It was everything that night tennis at the U.S. Open should be, and the most stirring moment of the tournament thus far. After prevailing in a tense fifth-set tiebreaker, Taylor Dent squatted and screamed, releasing in one triumphant moment all of the joy and frustration of a long, difficult match against Ivan Navarro, which Dent finally won, 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (1-7), 7-5, 7-6 (11-9). Chair umpire James Keothavong gave Taylor Dent his microphone after the match–we’ve never seen that before!–to thank the delirious crowd, and Dent began a Cal-Ripken-esque victory jog around the court, a long parade of high-fives and cheers. The American, who returned to the game this year after a serious back injury jeopardized his career, outlasted Navarro, a Spaniard with an agile net game. Dent now returns to the third round for the first time since his last Open, in 2005. He’ll face Andy Murray next, and pledged that even if he doesn’t win a game, he’ll “die fighting for every point.”
Tonight’s other matches were a bit less eventful, but they set up a fourth-round showdown: for the first time in four years, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams will go head to head. Both won in straight sets, though Venus had a tough opponent in Magdalena Rybarikova, who matched her shot for shot. After her match, Clijsters was candid about Venus’ performance: “I think she’s been a little bit up and down in her match. But I think overall when she has to, you know, when she has to bring it, she’s been able to bring it.” For her part, Venus said of Clijsters, “She’s obviously a very determined woman and very talented. Put those two together and you get great tennis…Obviously, it’s great to see her back, but I want to advance to the next round.”
Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, survived a surprisingly lively challenge from 32-year-old Nicolas Kiefer, unseeded at this tournament but once ranked fourth in the world. Nadal got it done in four sets, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.