Play began at this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament on Monday, August 29, 2011, with 21 Russians represented in the main draws. Only France and the USA had contingents of equal or larger size at the year’s final grand slam event, so Russia might have taken some pride in the achievement.
But within days, Russia probably wished it had skipped the tournament entirely.
Before play had begun on Wednesday, August 31, a mere two days in, 11 of those 21 Russians were gone. Only the USA saw more players eliminated from the draws in the first two days, but the USA had one-third more entries in the draw and as a result lost only one-third of its contingent. It had twice as many active players going into day three as Russia. Russia’s contingent had been cut by more than half and the tournament had hardly even begun.
And it wasn’t just Russia’s second-rate players who were cut down. Russia’s top-seeded male player, Mikhail Youzhny, lost his first-round match to an unseeded opponent in woefully noncompetitive fashion, showing the way to ten of his fellow Russians out the U.S. Open’s swinging door.
Russia’s next major humiliation was provided by Maria Sharapova, the country’s second-highest-seeded female player, in the third round.