Where to begin? On this first day of the 2009 U.S. Open, Sam Stosur had to face a player she would have preferred to avoid. Ai Sugiyama, a former top 10 player, had a 3-1 record against Stosur coming into the Open, and Stosur had never gotten past the first round at Flushing Meadows. Stosur looked flat, Sugiyama looked ready. But Sugiyama got a bit tight in the third set, and Stosur was able to post a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win.
25th seed Kaia Kanepi was upset by Chang Kai-Chen, Kirsten Flipkens took out Jelena Dokic in straight sets, and Marion Bartoli all but ran over Rossana De Los Rios, who won one game. The closest match no one saw was the one between Sybille Bammer and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. It went on for 2 hours and 52 minutes, and was finally won by Martinez Sanchez in a third set tiebreak.
Venus Williams had knee problems again tonight, and received treatment early in her match against Vera Dushevina. Dushevina won the first set in a tiebreak, but--even though her opponent was hurt--it seemed inevitable that Dushevina would collapse. The Russian has a nice backhand and can play some good tennis, but closing a big match is another matter for her. Sure enough--six breaks, eleven aces, and seven foot faults later--Williams prevailed, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3. She hit 53 winners and committed 54 unforced errors, and toward the end of the second set, was two points from defeat.
Williams made it through knee tendonitis at Wimbledon, but the hard courts of Flushing Meadows present quite a challenge.
Then there was Daniela Hantuchova. Not content to wait until later in the tournament to stop the hearts of her fans, Hantuchova did an early staging of her well-known Carnival of Doubt. She expertly cruised through the first set, and part of the second, easily handling Meghann Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy significantly picked up her game in the middle of the second set, but she had plenty of help from a suddenly shaky Hantuchova. When Shaughnessy took the second set, commentator Virginia Wade said she felt genuine pain for anyone watching who happened to be close to Hantuchova.
This time, though, Hantuchova was able to get back on track and win the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. It was nice to see Shaughnessy again, but it was also nice to see Hantuchova regain her mental strength. For now.