WEEK ONE of the fourth and last Grand Slam event of the year, the US Open, was somewhat overshadowed by the train of disastrous occurrences in New Orleans. However, as the population of America’s Gulf Coast fought the catastrophic consequences of Hurricane Katrina, the show went on in Flushing Meadow, aptly named to match the scenario on the other side of the seaboard.
Right or wrong, that is for others to decide. In many ways, sporting spectacles help in maintaining sanity, while simultaneously highlighting the insanity of the world and its priorities.
Reigning champion and world number one, Roger Federer, unleashed a tornado of his very own during the early rounds of the competition, despatching the bewildered Ivo Minar 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in exactly one hour and one minute. Next up was France’s gifted Fabrice Santoro, who was blown away 7-5, 7-5, 7-6, and Oliver Rochus followed.
Federer really does look like the greatest exponent of the sport ever on this evidence. US hopes were pinned on number three seed Andy Roddick, but the now 23-year-old birthday boy did not survive his opening encounter with Gilles Muller from Luxembourg, going down 6-7, 6-7, 6-7.
The home crowd are now left with Andre Agassi still strutting his stuff, James Black responsible for putting out number two seed Rafael Nadal, Taylor Dent lost out to Hewitt, leaving the emerging Robbie Ginepri to carry the star spangled banner. None should be good enough to make Federer sweat.
At the half-way stage, Lleyton Hewitt looks like the only man capable of giving the Swiss a game on this surface. Hewitt swamped Alberto Costa 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in round one and followed up with a convincing 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 win over Jose Acasuso.
The Brits once again made early exits, both Henman and Rusedski falling at the first hurdle. Gentleman Tim blamed back problems for his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, while Rusedski was simply not good enough to cope with a resurgent James Blake. That left Andrew Murray, who decided a see-saw first round battle with Andrei Pavel 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in his favour. In the second round, the 18-year-old Scot came back from two sets down to level the score with Arnaut Clement, only to cramp out 0-6 in the decisive rubber.
In the women’s draw, defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova caused a sensation for all the wrong reasons, becoming the first holder to go out in the opening match of her defence. The Russian lost to compatriot Ekaterina Bychkova 6-3, 6-2. The other big guns were still going strong approaching week two, the Williams Sisters, Serena and Venus, renewing their sibling rivalry for a place in the quarter-finals. Venus came out on top. Sania Mirza made history in becoming the first Indian lady player to progress to the fourth round. The 18-year-old faced a daunting task in the shape of Maria Sharapova, who eliminated her 6-2, 6-1.