The third set of the Dominika Cibulkova-Andrea Petkovic match was the day-one highlight and, in some ways, lowlight for me.
Cibulkova and Petkovic are among my favorite players on the women's tour. I like Cibulkova because she's so damn feisty, bouncing around the court the way she does, and I've followed Petkovic ever since my first day at the U.S. Open last summer, when I walked by Court 6 on my way to elsewhere and saw Petkovic playing Kristina Kucova, the first professional match I'd seen up close, and just got engrossed. I'd never seen anything like it. They were just so damn fast and hit the ball so damn hard--and I realized that I was watching the approximately 40th-ranked player in the world play the approximately 70th, that what I was seeing was nothing compared to the quality of the really top players. But still, being able to sit two rows from the court made the experience too visceral to walk away from. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, Petkovic's broad shoulders and glorious legs also helped hold my attention.)
So anyway. Cibulkova and Petkovic split the first two sets. The third set quickly became riveting though, by the standards of what normally constitutes good tennis, pretty goddamn dreadful: they played 16 games in the set and, between them, managed to hold serve three times. That's … pretty horrible. Entertaining in that damn near every point started to the returner's advantage, but horrible nonetheless.
There came a point when I began to wonder if we were watching some kind of weird negative-image replay of the hideous Isner-Mahut match from a few years ago that John Isner finally won 70-68. I mean, how long could this possibly go on? Usually in tennis the server has a major advantage. Given that serving requires such drive from the legs, it became easy to imagine that the serving here would get worse and worse and worse and that the returner's advantage would grow and grow and grow.
But alas for poor Andrea, it wasn't to be. Finally, in the sixteenth game of the set, Cibulkova figured out how to actually hold serve, and Petkovic went out.