The first week of the 2012 US Open is now in the books and as we now count down until the champions are crowned next weekend,, here is a look back at some of the most memorable moments and happenings from the beginning of the fortnight in Flushing Meadows.
1. Andy Roddick announces he will retire at end of 2012 US Open
Many of his friends knew it was coming, if not exactly when, but Roddick, the 2003 US Open champion kept it a secret from everyone but wife, Brooklyn Decker, until just before he decided to make the announcement official Thursday. An impromptu press conference was held as Roddick, 30, seeming at peace with his decision, told a packed interview room of reporters that he had decided the 2012 US Open would be his final tournament. He said he just could not give the game he loved so much 100 percent physically, emotionally or mentally anymore and he never does anything halfway.
He made the decision following his first round victory over fellow American Rhyne Williams but in his two matches since, has looked like the Roddick of old, swinging freely, crushing serves and always a fan favorite, has enjoyed support like nearly never before in Arthur Ashe Stadium. “Let’s Go Andy!’ chants have come and gone as the fans appreciate each moment, each ace and ripped forehand, which could be his last on the court, remembering how much he has meant for American tennis and professional tennis as a whole over the last decade, his passion for the game, his fun-loving personality and the remarkable career he has had.
He has at least one match left, against 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. Expect few dry eyes in the house if it turns out to be his final time on the Ashe stage.
2. Kim Clijsters says goodbye for the final time
Unlike with Roddick, we all knew this one was coming, if not this soon in the fortnight. Clijsters, 29, said a few months ago that her final tournament in her ‘second career’, and definitely the last time this time, would be the US Open. And with an upset loss in singles to British upstart Laura Robson in the second round, and losses in women’s doubles with Kirsten Flipkens and mixed doubles with Bob Bryan, the book has officially closed on Clijsters’ surely Hall of Fame career.
It wasn’t the storybook ending she or her fans had hoped, like back in 2009, when she won the US Open in just her third tournament back from an over two year retirement, which included having her first child. But it does not diminish her legacy as one of the best players and people the WTA Tour has known, with four Grand Slams as part of her 41 career titles and reached No. 1 in the world in both singles and doubles.
“It feels right,” she said. “I can't describe it in any other way. It feels right. It's surprising that I've kept it dry, I haven't been crying. I think that's just another sign that it's the right choice.”
3. Nadal withdraws, opening the door for rest of the draw
It happened just over a week before the tournament started, but the 2010 US Open champion withdrawing from the 2012 tournament with a knee injury was a huge blow to the Spaniards’ legions of fans and has limited the cries of ‘Vamos Rafa!’ this week but it also might have opened up the draw not just for the rest of the ‘Big Four’ in men’s tennis but for someone else to break through. Nadal won his 11th career Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in June but then lost in the second round at Wimbledon and has not played since, causing him to miss his first US Open since he made his tournament debut back in 2003. He lost the 2011 US Open final to Novak Djokovic and his absence this year means there will be a semifinalist outside of Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in New York this year.
Murray is still looking to win his first Grand Slam title and Nadal stopped him in the semifinals last year. This year with Federer back to world No. 1, Murray was drawn into the 17-time Grand Slam champ’s half, leaving Djokovic on the other side of the draw without one of the other three men who have dominated men’s tennis for the last few years. He might have to contend with 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in his quarter, however, or the retiring 2003 champ Roddick, but as a whole, he looks to have the smoothest path of the top three to the final. Del Potro is the only man not named Federer, Nadal or Djokovic to win a major since the now-retired Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open. Maybe that changes this year? Then again with the way the current ‘Big Three’ are looking, maybe it just narrows the list of potential champions.
4. Another teenager makes an upset run through the women’s draw
Her name is not Melanie Oudin and she did not make it to the quarterfinals like the young American did back in 2009, as she played the role of giant killer, taking out names like Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova. But this year’s giant killer, Laura Robson, was hardly less impressive. The 18-year-old from Great Britain, whose talent has been touted for years, was the one to make the biggest splash in Flushing Meadows so far this year. Ranked No. 89 in the world heading in and playing all four Grand Slams in a year for the first time in her young career, Robson ended the legendary singles career of Kim Clijsters, outlasting the three-time US Open champion in two tiebreak sets and followed it up with another upset of a Grand Slam champ, taking out 2011 French Open champ and No. 9 seed Na Li in three sets in the third round. In the fourth round she drew defending US Open champion Samantha Stosur, where she had her chances and played aggressively but was not able to capitalize on many break point chances. Robson may be out of the singles draw at Flushing Meadows this year but this surely is just the beginning for her.
5. Six American men advance to at least third round
A few were expected, like 2003 champ Roddick, world No. 10 John Isner, world No. 25 Mardy Fish and world No. 27 Sam Querrey, but who thought wild cards Jack Sock and Steve Johnson would advance that far? Sock was a more familiar name, from his US Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin in 2011 and his US Open junior title in 2010, but with his hard serving and aggression this week, few would guess he is ranked No. 243 in the world and plays as much on the ITF Circuit as the ATP Tour. He pushed world No. 11 Nicolas Almagro in the third round, battling the Spaniard for three tiebreak sets before Almagro ran away with it in the fourth. But in the process, Sock made a name for himself on tennis’ biggest stage and had his best career result in a Grand Slam.
Fewer fans may have been familiar with Johnson before last week, unless you follow college tennis closely, but he has been a legend on the collegiate circuit the last two years, winning his second straight NCAA singles title this year from USC, which helped earn him his US Open wild card. His 2012 NCAA title closed out his collegiate career with a 72-consecutive match win steak and he entered the US Open ranked behind his men’s doubles partner Sock at No. 245. This is just his second career Grand Slam main draw but he made the most of it, besting former top-25 player Ernests Gulbis amongst others and then pushed world No. 14 Richard Gasquet in the first set in the third round match, but with the way his forehand looked this week, he should be back.
Follow Senior Writer Erin Bruehl on Twitter @ErinBruehl.