Merciless Nadal back in business
Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams power through as Marat Safin bids a fond farewell.
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2009 06:10 GMT

Prize fighter: Nadal will be battling to prove he is the best in the world [AFP]

All eyes were on two of the most famous pairs of knees in tennis as Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams were back doing what they do best at the US Open – obliterating their opponents.

As the cameras zoomed in on their stricken joints, with both former world number ones struggling with tendinitis in recent months, Williams skipped into round three with a 6-4 6-2 win over fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Less than two hours later a merciless Nadal subjected an unfortunate Richard Gasquet, who was making his own comeback following a doping ban, to a 6-2 6-2 6-3 first-round mauling.


The grand slam stage, however, became a poorer place on Wednesday when Marat Safin walked out of Flushing Meadows – which he likened to "a zoo" – for the last time with a final wave to his adoring fans.

"The US Open is like a zoo, with a million people running around. That's pretty much annoying."

Retiring Russian player Marat Safin

Never again will spectators at the four majors catch a glimpse of the entertaining antics or brilliance of Safin after the 2000 champion bowed out in the first round following a 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 defeat by Austrian Juergen Melzer.

On a day of farewells, 36-year-old Fabrice Santoro's 69th and final major outing ended in defeat.

His French compatriot, former world number one and 17th seed Amelie Mauresmo, was unsure if she too would return next year after she was thumped 6-4 6-0 by Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round.

Comeback mum Kim Clijsters completed a forgettable day for the French when she beat 14th seed Marion Bartoli 5-7 6-1 6-2.


Meanwhile men's world number one Roger Federer and Australian Lleyton Hewitt set up an intriguing third-round showdown.

In a break with US Open traditions, the evening session kicked off with the men's match between five-times champion Federer and Simon Greul.

The pesky German journeyman provided Federer with a few jitters when he held two set points in the second set and a 3-0 lead in the third but in the end could not prevent the Swiss from chalking up a 6-3 7-5 7-5 win.

Women's holder Serena Williams was given the honour of closing the night's programme and the second seed was in no mood to hang around for too long as she overwhelmed Hungary's Melinda Czink 6-1 6-1.

Greul and Czink may see their names go up under the 'loser' banner on Wednesday but at least they were spared the fate of Sania Mirza, who was on the receiving end of a 6-0 6-0 drubbing by Italian 10th seed Flavia Pennetta.

No excuses for Mirza

With over a billion Indians following her every move on the tour, the 22-year-old Mirza can expect her performance to be analysed to the nth degree back home but offered no excuses.

Clijsters is hunting more glory after making her comeback [AFP]
"I wasn't thinking, 'I'm playing such horrible tennis.' She had an answer for everything," Mirza said after the 50-minute, second-round blowout under sunny skies.

"If she plays like that, she's going to win the Open."

For Safin, however, there will be no more chances to add to his two major crowns as he will be retiring at the end of 2009.

In a topsy-turvy career spanning 12 years, the Russian's mantra has always been to expect the unexpected.

Whether winning a title in grand style, smashing rackets by the truckload or dropping his shorts on court after conjuring a spectacular winner, the one thing Safin can never be accused of is being boring.


Asked to sum up his abiding memory of the Open, he quipped: "Here, first few days it's like a zoo. It's like a million people running around, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, so many people.

"That's pretty much annoying."

Safin might have been eager to escape the zoo but fellow 29-year-old Williams was determined to prowl around Flushing Meadows for a few more days.

Less than 48 hours after coming within three points of defeat, Venus and her heavily strapped left knee enjoyed an easier workout against Mattek-Sands.

"I was moving pretty good and I try not to focus on my body. I put that out of my thoughts," said the 2000 and 2001 champion, who needed a medical time out in her opening match.

Third seed Nadal stepped out for his first grand slam match in over three months without wearing any strapping around his knees.

"I'm back here to try my best," asserted Nadal, who skipped the defence of his Wimbledon title because of his injury.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
People are starving in southern Somalia while relief efforts are blocked by government and rebel fighting.
Some scientists say authorities in favour of nuclear energy tend to deny the negative results of researchers.
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Experts from Minamata, Japan check for signs of mercury illnesses in Ontario, Canada.
join our mailing list