Coin's win an upset of epic historical proportions

Updated: August 28, 2008

Coin shocks the world

NEW YORK -- When she lost in qualifying at Wimbledon -- Julie Coin almost always loses in qualifying -- the thought first crossed her mind.

A few weeks ago, when she departed the Bronx Challenger -- another in a series of mostly dismal one-and-outs in places like Getxo, Spain; Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France; and Torhout, Belgium -- the concept of retiring from tennis seemed like a logical career choice. Was she, Coin wondered, really made to play tennis?

The 25-year-old from Amiens, France, figured she'd play through the season, then maybe consider coaching or put her degree in mathematics to work. Then a curious thing happened: She won three qualifying matches here at the U.S. Open and followed that up with a victory in her first WTA-level match in the first round.

On Thursday, Coin shocked the world, as well as No. 1-ranked Ana Ivanovic -- although not necessarily in that order. Ranked No. 188 in the world, Coin defeated Ivanovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in Arthur Ashe Stadium. To put the upset in context, this was Ivanovic's 275th WTA match but only the second for Coin.

"I'm not thinking about anything right now," she said about an hour later, playing with her shoulder-length chestnut hair. "Just like enjoying the moment, and I will see what's going to happen next."

According to an on-site WTA official, it was the biggest upset of a No. 1-seeded woman since the current rankings system was devised in 1975. Two matches previously had been tied for the top spot. Ivanovic's third-round loss at Wimbledon came to a No. 133-ranked player, China's Zheng Jie. Kim Clijsters also was ranked No. 133 when she beat Lindsay Davenport at Indian Wells in 2005. But Clijsters had already been the No. 1-ranked player and was coming back from an injury.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Ana Ivanovic is the first No. 1 seed to lose in the second round of the U.S. Open since 1967.

Coin, however, simply came out of nowhere. It was an upset of epic historical proportions -- the exact magnitude will be hotly debated in tennis parlors around the world -- but, oddly enough, it was not a complete surprise.

After winning the French Open, her first major title, a mentally drained Ivanovic lost at Wimbledon. After two weeks off, she injured her right thumb, a painful inflammation of the carpal-metacarpal joint. She played only two matches between Grand Slams and was visibly sluggish in a first-round win over Vera Dushevina, which also required three sets.

"Today I didn't feel it," Ivanovic explained. "I'm just happy to be back on track without pain. I had a lot of mis-hits on my forehand. I think it also shows a little bit lack of practice and lack maybe of confidence in that area."

Ivanovic, who could lose her No. 1 ranking to any of five players, made 34 unforced errors, most of them on the forehand side. She had zero aces and eight double-faults. Coin, meanwhile, had a consistently solid serve and showed terrific nerve after Ivanovic won the second set. Serving at 2-all in the third, Coin was down love-40, salvaged the game, then broke Ivanovic in the next game, part of a run that featured 10 consecutive winning points.

In the queasy final game, when you might expect a low-ranked player to fold to a No. 1, Coin kept going for her shots. She converted her third match point when Ivanovic sprayed yet another forehand wide.

"I thought she was maybe more nervous than I was," Coin said, citing Ivanovic's errors and balky movement. "If she wanted to stay No. 1 at the end of this tournament, she had to do well. Maybe she had a lot of pressure."

As news of the upset spread, there was a rush among the media for all things Coin. Here are a few things you should know:

• First of all, because the name is French, it is pronounced "Qua."

• Her parents, Philippe and Doriane, played on elite team handball squads in France. They never got to make a living playing the sport they loved, so they encouraged Coin to follow her dream.

• That took her to Clemson University in South Carolina, of all places. Her ex-boyfriend decided to enroll, and she followed, leaving her French school, where she practiced only three times a week. Coin was a three-time All-American and the ACC Player of the Year in 2004 after leading the Tigers to the conference championship.

When Coin closed the deal against Ivanovic, Chuck Culpepper of the Los Angeles Times cracked, "That was the biggest win for Clemson since the '82 Orange Bowl."

That was a 22-15 victory over Nebraska for the No. 1 ranking. Coin isn't likely to match that, but for a late bloomer, she's ahead of the curve.

"I [have] always been really slow," she said, laughing. "I am taking my time."

As fate would have it, next up for Coin is another former No. 1 player, fellow Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo.

"She's kind of an idol in France," Coin said. "Everybody loves her. She's the one we want to follow her steps."

Coin has played ITF events for 10 years, and she had won exactly $99,563 for her career before taking the court in New York. She already has accrued $46,000, and a win over Mauresmo would bring her one-week total to a relatively staggering $80,000.

Coin was delightfully candid about her accidental journey into the third round at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. When she was asked in an on-court interview whether she ever imagined she could win, she said "no" so swiftly and convincingly that many laughed, including her.

"I don't realize yet that I beat the No. 1 in the world," she said later. "I don't realize that I played at the big court. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight. I don't know. It's just -- maybe tomorrow I will be -- I will … I don't know when I will realize everything."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for

Five things we learned Thursday

1. Safina's glad she ditched her old coach: Dinara Safina can't stop raving about new coach Zeljko Krajan. The Croatian led her to the French Open final, with the success continuing through the U.S. Open Series.

Safina isn't so rosy when it comes to no-nonsense Dutchman Glen Schaap, her last full-time traveling coach. Safina wasn't averse to berating Schaap, who has worked with two other emotional Russians, Anna Chakvetadze and Nadia Petrova, during matches.

"He would not accept what I would say," Safina claimed after cruising to the third round with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Italian Roberta Vinci. "He didn't want to hear my opinions. This was tough, when a coach doesn't want to hear a player's opinion, even if I'm wrong, but at least he can listen and then we can discuss and not always say his opinion. I think this is the reason why we started to fight a lot on the court."

Although things seem stable now, switching coaches runs in the family. Big brother Marat Safin has had three in the past two years.

2. Lopsided men's matches exist: Jiri Vanek must have had a plane to catch.

The Czech was on the wrong end of a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 rout -- inflicted by unpredictable Austrian lefty Jurgen Melzer -- that lasted 66 minutes (no, a digit's not missing). Vanek, a 30-year-old journeyman, is ranked 123rd.

U.S. Open officials said no stats exist for shortest men's matches, though you can bet it has to be one of the quickest of all time at the Open.

According to a Czech journalist who interviewed Vanek, he wasn't injured. He picked up $30,000 for his troubles.

3. Mauresmo is still chuggin': Amelie Mauresmo might be on the declining slope of her career, but she's not giving up just yet.

The two-time Grand Slam champion gutted it out in three sets for a second straight round, ousting big and big-hitting Estonian Kaia Kanepi 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. Mauresmo upended the French Open quarterfinalist at a warm-up in New Haven, Conn., last week, too.

In her opener, Mauresmo downed pal Nathalie Dechy 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Mauresmo, a semifinalist at her last two events (albeit smaller ones), next faces Ana Ivanovic's conqueror, countrywoman Julie Coin. Her draw is opening up nicely.

The two other Frenchwomen in singles action Thursday advanced: Alize Cornet and Severine Bremond.

4. Ferrer is a forgotten man: David Ferrer is the world No. 4 and a reigning U.S. Open semifinalist. You wouldn't know it.

The bullish Spaniard played his second-round match in the relative wilderness of Court 7, not on one of the three main show courts. By comparison, French 32nd seed Gael Monfils was given the final slot on Louis Armstrong Stadium for his tilt with young Russian Evgeny Korolev. (OK, so Monfils is more excitable than Ferrer.)

Ferrer's match turned out to be decent. He edged big-serving German Andreas Beck 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in three hours. Monfils downed Korolev in four.

5. Nalbandian might get to a fourth round: Don't look now, but enigmatic Argentine David Nalbandian is a win away from reaching the fourth round of a major for the first time this season.

Although he habitually struggles in the early rounds of Slams, even when healthy and facing lesser foes, Nalbandian, seeded seventh, hasn't dropped a set yet. He polished off Andrey Golubev, a qualifier from Kazakhstan, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in less than two hours.

Nalbandian meets Monfils, who beat him at the Olympics, in the third round and is in the same quarter as friend and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

-- Ravi Ubha


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Friends to turn foes


Mardy Fish, a usually suspect usual suspect at this U.S. Open for nine years, found himself in a different place Thursday:

The third round.

Yes, after eight consecutive departures in the first round (three times) or the second (five), Fish managed to break through with an impressive 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 24 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu.

His reward? A probable Saturday match with fellow American -- and best friend -- James Blake. To call it a career-defining match for both players might be a stretch, but considering their ages (Blake is 28 and Fish is 26), the result will carry unusual significance for a third-round encounter.

For a while there, it looked as though Fish's opponent was going to be Steve Darcis. Blake lost the first set to the No. 62-ranked Belgian, but after winning the second set and taking the first game of the third, Darcis promptly retired with a back injury.

"If I'm not going to win, I'd certainly love for him to win and do well," Fish said. "I don't want to lose, if that answers your question.

"You know, in the third round for a place in the fourth round of the biggest tournament of the year, I think we'll probably put our friendship aside for just a couple of hours."

Regardless of the result, Blake said, he still will be a part of Fish's wedding next month and the loser likely will buy the winner dinner after the match.

Joining Blake and Fish in the third round was Venus Williams, a convincing 6-0, 6-3 winner over Rossana De Los Rios. Fellow Americans Wayne Odesnik and Bethanie Mattek were second-round losers to seeded players. Odesnik fell to No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets. Mattek lost 7-6 (5), 6-1 to No. 17 Alize Cornet and was nearly inconsolable.

After his match, Fish was asked several questions about his unusual last name. There is, he said, an upside.

"It's easy to come up with headlines in newspapers," Fish said. "I think I've seen almost every one of those."

Such as?

"Like when I lose, you know, 'Filleted Fish' kind of thing, 'Fried Fish.' It's easy when I lose because you throw one of those two out there. I tend to see those a lot."

Is it awkward ordering seafood in restaurants?

"I don't eat much fish," Fish said. "So, no."

--Greg Garber

Buoyant Scot


Andy Murray didn't let a dogged opponent and a few bad line calls get in his way.

Murray, one of the most productive players on the tour this summer, moved a step closer to a possible semifinal against tormentor Rafael Nadal when he topped French serve-and-volleyer Michael Llodra in Round 2.

Llodra is one of the funniest pros around, known for his practical jokes, yet the Scot was the one smiling after a tight 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7) victory in front of a raucous crowd at the Grandstand. Llodra won more points, 125 to 122.

"I was very happy with the match," said Murray, ranked sixth but closing on the No. 4 spot. "I thought I hit the ball from the back of the court very well. I didn't feel like I was making many mistakes from the baseline. Not too many unforced errors."

The stats back Murray up. In the first three sets combined, Murray made a paltry seven unforced errors. Overall, he ended with a Federer-like -- in Roger's prime, that is -- 48 winners and 13 unforced errors.

Still, the former U.S. Open junior champ was on the verge of having to go the distance, saving two set points in the tiebreaker. On one, he unleashed a backhand pass; on another, Llodra came in behind a pushed second-serve forehand return that landed short and Murray promptly dispatched it, this time with a cross-court forehand pass.

When it was over, Murray, who had thrown his racket to the ground in disgust earlier, slammed a ball into the crowd in delight, and perhaps relief. Adding to the intrigue were calls from one particular linesman that both players felt were incorrect.

Despite reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinals at Wimbledon, getting to the Toronto Masters semifinals and winning the Cincinnati Masters, Murray, no stranger to brash comments in the past, wasn't looking ahead to a potential encounter against Nadal.

"It doesn't make me start looking into the semis, quarterfinals, because I only made the quarterfinals of a Slam once," said Murray, given another lefty in the next round, Austrian Jurgen Melzer. "I'm not good enough to be able to do that."

--Ravi Ubha

Muscling it out


Sam Querrey called his straight-sets demolition of Czech 22nd seed Tomas Berdych in the first round one of the biggest wins of his career. Thursday's victory in more than three hours might have been one of his grittiest.

The San Francisco-born right-hander, 20, reached the third round in New York for the first time thanks to a 7-6 (6), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over tricky French lefty Nicolas Devilder, who had gone 25-4 and claimed three challengers in his past 29 matches.

The final game was a match in itself, lasting way longer than a New York minute. Querrey, constantly slapping his thighs, apparently to avoid cramps, uncorked two wild forehands and fell behind 15-30 as he tried to serve it out. Then he got a bit of luck.

A forehand that appeared destined for the net clipped the top of it instead and tipped over, giving Devilder, ranked eight places below Querrey at 63rd, no chance. Devilder manufactured a break point, though Querrey saved it by sending a high-risk forehand down the line. A second break point was saved in even more dramatic fashion.

Devilder this time benefited from a lucky net court. Querrey, 6-foot-6, hustled to reach the ball and just got there, sending back a drop shot of his own. The speedier Devilder got there, too, but with the whole court open, delivered his reply just wide. The crowd roared.

Querrey eventually closed it out, raising his arms and dropping his racket.

His next match figures to be less taxing, given that it's against Karlovic. Long points will be at a premium.

--Ravi Ubha

Critic's choice


Critic's Choice: Andy Roddick vs. Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis, who will be 19 for only one more day, has never played Roddick, but he has some serious game. The Latvian took out James Blake at Roland Garros and would like nothing better than to send Blake's fellow American home after a prime-time match. prediction: Roddick in four sets.

--Greg Garber