By Mark Bodenrader, USTA.com
American Andy Roddick entered the 2006 US Open donning a familiar title to that of the year prior -- winner of the US Open Series. But despite Roddick’s repeat victory in the summer series of North American hard court tournaments, a lot had changed in the 12 months that elapsed between coronations.
That was evident when Roddick, under the tutelage of new coach Jimmy Connors, clinched the US Open Series title by winning the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati. While the triumph was the 21st tournament victory of Roddick’s career, it also halted a winless drought that stretched all the way back to his victory in Lyon in October 2005.
Roddick, playing in his second final of the 2006 US Open Series, posted a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero in Cincinnati to put himself in position to potentially win a total payout of $2.2 million at the 2006 US Open. The American star was once again eligible to claim $1 million in bonus prize money at the US Open on top of the $1.2 million awarded to the singles winner, should he capture his second career Flushing title.
While repeating as the US Open Series champ was a nice confidence-booster for Roddick heading into the US Open, one thing Roddick didn’t want to duplicate from 2005 was a first-round defeat in the big event to an unheralded opponent (Gilles Muller of Luxembourg). Roddick quickly squashed any notions of an '06 letdown and advanced all the way to the US Open final where he met Roger Federer. However, the American star came up a win short of claiming the $1 million bonus. His runner-up finish still allowed him to pocket a substantial $500,000 in extra prize money.
As for the final US Open Series standings, Roddick finished atop the men’s race with 147 points, and he was followed by Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez, who came in second with 124 points, and third-place Andy Murray of Great Britain, who totaled 105. Gonzalez advanced to the third round of the US Open to collect $20,000 in bonus prize money, while Murray reached the fourth round to rake in $17,500 in extra funds.
The 19-year-old Murray used the 2006 US Open Series as his personal coming out party, with his most notable victory coming against the mighty Roger Federer in the second round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. Murray’s 7-5, 6-4 victory over Federer in Cincinnati stopped the two-time defending US Open champ’s impressive 55-match winning streak in North America. Federer hadn’t suffered a defeat on the continent since losing in the first round to Dominik Hrbaty in, coincidentally, Cincinnati way back on August 3, 2004.
One player just starting to write her history is Ana Ivanovic, an 18-year-old phenom who burst on the scene this summer by winning the women’s US Open Series title.
Ivanovic clinched the victory after posting just her second career tournament win, and her first Tier 1 crown, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The final had the feeling of a changing of the guard, as Ivanovic defeated the Swiss star and five-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.
Ivanovic finished with a point total of 127 and beat out some impressive names to capture the US Open Series.
Maria Sharapova posted a strong showing in the Series, winning the Acura Classic and reaching the semifinals in Los Angeles. However, Sharapova still came up just five points short of Ivanovic at 122 to end up in second.
Defending US Open Series champ Kim Clijsters managed to hold the third spot at 120 points despite being forced out of action at the Rogers Cup with a wrist injury. Clijsters retired from her second-round match in Montreal against Stephanie Dubois with the injury, and an MRI exam and X-Ray showed it to be worse than originally believed. Soon after, the Belgian announced that she would be sidelined for the next two months. Thus, Clijsters’s quest to repeat as US Open Series champ came to an end, as well as her hopes of defending her title at the US Open.
There would be a new women's US Open champion in 2006 and Sharapova seized the opportunity, crushing the competition on her way to her second career major title. The victory coupled with her second-place finish in the US Open Series allowed her to earn $500,000 in bonus prize money on top of the $1.2 million she collected for the title for a grand total of $1.7 million.
Ivanovic managed to capture $40,000 in bonus prize money for advancing to the third round of the US Open, where she lost to Serena Williams.
"We think we've got a concept now that's beginning to catch on with sports fans, with TV viewers, with our television partners, certainly our sponsors," said USTA Chief Executive, Professional Tennis Arlen Kantarian about the US Open Series before the trophies were presented to Roddick and Ivanovic during Day 1 of the US Open.
"We've got twice the number of people now watching tennis in the summer leading up to the Open than ever before, attendance has been up, and we think it's also caught on in the locker room with the players."
Final 2006 US Open Series Standings
| ||POINTS||US OPEN FINISH||BONUS MONEY |
|MEN|| || || |
|1. Andy Roddick||147||Runner-Up||$500,000 |
|2. Fernando Gonzalez||124||Third Round||$20,000 |
|3. Andy Murray||105||Fourth Round||$17,500 |
| || || || |
|WOMEN|| || || |
|1. Ana Ivanovic||127||Third Round||$40,000 |
|2. Maria Sharapova||122||Champion||$500,000 |
|3. Kim Clijsters||120||DNP||--- |
More: Click Here For US Open Series Week-By-Week Notes