Young American Melanie Oudin was hailed as the new darling of American tennis after she overpowered Olympic champion Elena Dementieva at the US Open while another top seed Jelena Jankovic also fell early.
|The young American enjoyed the support of the home crowd [GALLO/GETTY]
On a day when top seed Dinara Safina was again lucky to survive, teenager Oudin blasted around court in her bright pink and yellow shoes - emblazoned at the heel with the word 'BELIEVE' - to sting Dementieva with a 5-7 6-4 6-3 defeat.
Flushing Meadows was still reverberating with Oudin's spectacular feat when Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova provided the second shock of the day, saving two match points to squeeze past 2008 runner-up and fifth seed Jankovic 6-3 6-7 7-6.
Jankovic's mind and heart was not on tennis, however, as she later revealed her grandmother had passed away in Serbia.
"I was very close to her. I was very sad and emotionally I was really not on court.
"I really tried my best to be there... but it was really hard," the usually bubbly Jankovic said through a WTA representative.
As Oudin fired down an unreturnable serve to seal Dementieva's fate, 23,000 hollering fans rose to their feet on Arthur Ashe Stadium to salute the player many believe will spearhead the next generation of American tennis.
"I am so excited, you have no idea," gushed the 70th-ranked Oudin as she basked under the sun in a courtside interview.
Safina was anything but excited as she shrieked and screamed her way through another battle of wills to defeat 67th-ranked German Kristina Barrois 6-7 6-2 6-3.
Forty eight hours after huffing and puffing past obscure Australian wildcard Olivia Rogowska, a misfiring Safina again found herself a break down in the deciding set before her fighting instincts kicked in to carry her into round three.
So far, the Russian's US Open struggles can be summed up by 26 double faults and 86 unforced errors in just two matches.
"I know I'm not playing my best but I'm still fighting," said Safina, who was once again quizzed about her status as world number one despite not owning a grand slam title.
"There are so many players who won a grand slam and where they are now? Nowhere. But number one will always stay there.
"People remember you by number one, not by winning a grand slam."
|All work no reward yet for Safina [GALLO/GETTY]
Like Safina, Dementieva too has yet to win one of the four majors.
But she had been the best player on the women's tour in the run up to the Open and stood to pocket a cool $1 million bonus if she had captured her first title in New York.
Instead she blew her chance for a big pay day when she ran into an inspired Oudin.
At 17, Oudin would not look out of place if she had been running down the corridors of an American high school and has admitted she envies her twin sister's regular lifestyle.
But on Thursday, Oudin the tennis player was the envy of girls and boys across the country when she pulled off the biggest upset of this year's tournament.
A dejected Dementieva blamed her defeat on playing too much 'during the summer' before adding: "She's very talented. She was in the court and not afraid to play. It's just the beginning, but it looks like she has a good future."
Oudin's victory was even more remarkable because at 3-1 up in the third set, and with her left thigh heavily strapped, she appeared to be blinking back tears as she started to cramp.
But the player who draws inspiration from Justine Henin because "she proved you don't have to be six-foot-something to be number one in the world" was soon meting out more punishment on Dementieva.
Seeming to stand almost on tip-toes to make up for her five-inch height handicap, the 5-foot-6 Oudin outwitted Dementieva - who began playing on the WTA Tour when the American was just six years old – with her rasping drives and two-fisted backhands.
After two hours 45 minutes of high drama, victory was hers.
"The whole thing was just amazing. I can't believe I won," gushed Oudin, who beat former world number one Jankovic en route to reaching the last 16 at this year's Wimbledon.
Next up for Oudin will be 2006 champion Maria Sharapova who handed another American 17-year-old, Christina McHale, a 6-2 6-1 masterclass under floodlights.
French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova avoided all the drama with a 6-4 6-2 win over Latvian Anastasija Sevastsova, while on the men's side Novak Djokovic kept the Serbian flag flying following the early exits of Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.
The fourth seed beat Australian Carsten Ball 6-3 6-4 6-4.
Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick completed the night session with a clinical 6-1 6-4 6-4 win against Frenchman Marc Gicquel.