Three Things To Watch: Day 1
Taylor Dent returned from a career-threatening back injury to make an inspired run to the U.S. Open third round in 2009. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
SI.com's daily menu of must-see happenings at the U.S. Open (all times Eastern).
• Melanie Oudin vs. Olga Savchuk (Arthur Ashe Stadium, 11 a.m.): The darling of last year's tournament, Oudin knocked off Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova on a charmed run to the quarterfinals. Since that breakthrough, the 18-year-old from Marietta, Ga., is a lackluster 18-23 in singles matches -- and just 3-11 since May. The 44th-ranked Oudin is still the youngest player in the Top 50 -- peaking at No. 31 in April before first-round losses in five straight events -- just don't expect another run to the last eight. That said, she couldn't have handpicked a more favorable draw in Savchuk, a 22-year-old qualifier from the Ukraine. Here's hoping Oudin acquits herself in the opening match of the tournament.
• No. 24 Daniela Hantuchova vs. Dinara Safina (Louis Armstrong Stadium, second match): Safina's precipitous decline over the past 12 months is tennis' version of train-wreck TV. The 24-year-old Russian -- and younger sister of 2000 U.S. Open men's champion Marat Safin -- missed four months with a back injury and went nearly four months without a victory after her return. As a result, she's down to No. 59 in the rankings exactly one year after coming into the U.S. Open with the top seed and the No. 1 ranking locked down. Still, signs of life persist. Her victims during hard-court season include Nadia Petrova, French Open champ Francesca Schiavone ... and first-round opponent Hantuchova (a former SI swimsuit model) last week in New Haven.
• Taylor Dent vs. Alejandro Falla (Grandstand, third match): Who can forget Dent's victory lap following last year's thrilling long-day's-journey-into-night triumph over Ivan Navarro in the second round? It was a catharic moment for the veteran with the antiquiated serve-and-volley game, who missed 27 months with a back injury and mulled retirement before returning in May 2008 on the Challenger circuit. In 2009, the affable American upset Feliciano Lopez and Navarro -- his first Grand Slam victories in four years -- before falling to Andy Murray. This year, he'll open against Falla, the Colombian who pushed Roger Federer to the limit at Wimbledon in June. And it'll take place on the Grandstand, the site of last year's stirring victory over Navarro. Others to watch: Kei Nishikori vs. Evgeny Korolev (Court 13, 11 a.m.); No. 17 Gael Monfils vs. Robert Kendrick (Court 11, second match); Ana Ivanovic vs. Ekaterina Makarova (Grandstand, fourth match); Kevin Anderson vs. Somdev Devvarman (Court 7, fourth match); Vania King vs. Christina McHale (Court 13, fourth match); Irina Falconi vs. No. 19 Flavia Pennetta (Court 11, fifth match).