It was hard to gauge Djokovic's level in his first round win over Conor Niland, a qualifier from Ireland who retired down 6-0, 5-1, as you never know how much injury may affect an opponent's performance. We've now seen Djokovic against someone with no ailments or excuses, someone who is a consistent main draw ATP presence, the result 6-0, 6-0, 6-2. Maybe it's eliminating the confusion on his serve, maybe it's his swearing off gluten, maybe it's accumulated confidence, all I know is Novak Djokovic is gone and in his place is Robo-Nole, a coldly efficient winning machine stored in a hyperbaric chamber between matches. Berlocq agrees saying, "This guy is from another planet." after his loss last night.
I was worried about his shoulder and general level of fatigue coming into this tournament. Through two matches, my worries have been swatted away like an errant dropshot. Robo-Nole is ready, what about the rest of the draw?
I got a little stick yesterday for not mentioning Christina McHale's big win over 8th seed Marion Bartoli on Tuesday. It's only 3 thoughts people, not 11, so there's bound to be some editing. McHale's been playing some good ball this year so the win was a surprise, but not a complete shocker. In any event, after my drubbing over McHale, I wanted to make sure to give Sloane Stephens her due today after upending 23rd seed Shahar Peer.
To put it into perspective, 18 year-old Stephens was a one year old when countrywoman Venus Williams made her professional debut. Stephens movement was explosive in pushing Peer all-around the court. The 5'7" Floridian may not stand as tall as the tour's resident amazons, but her court coverage was impressive and she was able to crank up the pace now and again on her serve and forehand. The win yesterday will move Stephens into the top 100 for the first time. On a day where Serena Williams won so comprehensively that I nodded off for moments, Stephens electrified the tournament.
It's early days in the tournament, but between McHale, Stephens, Irina Falconi and Jack Sock there is some solid American talent breaking through at their home major. Let's not amp up the pressure on these kids just yet, let's sit back enjoy the ride and see how they come into next year's Open, that's when we'll really have a better idea of how high these kids can go.
The Mosquito buzzes again. Just when we were all ready to write off Juan Carlos Ferrero with a string of "formers" Former World No. 1, Former US Open finalist, Former Spanish Davis Cup stalwart, the 31 year old reminds us that he's still here (even if he's slipped just outside of the Top 100) and there's nothing "former" about his ability to win a big match. This time, the Spaniard gave fans what they wanted (kind of) in that first blockbuster match of the 2011 US Open. Ferreo upended 7th seed and fan favorite Gael Monfils 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in a shade under five hours in the blazing sun of Louis Armstrong stadium.
Monfils matches usually fill the second show court to the brim and today was no exception. The explosive Frenchman seemed a shade subdued, perhaps due to a leg injury suffered in his first rounder, but the Spaniard matched him shot-for-shot, reminding the tour and fans alike that in the B.N. (Before Nadal) era, there was another Spanish player who was World No. 1, French Open champion and US Open finalist. Next up the Mosquito will buzz toward a compatriot, Marcel Granollers, probably on one of the smaller courts, maybe the intimate new sunken showcourt, No. 17. If so, I'd say, grab a seat, if you can knock out a player like Monfilsm you're doing something right.