World number one Dinara Safina joined former champion Maria Sharapova as a third round casualty on a day of shocks at the US Open.
Russian Safina, still searching for a first grand slam win, was beaten by world number 70 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic after having been made to wait three hours to start her night match and then having the court switched.
That was a direct result of Sharapova’s three-hour marathon defeat to American wild card Melanie Oudin and Andy Roddick’s fifth set tie-break loss to John Isner but it did Kvitova no harm as she completed a third set tie-break win 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-5).
With the day session matches running behind schedule on Ashe the top seed saw her match switched to Armstrong with preference given on the main show court to American 21st seed James Blake’s match with number 14 Tommy Robredo.
Whether the long wait to begin her match and the change of courts had an adverse affect or not, Safina was quickly in trouble against the world number 70, just as she had been in squeaking through her first two matches at Flushing Meadows.
Despite her poor form, the draw had been kind to the world number one with all the seeds in her quarter eliminated giving her a potentially clear path to the semi-finals.
Safina, though, seemed determined to do things the hard way and in an opening set that saw six breaks of serve, the Russian offered her Czech opponent eight break points, Kvitova taking four of them on the way to taking a 1-0 lead.
There were more service woes in the second set when she was broken by Kvitova in the first game.
At 2-0 down, though, she showed some grit to save three break points and then broke serve herself on the way to pulling level at one set all.
Despite her success, Safina was still uptight and berating herself for errors, which were still very much in evidence at the start of the final set.
Kvitova was dominating the top seed’s second serve and again broke the Russian in the opening game although Safina did hold the third game to get on the board at 2-1 down.
Safina broke back in the sixth game to tie the final set up at 3-3.
Kvitova was still right in the match but playing as if it had already got away from her and looking extremely tired. She sent a straightforward overhead into the net, throwing her racquet to the floor in disgust and promptly lost an opportunity to break again as Safina celebrated going 4-3 up.
At 5-5, Safina could still not shake off her serving problems, falling behind in the game with her fifth double fault of the set, ninth of the match, but benefiting from some tired play from Kvitova to take a 6-5 lead over the 19-year-old.
The next game saw Safina save three match points and holding her nerve to take the match to a deciding tie-break.
Kvitova took a minibreak from the first point before Safina levelled at 2-2 only to slip 5-2 behind as the Czech refused to wilt. Kvitova earned her first match point after a wild return from Safina but made no mistake with her second chance as Safina overhit a lob.
The victory sets up a fourth-round clash with Belgian world number 50 Yanina Wickmayer, who reached the last 16 with a 6-3 6-4 win over Italy’s Sara Errani.
American teenager Melanie Oudin staged another major upset to reach the fourth round, knocking out former champion Sharapova in a three-set thriller.
Sharapova, the 2006 winner and seeded 29th this year as she continues her return from shoulder surgery, put in a woeful service performance.
She produced 21 double faults, won points on only 30% of her second serves, and was broken eight times by Oudin.
For the 17-year-old wild card, though, it was a red letter day at Arthur Ashe Stadium as she came from behind to complete a 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory in just under three hours.
“I just kept fighting and fighting and tried as hard as I could,” a tearful Oudin said on court. “I just can’t believe it.
“She double-faulted a couple of times and I kept putting pressure on her second serve.
“I served a really good last game and knew I needed to make some first serves, that was very important.”
Oudin, ranked 70th in the world, had gone into the match with a reputation for giant-killing feats having knocked out Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon and eliminated fourth seed Elena Dementieva on Thursday in the second round.
Sharapova, though, was a three-time grand slam winner and perhaps her greatest scalp so far, although the Russian’s miserable service effort meant she was a pale imitation of the woman who won Wimbledon in 2004 and the Australian Open last year either side of her US Open success.
Told that Jankovic had dismissed Oudin as not having many weapons, Sharapova said: “Shocking she said that.
“I thought she played really well, she has many weapons and she certainly held her ground.
“I still feel like I had my chances even though it wasn’t my best day. When you let those chances go it’s just frustrating.”
One of the consequences of Sharapova’s shoulder problems, that had forced her to miss last year’s US Open, was the development of a new, abbreviated serve motion and the 22-year-old had come into the tournament still trying to adapt successfully to it.
“I just couldn’t decelerate today,” Sharapova said. “I was hitting second serves no less than 95 miles per hour. I even tried to hit it less and I just couldn’t.”
Oudin will next meet 13th seed Nadia Petrova of Russia, who beat China’s Ze Zheng 6-4 6-1 with a place in the quarter-finals the prize.
French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, the sixth seed and 2004 champion, has a fourth-round tie against ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Neither player had dropped a set in the opening two matches and that continued in round three as Russia’s Kuznetsova beat Israel’s Shahar Peer 7-5 6-1 while Wozniacki dispatched 24th seed Sorana Cirstea 6-3 6-2.
Also through to the fourth round was Argentina’s Gisele Dulko, a 6-4 6-4 winner over Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, who had knocked out fifth seed Jankovic in the previous round. Dulko now plays fellow non-seed Kateryna Bondarenko, who defeated Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.