NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The crowd was standing and the tension built as the rally got longer and longer.
Could Carlos Berlocq really do it? No, not take down top-seeded Novak Djokovic. Just get a game off him.
As it turned out, yes. In fact, he got two.
The kind of night Berlocq would certainly like to forget, but he wasn’t alone on a strangely uncompetitive Thursday at the U.S. Open. His 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 loss to Djokovic was very similar to the fate suffered by every underdog who stepped into Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Francesca Schiavone were the five headliners on the U.S. Open show court.
In five matches, they played 12 sets and lost a grand total of 14 games. All five matches combined took 5 hours, 32 minutes — only 44 minutes more than it took Juan Carlos Ferrero to win his scintillating five-setter over No. 7 Gael Monfils, next door in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“One of the guys, on the way out, said, ‘Listen, I paid 100 bucks and you’re only staying for an hour and a half on the court. Give me something else. Give me a racket or something,'” Djokovic said.
As these blowouts went, Djokovic’s steamrolling of the 74th-ranked Berlocq in the nightcap was the most entertaining.
To get to match point, Djokovic ran down a lob and hit a between-the-legs shot low over the net. Berlocq couldn’t handle it and Djokovic cupped his hand to his ear to bask in the applause.
Through it all, Berlocq tried to enjoy it. But when the bagels are adding up, it does bring another element to the match. He lost the first 14 games, but did enough to avoid becoming the first person to get beat love, love and love at the U.S. Open since 1987, when Ivan Lendl did it to Barry Moir.
“All I can do is give my best,” Berlocq said. “This guy is a player from another planet. So all I can do is try my hardest.”
The other mismatches on Ashe included Williams’ 6-0, 6-1 win over Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands on the day after her sister, Venus, withdrew from the tournament with an autoimmune disease. It made for some drama in the Williams household but Serena, the 28th seed, was able to set it aside.
“It really wasn’t that difficult, to be honest,” she said. “I mean, she wants me to do the best; she wouldn’t want me to suffer. So now, if anything, it should motivate me more.”
Wozniacki, the top-seeded woman, overcame a lost serve in the first game to win 13 of the next 14 for a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Arantxa Rus.
Seventh-seeded Schiavone beat Mirjana Lucic of Croatia 6-1, 6-1. In the other men’s match, No. 3 Federer dispatched Israel’s Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour, 17 minutes.
“Not much trouble on my serve, and from the baseline I also thought I had the upper hand,” Federer said. “When it’s like that, obviously it’s tough for the opponent, but I just think I was superior today.”
The real drama on Day 4 belonged to Ferrero and Monfils — a 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 victory for the Spaniard over the seventh-seeded Frenchman. They started in the noonday sun and ended in the shadows, trading long rallies and playing to near exhaustion.
Monfils could barely keep his feet moving as he went through the fifth set, trying to win back a break he gave up in the first game.
When Ferrero came out to serve at 5-4 in the fifth, the crowd gave he and his opponent a prolonged standing ovation.
“I felt very special on the court,” Ferrero said. “I mean, when you saw this crowd enjoying all the time during the match. They love this kind of match, so it’s great to be in there.”
The win was a rare highlight in a season full of disappointments and injuries. This is the first Grand Slam tournament of the season for the 105th-ranked Spaniard, who was ranked No. 1 in 2003, the year he won the French Open champion and was U.S. Open runner-up.
“This match means a lot for me because it was a long time that I didn’t enjoy myself inside the court,” Ferrero said.
On Friday, another Spaniard, defending champion Rafael Nadal, returns for his second-round match — against Nicolas Mahut, the Frenchman of 70-68 fifth-set Wimbledon fame.
Third-seeded Maria Sharapova plays in the afternoon, and the night session has a distinctly American flair.
First, 19-year-old Christina McHale plays 25th-seeded Russian Maria Kirlienko. The nightcap is between two generations of U.S. players — 29-year-old Andy Roddick vs. 18-year-old Jack Sock.
Any drama they provide in Ashe Stadium will certainly be more than what the fans saw Thursday.
Not that the winners were apologizing.
“I felt fantastic on the court,” said Djokovic, who improved to 59-2 on the year. “And there is not much I can say when everything seems fun and enjoyable when you’re playing such good tennis.”
Can anyone stop Djokovic? Sound off below!
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