Knee Ends Wozniacki’s Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In the pale moonlight over Louis Armstrong Stadium, the sunset for Sunshine at the US Open.

Caroline Wozniacki was sent home after a first round defeat to Irina –Cameila Begu 2-6 2-6. In a stunning loss where the former US Open runner-up was favoring her right knee.

“You know, you always want to go in and do your best no matter what’s happening out there,” she said.  “I tried.  I didn’t succeed to play well.  I didn’t play particularly well, made too many errors.

“You know, it’s unfortunate because it’s a huge tournament, a tournament you want to play well in.”

With her right knee tightly wrapped, Wozniacki couldn’t muster her usual baseline speed that makes her so dangerous. She was at the Romanian’s mercy as she couldn’t catch-up to the baseline shots.

“I haven’t really had a machine out there measuring,” Wozniacki said. “I definitely felt like I couldn’t hit through her today and I couldn’t hit past her like I wanted to.  When she had the opportunity, she went in and finished off the point.”

During the second set and down a break, Wozniacki brought out the medical trainer to check and re-wrap her knee. It really didn’t help as Begu was able to break her later in the set and Wozniacki couldn’t do anything on the return service.

And that makes for the first major upset of the Open. A mainstay in the second week, Wozniacki will be missed. Even though she was seeded eighth this year, her lowest since 2009, she did have the star power to make it through the first week.

Now she goes home early wondering what’s next.

“You know, the year’s not done yet,” Wozniacki said.  “Obviously definitely the Grand Slams this year hasn’t been great.  You know, after the year is finished you can evaluate you can see what was good and wasn’t so good, yeah, work from there.”

“I still have plenty of years in me.  Hopefully I can just turn it around and play even better.”

If her knee heals, she probably can.

The Dark Knight Returns

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With his one handed backhand and quick ability to attack the net, Roger Federer looked superior, almost like a super hero fighting a henchman early in the story.

And his dismantling of Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-3 6-2, may look like an easy win on paper, but it really added something to the Federer lore. He’s not just a super hero, he’s the Dark Knight of the Open.

Much like Christian Bale’s title character from the movies, Federer does his best work at night, under the lights when the pressure is on.

“[The crowd] can’t wander around to different courts and say, Okay, on Court 2 we have this going on; Louis Armstrong we have that happening,” said Federer, who with tonight’s win has tied Andre Aggasi tonight for most wins in majors at 224. “No avoiding that limelight.  You do feel that pressure as well.  When you miss a stupid volley, you go like, Yeah, everybody saw it.  I’m a bit of an idiot here right now.  Better don’t miss that next time because on TV everybody’s watching, in the stadium everybody saw it.

“So you do feel that pressure.  Yes, you do.  That’s why I think Giraldo did well tonight.  Also you’re thinking about me, but think of the other guy who is playing a top guy in that stadium.  It’s also not that easy.  Surely he can swing freely, there’s nothing to lose, but also he does feel that big stage.”

Being Federer, who has seen it all, craves the excitement of the night in Queens. The Maestro said he likes the rock and roll atmosphere of the Open as much as tones of other tournaments.

“When you have some success, you actually start enjoying different types of atmospheres:  loud, you know, crazy, to very proper and never applauding on a mistake like you have in Japan,” Federer said.  “Then you go to England where they know exactly what is a good shot and what is a bad shot.  Then you go to Switzerland where it’s also very proper again.

“So I like that, you know, difference we have.  Music played on the change of ends.  They’re showing all sorts of stuff on the big screens; whereas in other places it’s just complete silence.  So I like that change.

“Here, this is a huge tournament which I like a lot and have had such amazing success that obviously every year I will come back here to New York I’ll feel that it’s a place that’s very special to me and where I usually do actually play my very best tennis.”

Federer feels this year’s Open may be a little different. The court speed in Flushing has always been known as notorious fast surface, but he sees it as a little slower this year.

“It’s definitely slower,” he said.  “Obviously, night sessions always maybe play a touch slower than the day clearly.  I really have the feeling conditions are slower this year than last year here at the Open.

“So it takes I think some getting used to.  You’re not getting as many free points maybe with your serve.  Maybe that was part of the inconsistent play I had early on in the first couple of sets.

“As the match went on, I think I started to get more solid and better, and that’s a good feeling to have.  But the ball really gets used after a while, I have to say.  I was quite surprised.”

Yet, this is Roger Federer and the Dark Knight of tennis is used to all surfaces no matter what the changes are. He attacked the net more in his match tonight, especially against Giraldo, whose best surface is clay, while also taking changes, simply because, well he’s better.

And isn’t that why the super hero always wins?

“Why am I successful?,” he pondered.  “I guess because I’m a pretty good player and I’m usually the favorite when I go into these matches, so I expect myself to win.  I should win these matches, thank God, and I more often do than don’t.”

The Dark Knight rises in the second round against Israeli Dudi Sela.

The Last Great Rivalry – Mac and Lendl

Close your eyes quickly and you would have sworn you would’ve seen Ivan Lendl’s sharp strokes on the Louis Armstrong cement.

And keep your eyes closed and yes that was John McEnroe dominating Wimbledon, like only he could.

But alas, that was a more simpler time – a time when tennis had a clear good and evil and a time where the matches were marked by nationality, just as much as skill.

On one side you have McEnroe, the bad boy from Queens, who didn’t give a care on who is ticked off and how he went about it. Was it improper to challenge calls? He didn’t care. He was a New Yorker through and through and if it wasn’t for tennis, he would be arguing balls and strikes with an umpire at Shea Stadium.

And then you had Lendl, the stoic Czech, who was a symbol of Eastern Bloc athletic dominance.  Stoic on the court, his smooth robotic actions reminded one of Soviet system – athletes are robots, with only winning on the mind. If not for tennis, he might have been dominating some Olympic sport or even facing Rocky in a boxing match.

It is that rivalry that is missing from tennis today and when the two now 50+ year-olds took to the Madison Square Garden court for the undercard of the BNP Parabas Showdown, it reminded everyone, not only what was right with tennis, but also what’s wrong.

The friendly match showed the good sportsmanship between the two competitors. McEnroe retired, because he thought it wasn’t fair to Lendl to keep playing hurt, ruining plans on donning is 1982 hair and short –shorts. And Lendl just laughed it off, looking to complete a senior comeback, but said was not concerned about the final score.

“It’s not like we see each other a whole lot,” McEnroe said, after he had to retire with a sprained ankle from the match after leading Lendl, 6-3. “As you get older there’s a lot less at stake, so maybe one out of every 10 jokes is funny.”

That wasn’t the case 25 years ago when Lendl and McEnroe were No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. The final day of the Grand Slam was their domains and both men fought each other tooth and nail.

Sure the same thing can be said about the Federer-Nadal rivalry or main event of the night Sampras-Agassi. Yet, this was different, as the Cold War came into play. Americans staunchly backed McEnroe. Yes, he rubbed some the wrong way, but he was red, white and blue throughout, while Lendl was the poster boy for the Soviet state. A national pride was there. When McEnroe won, America won and it was just another nail in the Eastern Bloc coffin. And when Lendl won, it was just another way of hating the Soviets, if there wasn’t enough back in the day.

“I ended up having a losing record against Ivan,” McEnroe said, who holds a 14-20 record against Lendl. “A lot of guys lost to him a lot. There are not a lot of guys who beat him a lot.”

Yet it is this type of rivalry that’s missing from tennis. With so much globalization, there is no hatred and no lines drawn. It’s hard to hate Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal and there are no lines in a Switzerland-Spain rivalry. Heck Switzerland is a historic neutral country.

And with no lines in the sand drawn, the edge is gone from the sport. Back then, the casual fan would watch for American pride, much like the way he or she watches the Olympics every four years.

Yet, those days are over. Sure America won and Lendl is even an American citizen. But without the pure rivalry, the sport has lost and maybe will never recover its glory days.

Except for nights like there when you close your eyes and can see the Cold War again.

Blake Storms Into Third Round With Impressive Win

James Blake has delivered dazzle and disappointment in some enthralling New York nights. Honored on opening night at the US Open earlier this week, he’s heard the whispers wondering if this might be his Flushing Meadows Farewell. But dancing on his toes behind the baseline tonight like a boxer eager to beat his opponent to the punch in an entertaining brawl, Blake showed he still knows how to throw a block party and brought a few thousand of his fans along for another memorable ride.

Exhorting the fans inside Louis Armstrong Stadium with the wave of his hand, Blake drew a double fault from a rattled Peter Polansky to break serve then put the hammer down in closing a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 crowd-pleasing win to surge into the US Open third round tonight.

The Yonkers, N.Y. has spent part of his injury-ravaged season fielding questions about his future, but showed he still has juice left in his 30-year-old legs and plenty of lightning in his electric forehand in reaching the third round for the eighth straight time.

Based on the way Blake worked the crowd into a rousing state it looked like he spent some of his Wednesday evening watching good friend and former Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick lose focus over a foot fault call in the third set and ultimately fall in four to Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.

A cranky Roddick did not engage a crowd eager to impose itself in that match. Blake wisely broke down the barrier between athlete and audience tonight in bouncing in exuberance on his toes, waving the fans on as the 205th-ranked Canadian qualifier stepped up to serve down break point at 4-all.

The crowd responded with a roar, Polansky’s right arm tightened slightly and he sent a double fault beyond the service box as Blake broke for 5-4.

“People  say I’ve been struggling and everything, but I’m still having fun. I’m still having a great time competing,” Blake said. “I still love what I do. Our here, I love it even more.”

As a kid, Blake and older brother Thomas, who was in the support box, tried sneaking into the Open. He needed a wild card to gain entry into his 10th Open and the 108th-ranked Blake played with the passion of a man eager to extend his stay for at least another couple of days.

Hobbled by a right knee injury that sidelined him for two months, caused his ranking to plummet to outside the top 100 for the first time in five years, Blake has looked distracted and disconnected at times this year.

Returning to the place where he’s produced some of his most memorable tennis, Blake regained the buzz in his game and reconnected with the fans all too eager to show their support. The result was Blake turning a two-man competition into a festive match in which he fed off the crowd participation.

“When I have the fans behind me, they helped me get through that at the end,” Blake said. “I’m going to show some emotion out there and try to get the fans involved. I’m going to do my best. That’s what they can expect from me.”

Of course, working in concert with the crowd to dispatch a qualifier playing in his first Grand Slam main draw appearance is one thing, can Blake lift both his level of play and the fans along with him in a potential third-round clash against third-seeded Novak Djokovic?

“I would expect it to be a pretty good match,” Blake said. “He has one of the more underrated serves in the game. He’s got a great service motion, a great serve, one of the best backhands in the game. His movement is unbelievable. I’m going to have to play well, that’s for sure.”

Blake can still unload on his mammoth forehand that sometimes comes off his strings sounding as if its hit with all the force of a steel door slamming shot.  But he will be up against one of the best athletes and hard-court movers in the sport in Djokovic, who induces errors out of opponents with his ability to transition from defense to offense and run down virtually any shot. Djokovic is a more consistent player, which puts more pressure on Blake to squeeze shots closer to the lines in a search for open space.

“If I got out there and I start dictating, I feel like I have a good shot,” Blake said. “But there’s also a good shot that he comes out and plays great tennis and proves why he’s No. 3 in the world right now. But it will be on Ahse Stadium. I think I’ll have pretty good crowd support. Hopefully, I can come up with some of my best as I’ve been known to do before.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

No Oudin Run In 2010

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Melanie Oudin turned her back to the court, faced the blue back wall and stared at her Wilson racquet as if searching the strings for solutions to the problems posed by Alona Bondarenko. Oudin mastered the art of the comeback during her rousing run to the 2009 US Open quarterfinals, but the resignation on her face in the final game today revealed a woman well aware Cinderella stories only come once in a career.

This time, the ferocious forehand was weighted with worry, the “courage” emblazoned on her shoes contrasted with the concern on her face and the crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium waited for a moment that never came.

The 29th-seeded Bondarenko ran off 10 consecutive points to send Oudin out of the US Open second round, 6-2, 7-5.

Oudin conceded she felt a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.

“I think the nerves got the best of me today a little bit, especially in the first set,” Oudin said.  “Second set I started playing a lot better, making the points a little bit longer. But, yeah, the first set definitely like the crowd was like really, really loud.  It was just like a lot. The second I got out there, I guess it kind of overwhelmed me a little bit, so.”

On match point, Oudin pushed a running backhand down the line wide, looked down with vacant eyes then walked to the net to shake hands as the crowd, which was nearly mute during the final two games, offered appreciative applause.

The 18-year-old Oudin, who made “believe” her personal mantra in etching the word on her adidas in playing with resolve and resilience at the ’09 Open, snapped a four-match losing streak in her first-round win over 143rd-ranked qualifier Olga Savchuk. But she has not beaten a top-30 ranked opponent since scoring three consecutive comeback wins over Russians Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova at the Open last year and could not hold off the 33rd-ranked Bondarenko today.

A nervous Oudin could not find her first serve at 5-all in the second set. She slapped her forehand into the net, netted a backhand down the line and missed another forehand before lofting a running lob long to drop serve at love.

Oudin won just eight of 25 points played on her second serve. Unable to break Bondarenko down in baseline rallies, Oudin began to play closer to the lines.

“I mean, it’s tough coming back, especially after like the US Open I had last year, coming back and expecting to do that well again,” Oudin said. “And, yes, the expectations for me I think from like the fans were extremely high.  You could tell by the crowd.  Even the second I walked out there, people like expected me to win again like last year.”

Tennis is all about adjustments and opponents have learned that Oudin thrives off pace, particularly to her forehand. She has worked with coach Brian de Villiers to move forward in the court on her terms, but at 5-feet-6 Oudin does not have a lot of sting on her serve and her reach can be exposed when opponents draw her into net with short slices.

Oudin is at her best when she’s running around her backhand and hammering her favored forehand, but Bondarenko refused to let Oudin find her comfort zone in the final stages of the match.

The match showed Oudin’s game is still very much a work in progress and she views every match as another credit course on the learning curve that is the pro circuit.

Five minutes after her post-match press conference concluded, a relieved Oudin was on the receiving end of a hug from her younger brother as they walked down the hallway inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I guess I’m a little tiny bit relieved now,” Ouudin said. “I can kind of start over, I guess like start over from all the expectations from like last year.  And now I can just go out and hopefully do really well the rest of the year and keep working hard.”

Her US Open dream may be over for this year, but Oudin is still part of the tournament, playing mixed doubles with Ryan Harrison.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

SECOND YEAR OF US OPEN ON TENNIS CHANNEL STARTS WITH FIRST DAY OF PLAY MONDAY, AUGUST 30

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 23, 2010 – Tennis Channel’s second year of US Open coverage will provide viewers with 73 hours of live matches as the tennis world descends upon New York, and will also introduce a new team member who knows a thing (or two) about on-court glory in the Big Apple.  This year two-time US Open singles titlist Tracy Austin joins the network’s returning on-air roster of tennis champions, with a lineup that includes lead analysts Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova and US Open Tonight / Breakfast at the Open host Lindsay Davenport.  In all the network will offer 234 hours of US Open telecasts, with nearly 24-hour, “Grounds Pass” level of coverage during the two-week competition.

When live matches are not taking place in Flushing Meadow, Tennis Channel’s signature US Open Tonight and Breakfast at the Open will recap all the excitement of that day’s play, and lead into the following morning’s contests.  Again hosted by 1998 US Open champion Lindsay Davenport and Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight fame, the news, interview and highlight shows will air alongside encore matches throughout the night during the tournament, giving viewers a close to 24-hour daily US Open experience.

Beginning with its opening-match coverage on Arthur Ashe Stadium or Louis Armstrong Stadium the first day of play Monday, Aug. 30, Tennis Channel’s typical US Open schedule features live matches daily from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (all times ET).  US Open Tonight immediately follows the conclusion of the final US Open match of the evening, and airs with encore matches until Breakfast at the Open premieres at 6 a.m. and runs next to encore matches until the start of that day’s play at 11 a.m.  During Labor Day weekend Tennis Channel’s live-match window moves to prime time, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m.  As with the other three Grand Slams, Tennis Channel will combine with ESPN2 to bring fans virtually round-the-clock coverage during the US Open, each network utilizing its own commentators.

On-Air Talent

Though new to the network’s Grand Slam team, Austin has been a Tennis Channel regular via Tennis Channel Academy, the coaches-and-clinics series she has hosted since 2008.  She has also done commentary and analysis work for the channel’s coverage of top events like the women’s year-end championships.  During the US Open she will serve as Tennis Channel’s afternoon and late-match analyst, appear in short features and interact with fans on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center grounds.

A tennis prodigy, Austin is best known for dethroning four-time US Open champion Chris Evert in 1979 at the mere age of 16, making her the youngest US Open champion in history.  She was the No. 1 women’s singles player in 1980 and boasts an impressive collection of 30 singles titles, including two US Open championships along with a Wimbledon mixed doubles title.  She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.

“Tennis Channel tries to put as much of the US Open on fans’ television screens as is humanly possible, and I’m thrilled to join them this year,” said Austin.  “This is an exciting time of the tennis season and this tournament has such special memories for me.”

Tennis icons Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova are back as Tennis Channel’s lead US Open analysts, again putting the all-time men’s and women’s singles titlists in the same booth.  They will be joined once more by veteran sportscaster Bill Macatee, a mainstay of the network’s Grand Slam coverage since its first effort in Paris in 2007.  Lead commentators Ted Robinson and Ian Eagle are also back on Tennis Channel’s on-air roster, as are former players Leif Shiras, Katrina Adams, Jimmy Arias, Justin Gimelstob and Corina Morariu.  Year-round Court Report anchor Cari Champion will also be on the tournament grounds for special news and feature segments.  US Open Tonight and Breakfast at the Open are hosted by Davenport and Frazier from Tennis Channel’s Los Angeles studio, with nightly Court Report segments from reporters Arlene Santana and Angela Sun.

“Grounds Pass”

After bringing its “Grounds Pass” Grand Slam coverage approach to the US Open last year for the first time, Tennis Channel is doing even more to give audiences the feel of spending a late-summer afternoon at the tournament.  New in 2010 is the “Tennis Channel Plaza,” a fixed interview and fan-interaction site centered just outside Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Throughout each day’s coverage Gimelstob, Champion and others will conduct interviews while surrounded by tournament ticket holders, routinely carrying on public address conversations with the crowd in the interim.  The network’s main set has been moved from the top of Louis Armstrong Stadium and brought outside to the second level of Arthur Ashe Stadium, in full view of the public.  Usually featuring Robinson and Eagle, this set will be the center point of Tennis Channel’s coverage, from here taking viewers to center court with Macatee, Connors and Navratilova; off to the outer grounds with roving reporters; and on-air analysts or anywhere between.

Broadband and Digital Coverage

What the network cannot squeeze into viewers’ television sets over the Flushing Meadow fortnight is likely to be found on Tennis Channel’s Web site, www.tennischannel.com.  Beyond real-time scoring, schedules, draws and order of play, the site will include on-court video highlights, behind-the-scenes features, interviews and Court Report news segments.  Exclusive US Open photo gallery scenes capture the raucous energy of the event, while reporter Steve Flink and humorist James LaRosa have become Tennis Channel digital favorites who will again offer their online opinions as the competition unfolds.  At the same time, Web visitors can sign up for network sweepstakes and play its “Racquet Bracket” prediction game.  Tennis Channel’s YouTube (www.youtube.com/tennischannel), Twitter (www.twitter.com/tennischannel) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/tennischannel) pages offer additional opportunities for fans to stay digitally engaged.

Tennis Channel’s Live 2010 US Open Match Schedule

Date                                        Time (ET)                   Event

Monday, Aug. 30                     11 a.m.-7 p.m.             First-Round Action

Tuesday, Aug. 31                     11 a.m.-7 p.m.             First-Round Action

Wednesday, Sept. 1                 11 a.m.-7 p.m.             First-Round, Second-Round Action

Thursday, Sept. 2                     11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Second-Round Action

Friday, Sept. 3                         11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Second-Round, Third-Round Action

Saturday, Sept. 4                      7 p.m.-11 p.m.             Third-Round Action

Sunday, Sept. 5                        7 p.m.-11 p.m.             Third-Round, Round-of-16 Action

Tuesday, Sept. 7                      11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Round-of-16 Action, Doubles

Wednesday, Sept. 8                 11 a.m.-7 p.m.             Doubles Quarterfinals, Mixed Semifinals

Thursday, Sept. 9                     11 a.m.-8 p.m.             Doubles, Juniors, Wheelchair

Tennis Channel’s US Open Tonight, Breakfast at the Open Schedule

US Open Tonight runs evenings and mornings Monday, Aug. 30-Sunday, Sept. 12, while Breakfast at the Open will air Monday, Aug. 30-Friday, Sept. 10.  Both are interspersed with same-day, encore matches.  This year US Open Tonight will start at the conclusion of play each evening which, especially the first week, could mean well into the early morning hours.  Because of the uncertain start time for US Open Tonight, Tennis Channel’s 11 p.m.-3 a.m. schedule will vary in terms of the number of times US Open Tonight airs, as will the length of the encore match.  The schedule is generally as follows (all times ET):

11 p.m.-3 a.m. – US Open Tonight / Encore Match

3 a.m.-4 a.m. – US Open Tonight

4 a.m.-6 a.m. – Encore Match

6 a.m.-7 a.m. – Breakfast at the Open

7 a.m.-10 a.m. – Encore Match

10 a.m.-11 a.m. – Breakfast at the Open

On Friday, Sept. 10, Tennis Channel will air a four-hour special, US Open Tonight: Best of the US Open, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m.  Three consecutive encore editions of this will run through 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.  From 12 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, the network will air four US Open encore matches.  During the week of Sunday, Sept. 12, Tennis Channel will run encore replays of the men’s and women’s singles and doubles finals and mixed doubles final, TBD.

Tennis Channel (www.tennischannel.com) is the only 24-hour, television-based multimedia destination dedicated to both the professional sport and tennis lifestyle.  A hybrid of comprehensive sports, health, fitness, pop culture, entertainment, lifestyle and travel programming, the network is home to every aspect of the wide-ranging, worldwide tennis community.  It also has the most concentrated single-sport coverage in television, with telecast rights to the US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros (French Open), Australian Open, Olympus US Open Series, ATP Masters Series, top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, and Hyundai Hopman Cup.  Tennis Channel is carried by nine of the top 10 MSOs, Verizon FiOS TV, and has a national footprint via DIRECTV and DISH Network.

Kim’s Cooler Head Prevails

The circumstances were far from ideal. The rain hadn’t stopped all day throwing another curve into the schedule which forced both women’s semifinals to be played at the same time in Ashe and Louis Armstrong while both doubles matches were pushed back.

Perhaps that’s why Kim Clijsters is in her second straight U.S. Open final trying to become the first Mom to win a grand slam title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley back in 1980 (Wimbledon).

Oh. Did we also mention that when the Mom of 18-month old Jade plays ninth seeded Caroline Wozniacki for all the marbles later tonight in primetime at 9 PM on ESPN2, the unseeded Belgian was absent from the last three? Indeed, the 26 year-old former 2005 champ missed a chance to defend her crown due to injury and wasn’t even on the WTA Tour the past two years until 10 weeks ago. Since then, she’s gone 11-2 and will aim to become the first ever ladies wildcard to win a major.

“Maybe a little out of today’s match just because, you know, you want to finish that last point, kind of, especially when you hit like I was seeing the ball really well, I was hitting well, and I was really focused,” a pleased Clijsters said on whether her return has inspired people.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate that I didn’t have that, but it’s not going to take anything away from tomorrow’s match or how special that would be for me, and for both of us.”

Now, her incredible comeback continues by doing something few have. Not beating one Williams but both even if it was under bizarre circumstances with Serena Williams losing her cool late on a controversial call in a very tight second set.

Yes, the overwhelming favorite didn’t keep it together after a line judge nailed her for a foot fault handing Clijsters double match point. CBS replays were inconclusive with the call coming at a pivotal moment. As she was about to step up and serve, Williams made the costly mistake of walking over to have a few choice words for the poor judge. Unfortunately, the 27 year-old American let out several expletives which resulted in a very awkward and devastating conclusion to a quality match.

“I”m not going to sit here and make an excuse. If I foot fault, I did. It was what it was, and that’s basically all it was,” lamented Williams.

Following a meeting between the chair umpire and lines person, she reported what was said. With Serena anxiously waiting at the baseline and Clijsters wondering what was happening, eventually the 11-time slam winner was called up by the umpire forcing tournament referee Brian Earley to pay a visit along with tournament official Donna Kelso.

“She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty,” a very subdued Earley explained. “And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Due to Williams breaking her racket following losing the first set which she received a warning for, the temper tantrum cost her any chance to repeat, resulting in a point penalty which meant the match. When Serena walked across the net to congratulate Clijsters, the stunned Belgian almost didn’t want to accept the 6-4, 7-5 semi victory which she quite deserved before a stunned, loyal half capacity crowd.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” a surprised Clijsters remarked after improving to 2-8 career versus Serena.

“You know, obviously, yeah, I still to this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there, and, um, just because I was so focused. You know, just trying to win that last point for me. So then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”

“Well, I said something that I guess they gave me a point penalty. Unfortunately it was on match point,” was how Williams put it while adding:

No, I didn’t think I would get a point penalty. I didn’t think about it.”

Sometimes in sports, things happen. Chalk it up to emotions getting the better turning the champ into chump. Yes. The cooler player prevailed. With few giving her a chance after already sending Venus Williams home two rounds prior, Clijsters was superior.

Following a lengthy eight and a half hour delay, it was Kim who dealt with the elements better to pull off another upset knocking out the three-time Open winner.

It took a while for both players to get going due to a few sprinkles which fell and seemed to unnerve Serena more than Clijsters. The difference was that Clijsters hit the cleaner ball while an unsteady Williams misfired from the baseline. Able to deal with the pace, the speedy popular former champ was able to run down shots and come up with precision hitting creating nice angles.

They exchanged breaks in the sixth and seventh games but ultimately, Clijsters stayed strong holding for 5-4 to put pressure on Serena to stay in the set. A couple of points from squaring it, she fell apart dropping the next four to hand it over. After a Clijsters forehand winner made it 30-all, two Williams miscues including a netted backhand gave her gritty opponent a set lead to which she slammed her racket in disgust. Who knew that would play such a big role in a match of this magnitude?

When Williams seemed ready to make a run breaking Clijsters in the opening game of the second set highlighted by a couple of lethal return winners, she allowed Kim to stick around by dropping serve with a double fault.

All match, the WTA’s best server struggled mightily winning just 32 percent of second serves (10 of 31) due in large part to Clijsters’ aggressive play. That was the biggest difference making Williams’ serve attackable with Clijsters breaking her one more time than she’d been all tournament. Four when she had only allowed three entering last night.

Despite her serving issues, a sharper Williams pressed on earning a break in the fifth game when a nice dropshot setup a textbook crosscourt pass for 3-2. But yet again, a resilient Clijsters came right back. After Serena fought off three break points, she earned a fourth and converted thanks to a big forehand which drew an error to get back even.

Following Clijsters digging out of 15-30 to hold for 4-3, a big backhand gave her two more chances to break and serve for the match. However, as often happens with Williams, she toughened saving both winning a baseline exchange and a swinging volley winner. Still in trouble, she delivered an ace out wide to fight off a third. Entering the game, she had three aces but matched that total with clutch serving for four all.

Each then traded holds. A Clijsters ace out wide put her a game away from the final. Then came the embarrassing conclusion to a great set that had fans into it.

Already trailing in the critical game 15-30 due to a pair of errors, Williams faulted. Then came the foot fault from Hell.

“I used to have a real temper, and I’ve gotten a lot better,” an under control Williams said during a long postmatch press conference. “So I know you don’t believe me, but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed.”

Not on this night.

When the Rain Stops, The Matches Are Great

Will the rain ever stop? They’re praying it will so that the women can actually get their semis in sometime tonight.

Caroline Wozniacki takes on Yanina Wickmayer in the first match moved to Louis Armstrong. And the second semi pits reigning champ Serena Williams against comeback queen Kim Clijsters who has proven that she still has quite a bit of game even though she took two years off to get married and now has 18-month old daughter Jade following her.

Can the former 2005 Open winner rundown enough balls and hit with enough variety versus the powerful Serena, who is looking to make it three slams this year and four of the last five? Yet that’s not good enough to be ranked No.1. Everyone already has Williams taking the trophy but figure her to get a fight from the feisty 26 year-old from Belgium.

Though Serena has gone out of her way to praise Kim saying how she admires her, you know once they get out on Ashe, it’s on. And she’ll also be aiming for a measure of revenge for older sis Venus, who Clijsters ousted two previous rounds receiving plenty of love. So, the 11-time grand slam winner has plenty of incentive.

We’re just glad the men were finally able to complete the quarter that got suspended by a heavy downpour Thursday night. Even if poor Fernando Gonzalez offered token resistance, allowing Rafael Nadal to win the final four points of a crucial second set tiebreaker before getting bageled.

So, here’s Rafa again showing the tremendous heart in spite of the abdominal strain which was ailing him the other night. That the 23 year-old kid from Mallorca can give you this much effort when the odds are stacked against him tells us all we need to know about him. He’s two matches from making history by completing a career grand slam.

Don’t forget he beat Federer in five down under this year before Robin Soderling got him at Roland Garros and then Nadal couldn’t even defend his Wimbledon crown due to balky knees. Now, he will face tough sixth seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in one semi tomorrow. So, it won’t be easy against a player who has proven to be an excellent hard courter posting a 16-1 mark since Wimbledon. The last time they met, Del Potro won in straights at Montreal before losing to Andy Murray in the final.

The other semifinal hasn’t gotten much talk even though it’s Federer trying to keep his bid to match Bill Tilden’s six straight Opens alive against fourth seeded Serb Novak Djokovic. Here’s the kicker. They’re only meeting a third consecutive year with Feds prevailing in the 2007 final and last year’s semi in four sets going onto a fifth championship in a row over Murray.

So, even without Murray or Andy Roddick, there’s plenty of star power/storylines which will make the men’s Final Four compelling.

Let’s just hope the ladies can get their matches in tonight which is asking a lot with the weather not cooperating. Wozniacki is coming off her impressive 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over new 17 year-old American sweetheart Melanie Oudin, whose run captivated everyone.

What the 19 year-old blonde bombshell from Denmark did was come in with a great strategy using her speed to play excellent defense while mixing in a consistent topspin forehand that forced Oudin to go for more resulting in unforced errors.

The ninth seed is a good player and this has been expected. She had never before made it past the fourth round until this tournament. But after disappointing results at the first three slams, Wozy has stepped up following her win in New Haven. Her game is a breath of fresh air in that she doesn’t just rely on power but on precision along with solid D to stay in points. Something which frustrated former Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dane’s come from behind three set Round of 16 win.

Aside tom the consistency is the wonderful smile which can win crowds over as can her positive attitude, even admitting that when it got interesting early in the second set versus fan favorite Oudin, she didn’t show any frustration because the wise teen had used any negativity in her upsets over the big Russians to her edge.

Now, there will be even more pressure with Wozniacki facing another 19 year-old in Wickmayer. A player she knows well from juniors. Thus far, the Belgian has had a breakthrough of her own to reach this point. That included a first round straight set upset of No.16 seed Virginie Razzano and a come from behind three set Round Two triumph over Shuai Peng.

Wickmayer also had to show mettle rallying from a set down to defeat Dinara Safina conqueror Petra Kvitova in the fourth round. Even her quarter win over Kateryna Bondarenko got dicey when after sneaking out the first set late, she fell behind 1-4 having to save break points before righting herself to reel off the last five games for the big win.

Not bad for a player who’d never surpassed the second round of a major. Wickmayer hits a bigger ball than Wozniacki. So, she’ll likely be going for more while the counterpunching Wozniacki will try to use a similar gameplan that worked so well against Oudin. The contrast in style should make for an intriguing match.

Now if only the rain would go away.

Isner’s Run Ends At Verdasco’s Hands

John Isner’s run has come to an end. A match after showing tremendous heart against Andy Roddick, the lanky 24 year-old American fell to No.10 seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in four sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 over on Louis Armstrong.

He got out to a good start like the other night but couldn’t maintain the level due to Verdasco’s counter punching and variety. The 25 year-old has improved leaps and bounds this year making the semis in Australia before losing an epic battle against countryman Rafael Nadal. His renewed commitment to fitness showed against the first-time fourth rounder as he outhit Isner from the baseline.

When Verdasco wasn’t winning long rallies, he was whipping winners off both sides of the racket past an attacking Isner at net where he never got in rhythm. In fact, he won barely half the points at net going 14-for-27 which couldn’t happen.

Verdasco was more efficient nailing many shots crosscourt for a match best 40 winners. Unlike Roddick, he also stood in taking Isner’s monstrous serve early keeping him in check with 13 aces while he served seven himself. Because he was able to get into points early, the Spanish lefty had excellent success breaking Isner four times in seven chances.

To his credit after falling behind a set, Isner tried to hang in there. But ultimately, Verdasco finally applied enough pressure to earn the one break needed to put it away. He did give the American one opportunity in the eighth game but saved a break point with some solid hitting before holding.

In the 10th game, he had little trouble serving it out drawing a long Isner forehand to secure his place in the quarters where he’ll await the winner between No.4 Novak Djokovic and No.15 Radek Stepanek later tonight.

On tap first at Ashe Stadium is a women’s clash between former 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) and 19 year-old No.9 seed Caroline Wozniacki with a spot in the quarters up for grabs.

Tune into Tennis Channel for coverage of both matches.