Monday, September 1, 2008

Commentary US Open 8/31/08 Day 7

by Savannah

Caroline Wozniacki
They are the stars of the future. Caroline Wozniacki. Marin Cilic. Others are trying not to have the epithet "journeyman" added to their names when commentators, especially in the United States, speak of them. Andreas Seppi. Dmitri Tursunov. Radek Stepanek. Still others are hoping time stands still for just a little while longer so they can continue to play the main tour of the game they love. And still others are hoping they can hold already chronic injuries at bay so that they can live up to their potential.

The USTA put it's juniors in the spotlight this year. Almost every young American who could swing a racquet was given a WC or entered the qualies whether they were ready to compete on the main tour our not. Some, like Kristie Ahn, showed potential despite size limitations. Others, like Christian Harrison are being declared the next best thing for America by the John McEnroe's of the world despite having not even gone through puberty yet. I cringed when I heard JMac say that Chris Harrison is going to grow into his American style hit hard and harder game. A few years ago those in the know said the same thing about one Donald Young. You remember him right? The young man who at nineteen is already being considered a disappointment by some because he has not lived up to the hype. I hope that Harrison's parents do not follow the path of the Young's. Meanwhile youngsters like Sam Querrey are carrying US hopes into the second week.

The Europeans and Asians are not standing still though. The various countries all had youth on display during the first week. France has Alize Cornet. Denmark has the fierce Caroline Wozniacki. Japan has Nishikori Kei. Croatia Marin Cilic. Argentina Juan Martin del Potro.

But when you look at the completed matches on both the men's and women's side for the most part it's the tour veterans, the familiar names that are moving into crunch time. Watching yesterday was frustrating for me because talented young people turned into young people under the heat and pressure of the three show courts. Instead of balls to wall no holds barred tennis I saw youngsters coming unglued. I mean who remembers the last time Jelena Jankovic didn't take at least one injury time out during a match? I guess Jelena figured she'd save the histrionics for when they're really needed since Caroline, after playing a dominant first set and provoking Jelena to argue with the chair fell apart and committed enough unforced errors to hand Jelena the match. All Jelena had to do was keep the ball in play and wait for the errors.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tommy Robredo did the same thing in his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. I wonder how wise it was to have Tsonga's first play after knee surgery be the US Open. Tsonga started shaking out his knee in his previous match managing to pull out the win but as one of the talking heads said it's one thing to do all the rehab exercises and practices and a totally other thing to be on court in match conditions. I understand Tsonga's back issues and the why behind what was done but perhaps his team needs to look at him playing at least one warm up before a major. Tsonga is not a "young gun" anymore. Neither is Gael Monfils. If Monfils keeps his head together France may have another threat at the top levels of the game. Tsonga is probably the more gifted player but his injuries keep him from making inroads into the upper echelons of the sport.

Marin Cilic
Novak Djokovic had a bit of a hard time against Marin Cilic dropping a set to him but in the end Cilic, who pushed Djokovic to a tie break in the fourth set, lost to the more experienced player going down 7-0 in the tiebreak. I need to sit down and watch Cilic play. I couldn't last night but hope to soon.

Tonight's center court matches feature Stan Wawrinka against Andy Murray and Serena Williams against Frenchwoman Severine Bremond. Just sayin'.

As for the match ups on the women's side there are two surprises. Anna-Lena Groenefeld has come back from what can only be described as misery to face Dinara Safina. I hope Dinara does not think she's going to roll over Groenefeld. Sure Anna-Lena is not in shape but she's gotten past players no one thought she would including the highly touted Alize Cornet of France.

Amelie Mauresmo will face Flavia Pennetta. Playing Flavia is never easy and if she decides she wants this Amelie will not have an easy time of it.

Li Na
Elena Dementieva had an easier than expected time against a strangely absent Li Na and will now face Patty Schnyder.
Patty is derided by many fans but I remember how she played before she got caught up in the bullshit. What a player she could have been. Otherwise the outcome of this match wouldn't be such a foregone conclusion.

Sybille Bammer surprised me by getting past Marion Bartoli who put up a fight taking the second set at love. From what I saw of the final set Bammer played the steadier game and routined Marion 6-4. She will next face Jelena Jankovic.

Venus Williams will next play Aggie Radwanska who is looking to be the only teen to make it to the quarters. Lots of people don't like her game. I say it's hers and more power to her. She hasn't been forced into a mold like the American players and can think and construct a point.
I'm not saying she's going to win. I'm saying she'll be an interesting opponent for Venus.

End Notes

Gilles Muller celebrates after defeating Nicolas Almagro.

Asia Muhammad, talented US Junior who tried her hand in the main draw and is now playing the Junior US Open.

Fernando Gonzalez celebrates during his match against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. Fena won 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1.

Jarkko Nieminen grimaces in pain after taking a bad fall during his match against Fernando Gonzalez.


Helen W said...

Great insights, as always, Savannah!

Congrats to Mardy Fish -- it was fun to watch him hold it together against Monfils, who, to this fan, was a bit of a disappointment.

Talking of the loathed commentators (Dickie Bird and Teddy Boy): on top of everything else, it is so irritating that they cannot even bother to learn to properly pronounce the non-American players' names! Can't they learn anything for the marvelous BBC commentators? Just askin' :)

Savannah said...

Monfils has a long way to go between the ears when it comes to performing on the big stage.

If they could learn anything from the BBC commentators it would be to call the match not take part in insult, innuendo and inside jokes while they're supposed to be calling a match.

And if Tracy brings up Henin one more time...

Helen W said...

Well Savannah, were you as wrung-out as Oddman & I while watching the Nadal - Querry match? Yikes!

I wonder whether fatigue is starting to set in for Rafa? In the middle of the second set, his game seemed to leak away: he was making an uncharacteristic number of unforced errors, his serve lost its pop, and his balls were falling soooo short. Amazing that he could still gut out the win -- like no-one else on earth.

Gotta add that I like this Sam Querry kid a lot. After he lost his jitters, he just played his game, and without coming anywhere near a racquet-throwing tantrum -- just with his bemused grin. I love it that he went deep into a claycourt tourney in the spring. If he continues to work on his fitness and his game, he will be force to be reckoned with.

Savannah said...

Helen, oddman, the short answer is yes. I'm the fan who lives and dies on his every shot and that second set was just too much. I was a little nervous about the tie breaker but he pulled it out.

Kia said...

I was trying to explain my reaction to the Chris Harrison coverage to my non tennis loving husband and needless to say he didn't get it. This child's precociousness, his wee size and the fact that he has an agent aren't cute to me. Better to be an under the radar junior ala Querrey b/c it's entirely too easy to be burned by the hype machine.

And while I'm no Samurai, thank goodness for big Sam today. With Monfils on a walkabout and several bagels being doled out in the women's matches he saved the day for CBS!

oddman said...

Man, it's Tuesday and I'm still shaking my head. Rafa knows, according to his blog, that he played terribly. Way to gut one out, Rafa! You managed to find your game just when you needed it. I've never seen so many forehands flying long or wide from Rafa... oh, well, he got through.
Yeah, I was so wrung out, I couldn't watch it live... and then I kick myself for being so crazy about a bloody tennis match, heh heh.

Savannah said...

You don't suffer alone oddman. Trust me you don't.