WIMBLEDON, England -- In the match of the day, if not the match of the year, Venus Williams advanced with a gripping Centre Court win over Japan's Kimiko Date Krumm, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 8-6. Take away the grunting and this was divine tennis. Nifty shotmaking from all coordinates of the court. Successful networking opportunties. Angles. Fluctuating momentum. Just a thoroughly entertaining affair. Credit Venus for prevailing and, as usual, elevating her game when the circumstances required as much.
The beauty of tennis' new year, aside from the anticipation surrounding the Australian Open, is the chance to isolate certain truths out of nothing. The past week saw a flurry of insignificant events, but there was much to be learned about some of the sport's key players:
The U.S. Open is often a barometer of American tennis and its prospects for the future, but appearances can be deceiving. Ryan Harrison struck just about everyone as the real thing, a clever and imaginative kid who has every right to think big. The women's side -- and that's two years running -- has the look of a mirage.
I can't imagine Serena Williams merely strolling onto the grounds of the Italian Open, where she is making her return to the game this week. More likely, she sashayed in. This is a woman who knows how to make an entrance, and she'd better make an impression after taking nearly four months off.
1. Cup chatter: The Fed Cup is not just what Roger wears when he plays hockey. It suffers the same scheduling issues as its brother, the Davis Cup, yet lacks the history and sponsorship. It's had a hard time attracting the top players and squeezing itself into a crowded calendar. But like a dogged counterpuncher, the Fed Cup keeps fighting. And it's done well for itself recently. The events last weekend -- occurring during a dead spot on the WTA schedule -- drew familiar names and generated some compelling matches. Despite the sudden absence of Justine Henin on account of a broken finger, the Belgium-Estonia throwdown (note the pains we go to, avoiding use the confusing phrase "tie") drew a capacity crowd in Hasselt. Thanks to the heroics of Daniela Hantuchova, the Slovak Republic upset Jelena Jankovic and Serbia. Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Liezel Huber joined forces to stage a gripping comeback/upset of a Russian side led by Elena Dementieva. Tracy Austin was in my
1. The Fed Cup didn't exactly threaten the Super Bowl -- or, for that matter, UFC 109 -- as the weekend's biggest sporting event. But the competition served up some spirited tennis and intriguing results. In Lievin, France, the U.S. team pulled an upset grande. Melanie Oudin played the best tennis since her U.S. Open breakthrough, winning both her matches. And Bethanie Mattek-Sands won in singles and in doubles alongside Liezel Huber. The Williams sisters didn't play and can't really be blamed; the competition isn't exactly a top priority, even within the sport. But the U.S. B-team earned a solid "A." Well done.
SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer S.L. Price, who is covering the U.S. Open in New York, after Melanie Oudin's 6-2, 6-2 loss to Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals Wednesday night. With her deep run, Oudin is projected to make her top-50 debut and could climb as high as No. 43 when the rankings come out following the Open. She is the youngest American to reach the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam since Serena Williams in 1999.
NEW YORK -- Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, the three biggest names in tennis, all currently remain in this, the fourth and final major of the year. But you could be forgiven for not realizing as much. This has been the U.S. Oudin, an event improbably hijacked by a 17-year-old from Georgia who is having an awesome-amazing-incredible time beating up on bigger and higher-ranked players.
According to the tennis shibboleth: "You can't win a Grand Slam title in Week 1; you can only lose it." Well, Week 1 is over and now it's Showtime at the U.S. Open. Five plotlines to follow over the next seven days:
Maybe Andy Roddick hasn't recovered as well as we all think from his loss at Wimbledon. Look at the losses he has had since then. He lost two tight matches to Juan Martin del Potro, in Washington, D.C., and Montreal. I think the one in D.C. ended in a third-set tiebreak. He lost to Sam Querrey in Cincinnati in two tiebreak sets and now to John Isner in a fifth-set tiebreak. I get the feeling when things get close in the end, he just doesn't have the confidence to pull it out. What do you think of his losses? -- Beth D., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Since advancing to the fourth round at Wimbledon in late June, Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Ga., has continued her rise to a career-high ranking of No. 68 on the Sony Ericcson WTA Tour. In a recent interview with SI.com, the 17-year-old discussed life as a qualifier, her decision to be home-schooled and her views on grunting.
WIMBLEDON, England -- Here's a Monday baguette, or, as reader Art Wong suggests we call it during Wimbledon, "a crumpet." While wondering what Roger Federer is making of the prospect of facing Ivo Karlovic...