight of Serena’s power and accuracy in the second.  Williams hit her 400th ace this year during the match and won it 6-4 6-0.

Budding tennis star, Sloane Stephens, has been drawing comparisons to Serena Williams of late and has had major buzz propelling her based on her 1st and 2nd round performances.  She took out former Grand Slam champion, Francesca Schiavone (ITA), in round one and powered through tricky qualifier Tatjana Malek (GER) to reach round three.  However, Stephens ran into former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, again, and succumbed to the pressure, 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2. It was nearly deja vu, as the Serbian took Stephens out last year, same day, same place, just in two sets versus the three it took this time. Winnable match and relatively poised performance for a primetime match on Ashe, but no cigar.  She was just one match from setting up a too-good-to-be-true meeting between herself and Serena Williams.

New York favorite, James Blake, progressed through the first two rounds of the Open with renewed vigor and looked to have a chance at going deeper in a tourney than he has in a long time.  Competing on a wildcard, Blake nimbly took out seeded player, Marcel Granollers in round two, but was brought to a screeching halt by 15-seeded ball machine, Milos Raonic of Canada, 6-3 6-0 7-6(3).  Raonic is able to consistently hit serves at up to 143 mph, which resulted in 29 aces against Blake and 89 during his US Open campaign. The pressure and physical demand of defending such a weapon was just too great to overcome.

Sam Querrey was stopped by Tomas Berdych (CZE), 6-7(6) 6-4 6-3 6-2 and Jack Sock fell to Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, 7-6(3) 6-7(4) 7-6(2) 6-1.

The compelling stories of Brian Baker, Varvara Lepchenko, and Mallory Burdette ended on Day 5, along with Ryan Harrison’s run.

The last American UNusual suspect remaining is Grand Slam 1st timer, Steve Johnson.   He is set to face off with 13-seeded veteran Richard Gasquet today on the Grand Stand.

See doubles and other results here.

Over the course of the of all the intense heat and wind affected singles matches held at Flushing, along with already-gone Americans Donald Young; Varvara Lepchenko; Vania King; Irini Falconi etc … we saw several tennis superstars crash out decidedly earlier than expected.

Retiring 3-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters (2005, 2009, 2010) was entered into singles (see Li Na), doubles and mixed doubles, but failed to remain in contention in any of those contests, with her final bow occurring last night in mixed lost to Markarova/Soares, 6-2 3-6 1-0(10).  She had planned for a spectacular finish, since she was on a  21 match winning streak on the tournament’s hallowed grounds, but her opponents had other things in mind … winning.

Two-time US champion (years), Venus Williams (2000, 2001), also crashed out in a second round thriller between she and the thorn in her side, Angelique Kerber, 6-2 5-7 7-5. Being unseeded due to managing illness caused her to face the match tough Kerber too early in her draw. se la vi.

Jo Wilifred Tsonga, a talented Frenchman who’s used to at the very least reaching the quarterfinals of Grand Slams and giving the ‘big 3’ fits, couldn’t find his form against qualifier Martin Klizan (SVK) and was bid adieu in round 2, 6-4 1-6 6-1 6-3.  He was as perplexed as the fans were.

Li Na, the first Chinese woman ever to win a Grand Slam, the French Open, had a decent summer, securing a hard court title as recent as last week (tourney) and reaching the final of a previous tourney, but ran into a brick wall in the form of a determined young Aussie with nothing to lose, Laura Robson (also took out Kim Clijsters). She, too, went down in second round flames. 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2

Maria Kirilenko is not quite a superstar, but she’s certainly a familiar face formidable opponent on the WTA tour.  She was seeded 14th this tournament, but lost to doubles specialist, Andrea Hlavackova (CZE), who had never played singles in a Slam before the 2012 Open. Kirilenko, a stunning beauty herself, was stunned in three sets on the grandstand, 5-7 6-4 6-4.  At least she avoided the inevitable beat down she would’ve received from Serena Williams, who would’ve been her next round opponent.

Francesca Schiavone exited in the 1st round (see Sloane Stephens).