Today, 5th seed Petra Kvitova became the first Wimbledon champion in the Open Era to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open. Kvitova, who lost to Andrea Petkovic twice in a row during the U.S. Open Series, made 52 unforced errors in her opening round in Flushing Meadows. Alexandra Dulgheru, always a dangerous floater at majors, defeated Kvitova 7-6, 6-3. Kvitova held three set points in the opening set, but could not convert them. She made repeated forehand errors, had continuous problems with her serve, and generally just looked a mess throughout the match.
Only Kvitova knows why she performed so badly. She has had an abdominal injury for most of the year, and her asthma flares in humid weather, making this part of the season especially difficult for her. Some speculate that the Czech player is going through a psychological adjustment after suddenly becoming a famous sports personality. Any or all of those factors could be involved. I hope the rest of her season is better; Kvitova's potential is huge.
The 5th seed wasn't the only big player who had problems today. 3rd seed Maria Sharapova was taken to the edge by Heather Watson. Watson took the first set 6-3 in 36 minutes. In the second, Sharapova went up 3-0 and then 4-1. Watson held for 2-4, then broke when Sharapova double-faulted at 30-40. Both players looked in danger of being broken again, but held. However, at 5-all, Sharapova got the crucial break and took the set 7-5.
The 3rd seed went up 2-0 right away in the third set, and again had a 4-1 score. But just when it looked as though she would run away with the set, Watson broke her. The 2009 junior U.S. Open champion would win one more game; she was broken at 3-4, and Sharapova closed the set at 6-3, after two hours and 34 minutes. And while the 2006 champion was able to use her superior power and mentality to finally make the relentless Watson go away, one can't help but think that there are only so many times Sharapova can rescue herself in this fashion.
Sharapova hit 41 winners in her first round match, but she also made 58 unforced errors. Forced by Watson to stay in long rallies, the first-strike specialist often looked quite vulnerable.