Saturday, August 30, 2014

U.S. Open Day 5 highlights: No. 2 Halep stunned

Second-seeded Simona Halep lost to Mirjana Lucic-
Baroni, a 32-year-old qualifier, 7-6 (6), 6-2 in the
third round. 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Upset of the day -- Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a 32-year-old qualifier from Croatia and former prodigy, shocked second-seeded Simona Halep of Romania 7-6 (6), 6-2 to reach the round of 16.
   The 5-foot-11 (1.81-meter) Lucic-Baroni saved three set points at 2-5 in the first set against the 2014 French Open runner-up and Wimbledon semifinalist.
   Entering the U.S. Open, Lucic-Baroni was winless in six tournaments since May. One of the losses came against San Jose resident Raquel Kops-Jones, a doubles specialist then ranked No. 1,055 in singles, in the first round of qualifying for the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last month.
   Lucic-Baroni once appeared destined for stardom. She became the youngest player to win an Australian Open title when she took the 1998 women's doubles crown at 15 years, 10 months with Martina Hingis.
   At 17, Lucic-Baroni upset world No. 4 Monica Seles to reach the Wimbledon singles semifinals in 1999. She was the lowest-ranked player (No. 134) at the time to reach a Grand Slam semifinal but has been surpassed.
   Lucic-Baroni's career was derailed by problems with her father, who she has said physically abused her and tampered with her prize money.
   "There have been more beatings than anyone can imagine," Lucic-Baroni once said.
   Marinko Lucic countered: “I never used excessive force, and if I did give her the occasional slap, it was because of her behavior. I did what I believed what was best for the child.”   
No. 19 seed Venus Williams fell to No. 13 Sara Errani
6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (5). 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Match of the day -- No. 13 seed Sara Errani of Italy edged No. 19 Venus Williams, the 2000 and 2001 U.S. Open champion, 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (5). Williams, 34, served for the match at 5-3 in the third set and came within two points of victory four times.
   Errani, only 5-foot-4 1/2 (1.64 meters), had never won more than three games in a set in three matches against the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Williams.
   Notable -- Belinda Bencic, 17, of Switzerland knocked off No. 6 Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-1, 7-5. Bencic, formerly ranked No. 1 in the juniors, is playing in the U.S. Open for the first time. Kerber, a 26-year-old left-hander, reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2012.
   Men's seeded winners -- No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 4 David Ferrer, No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 12 Richard Gasquet, No. 14 Marin Cilic, No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 18 Kevin Anderson, No. 19 Feliciano Lopez, No. 20 Gael Monfils and No. 26 Gilles Simon.
   Men's seeded losers -- No. 11 Ernests Gulbis, No. 15 Fabio Fognini, No. 25 Ivo Karlovic and No. 32 Joao Sousa.
   Women's seeded winners -- No. 5 Maria Sharapova, No. 9 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, Errani and No. 14 Lucie Safarova.
   Women's seeded losers -- Halep, Kerber, No. 18 Andrea Petkovic, Williams, No. 22 Alize Cornet, No. 26 Sabine Lisicki and No. 28 Roberta Vinci.
   U.S. report -- Remaining are three American women (No. 1 Serena Williams, Uzbekistan native Varvara Lepchenko and wild card Nicole Gibbs) and two U.S. men (No. 13 John Isner and Sam Querrey).
   All play in the third round today. Williams meets Lepchenko, Gibbs faces No. 11 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, Querrey takes on No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, and Isner goes against No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
   Northern California connection -- Eighth-seeded Kops-Jones and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia lost to Anastasia Rodionova of Australia and Robert Farah of Colombia 4-6, 6-3 [10-5] in the first round of mixed doubles. Cabal and Farah, seeded 16th in men's doubles, lost to Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland in the second round.
   In an all-American encounter, ex-Stanford star Scott Lipsky, 33, and Rajeev Ram, 30, topped 16-year-old wild cards Michael Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe 6-1, 6-4 in the second round of men's doubles.
   Sam Riffice, a 15-year-old product of Roseville in the Sacramento area, lost to 15th-seeded Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the first round of boys qualifying. Here's a link to my recent profile of Riffice and fellow Roseville juniors Keenan and Aidan Mayo:
   Fast fact -- Three record holders for the world's fastest serve played, and all lost. Sam Groth (163.7 mph, or 263.4 kph, in the 2012 Busan, South Korea, Challenger for the unofficial men's record) succumbed to Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Karlovic (156 mph, or 251 kph, in the 2011 Davis Cup for the official men's record) lost to Marcel Granollers 7-6 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4. And Sabine Lisicki (131 mph, or 210.8 kph, in last month's Bank of the West Classic for the women's mark) fell to Sharapova 6-2, 6-4.
   Quote -- A tearful Lucic-Baroni on her triumph: "This is incredible. I believed the whole time. After so many years, my God, this is just incredible. Every painful moment was worth it.”

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