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Tour report - US Open Series begins in earnest

Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows, New York.
by Alexandra Willis
Tuesday 30 July 2013

The US Open Series, the six-week prelude to the year's fourth and final Grand Slam began with wins for John Isner in Atlanta and Dominika Cibulkova in Stanford, while Tommy Robredo won Umag, Mikhail Youzhny triumphed in Gstaad and Elina Svitolina picked up the title in Baku. 

It seems strange to think, and hard to believe, that at this juncture 12 months ago, the grounds of the All England Club were decorated a pinky purple, the players were practising, and playing, in colours, not whites. Wimbledon was in the throes of hosting the Olympics tennis event, one small corner of the festival of sporting fun that was London 2012. 

Once Andy Murray, Serena Williams, the Bryan brothers, the Williams sisters, and Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi had played their ways to Olympic gold, the tennis world was forced to awaken itself from its oasis of patriotic pride amid the grass courts and go back to being an every-man-or-team-for-himself sport in a rather condensed pre-US Open preparation period.

There is no such issue this year, and the last Grand Slam of the year (pictured above) is free to enjoy its usual six-week build-up of points, prize money and all the promises of bonuses that is the US Open Series. 

The men's season kicked off in Atlanta, where top seed John Isner saved two match points to beat fellow big-server Kevin Anderson. A seventh career title for Isner, it catapulted the American back into the world's top 20, which will help to alleviate some pressure at the moment when he needs it most. 

"This is a tournament where I could’ve been out in my first match," said Isner, who narrowly beat young American Christian Harrison in his opener. "I lived on the edge all week and seemed to come through each and every time. It’s very encouraging.

"There’s no question I play my best in the U.S. This is where I’m very comfortable. I compete extra hard and things seems to work out for me when I’m playing in the U.S."

The first women's tournament of the American summer hard court season saw Dominika Cibulkova hit her way out of a losing position to beat Agnieszka Radwanska for the first time, winning the Stanford title 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. 

The diminutive Slovakian had trailed by a set, and again by 2-4 in the decider, before powering through four games in a row to swing the momentum and beat the top seed on her fourth match point. 

"It's a big deal for me today," Cibulkova said. "I had never beaten Aga before. She's a really tough competitor and I had to earn every point myself. It was tough mentally and physically out there, so I'm really happy I won."

Meanwhile in Europe, there were two men's clay court events still to contest. 31-year-old Tommy Robredo ended Fabio Fognini's two-title and 13-match winning streak with a 6-0, 6-3 victory to win his 12th title in Umag, Croatia. 

"I've been a professional for nearly 15 years and this is my 12th title, so there have not been many times with trophies. I love the emotion," Robredo said. 

"It was a perfect match. It's not easy to play a final and I played very good. I served okay, I returned okay. To win today, I think I did a great job."

And Mikhail Youzhny struck another chord for the ATP's elderlies, beating Robin Haase 6-3, 6-4 to win the title in Gstaad, the first Russian champion in the Swiss city in 33 years. 

Finally, a week after reaching her first WTA semi-final in Bad Gastein, 18-year-old Elina Svitolina became the first teen to win a WTA title since February 2012 as she beat Shahar Peer in Baku. 

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