The world No 1 Dinara Safina and three-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova crash out of the US Open at the hands of teen titans on Saturday, aiding fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova's title bid. Petra Kvitova, a 19-year-old Czech who won her first WTA title in January at Hobart, and the American giant-killer Melanie Oudin, two weeks shy of her 18th birthday, became the darlings of Flushing Meadows after their third-round shockers.
Kvitova, ranked 72nd, saved three match points in the 12th game of the final set and eliminated Safina 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5). "I'm very happy. It was amazing," said Kvitova, her voice cracking with emotion. "Second set I was very down. I was not focused. It was terrible. After that I concentrated on every ball and I won." Safina will remain atop the rankings after the Open but is still searching for a first grand slam title and a way to play her best when it matters most.
"Third set, come back from down again having everything in my hands and just phhhhhwww," Safina said. "She played some good points but still I let it go away again from my side. Three match points and I didn't do anything on them. "Disappointing. Very disappointing." Oudin stunned former world No 1 Sharapova 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 at Arthur Ashe Stadium by holding serve in the final game after six consecutive service breaks to book a quarter-final berth against Russian 13th seed Nadia Petrova.
"I still feel like I had my chances even though it wasn't my best day," said Sharapova. "When you let those chances go, it's just frustrating." The reigning French Open champion and sixth seed Kuznetsova dispatched Israel's Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-1, to become the highest remaining seed in her half of the draw with dangerous Sharapova also gone. Oudin followed her upset of former world No 1 Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon with a second-round US Open ouster of the fourth seed Elena Dementieva and added Sharapova to her victims list.
"I'm just so happy," a tearful Oudin said. "I just kept fighting as hard as I could. I tried as hard as I could. I just came in believing. "I once again proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls. If I believe in myself and my game, then I can beat them." Sharapova, who returned from right shoulder surgery in May, double faulted 21 times and committed 63 unforced errors, 19 more than Oudin, who converted on only 8-of-26 breakpoint chances.
"With the amount of errors I made from both my groundstrokes and my serve, to be able to get it to three sets is not bad," Sharapova said. "If I didn't make those errors, those double-faults, I certainly would have won the match. "So that gives me some confidence." Meanwhile, in the men's singles Andy Roddick became the first big-name seed to crash out as he lost a fifth-set tie-break to fellow American John Isner. Big-serving Isner, at 6ft 9ins tall, was always going to be handful for the fifth seed but after Roddick's fifth-set Wimbledon final heartbreak, the momentum appeared to be with the higher-ranked player whose 2003 US Open win made him the last American man to win a grand slam. Isner proved he was no respecter of major tournament form, though, as he blasted his way into the match to take the first two sets, withstood a furious comeback from Roddick and then held his nerve to take an epic deciding tie-break. Isner won 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6 (7-5) in three hours and 51 minutes at Arthur Ashe Stadium and will now play 10th seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain in the fourth round, the Spaniard having beaten Germany's Tommy Haas in five sets. "I played the match of my life to beat him on that stage and in that setting I had to play my best," Isner said having completed his third win over a top-10 player this year following the defeats of Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The two tie-break successes also stretched his winning streak in shoot-outs to 16 out of the last 17 he had contested. "I think I'm just really poised and stay under control," Isner said. "I don't panic, in some I've been down 6-2 and in the first round I was down five set points on his serve but stuck with the game plan and never panicked." Roddick was understandably downbeat at his exit having come into the final grand slam of the year with such optimism. "It was a tough one to lose, especially after coming back that way," Roddick said following his earliest loss at the US Open since a first-round exit in 2005. "All you can do is fight off his first serve and make him hit some tough volleys and I thought I did that in the last breaker. "I really felt going into the breaker that I was going to win it but that didn't happen." * With agencies