It's more humid than hot in New York City today, but the action on court is scorching.
Less than 12 hours after James Blake dispatched Fabrice Santoro in five thrilling sets, third-seeded Novak Djokovic took the court against the dangerous Radek Stephanek. Djokovic, the player most favored to reach the championship final from the bottom section of the draw, faces a rough draw to fulfill expectations. He barely made it out of today's second round encounter. In four hours and forty-four minutes, Stephanek pushed Djokovic to the limit. So thrilling were the rallies that fans were on their feet and the players were smiling as they applauded their opponent's heroics deep in the fifth set. Djokovic overcame fatigue, humidity, and the onset of craps to finally subdue Stephanek, falling to his knees as if he had won the tournament after completing the victory.
Another five-setter began simultaneously playing out on a neighboring court. America's comeback kid, Mardy Fish, tried hard to win on home soil and upset #8 Tommy Robredo. Fish saved two match points late in the fourth set before pushing the match to the fifth. Fish then went up an early break and took at 4-1 lead in the decider, but ultimately he coughed up that lead. Robredo took the hotly contested match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.
Not all the top stars survived, however. Former champ Marat Safin's temper boiled over in a straight set loss to Swiss youngster Stanislas Wawrinka.
Normally, I am not a fan of five set matches. The length tends to exceed entertainment value as they become little more than wars of attrition. Yet the tennis being played in the men's draw at this year's U.S. Open is changing my mind. Watching Blake enter into the fifth set against Santoro and Djokovic summon all his heart to survive Stephanek has been riveting, showcasing the type of tennis that makes winning a Grand Slam event so special, and it's only day five. It bodes very well heading into the holiday weekend and the second week of the tournament. As the men continue to collide, the U.S. Open is shaping up to be the best tournament of the year. That's enough to give any fan a fever!