Before composing my U.S. Open preview for Outsports, I checked the draw and it seemed like defending champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova would face precious little resistance before the final rounds of the tournament. My preview ended up revolving around a theme of "expect the expected," and I could not be more thrilled to report that I was 100% wrong in my assessment.
The first week of this year's Open has been phenomenal, full of surprise results and emerging faces. Sharapova was upset in the third round, the biggest scalp in a parade of name players who have already been dismissed. Daniela Hantucova, Martina Hingis, Ana Ivanovic, Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Marat Safin, and Lleyton Hewitt are just a few of the well known players to have been eliminated thusfar. Meanwhile, the three favorites for the men's championship - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic - have been forced to overcome serious challenges in order to stay alive. Federer lost the first set of his match against 6' 9" John Isner, whose serve baffles even the best returners; Nadal barely made it past the first round, struggling mightily with a knee injury; and Djokovic was pushed to the brink by a very game Radek Stephanek.
If the first week is any indication of what is to come, the next seven days of tennis will be some of the most enthralling of the season. There's no telling what player will emerge from the wide open bottom half of the women's draw, while the top section looks like a murderer's row with Justine Henin and the Williams sisters playing ferocious tennis. They are on a collision course where only one can advance. For his part, Federer is still on track to claim his 12th Grand Slam singles title. Outside of Nadal and Djokovic, Americans Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Robby Ginepri are all still around and hope to have something to say about Federer's stranglehold on the game before it's all said and done as well.