NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andy Murray need not have worried. The forecasters got it wrong on both fronts at the U.S. Open on Friday.
While the wind picked up and there were a few fleeting drops of rain that caused a stoppage in play, Hurricane Earl never quite made an appearance at Flushing Meadows.
But Murray’s second-round opponent, an unorthodox Jamaican he knew little about and was warned to expect the unexpected, did show up on center court but also ran out of puff.
Friday was not a day for the underdogs. They gave the seeds moments of trouble but the big names in action all prevailed.
Venus Williams, wearing a sparkling evening dress that would not have been out of place at a Manhattan cocktail party, trounced qualifier Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 6-1 6-2 before joining her sister Serena in a mock interview with the host television broadcaster.
The defending women’s champion Kim Clijsters reeled off 12 games in a row to win her match with Czech Petra Kvitova while French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and grand slam finalists Elena Dementieva and Samantha Stosur cruised to straight-set wins.
With his dreadlocked hair, sleeveless shirt and baggy shorts, Dustin Brown was an instant hit with the Arthur Ashe crowd but apart from a few fleeting moments in the first set, he was blown away, the Briton winning 7-5 6-3 6-0.
Murray, fearing the heavens might open at any time if the predicted wild weather arrived, did his best to finish the match as quickly as he could but ended up hitting the practice courts again because he wanted another workout.
“(There were) probably two rallies in the match that went past eight, nine shots,” Murray said. “So I just went out and hit for 45 minutes just to get a bit of a rhythm. Hit a lot of balls.”
Clijsters lost the first three games against Kvitova but quickly turned it all around and won the next 12 on the trot in her 6-3 6-0 win.
The Belgian, who also won here in 2005, struggled with her serve in the windy conditions but still proved too much for Kvitova, the 27th seed, to handle. She has not lost a set in this year’s tournament and is steadily improving aspects of her game.
“I think it’s only a matter of a few little details I think in my game that I just want to improve,” she said. “I’m trying to achieve the perfect match but a match like today gives me more satisfaction because I beat a good player without even playing my best tennis.”
Clijsters will play unseeded Serb Ana Ivanovic in the round of 16 with Stosur or Dementieva lurking in the quarter-finals.
Stosur, runner-up at the French Open in June and seeded fifth at Flushing Meadows, turned in an impressive display to defeat Italy’s Sara Errani 6-2 6-3 in one hour 20 minutes.
The Australian came into the tournament under an injury cloud but is slowly building momentum and confidence.
“Once you get to this point, you never know what can happen,” she said. “So if you keep playing well, you can find maybe the semis or finals. If I’ve been there once, I definitely want to try to be there again.”
Dementieva, a finalist at the U.S. Open six years ago, booked her passage into the fourth round with a 7-5 6-2 victory over Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova with a 7-5 6-2 win.
The Russian won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing but has never won a grand slam singles title.
“I don’t put any pressure on myself. I have had a very successful career so far,” she said. “I’m definitely looking for the big title, but I’m just trying to work on my game.”
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone replicated Roger Federer’s stunning between-the-legs shot during her 6-1 7-5 third round victory over Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine.
John Isner and Sam Querrey raised American hopes of a local winner in the men’s draw when they both won.
Isner fired down 24 aces on his way to a 6-3 3-6 7-6 6-4 victory over Marco Chiudinelli but there were times during the match when he grimaced, still feeling the effects of turning his ankle trying to hit a jumping return off David Nalbandian’s serve in Cincinnati.
Editing by Ian Ransom