Kuznetsova 1st defending champ on women's side to lose opener

Bychkova wins, 6-3, 6-2

Williamses also advance

U.S. Open

August 30, 2005|By Charles Bricker | Charles Bricker,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

NEW YORK -- She was the accidental champion a year ago. Yesterday, on a historic opening day at the U.S. Open, Svetlana Kuznetsova became the incidental champion.

For the first time in the 118-year history of the women's tournament here, a defending champ was knocked out in the first round, and the only plausible reason was Kuznetsova's own lack of emotional strength.

"Of course I'm disappointed to lose that match. But things like this happen. It's happened to many top players. It happened to me," she said somberly after going down ignominiously to obscure fellow Russian Ekaterina Bychkova, 6-3, 6-2.

The 97th-ranked Bychkova, who was only 3-5 in a number of WTA Tour matches this season, did little more in this stunning upset than feed safe, deep balls to the powerfully built champ.

Kuznetsova shot almost nothing but blanks -- 15 winners and 45 unforced errors. Bychkova gave her every chance to seize the match and Kuznetsova's response was six broken serves.

It was a glorious Day 1 with warm weather, just enough cloud cover to make the players happy and a galaxy of stars on court -- Maria Sharapova, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal, Serena and Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters and Guillermo Coria.

All the name players advanced -- except Kuznetsova, who has not won a tournament all year and who has reached only one final, at Warsaw.

She's funny. She's outgoing. She doesn't hold back her emotions. But there is a fragility that has shown up too many times, including a round-of-16 loss at the French Open to Justine Henin-Hardenne, where she had two match points and a major upset within her grasp, and lost.

Serena Williams, trying to play through a sprained ankle, led off the program and there was a lot of interest in her performance, even though she was facing low-ranked qualifier Yung-Jan Chan. She won, 6-1, 6-3, but the focus was on her conditioning, which didn't look very good.

Venus Williams cruised past Rika Fujiwara, feeling no effects of her recent bout with the flu. But, she pointed out, "I didn't have the best preparation [for the Open]."

Nadal, as advertised, appeared in a skintight muscle shirt which emphasized his muscular upper body and he sailed past former Vanderbilt All-American Bobby Reynolds, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal's game continues to improve because of his stepped-up serving, which produced nine aces and a number of service winners. "I'm getting one point with the serve or one point on an easy forehand after the serve in every game. So that's important to me," he said.

Brian Baker upset No. 9 Gaston Gaudio in straight sets, and Scoville Jenkins, a young American prospect from Atlanta, had an enormously important victory, fighting off two match points to defeat qualifier George Bastl, 7-6 (4), 6-0, 6-7 (1), 4-6, 7-6 (5). It was his first five-set match, and Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe was one of the first to congratulate him.

Jenkins had been beaten in the first round here a year ago by Andy Roddick, 6-0, 6-2, 6-2.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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