Here’s what had people talking on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center:
1. Williams sisters: Serena dominates, Venus withdraws
While Serena continued her summer comeback, defeating her first three opponents in straight sets on way to the round of 16, big sister Venus withdrew on Day 3 Wednesday due to Sjögren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that she said has been causing fatigue and joint pain.
Despite her No. 28 seed, Serena came in as the consensus favorite and proved to be just that, dropping only three games in her first two matches against Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski and the Netherlands’ Michaella Krajicek, respectively. In the third round, the 29-year-old three-time Open champion looked poised to take a fourth, knocking out the No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-1, 7-6(5).
Next up, Serena will face No. 16 seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, the 2008 French Open champ, who has also breezed through her matches in straight sets. The road from there should only get tougher as five top-10 seeds remain: No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, No. 7 Francesca Schiavone, No. 9 Samantha Stosur and No. 10 Andrea Petkovic.
As for Venus, after calling it quits before her second-round match against Germany’s Sabine Lisicki she said she hopes to return to the court "soon." A two-time Open champ, the 31-year-old beat Vesna Dolonts of Russia in the first round.
2. Big three impress on Arthur Ashe
Other than the second set of Roger Federer’s third-round match, the big three – world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal and the winningest men’s player in history, Federer – have lived up to the hype, not dropping a set.
Djokovic, 24, a three-time Grand Slam champion - including two this year in Melbourne and at Wimbledon - is seeking his first title at Flushing. The Serbian has rolled over Ireland’s Conor Niland, Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko, all in straight sets, with Niland retiring in the second.
The 25-year-old Spaniard Nadal, a 10-time major champ including the 2010 US Open and this year's French, came in as the No. 2 seed and made quick work of Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubez, France’s Nicolas Mahut and Argentina’s David Nalbandian.
As for Federer, the veteran of the group at 30, he is looking to add the 17th Grand Slam title to his trophy case that includes five crowns in Queens, the last of which came in 2008. The No. 3 seed, breezed by Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo and Israel’s Dudi Sela, before taking four sets to beat Croatia’s Marin Cilic, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Before the three collide (Djokovic would meet Federer in the semifinals), they’ll face some tougher challenges ahead: In the fourth round, Djokovic has No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov. Nadal will square off with Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, while Federer will battle Argentinean Juan Monaco.
3. Hurricane Irene spares the US Open, USTA Billy Jean King National Tennis Center
A day before the US Open was set to begin, Hurricane Irene barreled through the Tri-State Area with torrential downpours and heavy winds. The storm put cities and towns in New Jersey, New York and Vermont underwater, left millions without power and shut down the New York City transit system over the weekend. In all, it caused somewhere around $10 billion worth of damage on the East Coast and claimed the lives of a couple dozen people.
Luckily for tennis fans, the grounds at the US Open managed to avoid the brunt of the storm and New York City’s subways - for the most part - were up and running at 6 a.m. Monday morning.
Ground crews at the National Tennis Center stayed overnight Sunday to clean up debris but there were no reports of structural damage to the courts or stands.
In sharp contrast to Sunday’s wild weather, week one featured ideal conditions, with blue skies and warm, but not too hot, temperatures throughout. Week two, however, may not be so nice, as rain or thunderstorms are predicted for every day but Friday.
4. Young American women make some noise but don’t survive
Three American women under the age of 21 had signature upsets in the first week, getting to play their first match in Arthur Ashe during a US Open - while a fourth, who’s not yet old enough to vote, emerged as one of tennis’ bright young stars.
Much to the delight of the New York crowds, Christina McHale, Irina Falconi and Sloane Stephens all defeated seeded opponents to make the third round.
After beating Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in three sets, the 19-year-old McHale upset No. 8 Marion Bartoli of France in straight sets in the second round. She then lost to Russian Maria Kirilenko, the No. 25, seed, at Arthur Ashe in the third round.
Falconi, the group’s eldest at 21, had a memorable upset against Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, the No. 14 seed, at Arthur Ashe in the second round, just miles away from where she grew up in Manhattan. After losing the first set 2-6, the Washington Heights product came back to win the next two sets, 6-3, 7-5. After the final point, an ecstatic Falconi pulled an American flag from her bag. Unfortunately for her, her run ended there, as she lost to Lisicki, the No. 22 seed, in straight sets in the third round.
After two wins, including one over No. 23 Shahar Peer of Israel in the second round, 18-year-old Sloane Stephens had her moment in the spotlight, taking Arthur Ashe court against Ivanovic in the first match on Saturday night. That match didn’t go Stephens’ way, as she fell 6-3, 6-4. However, the Los Angeles native still made a name for herself during the first week, with her exciting play and must-watch press conferences.
The youngest of the crew, 16-year-old Madison Keys, burst on to the scene with a straight-sets victory over fellow American Jill Craybas, 21 years her senior, on the Grandstand court in the first round. Keys then took the first set against No. 27 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in the second round but dropped the match 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. A day after the match, Keys could be seen strolling through the grounds unnoticed. With the Boca Raton, Fla., native’s play improving every day, it’s not long before even the most casual tennis fans will begin to recognize.
5. Record number of players calling it quits
Venus hasn’t been the only player to throw in the towel at this year’s US Open. A record 14 players have quit mid-match, and two more have dropped out beforehand like Venus including the men’s No. 6 seed Robin Soderling, who was feeling ill.
Soderling’s departure opened the door for lucky loser, Brazilian Rogerio Dutra da Silva, who received even more luck when his first-round opponent, Ireland’s Louk Sorensen, retired in the fourth set down 1-0 and two sets to one.
Sorensen was one of six men to retire during the first round of play, joining countryman Conor Nilland, Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, Canada’s Frank Dancevic, Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Slovakia’s Karol Beck. In the second round, No. 23 Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and France’s Nicolas Mahut quit mid-match, and two seeded men retired in the third round, No. 9 Tomas Berdych, due to a lingering shoulder injury, and No. 31 Marcel Granollers.
Petra Cetkovska stepped down ahead of time, giving Ivanovic a walkthrough in the second round. Also in the second, No. 20 Yanina Wickmayer retired, while American Jamie Hampton and Misaki Doi and Ayumi Morita, borth from Japan, did so in the first.
The previous Grand Slam record in the Open era was 12, which was set at Wimbledon in 2008.