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Big upsets, Serena tirade highlight wacky Open

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The wackiest U.S. Open that I can remember concluded a day late, with a king falling off his throne and a queen succumbing to her emotions...and the rules of the game.

The mighty Roger Federer was two points away from nailing down a remarkable sixth straight U.S. Open title, but 20-year-old South American Juan Martin del Potro spoiled his party by stunning the Swiss superstar in a memorable five-set affair.

Serena Williams, meanwhile, was seeking a second straight, and fourth overall, Open title, but was unable to get past Belgian mother/wild card Kim Clijsters in the semifinals.

The way that Serena lost, however, is how this particular Open will be remembered.

Serena Williams' run at the U.S. Open came to an end on a penalty point.
In a bizarre match-ending twist, Serena lost to Clijsters after being penalized a point for unsportsmanlike conduct. Unfortunately for the American superstar, the penalty point turned out to be a match point.

Serena was serving, down 4-6, 5-6, 15-30, in the 12th game of the second set when a line judge called an untimely foot fault on the powerful American. The controversial call brought the score to 15-40, or match point, and sent Serena into a profanity-laced tirade directed at the line judge, which forced officials to give the American her second unsportsmanlike warning of the match, thus, by the rules, costing her a penalty point, and, in this case, the match.

Earlier in the night, Serena received a racquet violation warning after smashing her stick on the court at Ashe Stadium. And obviously that act came back to haunt her.

I would say so!

The Wimbledon and Aussie Open champion Serena was fined $10,000 and wound up issuing several apologies, but we won't forget that embarrassing image (approaching the line judge while waving her racquet and giving her a good dressing down) any time soon.

Kim Clijsters won her second U.S. Open title and celebrated it with her husband Brian Lynch and daughter Jada.
Serena's always been a great tennis player, but she's never been what you would call a good sport...so I guess the whole thing doesn't surprise me.

Clijsters went on to claim her second U.S. Open title by beating rising Danish teen Caroline Wozniacki in a ho-hum final, as Kimmy became the first mother to capture a major singles title since Aussie great Evonne Goolagong turned the trick 29 years earlier at Wimbledon.

The 26-year-old Clijsters just returned to the WTA Tour last month after retiring from it in the spring of 2007 in order to start a family, which she did with her former Villanova basketball player husband Brian Lynch, who would join Clijsters for the on-court victory celebration at Ashe, as did their one- and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jada.

It was only Clijsters' third tournament back, as she became the first-ever wild card and unseeded player to capture America's Open and took out both of the Williams sisters en route to the unlikely championship.

Juan Martin del Potro captured his first major title at the tender age of 20.
By the way, Clijsters is currently riding a 14-match winning streak at the Open, where she hadn't played since winning her first major there four years ago. She skipped the '06 edition due to injury, and was enjoying her brief retirement in '07 and last year before making her return trip to Corona Park two weeks ago.

The three-time finalist Clijsters was a U.S. Open runner-up to her arch-rival and fellow Belgian Justine Henin back in 2003.

Federer, meanwhile, was shocked by the sixth-seeded 6-foot-6 Argentine del Potro, who outlasted the Swiss icon in a suspenseful showdown on Day 15 of the "fortnight," and is now up to No. 5 in the world.

Del Potro was playing in his first-ever major final (while Federer was performing in his 21st), and he sure made it count, becoming the first Argentine U.S. Open champ since the great Guillermo Vilas won it all, on the clay at Forest Hills, back in 1977. "Delpo" also became the first player to oust both the current world No. 1 Federer and former No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the same Grand Slam event. And he did it on successive days.

The towering del Potro crushed the Aussie Open champion Nadal, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, in Sunday's semifinals before going on to shock the Fed in the second straight Monday men's final in Flushing. Weather problems pushed the title tilt into Monday, something that also occurred last year, when Federer went on to best British star Andy Murray in the championship match.

A frustrated Roger Federer failed in his attempt to nail down a sixth straight U.S. Open title.
In uncharacteristic fashion for the Fed, he served sloppily versus del Potro, lowlighted by no less than 11 double faults, and even found himself in an argument with the chair umpire at one point, voicing some expletives up at Jake Garner.

Federer, who has played in 17 of the last 18 Grand Slam finals (11-6), was trying to become the first man since "Rocket" Rod Laver 40 years earlier to win three straight majors in one year.

I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Federer still stands at a men's record 15 Grand Slam titles, and currently wears the Wimbledon and French Open crowns. His five straight U.S. Open titles from 2004-08 are still an Open-Era record, but "Big" Bill Tilden (from my beloved hometown of Philadelphia) remains as the only man to capture six straight U.S. Open titles (1920-25), in any era.

And for the first time in the history of the storied tournament, not one American man managed to reach the quarterfinals. The best American hope was former champ Andy Roddick, who was shocked by fellow big-serving compatriot "Big" John Isner in the third round.

It was a disappointing Open for the 2003 winner Roddick, who barely lost to Federer in an epic Wimbledon final in July; had his best-ever showing at the French Open (fourth round); and soared all the way into the semifinals at the first major of the year, the Aussie Open, in January.

Andy Roddick was unable to build on his Wimbledon success in New York.
The six-time major titlist Nadal and a second-seeded Murray also were unable to break all the way through in Flushing. Nadal, who battled knee injuries for most of the summer, had to contend with an abdominal strain problem in the Big Apple, and it didn't help that he ran into a surging Delpo in the semis.

Nadal is back up to No. 2 in the world after entering the Open at No. 3, behind Murray.

Murray, who is now back down to No. 3, continued to disappoint at the Slams. The 2008 U.S. Open runner-up suffered a fourth-round setback against big Croat Marin Cilic at this year's event, and was just awful on that particular day. The talented Brit was perhaps expected to win a major this year, but he failed to even reach a final and fell short of at least the quarterfinals at half of the majors (the Aussie and U.S. Opens).

Back over on the women's side, Serena and Clijsters weren't the only ones making headlines.

Teenager Melanie Oudin thrilled American fans by making it all the way into the quarterfinals.
Upstart American Melanie Oudin stunned onlookers by moving all the way into the quarterfinals, beating no less than four Russian women, including a trio of Top-16 seeds.

The 17-year-old Georgia native became the talk of the tournament by fighting back to stun fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva in the second round, former champion Maria Sharapova in the third, and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova in the fourth. The tenacious teen dropped the first set against her seeded Russian counterparts before showing a boatload of guts to come back in all three outings.

Oudin ultimately gave way to a tough Wozniacki in the quarters.

Are her 15 minutes up?

FYI: Wozniacki also dismissed French Open champion and former U.S. Open titlist Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round last week.

The Olympic gold medalist and 2004 U.S. Open runner-up Dementieva, the 2006 Open winner Sharapova and Petrova weren't the only seeded women to exit early, as a bevy of upsets was the order of the day for two weeks. By the time the round of 16 rolled around, only six Top-10 women remained, and three more of 'em were sent packing before the quarters.

Caroline Wozniacki became the first-ever Danish player to reach a Grand Slam final.
Top-ranked Dinara Safina, this year's Aussie and French Open runner-up, laid an egg by losing in the fourth round to unheralded Czech Petra Kvitova, while Wimbledon runner-up and two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams was also one of Clijsters' victims (fourth round).

The aforementioned Wozniacki was a bit of a surprise in reaching the final, Sure, she's a Top-10 player, titled two weeks earlier in New Haven, and leads the circuit in match victories this year, but she'd never enjoyed any Grand Slam success in her 10 previous majors, having yet to reach even a quarterfinal. Not to mention that she was in a field that included the likes Safina, Serena, Venus, Dementieva, 2008 runner-up Jelena Jankovic, Kuznetsova, etc.

Safe to say that this should do wonders for her confidence.

Serena and her big sister Venus did manage to enjoy some success in New York, as the sisters captured their second U.S. Open doubles title, improving to a flawless 10-0 in their career major doubles finals. They became only the third women's doubles team in the Open Era to corral double-digit Grand Slam titles, joining Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver (20) and Natasha Zvereva and Gigi Fernandez (14).

Another pleasant story at the Open was 19-year-old Yanina Wickmayer, who, along with Clijsters, gave the tiny country of Belgium half of the four women's semifinalists. The now-22nd-ranked Wickmayer, like Clijsters, was also unseeded in Flushing.

Summary: Fed loses...Serena loses cool...Delpo comes out on top-o...Wild-card mom Clijsters runs table...Seeded women, American men brutal...Oudin enjoys 15 minutes, at 17.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Riley


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