— NEW YORK - Here are five things to watch on Day 2 at the 2010 U.S. Open.
1) Surprising surgers
Day 2 will feature three players who have enjoyed considerable -- and somewhat surprising -- success so far this hardcourt season. Mardy Fish, David Nalbandian and Marcos Baghdatis have a combined 33-9 record in hardcourt events leading up to the 2010 U.S. Open and two titles (one each for Fish and Nalbandian).
In March of 2010, Fish was languishing at his lowest ranking in eight years: 108. He's made a remarkable climb in the past few month up to No. 21 and is playing better tennis than he has in years. Fish's first-round opponent is Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic.
From being ranked No. 153 in early July, Nalbandian has improved his standing all the way up to No. 33 in the world heading into the U.S. Open. His biggest jump came from the first to second weeks in August where he moved up 72 spots (from 117 to 45). As improbable as his career resurgence has been, it would be even more improbable to see him bounced in the first round at this year's U.S. Open. His opening opponent is No. 231 Rik De Voest of South Africa.
Heading into last year's U.S. Open, Baghdatis was ranked 110th in the world. This time around he's 18th and recently beat Rafael Nadal in Toronto. A fan favorite in New York, Baghdatis will take on another gutsy playmaker in France's Arnaud Clement on Day 2.
2) No. 1 seeds under the lights
No. 1 Rafael Nadal just needs a U.S. Open title to achieve a career Grand Slam. No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is looking for her first Grand Slam title to validate her top seeding. Both will be playing under the lights on Day 2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nadal was unable to compete in New York last season due to nagging injuries, but he's back and ready to prove himself this time around. While his hardcourt season was nothing special (a quarterfinal loss in Cincinnati and a semifinal loss in Toronto), he has a favorable draw and a chance to capture his eighth major title overall. Nadal's first-round opponent is Russia's Teymuraz Gabashvili, seeded No. 93 in the world.
Wozniacki earned the No. 1 seed in the women's draw when Serena Williams dropped out with an injury. With four titles so far this year, including two in her last two U.S. Open warmup events, she's been one of the season's more dominant players. Her momentum should continue in New York, where she will take on American Chelsey Gullickson, playing in her first U.S. Open, on Day 2.
3) Sharapova making some noise
2006 U.S. Open champion Maria Sharapova is showing some of the fine form that has earned her three previous Grand Slam titles. The Russian reached the finals in each of her two U.S. Open warmups, losing to Victoria Azarenka at the Stanford tournament and to Kim Clijsters in Cincinnati but putting together strong efforts each time. Sharapova was shocked by American upstart Melanie Oudin in the third round at last year's tournament, so she also has something to prove this time around. Her first-round opponent is Austria's Jarmila Groth, who shouldn't be a walkover. Groth has a 38-17 record so far this season and reached the fourth round at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
4) Effort while aging
Just a few weeks away from her 40th birthday, Kimiko Date Krumm is back to compete at the U.S. Open for the ninth time in her career. A quarterfinalist in 1993 and 1994, Date Krumm didn't play at any majors during her lengthy retirement from 1997 through 2008 but became the second-oldest WTA Tour winner with a title in Seoul last year. Her first-round opponent will be No. 11 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion.
5) Blake looks to stop his slide
On the opening night of the 2010 U.S. Open, James Blake will be honored on a night feting those who "Dream, Succeed and Inspire." He hopes to take that inspiration with him into his Day 2 first-round match against Belgium's Kristof Vliegen. Since being ranked at the U.S. Open last year, he's slipped to No. 108 in the world heading into this year's tournament. After bowing out in the second round at the Australian Open and the first round at Wimbledon, he's just 3-5 in five hardcourt tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open. His J-Block contingent of supporters will need to propel him to a good showing at this year's tournament.