Thursday, September 29, 2011

Asian Swing Open Thread And Other Stuff

I miss my blog. Strange thing to say, I imagine, but I've never been one to conform. But I haven't been able to follow a lick of tennis since the US Open, what with the busy-ness on the farm and the most important task of trying to feed hungry people, whose numbers are increasing at alarming rates.

But I digress.

From Savannah's blog, I see talks of strikes from the men and silence from the women. Somebody fill us in. Please.

The tours are in Asia now. I suspect radiation fears have subsided. Or have they? With end-of-the-season injuries ravaging both tours, well, at least a few of the stars on both tours, which players will get to the winner's circles?

See you when I see you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

US Open Champions

The 2011 U.S. Open Women's Singles Champion Samantha Stosur of  Australia poses with the trophy in New York's Times Square, September  12, 2011.
Reuters

Samantha Stosur blitzed Serena Williams in straight sets to win her first major title on her second attempt. Didn't matter much that the living legend on an amazing comeback didn't quite show up for a Slam final for the first time since Wimbledon 2004. What mattered more was the Aussie's game plan, her execution, and her composure in the midst of chaos on Arthur Ashe stadium where she wasn't even allowed to play her semifinal. She may have lost the longest tiebreak in women's Slam history, but she won the big prize. Stosur has been flirting with breakthrough for years now and she finally delivered. It couldn't have happened to a classier player.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates  with the trophy after he defeated Rafael Nadal of Spain during the Men's  Final on Day Fifteen of the 2011 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King  National Tennis Center on September 12, 2011 in the Flushing  neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.
Getty

Novak Djokovic conquered Rafael Nadal for the 6th straight time to capture his first US Open title and third major of the year. It was compelling drama through three sets with some games lasting as long as 12 minutes. But just when you thought the match might be pushed to the limit, Nadal left the stadium. The fourth set was all Djokovic all the time, despite being treated for a sore back, and for a brief moment, it actually looked as though Nadal gave up.

One surprising result, one expected result, one frustrating US Open.

Monday, September 12, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Men's Final Preview



Rafael Nadal ESP (2) v Novak Djokovic SRB (1).


by Mad Professah, contributing writer

For the first time since 1995 the #1 and #2 players in the world will be competing in the U.S. Open men's singles championship match. Amazingly, Djokovic and Nadal have competed as #1 and #2 in 5 finals already this year and all five have been won by then-World #2 Djokovic. One of these was in the 2011 Wimbledon final when it was clear that the next day, regardless of the final result, Djokovic would become World #1, and then he emphasized his position by dismissing Nadal in four sets to win his first Wimbledon title and 2nd major of the year.


Now, Djokovic is World #1 and playing in his first grand slam as the #1 seed. The 2010 U.S. Open singles final was between these two players, and Nadal won relatively easily in a 4-set match, delayed by rain to the third Monday of the tournament.

How They Got Here
N. Djokovic d. R. Federer 6-7(7) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5. For the second year in a row Djokovic defeated Federer in a U.S. Open semifinal despite being two match points down. Federer served brilliantly and played aggressive tennis for the first two sets and then his play dipped immediately in the 3rd and Djokovic's rose to win that set. Again in the fourth set Federer quickly went down a break and then another break. It's possible that the Swiss player might have been marshalling his forces to play a 5th set, but in my eyes the reason for Djokovic winning the 3rd and 4th sets was a combination of the Serb playing well and Federer playing not so well. Then in the fifth set Federer managed to get a break in the 8th game of the set and served for the match at 5-3, 40-15. On his first match point down Djokovic hit a go-for-broke first-serve forehand return winner smack on the sideline. On the second match point, at 40-30, Federer hit a good body serve which Djokovic barely managed to get back relatively short in the court, Federer skipped forwarded and attempted to hit a cross-court forehand angle winner behind Djokovic but the ball hit the net cord and bounced out of the court. Deuce. Instead of taking his time and realizing the importance of being two points away from one of the biggest wins of the year, Federer played quickly, mangled a backhand into the net and faced breakpoint. He swiped that away with a quick ace. Back to deuce. Unable to buy a first serve at this point, Djokovic was ahead in the point from the beginning and won that point for a second breakpoint. This time Federer double faulted on breakpoint down to hand Djokovic the lead 6-5. The new #1 quickly served out his service game, reaching match point and Federer responded to a good serve with a weak backhand reply which sailed long. Game, set and match. Djokovic is now 63-2 for 2011. Federer will finish 2011 without winning a major title for the first time since 2002.

R. Nadal d. A. Murray 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-2. Although I incorrectly predicted Murray to make his breakthrough and win this match, he again showed why he is not mentally prepared to win a major. In the first two sets Murray seemed content to just play long rallies with Nadal, refusing to be aggressive and cursing like a pirate. He was also giving a running commentary on his own game, radiating negative energy all over the court that Nadal feasted on, growing more aggressive with every wince and yelp the Brit produced. After being down two sets Murray re-focussed, cut down on the negative energy and ran like a gazelle aroundthe court, winning the 3rd set relatively easily. But in the 4th set he fell way behind early and though he made a push at the end, it was too little too late. Murray becomes only the 7th player in history to reach the semifinals or better in all four majors for the year, but he is 0-3 in major finals so far. Nadal is able to reach the U.S. Open final for the second consecutive year.

My Prediction
incorrectly predicted the result of the women's final, where the underdog Samantha Stosur beat heavily favored Serena Williams to win her first major title (and 3rd tour title overall). I did, however, correctly predicted Djokovic to beat Federer (in 5 sets) in the semifinal. In the final, it is Novak Djokovic who is going for his first U.S. Open and 4th major title over someone who has one 10 major titles and is the defending champion.

Even with five consecutive losses, Nadal still leads the head-to-head match up 16 to 12 but on hard courts Djokovic leads 9-5. It is Novak's best surface and Nadal's worst. Their games match up even worse on hard courts than they do on other surfaces. Djokovic is untroubles by Nadal's vicious topspin forehand to his backhand side and Nadal can be overpowered on his backhand side by Djokovic's forehand. Mentally, Djokovic has the clear edge and he has superior movement on hard courts as well. There's no question that Djokovic is playing better than he played last year, and that Nadal is not. So clearly the match will be closer than last year's final. Nadal has had difficulty winning sets against Djokovic this year, and grown repeatedly hesitant at "dangerous" moments. Djokovic knows he is playing with house money since he just won a match for only the second time in his career being down two-sets-to-love, and he did it against Roger Federer! It will be hard to over-estimate how confident he will be and how much he wants this title to cement his #1 status for the rest of the year, ending the Federer-Nadal duopoloy for good, and marking the beginning of the Djokovic-Nadal-Federer "trivalry."

MadProfessah's pick: Djokovic.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Women's Final Preview


Serena Williams USA (28) v. Samantha Stosur AUS (9). 



by Mad Professah, contributing writer


The 2011 US Open finalists are the two women in the draw with the two best serves in women's tennis. Serena demonstrated the importance of having an effective serve in her 6-2 6-4 drubbing of the now and future World #1 Caroline Wozniacki in a routine semifinal whose result was never in doubt. Serena served 11 aces and hit another 23 winners from all over the court--and she was probably playing at about 80% of her ability. Her "B" game. Wozniacki simply had (and has) no weapons with which to bother Serena and almost no offensive intent or capacity so Serena simply bided her time, broke the 21-year-old Dane at will and was content to serve out the match. When suddenly she played a loose match game at 6-2, 5-3 she calmly broke back easily to reach the final.

Stosur's route to the final was more complicated. She played the unheralded (some would say unknown) Angelique Kerber from Germany, at 6pm on the Grandstand court (capacity 6,000) when the second men's semifinal was still going on on the main stage at Ashe which holds 23,000+. Instead of winning easily, Stosur won a relatively tight 6-3 2-6 6-2 victory. Stosur has had a pretty dramatic tournament overall, playing the longest tiebreak in Grand Slam history in the 4th round (losing it 17-15) against Maria Kirilenko and playing the longest U.S. Open women's match (in terms of games played) against Nadia Petrova in the 2nd round, eventually winning7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-5 in 3 hours, 16 minutes.

Stosur is the probably the only other player in the draw who is not overwhelmed by Serena's physicality. The Australian 27-year-old has very broad shoulders herself and probably an even better kick-serve than Serena's. However, Stosur has one distinct weakness: her backhand. She can either slice it (not very effectively) or she can hit it with two hands, often not very cleanly or powerfully. Sitting in the stands, literally 15 feet from her in the now-famous tiebreak with Kirilenko I was very surprised how softly the ball came off her racquet on the backhand side. Serena can just pin her into the backhand corner with forehands down the line and it will be a very short day. However, Stosur does possess an excellent topspin inside-out forehand so if her footwork is good she may be able to run around her backhand and hit her powerful forehand but unless she hits a winner against a very fit and fast Serena, Stosur will be off the court and unable to reach the reply. Mentally, since Stosur has been in a major final before (losing badly to Francesa Schiavone in the 2010 French Open final) she should not be overwhelmed today, but she simply does not play finals well, having won only twice in 11 attempts. Serena is playing in her 5th U.S. Open final in 12 appearances, with wins in 1999, 2002 and 2008. We all know what Serena's mental toughness is like.

In the 2011 U.S. Open I have correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 2 of 2 women's semifinals. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals and 4 of 4 women's quarterfinalsThis year I have also correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals, and 1 of 2 men's semifinals. My prediction for the women's final is that Serena Williams will win her 14th major title, putting her a scan 4 titles away from the all-time greats: Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (but still behind Steffi Graf's 22).

MadProfessah's pick: Serena Williams.

Two Match Points

Number three seed Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts to a shot to  number one seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia during a Men's semifinal match  at the US Open tennis tournament September 10, 2011 at the Billie Jean  King National Tennis Center in New York. Djokovic won 6-7 (7/9), 4-6,  6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Getty

That's how many Roger Federer held to get into the finals of the US Open two years running. Both times, he was denied by then World No. 3 and current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Both times, the fearless Serb hit his best forehands to save the first match point. This time, Federer faltered to waste the second. From there, he virtually disappeared while the best player in the world smothered him like ash over red hot coals, closing out the match 7-5 in the final set.

I have always said that 7-5 sets are always mental. So when Federer stated after the match that Djokovic had mentally gone away up until the match points, it's clear he expected him to remain wherever he had gone mentally.

But he didn't. That blistering forehand crosscourt return to save the first match point won Djokovic the match. Literally. Federer simply couldn't believe it. Which is why it was his turn to mentally go away and not return. Why he evoked junior tennis and luck to explain his disbelief in what had happened to him after the match.

2011. Two Slams in a row, the "greatest player of all time" leads two sets to love in the semifinals only to lose the match. Tennis enthusiasts tend to say that you can never write off a great champion. But this is the first year in nine that Federer has failed to win a Slam. I've prematurely written of the end of his Slam winning days before. And while I won't make a fool of myself twice, I will say that it's going to take a whole lot of luck for Federer to win another Slam. Why? Because denial is a powerful thing and Federer is in denial. He has been all season, as far as I'm concerned. But because he's earned such good will over the years for all of his greatness, rarely is he called out for it.

Sure, his legacy will remain intact. He's got streaks and records that won't ever be broken or touched.

Sure, he's given purists and casual fans alike so many reasons to "ooh" and "aah" and call out his name like Christ himself.

Sure, he's aging and searching and fathering and faltering.

Sure, it's a compelling story of human nature for those compelled by it. But when champions stop winning and don't appear to respect the reasons why, it's more tragic than anything else.

Perhaps the greatest one will someday tell us when he recognized he was no longer superman, that his rivals were no longer afraid and, despite his considerable gifts, there was nothing he could do about it. Perhaps not.

I look forward to such a revelation.

Surely, a man of his greatness will arrive at that place.

Surely.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Women's Semifinals Preview


by Mad Professah, contributing writer



After a rain delay cancelled the scheduled women's quarterfinals matches last night, all four matches were able to be completed today, the women's semifinals are now set.

This year, I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals and 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals.

These are my predictions for the 2011 women's semifinals, which for the first time will be played Saturday night in prime time, with the women's final on Sunday, and the men's final moved to Monday's day session.

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (1) v. Serena Williams USA (28). This is the match on the women's side everyone has been waiting for. Can the putative #1 player in the world prove her dominance against the fan's #1? As the #28 seed Serena has munched through "higher seeded players" Victoria Azarenka (#4), Ana Ivanovic (#16), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (#17) in the last three rounds. As the #1 seed Wozniacki has dispatched Andrea Petkovic (#10), Svetlana Kuznesova (#15) and unseeded Vania King in the same rounds. Serena and Caroline have met on court twice in their careers (both in 2009), with Serena winning both times.
Wozniacki has only been to one major final, while Serena has won 13 finals and appeared in 3 others, losing to her sister Venus Williams twice (2001 US Open and 2008 Wimbledon) and Maria Sharapova once (2004 Wimbledon). The problem that Wozniacki has is that many people feel that she can be hit off the court. Her game is built around counter-punching, and she (often) plays her best tennis when she is behind in the score. But getting behind on the score against someone as mentally tough as Serena Williams is not the same thing as getting behind the score against 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. It does show that Wozniacki likes pace and can feed off her opponent's power and use it against them. There is no more powerful a female player than Serena, and she will demonstrate the danger of Wozniacki's strategy to blast past her and reach her fifth US Open final. PREDICTION: Serena.


Angelique Kerber GER v. Samantha Stosur AUS (9). Although I didn't pick either one of these players to reach this point in the tournament, I am delighted to see that Samantha Stosur is in her second major semifinal, with an excellent opportunity to reach her second major final, where hopefully she can acquit herself better than she did in the 2010 Roland Garros final

Kerber is the only unseeded player among the semifinalists and since she's ranked around 92 in the world will make more money from this tournament than she made in the last year (or two) on the tour. In other words, Kerber is just happy to be here and will not put up much resistance if the match gets tough. The rap against Stosur is that she's mentally fragile, and the fact that she has played 11 tournament finals and only won 2 of them is evidence of that. However, she impressed a lot of people with her mental fortitude in her match against Maria Kirilenko when she lost the second set 15-17 in the longest women's tiebreaker in grand slam history (blowing 5 match points in the process). Stosur was able to survive the emotional rollercoaster of playing such an intense tiebreaker (where twice she was denied match point wins due to Kirilenko's successful electronic line challenges) to win the deciding set relatively easily 6-3. This new toughness should serve the hard-hitting Australian well in the final on Sunday night. PREDICTION: Stosur.

US OPEN 2011: Men's Semifinals Preview


The Fabulous Four meet again:
Djokovic (1) v Federer (3), Nadal (2) v Murray (4)


by Mad Professah, contributing writer



This year I correctly predicted 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Last year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals.

Here are my predictions for the men's semifinals, with the women's semifinals preview also available.


Novak Djokovic SRB (1) v. Roger Federer SUI (3). This is of course a repeat of last year's instant classic Men's semifinal won by Djokovic after saving 2 consecutive match points in the 5th set. The question is, will this year's result be the same as last year's? Arguably, Djokovic is playing much better now than he did then, but so is Federer. (But clearly Djokovic's improvement over 2010 is larger than Federer's.) Is the fact that Federer is one year older (and now over 30, playing someone who is 24) more significant than the fact that he is the only player to have beaten Djokovic in a best of 5 set match all year? Or is the Serb's juggernaut record of 62-2 for the year more salient? Amazingly, Federer and Djokovic have met during the last weekend of the US Open for the last 5 years and Federer is 3-1 so far (including one final, in 2007). In fact, the Swiss great leads their career head-to-head 14-9, but has lost three times to Djokovic on hard courts this year (including the 2011 Australian Open semifinal where Federer was defending champion). In New York, Federer has actually had the toughest draw of the Top 4 players, facing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (11) and Marin Cilic (27). Djokovic has had a much easier time with two retirements in his first 5 rounds and a double-bagel match.  Djokovic's competition has been Nikolay Davydenko, Aleksandr Dolgopolov and an inspired Janko Tipsarevic. Interestingly, his matches have gotten tighter (in the score) as the tournament progresses, while Federer has basically played at the level he needs to win, relative to whoever is on the other side of the net. As most readers know, I am a decided Federer fan and when I started this write-up I intended to make a clear call for The Greatest Of All Time. I'm convinced he can win this match, but I am unsure as to whether he will. Doing the research for this piece has shown me that Djokovic is more likely to win this match, and the title. However, if Federer comes out early playing the kind of tennis he played against Tsonga and Juan Monaco I believe he can win in straight sets. Regardless, I doubt it will match last year's semifinal's shot-making and drama. MadProfessah's pick: Federer in 3 sets OR Djokovic in 4 or 5.

 Andy Murray GBR (4) v. Rafael Nadal ESP (2). Nadal holds a significant 12-4 career head-to-head over Murray, including a slight 4-3 edge on hard courts. However, their more recent matches on hard courts have been very close, with the most famous being their electric 3-set thriller at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in 2010, won by Nadal. In matches at the majors, Nadal leads 5-2 but at the 2010 Australian Open Murray was beating the Spaniard like a drum in the quarters when Nadal pulled the ripcord and retired from the match. However, I think what matters most is the match-up today and how they have been playing to date in New York. Nadal has had to get through Andy Roddick (21), David Nalbandian and Gilles Muller. Murray has had to get past John Isner (28), Donald Young and Feliciano Lopez (25). Really both players have had a relatively easy path to the semifinals, although Murray had to survive a 5-set scare against talented Robin Haase in the second round. The Brit is clearly starting to cement his "Fab 4" status, by making the semifinals or better of every major played in 2011(something Djokovic has also managed for the first time this year while Nadal has only done it once, in 2008 and Federer did for five consecutive years in a row from 2005 and 2009). He is showing his consistency and letting his innate talent shine through. Murray also has confidence, being one of two players to have defeated Djokovic in 2011, something Nadal hasn't done. I believe Murray is going to do something he hasn't done before (and which a lot of people don't expect him to do), and beat Nadal in a major semifinal. MadProfessah's pick: Murray in 3 or 4 sets OR Nadal in 5.

Friday, September 09, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Men's Quarterfinals Preview


by Mad Professah, contributing writer

The first two quarterfinals have already been completed (following my predictions precisely) so on Friday during the day the second two quarterfinals will be competed, consisting of the four winners of the 4th round matches that were postponed for two days due to rain: John Isner, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

Last year I correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinal matches and this year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals. Below are my predictions for the last two men's quarterfinal matches of the 2011 US Open.

John Isner USA (28) v. Andy Murray GBR (4). Interestingly, these two have only played once before, last year, at the 2010 Australian Open where Murray made it to the final, losing to Federer in straight sets. Frankly, I was surprised that Isner was able to take out Frenchman Gilles Simon in the round before. Although he has (probably) surpassed fellow American Andy Roddick as the most feared server in the world, he also shares the Roddick problem of being considered something of a "one note" wonder.  However, hard courts are definitely the 6'9" American's best surface and he has made his presence felt in 2011. It's difficult to make the quarterfinals of a major tournament without having multiple weapons, or a dollop of good luck. This is Isner's first major quarterfinal and Murray's tenth. Isner will most likely have a very partisan crowd backing him up, and Murray will delight in not having the weight of a nation's hopes weighing on his shoulders. The problem for Isnner is that he is playing Murray, who has been in 3 of  the last 7 hard court major finals (losing in all of them, but demonstrating his hard court bona fides) and is likely to reach his fourth.  PREDICTION: Murray.


Andy Roddick USA (21) v. Rafael Nadal ESP (2). Nadal holds a 6-3 career head-to-head over all but that falls to 3-all on hard courts. They have only played once in a major, back at the 2004 US Open when an 18-year-old Nadal was schooled by the defending US Open champion in three, not very competitive sets 7 years ago. I did not predict Roddick to get this far in the tournament, but I think, now that he has, he really, really wants to get further, and he believes that he can, especially in New York. The shorter the match is, the better it is for Roddick, because if the match goes into four or five sets, Nadal's superior fitness will become more and more of a factor.

However, I do think that Roddick is ready to make another move to get deep in a major, especially here in New York where he had his greatest success. Nadal is still reeling from his unprecedented five consecutive losses to Novak Djokovic earlier this year and really had an undistinguished preparation coming into the Open. He must realize that due to the weather he will be forced to play four best-of-5 set matches in four days in order to defend his title, potentially the last three being against Roddick, then Murray and then the winner of Djokovic/Federer. Even for the indefatigable Spaniard, that might make him want to say "no mas." PREDICTION: Roddick.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Men's Quarterfinals and R16 Preview



A Man With An Umbrella Arrives

BY MAD PROFESSAH


Due to a complete rain out of play on Tuesday September 7 the men's draw has been thrown into disarray. Because the US Open is the only major which does not have a day off between the semifinals and final, losing a day in which quarterfinals were supposed to be played complicates things dramatically.

Last year I correctly predicted 4 of 4 2010 men's quarterfinals and 4 of 4 2010 women's quarterfinals.
My predictions for the 2011 women's quarterfinals are also available. Below are my predictions for the two of the 2011 men's quarterfinals hat are set (and four of the Round of 16 matches).

The plan for today, Day 10 of the 2011 US Open, is to both finish off playing the last four round of 16 matches (which just happens to feature three American players: John Isner, Donald Young and Andy Roddick) AND the first two men's quarterfinals, on the same day.

Novak Djokovic SRB (1) v. Janko Tipsarevic SRB (20). The World #1 has only lost two matches all year long, and is having one of the all-time great seasons, with a record of 61 win, 9 tournament titles (including 2 majors). It's true that Djokovic almost lost his first set of the tournament in difficult conditions against the funky game of Aleksandr Dologopolov but that does not reflect any diminution in his powers. Tipsarevic is a player whose game Djokovic knows well, since they are from the same country and are fellow Davis Cup team members. Tipsarevic is a very smart player and knows how to be dangerous but it is very doubtful he can end Djokovic's streak in his very first major quarterfinal appearance unless Novak is having a very very bad day. PREDICTION: Djokovic.


 Roger Federer SUI (3) v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (11). This is the best potential quarterfinal match up and should probably be the best match of this action-packed day. Federer is in his jaw-dropping 30th consecutive major quarterfinal while Tsonga is in his 6th quarterfinal of his career, and his first in New York City, a major which Federer has won more times (5) than Tsonga has been in the draw (4). Because of his injuries and absences from the sport Federer and Tsonga have only met 7 times, 4 of which have come this year, with 2 wins each. However, Tsonga has won the last two times they played, including an amazing result at Wimbledon where he came from 2-sets down to beat Roger in 5, the first time ANYONE had ever done that at a major tournament, let alone on Roger's best surface of grass (which is probably also Tsonga's best surface). So clearly Tsonga now does have the game to beat Roger and can do it if he is playing his best while Roger is not. Happily for Federer, the Swiss showed that he still has some of his best tennis left in him when he dismantled Juan Monaco 6-1 6-2 6-0 in a late-night match prior to Tuesday's deluge. Federer also enjoys a challenge, as evidenced by his glee in handling Djokovic his first loss of the year in Paris to end the Serb's undefeated season. I believe tonight's match will be very close, almost definitely 4 or 5 sets, with Federer coming through for a rematch with Djokovic in the semifinals on Saturday. PREDICTION: Federer.


The following fourth round matches are also being completed today.

Gilles Simon FRA (12) v. John Isner USA (28). For the second round in a row French counterpuncher Simon is taking on a giant, huge serving player. Simon was able to dismiss 6'6" 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in four sets on Sunday (which I watched from the fourth row courside in Armstrong) while 6'9" John Isner was able to overcome stiff resistance from speedy Alex Bogomolov, Jr. Simon is a much better player than Bogomolov and unless Isner plays very well, he will face the same fate as Del Potro.This is the match where Isner needs to prove he is not just (in the words of Roger Federer, about another huge-serving American) "a great server" but a great player. Having also seen Isner play close up (from first row courtside in Armstrong) I would say he is not yet a great player, though he is a great competitor. That might be enough against the Frenchman, but I doubt it. PREDICTION: Simon.


Donald Young USA v. Andy Murray GBR (4). Amazingly, the young African American phenom has a win this year over a player named Andy Murray. However, that Andy Murray was recovering from his 3rd consecutive major final loss and is not the same player who handed new World #1 Novak Djokovic only his second loss of the season a few short weeks ago in Cincinnati. Young has finally lived up to his potential to reach the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time, beating 2 seeded players Juan Ignacio Chela (24) and Stanislas Wawrinka (14). By reaching the 4th round Young will receive the largest paycheck of his career. Hopefully he uses it wisely to invest in his game so that his 2011 US Open results are just the beginning of good results and not a fluke. PREDICTION: Murray.


David Ferrer ESP (5) v. Andy Roddick USA (21). This is the toughest match for me to predict in this round. I have not been that impressed with Roddick'splay and I haven't seen a single point of Ferrer's. But I know the Spaniard is always a rough customer, and against Roddick he leads their career head-to-head 5-3 including two crucial Davis Cup wins for Spain over USA (one from 2011). Presumably, Roddick will try and turn this encounter into a home court advantage Davis Cup match as well, but can his 29-year-old game match up to Ferrer's feistiness? PREDICTION: Ferrer.


Gilles Muller LUX v. Rafael Nadal ESP (2). Nadal will be interested in making a statement about his fitness after the world saw him cramping up after a press conference after his last match. Muller will be lucky to win a handful of games in each of the three sets played. PREDICTION: Nadal.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

US OPEN 2011: Women's Quarterfinals Preview


Andrew Ong/usopen.org

By MAD PROFESSAH


Caroline Wozniacki DEN (1) v. Andrea Petkovic GER (10). Wozniacki was hand delivered a get-out-of-jail free card from Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was leading 7-6(6) 4-2 40-15 when suddenly the Russian had (another) one of her epic collapses, losing 11 of the next 13 games in a draining 3-hour-plus match. This was something of a repeat of their 2009 US Open 4th round encounter which Wozniacki had won 2-6 7-6 7-6 on her way to only major final. Her opponent Petkovic played a much less dramatic match against talented Spaniard Carlos Suarez Navarro, winning in straight sets 6-1 6-4. If  2-time major champion Sveta couldn't blast "Sunshine" off the court, what chance does Petkorazzi have of winning? Regardless of who wins this match to reach the semifinal, they have almost no chance getting to the final since they are in Serena Williams half of the draw. PREDICTION: Wozniacki.


Serena Williams USA (28) v. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS (17). The young, talented Russian was finally able to outlast the Iron Woman herself, Francesca Schiavone of Italy, in a 5-7 6-3 6-4 win to reach her second major quarterfinal of the year, claiming revenge for the come-from-behind win Schiavone had eked out during her historic journey to the 2011 French Open final. Unsurprisingly, Serena is the lowest seeded player to be in the final 8, following her straight sets dismissal of #4 seed Victoria Azarenka and #16 seed Ana Ivanovic. It is extremely doubtful the hard-hitting Pavlyuchenkova playing in her 2nd career quarterfinal will be able to make much impact on the hardest-hitting player of her generation playing in her 32nd quarterfinal.The only thing that could stop Serena winning the tournament on Saturday is being hit by a bus. PREDICTION: Williams.


Flavia Pennetta ITA (26) v. Angelique Kerber GER. The mystery quarterfinalists. It's not surprising that two of the quarterfinalists are from Germany, but that one of those German quarterfinalists is Angelique Kerber is stunning. After going through a notable lull after the great Steffi Graf, Germany has had a recent resurgence with Julia Georges, Sabine Lisicki and Andrea Petkovic all having reached the Top 20 in the rankings. However, it is the #4 German player who is in her first major quarterfinal against Italy's #2, Flavia Pennetta. Pennetta relishes her reputation as a giant killer, and eliminated Maria Sharapova from the draw 2 rounds ago. It is an incredible opportunity for the Italian to reach her first major semifinal and perhaps become the second woman from her country ever to reach a major final, and shockingly, the second Italian player this year. PREDICTION: Pennetta.


Vera Zvonareva RUS (2) v. Samantha Stosur AUS (9). This should be the popcorn match of the round. Zvonareva has been in 2 major finals and is now an established hard-court force to be reckoned with, but no-one who has ever had the mental collapses Vera has exhibited can ever really be counted on to play up to their potential level when it counts. In Samantha Stosur she faces an opponent who has beaten her 6 times in a row, but who is also known to wilt under the pressure of an important moment. Stosur has been improving in this category, and battling back to win the third set convincingly after losing the longest women's tie-break in Grand Slam history (15-17) against Maria Kirilenko shows her strengthening mental fortitude. Zvonareva has tasted success on these courts before and that might be the difference in a 3rd set tiebreak. PREDICTION: Zvonareva.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

US Open Day 7 Open Thread

It's the second week of the US Open and the most challenging round of the Slam for those who've never been this way before.

Who you got?

Order Of Play for Sunday, September 4, 2011

Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 3rd Round
David Nalbandian(ARG) vs. Rafael Nadal(ESP)[2]
Not Before:1:30 PM
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Andy Roddick(USA)[21] vs. Julien Benneteau(FRA)
This match may be moved to Armstrong Stadium.
Not Before:3:30 PM
Women's Singles - 4th Round
Maria Kirilenko(RUS)[25] vs. Samantha Stosur(AUS)[9]

Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM

Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Feliciano Lopez(ESP)[25] vs. Andy Murray(GBR)[4]
Women's Singles - 4th Round
Sabine Lisicki(GER)[22] vs. Vera Zvonareva(RUS)[2]

Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 4th Round
Shuai Peng(CHN)[13] vs. Flavia Pennetta(ITA)[26]
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Juan Martin Del Potro(ARG)[18] vs. Gilles Simon(FRA)[12]
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Alex Bogomolov Jr.(USA) vs. John Isner(USA)[28]

Grandstand 12:00 PM

Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Gilles Muller(LUX) vs. Igor Kunitsyn(RUS)
Not Before:2:30 PM
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Donald Young(USA) vs. Juan Ignacio Chela(ARG)[24]

Court 17 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 4th Round
Monica Niculescu(ROU) vs. Angelique Kerber(GER)
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
David Ferrer(ESP)[5] vs. Florian Mayer(GER)[26]

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Face Of The Day: Donald Young

Donald Young of the U.S. celebrates his win over Stanislas Wawrinka  of Switzerland in their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New  York, September 2, 2011.

I didn't think he could do it. Certainly not after gagging when serving for the match at 5-4 in the fifth set. But he regrouped, held serve to force that rare thing in professional tennis -- a deciding set tiebreak at a Grand Slam -- and then commenced to play the smartest tiebreak I've ever seen a player play.

It was like watching a genius completely deconstruct his opponent's game. Stanislas Wawrinka had no answer for the deep, high looping shots Young peppered his one-handed backhand with. When he saw an opening, Young flattened out a forehand or a backhand and put it exactly where he wanted it. Save the over-eager forehand that sailed long at 6 points to love, it was a flawless tiebreak that conjured up the king of tennis Martina Hingis used to employ that earned her a reputation for being the smartest player of her generation.

Well, Donald Young is a very smart tennis player. Yesterday, he showed he has heart and fight and guts and composure and resilience, too. Bravo.

::

Use this as your Day 6 Open thread. The farm stand was too busy today for me to get anything up till right now.

Marin Cilic just stole the second set from Roger Federer.

Order of Play for Saturday, September 3, 2011

Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Caroline Wozniacki(DEN)[1] vs. Vania King(USA)
Not Before:1:00 PM
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Roger Federer(SUI)[3] vs. Marin Cilic(CRO)[27]
Not Before:3:00 PM
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Victoria Azarenka(BLR)[4] vs. Serena Williams(USA)[28]

Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Sloane Stephens(USA) vs. Ana Ivanovic(SRB)[16]
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Novak Djokovic(SRB)[1] vs. Nikolay Davydenko(RUS)

Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Tomas Berdych(CZE)[9] vs. Janko Tipsarevic(SRB)[20]
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Jelena Jankovic(SRB)[11] vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[17]
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Kevin Anderson(RSA) vs. Mardy Fish(USA)[8]
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Akgul Amanmuradova(UZB) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova(RUS)[15]

Grandstand 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Chanelle Scheepers(RSA) vs. Francesca Schiavone(ITA)[7]
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Andrea Petkovic(GER)[10] vs. Roberta Vinci(ITA)[18]
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Juan Monaco(ARG) vs. Tommy Haas(GER)
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(FRA)[11] vs. Fernando Verdasco(ESP)[19]

Court 17 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Silvia Soler-Espinosa(ESP) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro(ESP)
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Marcel Granollers(ESP)[31] vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero(ESP)
Men's Singles - 3rd Round
Alexandr Dolgopolov(UKR)[22] vs. Ivo Karlovic(CRO)

Friday, September 02, 2011

US Open 2011 Day 5 Open Thread

Order of Play for Friday, September 2, 2011

Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Anabel Medina Garrigues(ESP)[30] vs. Vera Zvonareva(RUS)[2]
Not Before:1:00 PM
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Flavia Pennetta(ITA)[26] vs. Maria Sharapova(RUS)[3]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Nicolas Mahut(FRA) vs. Rafael Nadal(ESP)[2]

Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 PM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Christina McHale(USA) vs. Maria Kirilenko(RUS)[25]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Andy Roddick(USA)[21] vs. Jack Sock(USA)

Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
MonMonica Niculescu(ROU) vs. Lucie Safarova(CZE)[27]
Not Before:1:00 PM
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Robby Ginepri(USA) vs. John Isner(USA)[28]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Robin Haase(NED) vs. Andy Murray(GBR)[4]
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Nadia Petrova(RUS)[24] vs. Samantha Stosur(AUS)[9]

Grandstand 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Juan Martin Del Potro(ARG)[18] vs. Diego Junqueira(ARG)
Not Before:12:30 PM
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Shuai Peng(CHN)[13] vs. Julia Goerges(GER)[19]
Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Irina Falconi(USA) vs. Sabine Lisicki(GER)[22]
Not Before:5:00 PM
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
David Ferrer(ESP)[5] vs. James Blake(USA)

Court 17 11:00 AM

Women's Singles - 3rd Round
Alla Kudryavtseva(RUS) vs. Angelique Kerber(GER)
Not Before:12:30 PM
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Stanislas Wawrinka(SUI)[14] vs. Donald Young(USA)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Rogerio Dutra Da Silva(BRA) vs. Alex Bogomolov Jr.(USA)

Court 13 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Denis Istomin(UZB) vs. Julien Benneteau(FRA)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Ivan Ljubicic(CRO)[30] vs. David Nalbandian(ARG)

Court 11 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez(ESP) vs. Gilles Simon(FRA)[12]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Jean-Rene Lisnard(MON) vs. Florian Mayer(GER)[26]

Court 4 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Steve Darcis(BEL) vs. Juan Ignacio Chela(ARG)[24]

Court 6 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Igor Kunitsyn(RUS) vs. Jurgen Melzer(AUT)[17]

Court 7 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Ernests Gulbis(LAT) vs. Gilles Muller(LUX)

Court 8 11:00 AM

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Feliciano Lopez(ESP)[25] vs. Vasek Pospisil(CAN)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

US Open 2011 Day 4 Open Thread

Order of Play for Thursday, September 1, 2011 - Singles Only

Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00

Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Mirjana Lucic(CRO) vs. Francesca Schiavone(ITA)[7]
Not Before:13:00
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Roger Federer(SUI)[3] vs. Dudi Sela(ISR)
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Michaella Krajicek(NED) vs. Serena Williams(USA)[28]

Schiavone almost double faulted her way out of the tournament in the first round. Will the comeback Croat find a say to finish her off? Let's see if the streaky Israeli has anything to challenge Federer with and I'm happy to see that the Dutch woman has won another Slam match. She'll win some points on her first serve, but I can't imagine Serena will be troubled.

Arthur Ashe Stadium 19:00

Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Caroline Wozniacki(DEN)[1] vs. Arantxa Rus(NED)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Novak Djokovic(SRB)[1] vs. Carlos Berlocq(ARG)

If this young Dutch woman can hit Kim Clijsters off the court in a Slam, surely she can do the same to Wozniacki, no? I guess we'll find out. Djokovic cruises.

Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00

Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Jelena Jankovic(SRB)[11] vs. Jelena Dokic(AUS)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Juan Carlos Ferrero(ESP) vs. Gael Monfils(FRA)[7]
Not Before:15:00
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Malek Jaziri(TUN) vs. Mardy Fish(USA)[8]
Not Before:17:00
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Victoria Azarenka(BLR)[4] vs. Gisela Dulko(ARG)

The battle of the Jelenas could get entangled. Happy to see Mr. Ferrero win a match and will Dulko's counterpunching trouble Azarenka's one dimension? Fish may have to play four.

Grandstand 11:00

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Tomas Berdych(CZE)[9] vs. Fabio Fognini(ITA)
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Andrea Petkovic(GER)[10] vs. Jie Zheng(CHN)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(FRA)[11] vs. Sergei Bubka(UKR)
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Shahar Peer(ISR)[23] vs. Sloane Stephens(USA)

What kind of drama will Fognini bring today or will Berdych blast the crap out of him? Stephens has a chance against Pe'er, but she can't get nervous at all. Tsonga and Petkovic should cruise.

Court 17 11:00

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Radek Stepanek(CZE)[23] vs. Juan Monaco(ARG)
Not Before:13:00
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Petra Cetkovska(CZE) vs. Ana Ivanovic(SRB)[16]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Bernard Tomic(AUS) vs. Marin Cilic(CRO)[27]
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Vania King(USA) vs. Jarmila Gajdosova(AUS)[29]

Stepanek might be the only comfortable winner on this court. I'd like to see Cetkovska and Tomic pull off the upsets and while I'm not sure where her form is at the moment, King does have a way of deconstructing the games of big, hard-hitting Aussies. We'll see.
Court 13 11:00

Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Alize Cornet(FRA) vs. Roberta Vinci(ITA)[18]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Tommy Haas(GER) vs. Alejandro Falla(COL)
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Pauline Parmentier(FRA) vs. Akgul Amanmuradova(UZB)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Marsel Ilhan(TUR) vs. Fernando Verdasco(ESP)[19]

Haas is in the draw? Who knew?

Court 11 11:00

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Philipp Petzschner(GER) vs. Janko Tipsarevic(SRB)[20]
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Mona Barthel(GER) vs. Chanelle Scheepers(RSA)
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Elena Baltacha(GBR) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova(RUS)[15]
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Ivo Karlovic(CRO) vs. Richard Gasquet(FRA)[13]

Pertzschner could more than trouble Tipsarevic and if Karlovic has one more win in him, Gasquet better look out.

Court 4 11:00

Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Carla Suarez Navarro(ESP) vs. Simona Halep(ROU)
Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Petra Martic(CRO) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[17]
Not Before:13:00
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Marcel Granollers(ESP)[31] vs. Mikhail Kukushkin(KAZ)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Potito Starace(ITA) vs. Nikolay Davydenko(RUS)

Can Halep follow-up?

Court 6 11:00

Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Michael Llodra(FRA)[29] vs. Kevin Anderson(RSA)

Could be a long match, but Llorda should come out on top.

Court 7 11:00

Women's Singles - 2nd Round
Kaia Kanepi(EST)[31] vs. Silvia Soler-Espinosa(ESP)
Men's Singles - 2nd Round
Alexandr Dolgopolov(UKR)[22] vs. Flavio Cipolla(ITA)

Whatever will be will be.