Category Archives: U.S. Open

Blake Falls Short and Roddick Gets Lucky

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

James Blake failed in five sets while Andy Roddick didn’t even need two.

James Blake had already won the first set in his match with Tommy Haas and now he had his fifth break point in the first game of the second set. He finally broke Haas with the help of a beautiful touch volley and I have to say that I’ve never seen Blake go to the net as often as he has here at the US Open and I like it.

If he could keep the momentum going, he’d join Andy Roddick as the second US player in the quarterfinals. He could not. He gave the break back in the next game then put an overhead into the net.

When these two play, the tennis is almost secondary to the psychological ups and downs. You can chart the match by their temperaments rather than the score so here goes.

Blake was angry and he gave up a second break by smashing a ball into the net. When Haas served for the second set, it was his turn to unravel. He hit two loose errors, let out an f-bomb, and a got a warning from the chair umpire. Yep, Tommy Haas is in the house.

Haas lost that game but he managed to break Blake to take the second set and even the match at one set all. Haas may be combustible but he’s also a smart cookie. As soon as Blake started to falter, Haas became the aggressor and took the net away from Blake by getting there first.

Haas is not a natural at the net, though, and an overaggressive volley early in the third set gave Blake a break point and sent the momentum back his way. Nothing helps one’s temperament like an early break. One more break and Blake had the third set.

And here it got interesting. Haas got the early break in the fourth set and that propelled him into the stratosphere. He was killing the ball. He won seven straight games and that included breaking Blake in the first game of the fifth set.

Blake was down but his shoulders weren’t slumping. There were signs of life and a bit of luck. Haas had a break point to go up 5-2 in the fifth set but he hit an error else it would have been all over for Blake. In the next game, Haas put a volley into the net to lose his serve. I couldn’t believe it. Blake was back on serve!

It gets better. Haas attacked again and Blake hit a shot at his belly and followed that up with a lob. Haas ran down the lob but it dribbled just over the net where Blake got to it then hit it past a diving Haas. The crown was on its feet. Blake had come back and now he had a 5-4 lead.

It gets even better. In the next game, Blake got three separate match points but each time Haas served his way out of trouble. The match would end with a fifth set tiebreaker and they saved the best for last.

With the score at 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Haas hit a drop shot then lobbed Blake who spun around and tore off for the baseline. When he got there he hit an over the shoulder looper that landed deep in the corner. Haas’ response was short and Blake came to the net again. This time Haas’ lob was too high. Blake jumped up but all he got was air. The crowd was going crazy. Sitting in the stands, his mother shook her head just the slightest bit.

That was all we’d get out of Blake in this match. He hit a double fault and an error and Haas finally finished it off with an ace to win the match, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 7-6(4). Blake had almost won his second fifth set match in a row after losing his first nine. And he’d rebounded from a horrible 0-6 fourth set. After the match Blake explained it pretty well:

I did everything I could. Fought as hard as I could. Broke back in the fifth set. Had the momentum. Felt like I was playing great. He came up big. I feel like I just pushed a couple of balls and ended up playing a little tentative in that tiebreaker.

He also explained that the media makes too big a deal out of his five set losses. Yes we do and so should he if he wants to reach a slam semifinal or two. Nonetheless, I do count this as progress and did I tell you this before:


Andy Roddick Gets Lucky

It’s a good thing Tomas Berdych wasn’t feeling well. If he’d been 100% he might have sent Andy Roddick packing.

Berdych couldn’t get his first serve in but he was smart enough to hit to Roddick’s backhand. He also discovered that hitting a few inside out forehands followed by a shot to the opposite corner was a winning combination. Roddick couldn’t get to the opposite corner. It looked like he’d exhausted his reservoir of balletic moves in his dominating win over Thomas Johansson.

Berdych broke Roddick and served for the first set at 5-4 but he couldn’t hold his serve and now he was his usual grumpy self. Honestly, this guy doesn’t need a psychologist, he needs to go to a laughing club.

Perhaps I’m being unfair because Berdych was suffering from breathing problems and an upset stomach. The men appear to be getting the flu that marched its way through the women’s locker room last month. Richard Gasquet didn’t even go onto the court for his second round match after he woke up with a fever and sore throat.

Berdych used the inside out forehand/opposite corner pattern to get a set point in the first set tiebreaker but then he really fell apart. Three straight errors and Roddick won the tiebreaker. Two games into the second set, Berdych shook his hands and gave the “no mas” signal and the match was over.

Here’s guessing that Roddick will not be anywhere near that lucky against his next opponent, one Roger Federer.

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Read more about James Blake’s victory over Fabrice Santoro

Tsonga Gets a Lesson and Nalbandian Continues to Sink

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played well for one hour while David Nalbandian played well much longer and it still wasn’t enough.

When France gave Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a wild card into the French Open two years ago, I thought to myself: “This guy will never make it, he’s too slow and klunky.” Don’t hire me to evaluate talent for your management company any time soon. The guy looked very good against Rafael Nadal in the third round at the US Open. At least for one set.

In defense of my evaluation skills, Jo-Wilfried (love that name) has played a total of eight clay court matches his entire career. He’s one of those rare net guys. He might not serve and volley but he’ll get to the net soon enough and he has arrived this year. He won four challenger events – the level just below the ATP – and got to the fourth round at Wimbledon.

He’s got game alright but he still has a lot to learn and Rafa was just the person to teach him.

Tsonga held his serve through the first set and got to the net 18 times. In the first set tiebreaker, though, Nadal’s experience won out. Veteran players have a feel for the rhythm of a match based on the situation. If they see their opponent’s shoulders sag, they’ll increase the pressure. If they’re in a tiebreaker, they’ll play with controlled aggression because every point is crucial.

A veteran also tries to keep the same level of effort throughout the match while Tsonga and his fellow newbies look like emotional rollercoasters. Intense periods of aggression are followed by inexplicable letdowns. A few loose points in the tiebreaker and Tsonga lost the first set.

He didn’t give up quite yet. He got a break point at 2-2 in the second set with a hard forehand shot down the line and he would have had another break point if Nadal hadn’t hit a beautiful running wraparound passing shot. Most players Tsonga faces won’t be that good.

Tsonga should be able to do well on fast courts if he can figure out how to stick around mentally for the entire match. He ended up losing the second set and going away in the third. He lost by the score of 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-1.

France is blowing up. They have 13 players in the top 100 and 2 in the top 20. Richard Gasquet, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Gael Monfils and Tsonga can all be top players. That is if Gasquet can serve up a bit of gumption. He quit the US Open after his first round match because of a measly fever. Gimme a break, this is a slam. What’re you worried about, giving Roger Federer the flu?

By the way, John and Patrick McEnroe were in the USA Network commentary booth on Sunday and it wasn’t as entertaining as I thought it would be. You’d be hard pressed to find two people who know more about today’s game but they’re too deferential to each other. Mary Carillo will go at John when they’re working together and Patrick and Pam Shriver tease “Cliffie” Drysdale mercilessly, but John and Patrick played it straight up.

Where’s the tension boys? Commentating is like anything else, there’s no drama without a bit of tension.

David Nalbandian is still putting up the big fight but his downward spiral continues. After three hours and fifty minutes, Nalbandian had match point on David Ferrer’s serve in the fifth set. Early last year, Nalbandian might have put the match away but the shots don’t fall consistently these days. Forehands go long and backhands go into the net.

Ferrer saved his serve then won the next two games to take the match, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

If Tsonga didn’t learn enough from Nadal, he should look at Ferrer. Ferrer isn’t the most talented player around but nobody works harder and these two matches had something in common. In both cases, the grinder beat out the shotmaker.

Tsonga might want to take note of that.

Check out our myspace page and add us to your friends network!Read more about Nadal, Nadal Gets ‘Scoped and Blake Takes the Fifth, and find the answer to the question: Is the US Open faster than Wimbledon?

Nadal Gets ‘Scoped and Blake Takes the Fifth

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

Nadal Knees

After his first round win over Alun Jones, Rafael Nadal thanked his medical staff including one Dr. Parra. Dr. Parra is Pier Francesco Parra, an Italian surgeon who treats professional tennis players for muscle and connective tissue problems using laser technology. This is how he describes his technique:

It’s like doing arthroscopic surgery, but without cutting the skin. And it takes 23 seconds.

I seriously doubt it’s like arthroscopic surgery because a laser is not going to correct an anatomical problem. It could help tendonitis, which Nadal has in both knees. Tendonitis causes scar tissue to form and ultrasound is often used to heat the tissue so that the fibers can be realigned using frictional massage. A laser could do the same thing I suppose.

Whatever the hell Parra does, it worked for Nadal. Nadal was positively hopping around the court in his second round match against Janko Tipsarevic tonight at the US Open. Tipsarevic wore a matching piece of tape around a knee for his very own patella tendonitis. Maybe he visited Mr. Parra too. If he didn’t, he should have.

Tipsarevic, who has a quote from Dostoevsky tattooed on his left arm and a design inspired by German philosopher Schopenhauer tattooed on his back, called for a trainer early in the third set after losing the first two sets. He must have needed a rest because he could have recited Crime and Punishment in the time it took him to describe a rib problem to the trainer.

It didn’t help. Tipsarevic struggled on for a few more games then retired. Here we were wondering whether Nadal could make it through the next round and it was his opponent who gave out.

Novak Djokovic also got a gift today. After struggling to a brilliant 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), victory over Radek Stepanek – is this kid golden in the big events or what? – he no longer has to worry about facing Lleyton Hewitt. Austin Calleri got rid of him in four sets.

This is an extremely surprising result. Calleri had won five hard court matches all year and Hewitt has been on a roll. I picked Djokovic over Hewitt if they met because they’re headed in opposite directions, but I’d never have guessed Hewitt would go out this early.

James Blake Takes the Fifth

James Blake will always tell you that he doesn’t set goals. His only goal is to get better. I’ve always considered this a bit of a cop-out as if setting a goal might put too much pressure on him. What’s your problem guy, can’t deal with the pressure?

Truthfully, no, he doesn’t deal with pressure all that well but he just got better at it. Last night he won his first ever five set match after losing the first nine of his career by beating the annoying Fabrice Santoro.

Whenever you change a bad habit you’ve had for a long time, it’s a huge struggle and this was no exception.

Santoro is annoying but he’s no novelty act. After losing the first set, he won the second set with a fantastic shot. He hit a towering lob and Blake let it bounce before hitting a hard overhead. Santoro not only got to the overhead but he hit a ball that dipped just over the net and landed at Blake’s feet. Blake put it into the net and they were even at one set all.

In the fourth set, Blake had break point to get back on serve. Santoro hit a slice approach and Blake blasted the ball once, twice, and then a third time before Santoro finally put up a lob volley. Santoro lost the point but managed to get another break to win the set and now Blake had no choice. He had to win a fifth set or go home yet again.

Santoro made it as difficult as possible. He started to cramp and he got quick massages from the trainer twice on changeovers. Serving at 2-3, he sat down in the middle of the game and got a third massage during a medical timeout.

Somehow he’d managed to completely subvert the rules by getting three treatments for the same ailment with only one medical timeout and by this time, Blake was a bit of a mess. Luckily Santoro’s cramps got worse. After fighting off three break points to get to 5-4, Blake broke Santoro and the long wait was finally over.

And what did Blake do? He got to the net and gave Santoro this little speech:

…It’s incredible that you’re still playing this way. You do it every single Slam. You’ve been doing it for so long, and that you can still fight this hard. You’re a credit to the game.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Blake will be an ambassador or leader of some sort in his tennis afterlife and I’ll be still be here sniping about some player’s dirty tricks.

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Read more US Open coverage here:
The Death of Gonzo and Gasquet Pulls Out
Is the US Open Faster Than Wimbledon?
Early Rounds at the Us Open

Is the US Open faster than Wimbledon?

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

We answer the question: Is the US Open faster than Wimbledon? And we make a few booty calls.

Wanna know why I love the US Open? That is besides the drama of opening night, the grueling five set matches and performances such as Justin Gimelstob’s stand up comedy act in the last singles match of his career against his good friend Andy Roddick.

I love it because the US Open is the only time US sports media pays any attention to tennis.

Yesterday, for instance, I listened to Patrick McEnroe on the Jim Rome sports talk radio show. In conversation with Rome, McEnroe said that the US Open is now the fastest slam, even faster than Wimbledon. On the USA network, Patrick’s brother John McEnroe said the same thing.

Must be true then, right? Let’s look and see if it is.

When I want statistical information, I head over to gambling sites because that’s where information equals money. Gambling sites gage court speed by looking at the number of games played per set because the faster the court, the easier it is to hold serve and the more games will be played.

In 2006, has Wimbledon in the top 10% of all tournaments ranked by speed. In that same year, it puts the US Open in the top 30%. Twenty percent slower. doesn’t have US Open numbers for this year yet, but it puts this year’s Wimbledon in the top 2% of all tournaments. Blazing fast. ranks the tournaments by the average number of games played per set going back to 1997.

Wimbledon ranks number 9 out of 86 tournaments. The US Open comes in at number 47. Six clay court tournaments rank higher than the US Open though some of those are at altitude. The thinner air makes the ball fly faster. Keep in mind that this is an average over the last ten years so the Open might be faster now than it was ten years ago.

The US Open is not faster than Wimbledon, not even close. So what’s going on?

In both cases, the McEnroes were talking about Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning the US Open. How could Rafa get to the Wimbledon final two years in a row when clay is his best surface by far. And why hasn’t he gone past the quarterfinals at the US Open? One explanation is to blame the slowdown at Wimbledon.

I’ve done it myself. Wimbledon has switched to a bigger ball and a slower, bouncier court which suits Rafa’s game because he’s all about topspin, I said. That may be true but if it is, then all of the other courts have slowed down significantly too because Wimbledon is still faster than 90% of all tournaments.

Rafa doesn’t do well at the US Open because he can’t play extended matches on hard courts. Grass is easier on the body. It’s softer and the weather is usually cooler. Rafa said as much after his four set victory over Alun Jones today:

Well, the hard surface always is tougher, and the tennis is going to have more and more hard surfaces tournament. And in my opinion is a little bit mistake because for the players and for have a longer career is better play in other surfaces. But the tennis is going like this.

In other words, the ATP just got rid of one of the Masters Series clay events and replaced it with a hard court event over my strenuous objections.

Rafa’s hard grinding style of play doesn’t help either. He retired at Cincinnati with a forearm problem and he already had knee tendonitis from Wimbledon. While practicing for the US Open, he developed tendonitis in his other knee. If he wasn’t playing in a slam this week, he’d have already gone home:

Well, maybe if I am in another tournament, I never go to the court today. But is the US Open, so is very important tournament for me.

Rafa was lucky to win today. He looked terrible. He couldn’t cover the court and he had trouble stopping and starting. He pulled himself together to win the fourth set easily but Jones was a wild card. Rafa won’t get past higher ranked players if his knee doesn’t improve.

Serena’s Booty and Larry Craig’s Booty Call

By the way, I missed this video when I was covering the French Open. Watch Serena shake her booty good. Love it! Thanks to the Magic Jewball for bringing this to my attention.

Speaking of videos, in support of my community – all the queers out there – here is a re-enactment of the arrest of the Republican Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. Ah, the wonders of modern video. Wide stance indeed!

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Follow the early rounds at the Open, read about opening night, and see our picks.

Althea Gibson Finally Gets Her Plaque at the U.S. Open

Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

I was lying in bed this morning reading a Sports Illustrated article about New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina. While many residents of the city have returned, most of the homes in the Lower Ninth Ward are gone and the poor, mostly black people who used to live there have not been able to return to New Orleans because the area still doesn’t have basic services such as power and running water.

When I was investigating the Duke rape case, a former Duke tennis player told me that the divide between Duke and the surrounding black community has gotten worse because the black community is struggling. Garment industry jobs have gone overseas and they’ve been replaced by biotechnology jobs which many people are not qualified for. The local Hispanic community is also prospering at a faster rate than the black community.

Today, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick entered a plea agreement for Federal charges stemming from his involvement with a dogfighting operation then gave an apology to the commissioner of the NFL, his team’s owner, his teammates, and the young kids that look up to him as a role model. This is not a racial issue but surely the black community is hurting for Vick, a superstar who signed the largest contract in NFL history.

It’s not the best of times for the black community in the U.S. but tonight at the U.S. Open there was a celebration of one of its pioneers: Althea Gibson, the Jackie Robinson of tennis and the first black tennis player to win a slam.

Fifty years ago she won the U.S. Open. She’d already won the French Open and Wimbledon and though Arthur Ashe came along a decade later and won his last slam in 1975, it would be another 25 years before a black player won a slam.

Venus Williams won Wimbledon in 2000 and it was only appropriate that Venus and her sister Serena played their opening round matches after Aretha Franklin belted out R-E-S-P-E-C-T in front of a gathering of pioneering black women that included tennis player Zina Garrison, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, and performer Roberta Flack.

During the ceremony, Gibson was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions. Took ‘em long enough.

Venus and Serena won their matches in straight sets and Donald Young and Ahsha Rolle also won their matches. Venus and Serena have fourteen slam wins between them, James Blake is on a roll and Donald Young is starting to look promising again.

Things are looking good, it won’t take another 25 years before a black player wins a slam. Venus and Serena each have one themselves this year. Let’s hope they get their plaques before they pass away.

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