Kuznetsova advances to third round of US Open

  • Associated Press
  • Wednesday, August 27, 2008 11:52am
  • Sports

NEW YORK — Svetlana Kuznetsova shook off an early break and rallied to a 7-6 (3), 6-1 victory over Sorana Cirstea on Wednesday in the second round of the U.S. Open.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 champion and No. 3 seed this year, trailed 4-2 in the opening set before getting back on serve and eventually forcing a tiebreak that she dominated against her inexperienced opponent. She cruised to a 5-0 lead in the second and closed out the match in 1 hour, 13 minutes at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The No. 15 seed Patty Schnyder also moved into the third round with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the U.S. Open girls’ singles champion two years ago.

In just her fourth career Grand Slam event, Cirstea is forging a bit of a bad habit. Cirstea, who made her debut at a major in this year’s Australian Open, led there by a break three times in the opening set against current world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, only to fall 7-5, 6-3 in the first-round match.

She reached the second round at the French Open and Wimbledon.

The afternoon session on Day 3 at the Open also featured second-seeded Jelena Jankovic in a second-round match, while No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic and fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko were slated for first-round matchups on the men’s side.

Andy Roddick, who has battled a shoulder injury this summer that led him to skip the Beijing Olympics, was scheduled to close out the night session Wednesday with a first-round match against Fabrice Santoro. The third night traditionally showcases the first men’s match of the second round, but this year that was saved until Thursday.

All women’s matches Wednesday were second-round pairings — including No. 23 Lindsay Davenport against Alisa Kleybanova in the first match at night.

Roger Federer had a stellar showing under the lights Tuesday as he played the unfamiliar role of No. 2 seed.

For a while in the first set, Federer couldn’t shake Maximo Gonzalez, who was making his Flushing Meadows debut. No easy task any time, but way worse to get your feet wet against the man that had been ranked first in the world for 4½ years until last week.

“One or 2 is always pretty much the same thing,” the 27-year-old Federer said of his seeding. “The change I feel is fans are really supporting me and telling me I’m still No. 1 and still the best.”

Federer ran off wins in 10 straight games over three sets to turn a competitive match into the rout everyone expected. It took only 1 hour, 22 minutes for Federer to look familiarly fearsome in a dominating 6-3, 6-0, 6-3 win.

On the women’s side Tuesday, Ivanovic bounced back from an injured right thumb that forced her to skip the Olympics and beat Vera Dushevina 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the morning.

Ivanovic shook off the second-set misstep and avoided becoming the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open.

No. 4 seed Serena Williams advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Kateryna Bondarenko during the day, and sister Venus — seeded seventh — got the night session off to a rousing start by eliminating Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-3 and setting the stage for Federer.

After the early intrigue when Gonzalez was even with Federer 3-3 in the opening set, the mismatch became evident. Federer held serve, broke Gonzalez for a 5-3 edge, and closed out the set on his racket.

Another break of Gonzalez’s serve at the start of the second put the wheels in motion for Federer’s shutout middle frame. He earned yet another break to begin the third set, giving him 10 consecutive game wins — a run that was snapped when Gonzalez tied it at 1 by winning on Federer’s serve.

“It was a good match to start off with,” Federer said. “I never saw my opponent before, that was the tricky part.”

Federer barely broke a sweat and it wasn’t only because the match was played in somewhat blustery conditions on an unseasonably cool August night.

Gonzalez was successful with a serve-and-volley game that produced multiple winners hit behind Federer. Other than their resumes, there was nothing to predict the onslaught that was coming.

Down 3-4 and serving, Gonzalez won a challenge that ultimately produced an ace and got him to 15-all, but Federer converted his third break point of the game when Gonzalez double faulted.

Always an audience favorite, Federer never felt crowds turn on him when he was on top — even in New York where fans routinely root for five-set matches and gutty underdogs.

Federer found lines on both sides of the court with precision and benefited from a ball that clipped the top of the net and still found an open unreachable space. When Federer fired a second-serve ace and then induced Gonzalez to fire a shot into the net for a 4-0 lead in the middle set, a sympathetic groan of “Awwww” came down from the crowd in support of Gonzalez.

“I thought the other guy played good for the pressure he was under,” Federer said of Gonzalez. “I went on a great roll. The only thing I look back on that was a little bit unfortunate was that I was not able to stay ahead with the break in the third set.”

Federer eased into the second round of his first tournament since losing the top ranking to Rafael Nadal after 237 straight weeks at No. 1. Not since the 2004 Australian Open had Federer been seeded anything other than first at a major.

“I look at the draw maybe a little different,” Federer said. “I have to start from the bottom, but that’s OK.”

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