But it doesn’t quite convey how impressive the youngster’s path to the second round has been. Duval is ranked just inside the top 300–not high enough to get into the qualifying tournament on that basis. Armed with a wild card, she beat three players, each with considerably more experience than she has.
Reaching a Grand Slam main draw as a qualifying wild card is notable in and of itself. The only one of this year’s nine qualie WCs to reach the main draw, she’s only the 16th woman to do so at the US Open since 1998 and only the 31st woman to do so at any Slam in that time frame.
As we now know, she didn’t stop there, and that sets her further apart. Of the 30 women who previous accomplished the feat, only 11 went on to win a match in the main draw. (Only one of those, Great Britain’s Karen Cross, at Wimbledon in 1997, won two main draw matches.) And only one of those ladies–Yulia Fedossova, who qualified for the US Open in 2006–beat a seed. Her victim was the much less imposing 25th seed, Anabel Medina Garrigues.
Every slam has its share of upsets, but this one goes far beyond that. By beating a former champion and highly-seeded player, Duval did something no woman had done before.
Yesterday was a good day for American men, who went 5-2. The only victims were Steve Johnson, who struggled with injuries, and junior champion Collin Altamirano, who no one could’ve expected would give Philipp Kohlschreiber much of a fight.
More notable than the simple fact of winning was the manner in which two US men did so. In the battle of opposites, John Isner defeated Filippo Volandri, 6-0 6-2 6-3, and Donald Young knocked out Martin Klizan, 6-1 6-0 6-1.
Isner set all kinds of personal records in the process. Not known for his return game–to put it mildly–Isner had never won a bagel set on hard courts. In fact, until beating Adrian Mannarino in Newport last month, he had never won a set of professional tennis 6-0.
Next, also because of that not-so-pesky return game, Isner tends to lose quite a few games, even when he’s winning. In best-of-five matches, he had never before won a match without dropping at least nine games. (That was at the French in 2010, when he beat Andrey Golubev.) Today he won while giving up only five.
Finally, to reach such a scoreline, Isner broke serve a total of six times. That’s something else he’s never done before. He’s broken five times on a handful of occasions, but never six, unless he did so in Davis Cup, for which stats are more difficult to come by.
Still, it seems likely that Klizan played worse than Volandri did. As you might imagine, Klizan has never lost quite so comprehensively, though he did turn in a similarly abysmal performance in New York three years ago, when he lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-1 6-3 6-0.
For Young, it was only his third straight-set victory at a slam, regardless of lopsidedness. And it was only the third time he won a Grand Slam match having earned his way into the main draw. His other five wins–all at the US Open–came as a wild card.
Since we’re talking about all these Americans winning in New York, it seems like a great time to point you toward Colin Davy’s recent effort to quantify home-court advantage in tennis. He finds that home-country players–both men and women–have a slight advantage that cannot be explained by other factors, to the tune of about 2%.
In building jrank, I’ve done some work along the same lines, and arrived at a similar number. (On my old blog, I posted some very crude attempts, not controlling for things like surface, and claimed a much bigger effect. I don’t think I’ve published the details of my more recent efforts.)
As Colin notes, it’s a small effect compared to other sports. (Isner’s love of the USA notwithstanding.) To the extent home-court advantage in tennis stems from officiating bias–a common cause in other sports–the increasing use of Hawkeye would seem to lessen the effect. And oddly, the practice of putting local players on main courts would turn out to be counterproductive. By putting locals on Hawkeye courts, you’re taking away at least one slight advantage.
Colin also suggests comparing different stages of the tournament, which may reveal that umpires have a greater or lesser bias as the stakes get higher. That test occurred to me for a different reason. Travel-related fatigue is a major factor (again, something Colin acknowledges), but it is one that would likely lessen as the tournament goes on. A player might still be jetlagged for his first-round match, but if he wins a couple of rounds, that effect is likely gone.
It’s an interesting field of study, one that is particularly tricky to separate from others–such as travel effects, surface preferences, venue familiarity, and so on. As is so often the case in tennis, it is a topic that has been extensively hashed out for other sports, yet barely researched in ours.
In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, I tracked every point of the Federer-Zemlja match, and came up with some very detailed serve breakdowns for each player. Check it out.