Along with her retiring friend and colleague, Andy Roddick, the hope of an American winning the big prize in singles at the last major of the year, the US Open, rests squarely on their shoulders (the Bryan Brothers also remain in the doubles draw).
Before the end of day 7, there were three American men remaining in the draw, but the tide suddenly turned. Steve Johnson’s Cinderella story ended with him departing in a pumpkin after he was easily knocked off by veteran Richard Gasquet (FRA); Big serving John Isner  crumbled to Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)  after being two sets to the good in a night match that ended in frustration for Isner and at a record breaking 2 a.m; and Mardy Fish, under the advisement of his doctors, withdrew from the tournament on Labor Day, just before facing 7-time US Open champion Roger Federer (who gets a walkover) on Ashe.
In a statement released through the USTA, he said, “I regret that I have to withdraw from the US Open for precautionary measures. I was reluctant to do so, but am following medical advisement. I had a good summer and look forward to resuming my tournament schedule in the fall.”
Speculation around the grounds is that a heart condition 30-year-old sought treatment for over the summer is the cause of his early departure.
Roddick now has even bigger shoes to fill.
Serena Williams, however, is quite used to handling the pressure of outlasting her countrywomen at majors, especially when she’s in her current form. The season’s ace leader and Olympic Gold medalist took to Ashe in a day match on day 8 and denied her inexperienced opponent a single game; she closed it out at 6-0 6-0, aka a “double bagel,” in under an hour. It was only her 5th time achieving the feat in her career. It was very reminiscent of her Gold Medal match performance against Maria Sharapova, who she could meet in the final.
“I watched some of the tapes of my opponent and she’s been doing so well … I knew I had to really come out and be focused because she could be dangerous,” she said. “I think I played really well, better than had the first few matches.”
She next will face Serbian Ana Ivanovic in the quarter final round.
And speaking of the quarterfinals, aka the elite 8, there are a few unexpected contenders that finessed their way into the bunch. Upsets occurring over the past two days, oddly on the outer courts only, saw US Open Championship series winner Petra kvitova (CZE), along with Angelique Kerber (GER) and Agniezska Radwanska (POL) all receive early walking papers.
Kvitova lost to Marion Bartoli of France in an jaw-dropping turn-about match. The Czech was up a set at 6-1 on Louis Armstrong, but somehow completely lost her wits and ultimately fell 6-1 1-6 0-6 to the quirky, but tough Frenchwoman. Bartoli smacked winner after winner, shutting out her dazed opponent and setting up a next-round match with Russian Maria Sharapova.
The no. 6 seed, Angelique Kerber made a name for herself at last year’s us open by advancing to the quarterfinals while ranked outside the top 100, and it had been uphill from there. She further solidified her respect by recently knocking the Williams sisters out of three different tournaments, with her most recent victory occurring on day 4 of the Open, when she stopped Venus Williams in the second round. But no longer lives to tell the tale. Unexpectedly, Italian Sara Errani, a clay court specialist, frustrated Kerber’s usually consistent game with heavy topspin and strategy, dismissing the German in straights, 7-5 6-4. It was a sign of things to come for the subsequent round of 16 match.
Also held on Louis Armstrong, the match between the consistent no. 2 seed, Agniezska Radwanska and crafty Italian, Roberta Vinci . Vinci, on the same order as her fellow countrywoman and best friend, Errani, also upset the order of the tennis universe by slice-shoting and net-rushing Radwanska completely out of her comfort zone – and ultimately out of the US Open. The final score line was 6-1 6-4.
And since we’re talking about upsets, which mainly occurred at the ‘cursed’ Louis Armstrong stadium, the usually unbeatable Williams sisters were dumped out of the tournament that same day by Russians Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko. The solid duo took the first set from the sluggish sisters, 6-1, and never looked back. Serena’s dominant serve and return game neither Venus’ deft net play were anywhere to be found during the match. After being broken thrice in the first set, Serena was broken again in the first service game of the second set and the Russians never gave it back – despite the heavy bias from the American crowd. The final score: 1-6 4-6.
So, the quarterfinals round in women’s singles may look a bit different from what was down on paper, the american men have been paired down to a retiring but driven Andy Roddick and the women’s doubles final will be without the crowd-pleasing Williams sisters, but there’s still much more drama to come at the 2012 US Open.
Check here for more Day 8 results.