Nate Chura is senior tennis pro at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn and covers the U.S. Open for WNYC.
Wednesday was a hot day at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens. Temperatures were in the 90s and sometimes it felt even hotter. At times, wind gusts were clocked at over 40 miles per hour.
To say it was a tough day on the court would be an understatement. Just ask the world's 11th ranked player, Victoria Azarenka.
Thirty minutes into her match, the Belarusian collapsed on court in Grandstand Stadium. She was trailing Gisela Dulko of Argentina, 1-5, in the second-round match. Azarenka had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair. She later released the following statement to the press:
“I was warming up in the gym prior to my match against Gisela Dulko when I fell while running a sprint. I fell forward and hit my arm and head. I was checked by the medical team before I went on court and they were courtside for monitoring. I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell. I was taken to the hospital for some medical tests and have been diagnosed with a mild concussion.”
While that was the most dramatic upset of the day, Azarenka wasn’t the only seed to drop.
Wimbledon finalist and the 7th-ranked player in the world, Tomas Berdych, was unexpectedly ousted from the Open in his first-round match. The upset came at the hands of veteran Michael Llodra, who served and volleyed the Czech off the court in straight sets, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Llodra -- another Frenchman to advance in the tournament -- won 60 points at net.
After the match, Berdych was at a loss to describe what happened. “If I would know that,” he said sarcastically, “maybe I would change something on the court and do it differently to win, but I don’t know, today, what I did.”
Berdych was the favorite to reach the quarterfinals in British sensation and world no. 4 Andy Murray’s section of the draw. Good news for the Scot.
Murray made mincemeat out of his Slovakian challenger, Lukas Lacko, in his opening-round match. Murray prevailed easily in straight sets: 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. The news was well-received by his fellow countryman. The last Brit to win a major tennis title was Fred Perry in 1936. Afterwards, Murray was happy to put the match behind him.
“Yeah, it was good,” he said about having one match under his belt. “It wasn't necessarily the best tennis, but tricky conditions out there. It was very windy on the court. It was a guy I've never played against on the tour. I haven't really seen much of him play, so took a little time to get used to his game. But I did enough to win in straight sets, and that was the most important thing.”
Murray will play Jamaican Dustin Brown in the next round.
Perhaps the most painful moment of the day occurred during American Sam Querrey’s showdown with Bradley Klahn, an unknown, 20-year-old journeyman. Querrey won the first set and was up 1-0 in the second with Klahn serving at deuce. After the serve landed, a helter-skelter point ensued that found both players close to the net. Struggling to stay in the point, Klahn hit a weak reply to a Querrey backhand. The American responded with a two-hander that hit Klahn in the groin.
“[It] was an accident,” Querrey swore after the match. “I mean, he hit a dropshot, and I ran up there and it was kind of better than I thought. So I kind of got a little confused where I was going to hit it. I kind of went at him. I didn't mean to hit it there. I felt bad because he's my buddy.”
Klahn had to call a medical time-out. But after the brief break, the upstart managed to hold it (and his serve) together, eventually taking the set. But that was all he could muster. Querrey shut out Klahn one minute shy of two and a half hours: 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
As for the blip in the score, Querrey gave his opponent props. “He played well,” the American said. “He's got a good lefty serve, big forehand. I was impressed with how he played.”
Querrey went on to say the turning point occurred at the end of the third set. “At 6‑5,” he recalled, “I just told myself, 'just make every ball and make him win ‑‑ if he's going to win this game and send it to a tiebreaker, make him earn it.'”
Other players who played Wednesday and lived to fight another day include Gael Monfils, Stanislas Wawrinka, Nicolas Almagro and 18-year-old, US Open rookie Ryan Harrison from Texas, who upset 15th seed Ivan Ljubicic.
On the women’s side, Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic also advanced.