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US Open 2011: Mid-term report

Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows, New York.
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 5 September 2011

In hindsight, it seems somewhat apt that the 2011 US Open at Flushing Meadows began with the threat of Hurricane - later Tropical Storm - Irene in its midst, as organisers and New York City officials worked tirelessly to get the major transport links open to allow the year's fourth and final Grand Slam.

For ever since Irene blew through east coast, the American hard court major in the heart of Queens has hardly wanted for storylines.

Top of the tree are the two world No.1s , Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki, both still standing as the Open enters the second week. Djokovic has progressed to an extraordinary 60 match wins in 2011, still with just two losses. And, perhaps more frighteningly, has only conceded a handful of games on his path to the fourth round. Wozniacki's progress has been similarly imperious, the Dane focusing on forehand and backhand, rather than the off-court distractions of new beau Rory McIlroy and her as yet-unannounced new coach.

Then there are the two great champions, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, seeded at No.2 and No.3 respectively at a Grand Slam for the first time. Both have been scratchy, and patchy, in parts, but they have only dropped one set between them, and are safely into the second week. Should Federer win his next clash, he will be through to a record 29th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.

The female name on everyone's lips, of course, is Serena Williams. The former champion, the 28th seed, has hardly put a toe wrong so far, conceding her first break of serve in her third-round match against Victoria Azarenka, and producing a terrifying combination of power, variety and movement. She has everyone running scared.

But then there are those doing their best to make their own headlines. Italian Flavia Pennetta not only knocked out former champion Maria Sharapova, she then came through nausea, dehydration and a severe tie-break deficit to defeat Peng Shuai and reach the quarter-finals.

The same might be said of Andy Murray, who produced his sixth career fight-back from a two sets to love deficit to see off Robin Haase in the second round, taking his fans on a 'Murraycoaster' of a ride. But the British No.1, decked out in red and black, seems to be playing his way into form, a straight sets demolition of Feliciano Lopez to reach the fourth round particularly impressive.

It was not a bad week for Britain's other protagonists - four women appearing in the first round of the main draw, and two, Elena Baltacha and Laura Robson, making it into the second round. Doubles duo Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins are also through to the men's doubles quarter-finals, and the juniors event has begun in earnest.

Others still surviving in the draw include Americans John Isner, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Donald Young, a bumper crop into the fourth round. Not to mention the rise of three young Americans too - Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens and Irina Falconi, who all announced themselves as future talents.

Francesca Schiavone, Vera Zvonareva, Ana Ivanovic and Sam Stosur are other big names still standing in the women's draw, as well as David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the men's.

With Irene though came a spate of withdrawals and retirements as players crumbled under the intense physicality of Flushing Meadows. The most worrying of which is the case of Venus Williams, who revealed she had been diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease called Sjogren's Syndrome. The tennis world has rallied in support of the 31-year-old champion.

Which players will be left clutching the trophies at the end of this week remains far from clear. But there is no doubt that it's set to be another extraordinary seven days at Flushing Meadows. 

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