US Open – Labor Day Weekend Results and Forecasts

Note, just like forecasting the weather, with a certain amount of (acceptable) error, the same goes for this picking of winners and more.  That said there are some darn interesting matchups in the next few days, as well as some excellent tennis that was played over the weekend.

Caroline Wozniacki.  Somehow I think the press needs to give her a break.  It may not be her fault that the ranking system places her at Number One, when she simply wins more matches than any other (why she is ranked 1st) but as yet to capture a Grand Slam title.  Over the years I have had the chance to participate in a few of these press interviews and in the main the questions are desultory if not downright boring.  I would prefer a dialogue with Caroline as well as others that had more to do with how they play the game, than whether their results are meeting the expectations of others (meaning the expectations of the press).

On the “how they play the game” thing, Caroline is the consummate defensive player.  Outstanding movement and fitness, we saw just that as Svetlana Kuznetsova faded in the third set.  But more, Woz plays nearly every ball either cross court (when cornered) or up the middle (when centered).  And even when Svetlana was up a set and 4-1 in the second, Brad Gilbert saw a likely comeback.  Gang, it is near impossible to beat a player who is more consistent than you, more determined than you, and where your only chance of winning is if you can hit winners again and again and again.  Finally, as Svetlana gradually “lost her legs” the notion of first strike tennis appeared yet again as a liability.  If you hit the ball hard, attack at the start, but move poorly, these first strikers appear hurried.  For this one the stats tell the tale, Caroline made 6 more unforced errors than winners (26 to 20) where Svetlana made 38 more unforced errors than winners (48 to 40).  The third set, unfortunately, was a formality, 67 75 61.

Gilles Simon and Juan Martin del Potro played a fascinating match, where Simon moved quickly and somehow without effort, while Delpo seemed slower and slower as the match wore on (another victim of first strike tennis?).  But with Simon up two sets to one, serving at 4-5 love 40, he snatched the game and ultimately the match with some heady, offensive tennis.  I often wonder about Simon and others who grew up within the French system, where as a teenager he must have practiced so much with the older and wiser Fabrice Santoro.  And truly one could have no better on court mentor than the “Magician.” Fabrice used every inch of the court with offense, defense, under spin and guile.  To my mind Gilles played a version of that game to beat Delpo (but without Santoro’s wicked two handed under spin forehand) .

Thinking out loud.  At the end of nearly all the men’s matches, the hand shake is personal and generally includes a tap on the others back as well as some conciliatory or congratulatory words.  Somehow the women’s post match routine appears cold, perfunctory, rarely anything resembling a gracious acceptance of the result.  Anyone have a n idea of this?  And or can you suggest a female player who appears gracious in the post match scenario?

It appears it will rain most of Tuesday the 6th, but going forward here are some thoughts on the draw and more.

Men’s draw.  In the top half the following men are through to the quarterfinals.  Djokovic will play Tipsarevic, and Federer will play Tsonga.  Tsonga has beaten Fed in their last two outings, and certainly his comeback in the Wimbledon quarters when down 2 sets to love was to that point unheard of.  The stat on the tele showed Roger 178 and 0 when leading two sets to love.  But the last three sets showcased an unusually passive Federer.  And actually I saw something similar in the 2009 US Open final, where perhaps Delpo’s power and strength about the court took something from Roger.  Certainly Jo Wilifred presents a similar daunting physique and game.  I am always rooting for Roger, and for this one he will have to serve extremely well, and keep the Tsonga forehand at bay.

In the bottom half the men are still within the round of 16.  Isner plays Simon, Young plays Murray, Ferrer plays Roddick in a rematch of the recent Davis Cup  in Austin where Ferrer defused both Andy and the American team with a straight set drubbing of the local hero.  Finally within this half Muller plays Nadal.  To my eye Murray appears very strong, he is moving exceptionally well, and sooner or later he will rise to the occasion.  John Isner at 6’10” is daunting and might even be the most dangerous player in the draw, and Rafa has yet to assert himself.  How neat if Simon could make it through to play the likely Murray.  Roddick may be the happiest, flying under the radar, no real expectations on him – look for Andy to surprise everyone.

Women’s draw.  In the quarters Wozniacki plays Petkovic and Serena battles Paylyuchenkova in the top half.  In the bottom half Kerver plays Pennetta and Stosur plays against Zvonareva.  With the single best stroke in the history of the women’s game, Serena and her indomitable serve still appear to be the story.

PS.  Aleandr Dolgopolov.  Gifted, a shot maker, unpredictable, with a serve reminiscent of Roscoe Tanner or Kevin Curren (that’s right he just tosses it up and hits it almost as it is rising).  Darren Cahill described his game as “funky” but I disagree.  He is the contrarian, the outlier, the Black Swan (sorry Nasim this may be a stretch), the guy who is so difficult to play because of his unpredictability.  I look for him to crack the top 10 and more – just give the kid a little time.


Video Courtesy of Jim Fawcette

17 Comments

  • Jack

    Reply Reply September 7, 2011

    I’m enjoying reading the comments from the tennis world, to me one of the best things about tennis is that it’s sometimes unpredictable on a certain day anyone can lose due to little things . For instance not getting a good nights sleep , the rain delays not to mention net cords that shouldn’t bother you but for some reason they do on a certain day. The ball is round but you find a flat spot on it or you believe your opponent looks for the deadest ball to serve lol . It’s nice to read your comments and know that there are other players that dream of playing at the highest levels .

  • Noushin kananian

    Reply Reply September 7, 2011

    Thanks for sharing the updated news.

  • Nick(UK)

    Reply Reply September 7, 2011

    I think Federer should rush the net a bit more against Tsonga to take away his time. He lost that match at Wimbledon as opposed to Tsonga winning it. If you take your foot off the pedal in the pro game then it just feeds the other guy,s confidence – hence the big bombs that later came from Tsonga`s racket !
    But the first 2 sets were embarrasingly easy for Fed and I do wonder if at times he takes his eye off the ball a bit when he is in that very comfortable situation… I saw it at the 2006 French Open final when I was lucky enough to be there. Fed blew Nadal off the court in that first set and then became very passive afterwards as if he couldn`t quite believe how well he played. The rest of the match was then history.
    I think he will be thirsting for revenge in this encounter with Tsonga and shall be gunning for him (as usual) to win the tournament,
    Regarding Wozniaki, I think she is a delight and a very engaging person. She just needs to crank up all her strokes, especially that serve and the grand slam will come. Chris Evert wouldn`t live with the players today even if you ave her the equipment and fitness.. she was just too small and with respect her serve would have got melted..Kim Clijsters too as a fantastic defence, but a great attack too and I she,s the only one who could match Serena I,m afraid.

    I have a very sexist theory about the lack of grace and sportsmanship when women shake hands as opposed to the guys warm and friendly embrace. I hate to say it but women can be very bitchy to each other and I think it just manifests itself onto the tennis court. Yet I think Serena isn`t like that at all…She,s just a winner whether she would play a male or female..However I see bitchiness everyday at work and at play.. Sorry Girls !

  • Jerome

    Reply Reply September 7, 2011

    What I find remarkable is that Wozniacki is said to move well. I think she moves a lot and she is willing to move a lot… but she does not move WELL. She often bends over at the waist while starting for a run, it is my impression she often bangs her feet flat against the ground just before starting her hit. Compare that to Steffi Graf or, in lesser extent, to Samantha Stosur…

    It could be a question of weight, Graf was ofcourse always very slight of build. Still I think Wozniacki could gain a lot by working on that aspect of her game. If you are on balance more you can also add some pop to the shot, because then you have weight to transfer into the shot.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 7, 2011

      Jerome – as to movement, so much comes from balance and from the first drop step – or gravity turn – Edberg, McEnroe even Nadal – if interested check out one of my products – The Secrets of World Class Footwork featuring Stefan Edberg
      best
      Jim

  • John Butler

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    Hi Jim Your assessment of the situation in the US Open is interesting. One aspect not mentioned is the gradual reemergence of the all-court game. At present most of the professionals are not taking advantage of their good shots by advancing and volleying when the opponent is out of position.
    Both Mardy Fish and Tsonga are showing the way forward. Unfortunately Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Roger Federer refuse to put pressure on the pure baseliners like Djokovic and Nadal.
    I hope the coaches look back to the way Rafter played and raise the percentage of serve/ volley and approach/ volley in their games.
    The tennis is good to watch but lacks excitement and no one is willing to train for a more attacking all- court game. Of course the all- court player must have a powerful, controlled serve and be expert with slice, topspin and flat drives! Bring back Kramer, Laver, Rafter and perhaps Sampras.
    By the way, Kuza could have beaten Woza if she had trusted her net game more I believe and Stosur could really challenge Williams with a volley game added to her big forehand. Tennis is an athletic game but skill should still be the winner when playing the beautiful game.

    Cheers
    John Butler, Sydney, Australia
    Super Seniors player, 69 years young.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 7, 2011

      John – well said, moving forward is the name of the game, Rafter knew it, Sampras knew it, will be fun if Samantha can do more of this and even challenge Serena, though she must win a few more matches first
      best
      Jim
      I hope to be in Australia for the Open this coming January – will keep you posted

  • KWOK

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    Jim,
    I enjoyed Dolgopolov a lot too. He is very talented. He’s got all the shots. I have had only two idols so far, Sampras and Ferderer, but I am adding him to that list. I was glued to the TV set when he played. He is just amazing.

    For me, the sweetest woman player is Schiavone. She too is very talented, full of energy and really enjoys the game.

    Kwok.

  • Sid

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    About Wozniacki ranked No 1 and not winning a Slam, I have the same thoughts as with Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic. Safina, who had a lights-out summer in 2008 and a nice 2009 season, played better than Ivanovic and Serena and took advantage of the absence of Sharapova. Sampras puts it nicely when he says that he would first want end six consecutive seasons at No. 1 before breaking the Grand Slam record.

    Wozniacki and Petkovic make it look so easy as they grind away from the baseline. Serena, Stosur, and Vera wield massive firepower matched only by Monica Seles, and even more power than Borg.

    When he’s on his game, Tsonga can beat anyone, as shown in Melbourne in 2008 and Queen’s Club this year against Nadal, and again at Wimbledon and Montreal this year against Roger Federer. So can Andy Murray (as shown in Cincinnati a few weeks ago). Novak’s got a real shoulder issue but I’m sure he can get through it. Federer, be ready, though even if you are he’s still gonna beat you. Unlike indoor European hard courts, Rebound Ace, and clay, Federer’s most dangerous on grass, North American courts, carpet, and anything fast. Nadal struggles on hard courts, especially in the summer, on Rebound Ace, and in Europe in the fall. However, at the US Open he’s really dangerous, and can beat anybody consistently. Plus he has never defended a title not named Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid, Roland Garros, Hamburg, or Barcelona, so for him to repeat his US Open crown would really mean a lot to him.

    But, may the best men and women prevail!

  • larry

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    Tsonga gets so much more power without putting his whole body into every shot that is why he is still strong at the end. Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Fish put their whole body into every shot and thus are wasted by the end of a long match. Djokovic however this year has gotten himself in such good shape that he can go on for ever, Nadal was able to do this in the past but I believe he is starting to wear down. Federer though not putting his body into it like the others, and though not of the strength of Tsonga just had the perfect body symmetry to be able to get his power on the ball without the bodily effort of Nadal and Djokovic that let him do it so long and so injury free.

    Its Del Potro who is slight but tall who with his outstretched forehand different then anyone else who can generate shots that are unexplainable, what a pity he injured his wrist, what a thing of beauty to watch someone whose style, ie. stroking of the ball is so different generate such power when he is in the zone. Jim, what are your thoughts on this?

    As to the friendship it really looked like Fish was truly wishing Tsonga good luck in his match against Fed and would really want him to win the tournament. Yes you like to go out to the champ but somehow it looked real.

    the women are kissy kissy in doubles but not in singles, like when Goolagong and that generation playes. to much at stake for them.

  • Richard

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    The one thing hurting Wozniacki is her inability to strike big when opportunity arises. This is what she is lacking that Nadal, who is also primarily a defensive player, has. She needs a weapon or two, so that she can be an assassin, opportunistically pouncing. Knowing that she will outlast you and wear you down, and hurt the hell out of you, when you get sloppy and leave it short, would really strike fear in her opponents. If she develops that ability, then she will have a much better chance to win semis and finals at majors.

  • Greg McCarty

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    Maybe it’s because it’s called sportsMANship rather than sportsWOMANship. But, seriously, folks, have you ever watched a high school girl’s softball game? I’ve never seen such intense, competitive, and serious zeal. Hardcore stuff.

  • Ben

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    Jim, good stuff. I agree with your assessment of the post-match handshakes. The difference is pretty distinct. Would hold Wozniacki, Pennetta, and Clijsters up as examples of genuinely gracious players at the net. Last night Kuznetsova was an example of the opposite: it looked like Wozniacki was about to say something, but before Wozniacki could get a word out, Kuznetsova was 3 steps towards the umpire’s chair. Wozniacki seemed a little surprised.

    What do you think of Serena’s recent approach of walking over to a spot beyond the net and at the base of the umpire’s chair, waiting for her opponent, shaking hands, and then turnng around and reaching up to shake the umpire’s hand? To me it seems a bit disrespectful to the opponent, because I thought the protocol was to shake across the net, and then let the loser shake the umpire’s hand first, unless the loser defers. Am interested to hear your thoughts about this.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply September 6, 2011

      Ben – not sure about Serena’s approach to the hand shake – let me watch –
      Jim

  • Richard

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    Wozniacki, Petkovic, Schiavone, the Williams sisters and many others are always gracious, and frequently give the double or triple cheek-kiss. In general, I think they go to the net and handle victory or defeat better than most of the men.

    Excellent column, though, Jim.

  • ray

    Reply Reply September 6, 2011

    I wanted to smack Chris Everett in the face last night with her constant whining about Wozniacki’s lame game. She should hit harder … she should come to the net more…she should do this … she should do that…and in the end the human backboard won again.
    The funny thing is I remember watching Chris many years ago and she played the same kind of game.

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