Ryan Sweeting (above).
Nineteen year old New Jersey native Christina McHale looked on her way to another tough first round loss today, after a great start that saw her grab a 6-2 lead. When she lost the second set 6-1, we thought she was in big trouble. Her opponent, Ekaterina Makarova, the 28th seed, and a good grass courter, is someone who we’ll admit, we thought was sure to win today. It’s not that we love her so much. Moreso, we tend to hate McHale’s safe baseline game. But McHale, who had the edge in conditioning, won an extended 3rd set 8-6, and was able to save 3 break points at 7-6, love-40.
McHale’s serve, not a strength of her game, has definitely improved. After the match, McHale credited the USTA, namely Patrick McEnroe, for impressing upon her the need to serve bigger. To that end, McHale had 9 aces today, and served well throughout a tense third set. She faced only 7 break points, what we consider a low number for the women, with 3 coming in the final game, and she saved 4 of 7 of those opportunities for Makarova. We have trouble hating on Americans, but we have to be honest. McHale’s stay at home game is not our style. Case in point, she won only 3 points at net in 2 hours and 6 minutes.
Still a great outcome for the young American, who probably worried a lot of people the way she blew her first round match at Roland Garros when she was up 5-0 in the 3rd set and lost 9-7 to Sara Errani. For McHale, today’s win was her second career win at a major. She advanced to the 2nd round at Flushing in 2009 with a straight set win over Polona Hercog. McHale will face the winner of Morita/Paszek in the second round.
Also today, world #66 Ryan Sweeting, an American by way of the Bahamas, notched his 3rd ever major match victory in stunning fashion. The lanky, 6’5 Floridian, who won his first ever ATP level event in Houston this spring, came from down 2 sets to zero to defeat Pablo Andujar, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1 in 3 hours and 44 minutes. Sweeting turned this match around with a great winner to unforced error ratio (54/35), a great percentage at net (74% on 23/31 approaches), and by returning better and serving better on both first and second balls.
Sweeting won nearly half of the points on Andujar’s serve, who looked a bit out of sorts on the grass. The Spaniard was passed constantly in the final 3 sets, and did not have the muscle to hit through the court against Sweeting on the baseline. The win will set up a second round encounter with defending champion Rafael Nadal, who defeated journeyman American Michael Russell today in straight, easy sets.
For Sweeting, the result is incredibly encouraging. Some guys take forever to get a win from 2 sets down (see James Blake). Obviously, Sweeting has the ability to problem solve on court, which is not an American stregth right now, to be kind.
The matchup will be a rematch of their 2nd round meeting in Melbourne which Nadal won, 2, 1, and 1. Nadal also rolled Sweeting at Indian Wells, 3 and 1.
We were disappointed to see Donald Young fall to Alex Bogomolov in 4 sets today. And while we don’t believe in moral victories, Alison Riske played well, as we expected, in losing a 3 setter to defending runner-up, Vera Zvonareva.