Nate Chura is senior tennis pro at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn and covers the U.S. Open for WNYC.
Day Two of the U.S. Open shaped up nicely for the nation of France. This afternoon, 33-year-old veteran Arnaud Clement upset 16th seed Marcos Baghdatis. The Frenchman hasn’t had a win at the Open since 2007.
After the 3.5 hour thriller that had French tennis fans biting their nails in Louie Armstrong Stadium, Clement spoke about his fellow countrymen.
“It was nice,” said the Frenchman. “A lot of French fans was on the Armstrong for me today, and it was a nice feeling to be in U.S. with a lot of support—especially when it's very difficult to play, when it's physically difficult, when you have support—it's something a little plus. It's good.”
The Cypriot withstood a foot-fault called on deuce at 4-5 in the fifth set. He defiantly held to level the score. But serving at 5-6, Baghdatis lost the first point. After hitting a second serve on his second point, Clement quickly got the upper hand. Baghdatis sent a backhand flying out. He followed the error with and ace down the middle, but then netted a routine forehand on the next point. The score read: 15- 40 (match point No. 1).
Clement attacked the net on the following second-serve return, but missed his opportunity. Baghdatis hit another ace. Deuce. Clement was not deterred. He hit a backhand cross-court winner after an extended rally to take the advantage. He won the next point after that when Baghdatis missed a routine forehand. Clement was quite pleased.
“It was very difficult to play with the heat,” the Frenchman later confessed. His legs had been burning, he said, after rallies in the first set.
“I tried to be very aggressive, to have short points. My start was okay. After, it was very bad for two sets, and better and better and better with the more intensity at the end of the fourth and the fifth set. Was maybe the best tennis at the end for me. So it was a very good feeling.”
Two of Clement's countrymen also advanced today. Jeremy Chardy knocked off the highly touted Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in straight sets. After the match, Gulbis told me he had a mystery virus or bug, some unknown heartburn. He questioned whether it might be food poisoning. And while the Latvian said he felt good going into the match, he found he didn’t have the energy to put up a proper fight. The final score went into the system as 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.
Julien Benneteau scored the third big upset of the day with a win over Czech oddball, and 28th seed, Radek Stepanek. It took four sets for the Frenchman to put on the finishing touches: 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
On the women’s side, Aravane Rezai beat Magdalena Rybarikova.
Not a bad day’s work.