The first week of a major is all about upsets: Which highly seeded players won't survive the first few rounds? During the first week of this year's U.S. Open, we're counting down the top five most shocking upsets at Flushing Meadows.
2005, First Round: Ekaterina Bychkova d. Svetlana Kuznestova, 6-3, 6-2
The Open unveiled new blue courts and Sveta blew up. A year after she became the lowest-seeded woman to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era (see video above), Kuznetsova made history again as the first defending women's champion to fall in the first round, imploding in a scatter-shot performance of 45 unforced errors.
The fifth-seeded Russian was a surprise champion in 2004, but hardly seemed stunned by her early exit a year later. It would be overstating the case to suggest Kuznetsova looked relieved in her post-match press conference, but there was a sense of resignation in her remarks, as if she welcomed a reprieve from the pressure of title defense.
"Of course I'm disappointed to lose that match, but things happen like this," Kuznetsova said. "But things happen like this. It's happened to many top players, they lose the first round. It happened to me...You just cannot do anything more. I've been there, I tried my best, it wasn't my day. What do I do? Kill myself? No, I don't. Just try to take positive things out of this and maybe I'll try to learn. That's it."
Kuznetsova defeated five seeded players in succession en route to the 2004 title, but was not up to the task against her 97th-ranked opponent, who was making her Grand Slam debut. An erratic Kuznetsova simply could not keep enough balls between the line to extend her inexperienced opponent.
"I wanted it badly. I think I tried a lot. I've tried my best," Kuznetsova said. "But it was not my day. Things were not going my way. I was positive. I didn't do anything which is ugly. I just wanted to stay as I am on the court and still try my best, because if I get pissed, if I go wrong way, it's not going to help me at all. I was ready, but I wasn't at my best."
It was a classic case of a Challenger—Bychkova was ranked No. 145 when she won a $25,000 ITF Circuit Challenger in St. Petersburg months earlier—swinging fearlessly to knock out a champion. Buckling beneath the pressure of defending, Kuznetsova lost her range and ran out of answers.
"Now nobody will disturb me about this. Nobody will say nothing," Kuznetsova said. "I just relax and I'll take some time off, I guess. And I just prepare for next events. I learned a lesson. I mean, [it] is tough. But the tough things make you grow stronger and make you learn. I learn with it. Just looking forward to play mores tennis. I know I'll be back on my level, but it just takes some more time."
In the aftermath, Kuznetsova returned to the U.S. Open final in 2007, falling to Justine Henin, 6-1, 6-3. Kuznetsova collected her second major title at the 2009 French Open. Clearly, Kuznetsova did learn from her shocking loss: She posted a 26-0 record in the first round of majors—until losing her Wimbledon opener to Yanina Wickmayer this June.
Top 5 U.S. Open Upsets