A year or so ago, I wouldn't have given Laura Robson a chance to beat Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open. Robson had the serve, she had the shots, but her footwork and speed just weren't up to playing someone as athletically superior as Clijsters. But over the past several months, as Robson has no doubt "grown into" her body, she has refined her court movement. We saw just how much she has refined it today. Playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 18-year-old Brit took out the three-time U.S. Open champion in two tiebreak sets. It was a good match by any standard. And though it was sad to see Clijsters go out in the second round in the last singles match of her career, it was kind of mesmerizing to watch Robson.
With her left-handedness as a natural advantage, Laura Robson repeatedly struck the ball with such smooth authority that it seemed natural to wait for her to have some kind of collapse. She showed how tough she was when she saved three set points when her opponent served at 5-3 in the first set, and when the collapse did come, it was a small one, and she recovered quickly. Robson held two match points when Clijsters served at 5-6 in the second set, and when the Belgian player saved those, there was a strong hint of a Clijsters comeback. But Robson faced the second set tiebreak with the same resolve she had faced the first one; she simply out-hit Kim Clijsters.
The sudden end of Clijsters' singles career (she's playing in doubles and mixed doubles in Flushing Meadows) provided the day's biggest drama, for obvious reasons. The day's biggest on-court drama, however, belonged to Marion Bartoli, who had to fight like mad to escape the clutches of Romina Oprandi. That was a hitting contest. Bartoli won 6-1, 1-6, 7-5, and I was tired from just watching the match. Bartoli's victory puts her back into the top 10 (and takes Caroline Wozniacki out of the top 10).
And then there was Mallory Burdette, who has taken her wild card very seriously. Today, the Stanford star defeated Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-4, and she did it with first and second serve percentages of 79 and 67. Burdette is an aggressive player who is pleasant and articulate off the court. I'm enjoying every moment of her U.S. Open run. I suppose I should savor it--Burdette's third round opponent is Maria Sharapova.
Casey Dellacqua gave her a good run, but Li Na emerged victorious. Also advancing were top seed Victoria Azarenka, defending champion Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova, and Russian veteran Nadia Petrova. Kristina Mladenovic pretty much ran over 17th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Anna Tatishvili ended Sorana Cirstea's brief run.
Tomorrow, wild card Venus Williams will play 6th seed Angelique Kerber. Kerber defeated Williams at the Olympic Games, and tomorrow's contest is expected to be the match of the day.
Is it my imagination, or are the ESPN commentators doing a better job than usual? Chris Evert has certainly returned to form as a commentator--about time. I can't comment on Tennis Channel because I have no access to it at the hotel where I'm staying; in the morning, I watch everything online.