Serena Williams, Lleyton Hewitt lead U.S. Open midterm grades
NEW YORK -- We're heading into the final week of the final Grand Slam tournament of the year here in New York. Or as the locals like to think of it: #satanscountry. We've seen a former champ taken out by a 17-year-old. We've seen Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Robredo and Roger Federer continue to bend time. We've seen Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka power through. We've seen fire and rain as we eagerly await the construction of a roof. Herewith, our midterm grades for the 2013 U.S. Open.
The men's favorites: We had B-level upsets galore, but the true contenders remain.
A Serena-Azarenka final: That match is still on target.
Lleyton Hewitt: The days of his winning majors may be behind him. But he still competes as well as anyone, as he displayed in his five-set upset of Juan Martin del Potro. For some reason, his pugnacity is much more likable in his early 30s than it was in his early 20s.
This Couple: May they live happily ever after.
James Blake: One of the sport's good guys calls it a career. It's a shame that his last match was a five-set loss to Ivo Karlovic.
Alison Riske: The Pirates aren't the only successful local sports property in Pittsburgh. The American has reached the round of 16 -- and has a real shot against Daniela Hantuchova on Monday.
Italians: On the one hand, we haven't seen Italians crash so hard since not since Primo Carnera fought Joe Louis. Filipo Volandri struggled to win games in his first match. Though seeded No. 16, Fabio Fognini lost to Indiana's Rajeev Ram 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Francesca Schiavone fell to Serena Williams 6-0, 6-1. Fourth-seeded Sara Errani won her first match 6-0, 6-0 but then got bounced by Flavia Pennetta of ... wait for it ... Italy. But the same nation gives us Roberta Vinci and the delightful Camila Giorgi, who play for a place in the quarterfinals.
Venus Williams: Nice to see her winning matches. Nice to hear her say that she's not contemplating retirement. Her loss to Zheng Jie 7-6 in the third set was more about loose errors than stamina.
Victoria Duval: Her first-round win over 2011 champion Sam Stosur underscored her promise. Her second-round loss to Hantuchova underscored how far the 17-year-old has to go.
Gael Monfils: The Frenchman lost in the second round to John Isner, but solidified his status as the sport's great showman, a born entertainer who just so happens to play tennis a dozen or so times a year.
Marion Bartoli: The Wimbledon champion already downgraded her retirement to a "never say never" scenario. Who does she think she is -- Phil Jackson? Let's save us all a lot of time and press releases. "I'm off the rest of the year to repair mentally and physically. See y'all in Australia."
New Balls: Weighted by the pressure of potentially entering the Top 10, Kei Nishikori, the No. 12 seed, suffered a straight-set loss to qualifier Daniel Evans. A wounded Jerzy Janowicz also lost in the first round. Same for Grigor Dimitrov. Bernard Tomic fell to Evans in the second round. We all love the Big Four, but they don't always get much resistance from the (supposed) next generation.
Sam Stosur: Victoria Duval was a fun early-round story, but in this rare instance, the victim deserves some blame. She's a veteran who recently won this even, so how on earth does she not win that match?
Petra Kvitova: Another Slam, another mystifying result. This time, she comes down with flu-like symptoms and all but fails to post against Riske. The 2011 Wimbledon champion has the game to win another Slam, but does she have the constitution?
Security lines: Many fans complained that it took more than two hours -- two hours -- to get through the gates on the first day. Not acceptable and undoes all the good will that comes with schmaltzy red carpet ceremonies, men on stilts and mojito bars.
Keith Olbermann's schedulers: Tennis has been pummeling the poor guy, with each session that goes long pushing him out of his 11 p.m. time slot on ESPN2. At least initial ratings don't matter that much in television.