Well folks, we finally made it across the finish line at the US Open yesterday. Now that sinking feeling is starting to settle in, somewhere between absolute burn-out and fearful anticipation of tennis withdrawal syndrome. I’m glad it’s all over, in other words, even as I fear I may start to crave the next decent-sized event.
A number of players got to go home with a fair bit of swag. Roger Federer took home all the marbles again, but Andy Roddick is back on the map. After a slow start in the men’s final on Sunday, Roddick picked his game up in the second set and actually won it, 6-4. It was the only set of four he could manage, but the signs look good for Roddick. He is getting the idea of how to play Roger. Now if he could only play that aggressively for a couple more sets, he’d be in business. Roger won it by a score of 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
One thing that especially bothered me about Roddick’s game on Sunday: he was coming forward a lot, which is good, but some of the volleys looked weak. He seemed a step late getting there, so when he did volley he was coming up on the ball, rather than through it. So the ball sat up and Roger knocked off numerous winners, with Roddick hung out to dry. Best if he could get in a step quicker so he’s getting a good take on the ball before it drops below the net. Andy, think “stick.”
James Blake made a dent in Roger’s game too, at least he got a set off the Number One. For Blake it was a good tournament, after a summer full of walkabouts and strange letdowns. Now he’s on track again too, and we have a battle ongoing now for the number one American player. Blake and Roddick. Good for business. Big Boy Tennis, another rivalry to go with Roger and Rafa, although Rafa has to be careful to show up next time he gets an invite. Which he will, rest assured.
It adds another layer of complexity to the men’s game when the number one player gets on the losing end a lot to the number two, but then number two has a lot of trouble with other guys. Guys out of the top ten. Like Mathieu, Kendrick, Ferrero, and now Youzhny. How crazy is this? I think somewhere right after the French I said something like Federer would probably proceed anyway to wreck havoc throughout the hard court summer on his way to the Open victory. And then we would be back to the usual conversation: namely, when is someone really going to take it to Federer on a semi-regular basis? Other than Nadal. But then if Nadal is not going to feed the rivalry by losing in earlier rounds to …well, basically nobodies, then what’s a girl to do?
Blake hit two forehands in his match with Federer that have to be two of the largest missiles seen around for a while. Gonzalez delivers his usually only one at a time. Blake hit a huge forehand and then another that was even bigger. Roger just seems to swallow them up. The sound of the crack off the racquets was just amazing.
McEnroe in the booth said something that I have been thinking about all evening and into today, savoring the thought, the tribute he meant to pay to Roger…when he said something like “It’s nice when Roger can show us something human like that, then we appreciate him all the more when he played so brilliantly towards the end.”
Sharapova finally delivered, after more than two years since her first slam win at Wimbledon. She was shaky initially against Henin-Hardenne in the women’s final, but then she got a groove going on her serve and she served big. Justine got outpowered throughout the match, and at times looked very impatient. She felt the pressure to perform against the onslaught of Sharapova, but never got her game on track. Sharapova added nice touch at the net and showed a good court sense of where to be and what to be doing. She is that rare woman who seems to be trying for a hard angle on nearly every other shot, I admire her going for the lines attitude. Mentally, she kept herself together.
Forget the stats on this match, the only ones that really counted were probably these: Sharapova, 6’3″, Henin-Hardenne, almost 5’6″. Big girls do have more fun.
Other folks made out like bandits here at the Open too.
The Russians landed three guys in the late rounds, Safin having a good run up until the round of 16, when he lost a tight 5-setter to Tommy Haas. But Davydenko proved once again he is one of the longest marathoners in tennis, surviving two sets down in the quarters to Tommy Haas but inching his way back into the match. He lost in three straight to Federer in the semi-finals, but for him the Open was a great tournament.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Nikolay is probably on the other side of the world already, gearing up to play in China this coming week. Someone should tell the Ukrainian he can take some time off now and then. Really guy, it’s OK. We don’t think you’ll miss anything. Is he obsessive-compulsive or what?
Mikhail Youzhny is another Russian with a strong, free-wheeling game. Nice back hand on this guy, a powerful one-hander that he does a lot with. Aren’t nearly all one-handers rather nice to look at? We think so. At this event his shot stood up to Nadal’s two-hander, and basically helped upset the biggest seed in the event.
Another odd guy who arrived big time at the big event was Germany’s (by way of Baylor) Benjamin Becker, who now should go out and try to beat another big name player. Just so he won’t have to reveal he’s the guy who beat Agassi in his very last match. Ugh. A reputation you probably want to escape from as quickly as possible.
The women. Well, the women. Mauresmo took us on another Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, winning a lovely match against Serena Williams in the round of 16. But against Sharapova in the semi-final she played hide and seek: “Hello, here I am in the first set, NOT; oh look, I won a set! But wait, here’s my bagel vendor again, oh dear.” How else do we interpret the weird score of 6-0, 4-6, 6-0.
Mauresmo has a tall order to try and live this one down. She always sounds so distant in her interviews after she loses matches. As if the debacle had happened to someone else in the room. Let’s hope this strange loss resonates a bit inside her, it can’t just wash over her like water off the proverbial duck. Sometimes it seems that way with Amelie.
I am not a Sharapova fan. But she plays with such a level of aggression and power. Now she’s adding touch. Her serve is great. She goes for everything. She deserved to win. You go girl, now here’s your banana! You wolf that down while I gag on your Daddy Worship. Time to step out, darling, and get yourself a real coach. Or at least another male figure other than dad. I can see the thing with Andy, I think, you guys are more like Apollo and Artemis, brother and sister twins, undergoing similar re-birthing processes now in your games. It’s a supportive thing probably, more than a love thing. You “get” each other a bit.
Surviving two weeks of a Grand Slam is always a challenge, but always interesting. You see so much drama, good bad and indifferent sometimes. Rarely indifferent, thank God.
It’s like reading a great novel, where all the threads get pulled together by the end, transforming us the participants too. Does exhaustion count towards transformation? I hope so. I am wigged out. Now I am off to the woods, to derive comfort from marmots and the like. The good thing is they aren’t a neon yellow color. At least I think.
And because this is the last slam of the year, it is interesting to see who comes out ahead, and if they maintain that level of play into the new year.