Sunday, August 31, 2008

Commentary USO 8/30/08 Day 6

by Savannah

I'll start by saying I didn't see any of the day matches that completed during the day. I was out until about 6:30p so I missed seeing the television matches featuring Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. They're on my DVR and I had hoped to get up early enough to see them before making this post but didn't. I did hear the talking heads falling over themselves to explain why Venus and Serena landed on the same side of the draw - again. If you have to keep explaining it's like the straying spouse denying having intercourse with whomever ad nauseaum. You did it. Now it's time for you to deal with the consequences.

All of the featured matches today are intriguing but I am especially looking forward to seeing Caroline Wozniacki against Jelena Jankovic. The match I'm looking forward to on Monday is the Anna-Lena Gronefeld vs Dinara Safina. Dinara had quite a scare last night from Timea Bachinszky of Switzerland put pulled herself together and won in three sets.

Nishikori Kei of Japan pulled the biggest upset on the men's side so far taking out David Ferrer, the number four seed, in five sets. Kei, all of eighteen, would be the one you'd expect to fold under the pressure especially after losing the next to sets after winning the first two 4 and 4. Ferrer won the next two sets 3 and 2 and looked to be on cruise control coming into the fifth set.Instead it was Ferrer who was cursing up a storm and mumbling to himself in that fifth set while Kei remained centered and focused taking the fifth set 7-5. I'm not a fan of Ferrer but I expected him to win this match in four. Instead of Ferrer it will be Nishikori facing that other teen sensation Juan Martin del Potro in the round of sixteen.
Del Potro has been the hottest man of the US hardcourt season, something I'm sure that hasn't gone unnoticed by the USTA or the Argentine tennis federation. Del Potro also took five sets to overcome Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
With neither player coming in with an advantage in terms of how long they played this should be a really good match. Both have something to prove. Both have the weight of expectations weighing heavily on their shoulders and both have good solid games.

Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray both played five setters yesterday as well. They'll face off in the next round. This should also be a good match. I just hope the talking heads don't ruin it with their inane chatter. I can't listen with the sound off because I like to hear the sound of the ball coming off the players racquet and hitting the court. It's caused me a lot of grief but that is part of tennis. I'm also one of those people who won't use one of the free radios provided by American Express at the US Open to it's card members. If I wanted to hear them I could stay home. I like to see the match being played not hear about so and so's fiancee thank you very much.

Sorry about that. Back to the tennis.

There were some straight set victories yesterday. Some were even by the men you would expect to move through in that fashion. There are two matches that were straight set victories that bear some scrutiny though.

The first one was Gael Monfils straight set win over
David Nalbandian. Dare I say it was easy? What do you think? Gael won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. And he did a little dance to please the fans at the end. David has not played much or well so far this year. Tennisheads know he loves the European indoor season but this loss yesterday is remarkable for the quality of tennis Gael played, and the lackluster tennis David played. It was almost as if he didn't care whether he won or lost. As for Gael, we're all happy that you finally seem focused on tennis and not trying to be the "Atomic Dog" of men's tennis (you P-Funk fans know what I'm talking about) but it does behoove you to be a little more sedate after a victory. Just sayin'. If you want to be The Man of French tennis and steal some of the thunder of Jo-Wilfried so be it. I think the French can tolerate two big personalities don't you? I think the US wishes they had that problem.

Speaking of the United States keeping with their policy of featuring American's at night tennis fans were treated to a match between James Blake and
Mardy Fish. As was repeated over and over and over the two men are best friends. James is going to be in Mardy's wedding next week, yada, yada, yada. Maybe James wanted to give Mardy an early wedding present since he never really showed up for this match. James played unfocused, uninspired, brain dead tennis and to this viewer there was no reason for him to do so. Best friends have played before and we've had good play. It's not as if they're related after all. James played inspired tennis against Donald Young and had split the first two sets with Steve Darcis of Belgium before Darcis back forced him to retire. Why so blase in this one?

As for Fish he came to play. He was so focused that he asked the chair to stop the J-Block from taunting him when he was about to serve. The commentators said later that tennis fans have probably seen the last of the J-Block. Thank you Mardy. It was a lousy marketing idea to begin with and it should have died a natural death a long time ago. Fish will play Gael in the next round. He's already defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu who is a tricky customer. Will he have to watch Gael do his little dance at the end of their match? Both men have a lot riding on winning this one. Let's hope they both show up.

End Notes

Amelie Mauresmo defeated Julie Coin 4&4. I expected Amelie would win, not wanting to give up her crown as top French woman just yet. She will face Flavia Pennetta next.

I'm sure someone somewhere gets palpitations seeing Andy Murray do this otherwise he'd stop it.

Tommy has the same look on his face I had when I first saw this pic. Sergio Roitman of Argentina is obviously channeling his inner biker.

Lucky Loser Flavio Cipolla of Italy had a nice run in New York.

Agnieszka Radwanska eased Dominika Cibulkova to the exit.

Li Na strikes a touristy pose in front of the Unisphere.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Commentary US Open 8/29/08 Day 5

by Savannah

Andy Roddick's fans must be cautiously optimistic.
Ernests Gulbis, while not formidable, was going to give Andy a run for his money. Some said he would show the 2003 US Open winner to the door. The above was not done by Marat Safin (more on him later) but by Andy himself in a fit of pique when the going got tough. Gulbis blazed through the first set and it looked as if the youngster was going to deliver on the hype. But Andy, despite the histrionics, reined himself in and ended up using the experience he's garnered over the years to beat Gulbis in four sets 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-5. Patrick McEnroe seems to have a steadying effect on Andy. I'm sure his fans wish PMac would stay in the players box but that is impossible given his commitments to the USTA. Roddick's next opponent is Andreas Seppi with Fernando Gonzalez looming if he gets past the Italian player. Andy put a lot of pressure on himself coming into Flushing this year. Let's see how he handles it.

Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli has been flying under the radar this tournament. With less than stellar results coming in Marion was thought by some to be a foil for a resurgent Lindsay Davenport whom many thought would make it past the less fit Bartoli. But Marion had other plans and raced to a 6-1 first set that was interrupted by rain. Lindsay fought back in the second set but Marion, who choked serving for the set pulled herself together and won the tiebreak 7-6(3). Lindsay looked the same as she did in the two previous matches I'd seen her play but the talking heads brought up the knee problem when it was clear Lindsay was in trouble.
I have to say it was interesting to see Justin Gimelstob sitting next to Lindsay's husband in the player's box. Apparently he is working with her in an informal coaching capacity.

There was exciting play away from Ashe yesterday. Fernando Verdasco won a tight match against Rui Machado of Portugal 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-0. The court did have television capabilities and USA showed us some of the match. The talking heads said they'd never heard of Machado but redeemed themselves later by going into the US Challenger swing that takes place in the fall. I guess it would surprise them that some tennis fans already follow the world wide Challenger and Futures circuit's so that players like Machado don't surprise them when the get into a major. I think it's a sorry situation when tennis announcers and analysts, who are supposed to be well versed in the sport, go on the air and say they have never heard of player A. It was bad form for the former number one to say he'd never heard of his opponent while Thiago Alves was still on the court but he got less flak for that than Serena Williams did when she said she did not know that Ana Ivanovic had lost her second round match. I'm just sayin'.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played his second round match against the veteran Carlos Moya. Again viewers got to see some of this match thanks to the all court television coverage. It looked as if Moya would roll over Jo who is coming off of major knee surgery but in the end Tsonga overcame Moya 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

The other men's match that drew a lot of attention was Marat Safin vs. Tommy Robredo. When dealing with both of these players you never know who is going to show up. I didn't see much of this match but the scoreline tells a familiar story. Robredo won 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 6-0.

Of the women players I'm watching Caroline Wozniacki advanced and will face Jelena Jankovic in the next round. Tricky match for Caroline as I'm sure Jelena will bring her entire bag of tricks against the youngster.

I wish I could say it was a surprise that Katarina Srebotnik took out Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets. She will play Patty Schnyder in the next round. Meanwhile Li Na will play Elena Dementieva in her next match.

I'm rushing this post a little because I have to meet my sister in about thiry minutes. I suspect more of the same commentary today on CBS since most of the same people will be involved. I'm going to be out most of the afternoon so I'll miss the CBS coverage.It's a cloudy day here in New York City and showers are predicted.

Friday, August 29, 2008

US Open 8/28/08 Day 4

by Savannah

"Lack of practice. Lack of practice. Lack of practice."
Tracy Austin's
mantra after Ana Ivanovic's second round exit from the US Open says all that needs to be said. Tracy has been spot on so far this Open and she said it during Ana's sketchy first round win. She was not alone in noticing the lack of precision and focus that Ana showed that day and many predicted that she would not go deep in the tournament.

There are also some players who need to play and can't play themselves into a major. Ana seems to be someone who, while she may not need to play the schedule her country woman Jelena Jankovic does she needs to play more often.

Hailed by some as one of the most beautiful tennis players ever I do hope that Ana does not go the route of that other Anna, the one who used to beat up the male players during practice in Moscow back in the day and is now best known as Enrique Iglesias' girl friend. "Public Enemy" had it right. "Don't believe the hype" they intoned. Those words are still relevant in the super heated atmosphere of professional tennis.

What looks possible now that the top seed is out? Well in the Grand Slam part of the draw - the top half, we face the prospect of a Venus vs Serena quarterfinal meeting. I've heard all the blather about that's the way the seeds fall but come on now. Hindsight is always 20/20 but it's time to admit that TPTB, the draw gods, whoever or whatever, have taken away the possibility of the two best women players, regardless of rank, meeting in the Final. They've both looked very strong and one sister or the other has to be favored to make the semi's. This part of the draw also features Amelie Mauresmo who will face Ms Coin in the next round, Nadia Petrova who is playing well, Alize Cornet who is intent on showing she's an all around threat, Dominika Cibulkova, Aggie Radwanska, and the hottest woman on tour, Dinara Safina. It's just my humble opinion that the winner will come from the top half of the draw.

As for the bottom half Jelena faces Wimbledon semi finalist Zheng Jie this morning. Somehow I don't think her theatrics will affect Ms Zheng's focus. The bottom half also features Caroline Wozniacki, Li Na, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won it all in the last Olympic year US Open. If Caroline beats Victoria Azarenka today she becomes a favorite to make it out of the bottom half. It remains to be seen if she can beat anyone who will survive the top half.

I just want to pause here and say that I'm so glad that the USA commentators are calling the second stadium Louis Armstrong instead of Louie Armstrong. The late Mr. Armstrong clearly said that his name was Louis not Louie. Now if everyone could just practice the Russian and Eastern European names. I know it requires that lazy American tongues move a little less sluggishly but it can be done.

By the way am I the only one who found it amusing that Serena said she had no idea that Ana had lost during her pre-match interview last night? Poor Elena Vesnina never had a chance last night did she? Not for nothing but could someone tell me why a player has to break his or her prematch concentration to answer inane questions? I'm just sayin'.

The United States men are having a nice first week. Aside from Andy Roddick and James Blake players like Sam Querrey, Mardy Fish, Bobby Reynolds, Robert Kendrick, Robby Ginepri and Sam Warburg are still alive in both halves of the draw. Fish and Blake will play each other in a match that can be called a toss up. A good week for American men so far.

I should mention that was a joy to see the fiancee of qualifier Ryler de Heart actively, and knowledgeably cheering her man on last night. A far cry from the WAGS other than Mirka who wear a WTF expression through most of their men's matches and have to be told when to cheer and when a good play has been made.

That other Frenchman Gael Monfils seems to be playing well. In the spirit of the Olympics he did a handstand for the crowd yesterday. Other than the American men the French are having a good first week as well.

There is still a lot of debate about Andy Roddick's "body serve" the other night among fans. I don't see what the debate is about. In baseball it's called headhunting. Santoro ducked because the ball seemed aimed at his head. Call it what it was. Body serves are part of the game just like the brush back pitch is part of baseball. Headhunting is a horse of a different color and should not be encouraged. The video is on YouTube. Do a search under "Roddick vs Santoro". Then we can talk.

End Note

The usual slew of celebrities has been in attendance at the Open. Kelsey Grammar, Alec Baldwin and Aretha Franklin have been spotted in the crowd. Kevin Garnett, another regular along with Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite haven't been seen as of yet.

Junior qualifying play begins today. Good luck to all the young people.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

US Open 8/27/08 Day 3

by Savannah

Joshua Robinson of the New York Times describes it like this.
With Andy Roddick serving for the match, Fabrice Santoro stood six feet behind the baseline with his hands on his hips. A few seconds later, when Andy Roddick’s 15th ace slapped the backstop and sealed his 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory, Santoro’s racket still hung at his side in defiance.

Roddick’s previous serve, which came as a 140-mile-per-hour bullet, was not sitting well with Santoro. He had to duck as it zipped past him. Roddick said after the match that the near-miss was accidental. Santoro said it was unnecessary. Roddick was in the second round. Santoro was out.

“I was really excited about the way I was playing,” Roddick said. “To kind of end like that, it was a little, I guess, disappointing.”

But if the hard feelings took the sheen off the victory for Roddick, the fans hardly reined in their emphatic support at the site of his only Grand Slam title. He won the United States Open five years ago.

I missed it of course. By the time Roddick's demolition of Fabrice Santoro was over I was on the express bus on my way home. I'm kind of glad Fabrice didn't even bother to try to return that last serve though and I agree with his "unnecessary" quote regarding the previous serve that Andy said was a mishit. I sat through the first set and watched Roddick serve 147 mph bombs that landed nowhere near his opponent's head. I'm not saying Andy set out to hit Fabrice. It's that 147 mph serves, in my opinion, are unnecessary.

All of you know that I am not a fan of hard court tennis. But there is hard court tennis - the Blake vs Young match for example - where the skill and artistry (yes I used the word artistry and James Blake in the same sentence) of the players are put on display. Tommy Haas and Richard Gasquet played hard court tennis. Then there is hard court tennis of the type I saw last night where there is very little tennis and a lot of serving. This is a style peculiar to the United States and one that I'd hoped to see the end of. Roddick came to serve. Santoro came to play tennis. It made for a very bad tennis match for this viewer. There were some highlights in the first set and they came when Santoro was serving and actually put the ball in play. Andy did show that he still has some nice shots and that the forehand is still powerful but those moments were few and far between. We left with Andy up 2-0 in the second set. His fans were delirious. I felt that I was making a strategic exit form an alternate universe.

The first match of the night was not much better. Lindsay Davenport, who had lulled me to sleep on day one, was playing a young Russian named
Alisa Kleybanova. She is obviously on the see food diet. Some women can play with the extra pounds. Alisa is not one of them. She also has a serve that sat up for Lindsay most of the night. It was a long, dreary match and Lindsay during her on court interview put it best:

“I’m happy that I was able to pull it out in both sets and just get through this match,” Davenport said. “Because I didn’t feel it was very pretty tennis. Some of those days you have to just make it through.”


Source for both quotes.

Jelena Jankovic got up close and personal with the concrete surface of Arthur Ashe Stadium during her match with Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden. I guess she asked for deliverance while she was down there. She was prone for so long the chair asked if she was all right. Drama Queen moment over Jelena got up and went on to win a match that at times appeared to be slipping away from her.
As has been said over and over Jelena does not have a big weapon. That was painfully clear yesterday. If Arvidsson had a little more experience and had not lost her nerve she would have scored an upset.

Both Serbian women had difficult first round matches. Ana Ivanovic plays Julie Coin of France today on Armstrong. I don't know much about Julie.

The men's match of the day featured the return of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to active play. He looked rusty as well he should and dropped the first set to veteran Spanish player Santiago Ventura . The second set saw Jo return to form and he went on to win his match in four sets. Some of the best commentary came during this match where for once the match was actually put front and center, well, as front and center as tennis commentary gets in the States. A lot of it centered around Jo's injury issues and whether or not he will be able to play a full season next year. A French tennishead posted on TalkAboutTennis that the French Federation plans Tsonga's tennis playing based on what is apparently a very serious back injury. They want him to peak for the Slams. That is truly tennis loss.

End Note

I guess when the NY Times decides to cover tennis they cover tennis. The above picture accompanies an article on Aleksander Bajin, Serena Williams warm up partner.
A match day for Williams goes something like this for Bajin:

¶Arrive early at the courts, usually by bus.

¶Warm up with Williams for 30 to 45 minutes.

¶Make sure she has help stretching, from him or her physiotherapist.

¶Make sure her rackets are strung correctly and her grips are just so.

“I handle all the on-court things,” Bajin said. “I book the practice courts, make sure she has the food she wants and just try to keep her happy.”

But his primary job is to get her game as fine-tuned as possible.

Ray Krueger
Nice work if you can get it no?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Commentary US Open 8/26/08 Day 2

by Savannah

I was home so I got to watch and listen to the USA network coverage. More on the talking heads later.

As I said in a little Day 2 preview the match of the day session was the one between Tommy Haas and Richard Gasquet. For four sets it was. Gasquet seemed interested in the match and played Haas really close with the two splitting the first four sets between them. By the fifth set Gasquet seemed to decide he wanted to be elsewhere and Haas ran away with the set 6-2. Tennisheads get on
Donald Young about not living up to the hype but maybe it's time to have that discussion about Richard? I mean he's been through like six coaches already - JMac reeled off their names yesterday - and nothing seems to stick. JMac also said Richard's father is telling anyone who will listen that they need to help motivate his son. Okay M. Gasquet. It just seems that when the pressure is on - who can forget his behavior during Davis Cup versus the United States - Richard doesn't respond well. Is it because he's been touted as the future of French tennis since he was nine? All I know is that a lot of people were calling Richard a spoiled, pampered brat, someone who has been coddled by parents and the French Federation right after the DC debacle. And these were people in France.

Donald is 19. Richard is 22. French players seem to mature later so at this point we'll just have to wait and see if the young man with the beautiful shots will get his act together.

I wish I could tell you more about the actual play of Haas and Gasquet but USA switched to coverage on Ashe where Ana Ivanovic, who romped to a 6-1 first set over Vera Dushevina suddenly seemed to go on walkabout and lost the second set to Ms Dushevina 4-6. Someone in the booth said that the top WTA seed had never gone out in the first round at Flushing Meadows. The fact that the statement was made shows the level of play that Ana had sunk to in that second set.

There was a long discussion of Ana's thumb injury - it wasn't wrapped - and the fact that coming into the Open she had only been able to practice about an hour and a half each day. Tracy Austin said that most players practice twice a day coming into a Slam, and that the practices can be lengthy. The commentators also mentioned that Ana's camp did not tell her that she would become number one until after the fact and said that she has major confidence issues.

Be that as it may her play yesterday in the third set was tentative to say the least. I guess Ms Dushevina got more nervous than Ana because she began to play tight, well, tighter than Ana. The one sign of life Vera showed was when Mariana Alves, who else, made a poor call making Vera have to play out a game she'd already won. I still don't get how Alves is still chairing matches but that's a post for another day. After that Vera handed the third set to Ana who fist pumped as if she'd just won the French again. The commentators went on for a few minutes about how pretty Ana is and how lovely her smile is as if that means she should be number one. I have this quaint idea about the number one player being the best player on the tour. Silly me right? Funny how Richard with his confidence issues (I'm being nice here) is ranked #12 while Ana sits on top of the WTA heap. It's going to be very interesting to see how things shake out on the concrete in Queens for the women.

No one expected Vince Spadea to beat Marat Safin unless Marat decided he didn't care. When Marat lost the first set I wondered if he'd steady the ship and win in four. Ever since little sis has decided she wants to win we haven't seen much of the now patented emotional, mind gone blank not accountable Marat on court. He's been playing pretty well and keeping his mind focused on the match understanding and accepting that shitty calls go with the territory.

But yesterday a lines person called a foot fault on him while he reportedly still had a couple of balls in his hand. The obscure ruling that Chief Umpire Brian Early cited boiled down to this: If it even looks like you're going to serve and your foot crosses that little line on the baseline and you don't serve you've foot faulted. All well and good except I don't think too many people put two balls in play. Some fact checker found that the same call had been made against Nadia Petrova a couple of years ago. Nadia, who is not a known racquet thrower, went ballistic. I don't have to tell you what Marat did do I?

With the microphones on we got treated to cursing in English, Spanish and Russian. Marat, who speaks fluent Spanish, got into it with Carlos Bernardes who backed his team member. Marat then stalked off the court but was persuaded to come back. The cursing started up again. One of the talking heads apologized but no attempt was made to turn off the microphones. Fun and games. The good part was that Marat channeled his anger and went on to win the match in five sets 2-6, 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-4. Michael Barkan, who does the on court post match interviews for USA, was going to wave a rule book in Marat's face. Marat stuck to his guns saying he was right and Barkan rightly let him have his say. When every fan in the place cheered for Marat when he spoke I guess they decided to put the rule book away. Bernardes is a good chair unlike Alves and did the right thing by backing his person especially since the rule apparently exists. Whatever. It was good to see Marat the flame thrower and Marat the good could be great tennis player coexist within the same time frame.

The final match on Ashe was Serena against Kateryna Bondarenko. Serena won. Not much else to say. K-Bond made it closer in the second set but there was never any doubt.

I have a confession to make. I barely watched last night's matches. Venus was playing Sam Stosur who had a snowball's chance in hell of winning against Venus. Once you're on either Venus or Serena's radar you're toast. Venus did look nice by the way.

The USTA broke their Americans only rule for the night matches so far by showcasing Roger Federer against Maximo Gonzalez. Fernando Gonzalez played during the day. Maximo tried his best and for that he gets some credit but it was Maximo's first US Open appearance. On the huge center court. The scoreline, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3, speaks for itself.

End Notes

There were a couple of surprises away from Ashe, Armstrong and the Grandstand, the three main courts. Ryler de Heart, ranked number 261 for the United States, defeated Olivier Rochus in five sets, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. The last couple of years have not been good for Olivier.

Ivo Minar
Nicolas Kiefer retired against Ivo Minar 4-6 6-1 6-4 4-1 RET. Not sure what the the reason was. Speculation is that it was a shoulder problem.

Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Anna-Lena Groenefeld showed Daniela Hantuchova to the exit defeating her 6-4 6-2. Anna-Lena is trying to play her way back into the conversation. She still has some fitness issues to deal with but from what I gather she played Dani very well.

Alona Bondarenko defeated American wild card Jamea Jackson 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Jackson was coming off of an injury lay off.

Amelie Mauresmo defeated her country woman Nathalie Dechy in three sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

About the commentators. A lot of people like Jim Courier. I think when he talks about tennis he is pretty knowledgeable and gives some interesting insights. But every now and then he says something that makes you go "huh"? He said something yesterday about the style of European play versus the American style, saying that the Euro's tend to slash at the ball while Americans don't. When asked for examples he said that was just his experience and that he had nothing to back the statement up. Can't say things like that without being able to cite examples Jim.

Otherwise things aren't as bad as they could be. Ted Robinson is maybe still jet lagged and hasn't made any totally outrageous statements yet. Tracy Austin seems to have calmed herself down. Except for worshiping at the Shrine of the Siberian Bean Sídhe which I missed she's been all right too.

Jr is himself. You know what you're getting with him.

Someone, maybe Jim Macatee, just asked Courier if he saw the current number one and number two as co number ones. Courier said no. I'm not sure who Courier is paired with. When I find out I'll update this comment.

I have tickets for tonight. Lindsay and Andy Roddick are playing. I have decent seats. I hope I get to see some good tennis.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

US Open 8/25/08 Day 1

by Savannah

I never go to the US Open on Opening Day. The way they used to do the order of play no one I wanted to see played on Day 1 so I could laze on the couch and listen to the announcing team as well as see how the court is playing. So when I say I splurged and got very very good seats and enjoyed the view you won't get on me too much will you?

We got there just as Elena Dementieva could be seen on the jumbo tron taking the court. Her opponent was Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan. This turned out to be important information to have since most people of the people sitting around me thought she was African-American. Makes you wonder who the hell the people are who sit in the expensive seats and why those seats are wasted on people who know zip about tennis or the players. I chose not to enlighten them since I found it hilarious. I guess Akgul's surname didn't clue them in.

Most of us were pulling for Elena to win the match - there did seem to be a few tennisheads around who knew Elena had just won the gold in Beijing - and despite Akgul's efforts - the second set went to 7-5, Elena did win.

What is there to say about Elena? Her serve sucks. Her groundie's are awesome. Her shot placement is excellent. She is solidly built and in shape. It is painful to watch her serve though. And someone needs to update her wardrobe. Hands down - unless Serena shows up in one of her get-ups again - Elena's dress is the hottest mess on the court. It looks like a Project Runway loser designed it. The skirt is denim, with loops for a belt. It's a one piece outfit. Not fitting attire for a contender at the US Open.

As for Akgul she needs to play more top level players. She has a solid game. It was hard to judge her fitness due to her outfit but she appears to be fit enough to play the top women. She just needs more play.

The second match was between Lindsay Davenport and Aleksandra Wozniak. I was anxious to see Aleks who has been playing very well of late. I also wanted to see Lindsay who may be playing her last US Open. I don't know about that. I do know that Lindsay was said by many to be hobbled by injury and there were rumors that she might even pull out before the match began so when Lindsay walked on court to the cheers of the crowd with not a leg wrapping in sight I figured she was ready to play. She did. I guess Aleks was disconcerted by the crowd's shameless cheering for Lindsay's every move on court and maybe, just maybe, she had read the injury reports and expected a different player. Neither woman will ever be described as a gazelle on court but Lindsay's experience deflated Aleks' hopes from the beginning. Every time she thought she had an opening Lindsay let her know that she didn't. The score reflects quite accurately what happened in the match.

Wozniak is considered one of the up and comers of the tour. If that is the case someone should talk to her about working the crowd and the kids who come down at the end for autographs, oversize yellow balls in hand. When the match was over instead of Wozniak signing a few balls she stalked out the other entrance with nary a wave to the fans or a nod towards the kids. Very poor form Aleksandra. We know you were not happy to lose. New Yorker's don't like being stiffed. Keep that in mind.

The third match of the day was between Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Phau of Germany. The outcome of the match was never in doubt but Phau did not go out like a punk. He had nothing to lose and he fought as hard as he could. There was one guy sitting near me for whom Phau's efforts seemed to be a tad personal. When Phau was serving from our side of the court he would shout at him that this was the match of his life, that he had to win, that his testicular fortitude would be in doubt if he lost. Creepy.
There were also three men who appeared related, grandfather, father and son, who were quieter but just as intense in their support for Phau. All four of these guys were gone before the second set was over. Creepy and weird.

Since we had day session tickets we debated eating dinner at the BJK center and watching some of the night matches on the outer courts and on a jumbo tron. Because of the opening ceremony we decided to come back into Manhattan where we got dinner at the Cellar Restaurant in Macy's before heading home. We got in just as Jelena Jankovic was finishing up the second set of her match against USA junior Coco Vandeweghe who is not ready for prime time. Tracy was hyping her game but the game I saw was still only fit for the juniors. How she got a wild card and ended up playing the opening night match on Ashe is beyond me. Well actually it isn't. The name Vandeweghe is a big one is US sporting circles, her father Kiki having been a top basketballer back in the day. I think they did Coco a disservice last night. I hope she goes on to have a decent career but she is just not ready for the big stage.

After freshening up we sat down as the James Blake vs Donald Young match began. I was too tired to post the blog so I did some surfing and made a drink preparing to possibly doze as James wiped the floor with Donald. Thank goodness I was still awake when Donald won the second set, something totally unexpected. I can't tell you how he did it because I happened to check the scoreboard and saw that he had won. When I sat down to really watch it was to see the Match of the Day.

If you like high wire, fast paced balls to the wall hard court tennis that was the match for you. Even if that style of tennis is not your favorite is was a joy to watch. Both men played with unbelievable speed and accuracy, daring each other to hit a better shot than the one his opponent had just hit. Young didn't seem fazed by the court or his opponent and going into the fifth set it was anybody's guess as to who would win the match with many of the fans still in attendance - it was a work night after all- and many at home pulling for Donald.

As it turned out the match hung on two very close line calls that shot spot showed were rightly rewarded to Blake. Donald netted a forehand he'd been making all night and Blake took the match 6-4 in the fifth set after they split the first four 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 4-6, Blake taking sets one and three.

What does the match mean? A lot for Donald Young who, after working so hard to get into the mix so he could get direct entry into majors is now going to see his ranking drop. But now he, and we, know that he is capable of playing very well on the big stage. I can't imagine him wanting to continue playing Challengers. I hope Donald continues to hone his game so that it works on all surfaces. Matches like last night's don't happen that often and rarely repeat in a career. But it was still a wonderful match.

Meanwhile Juan Marin del Potro continues on his winning way. He was down a double break to Guillermo Canas before wresting control of the match from his country man and winning 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-4, 6-1. This match was going on at the same time as the Blake/Young match. It's what makes the first week of the Open so great.

I'm at home today watching the day action and got the chance to see a young woman named
Kristie Haerim Ahn of the United States. I don't claim to be up on Junior Tennis but I have heard of Madison Brengle, the above mentioned Coco Vandeweghe and Asia Muhammad to name a few. I had never heard of Kristie until today. She's listed as 5'2". She played Dinara Safina who is about a foot taller. And she played her. There was no doubt Safina would win over the sixteen year old but keep her on your radar. She's not getting the hype but she showed more game than the junior who was given the wild card. Kristie came through the qualies. Kristie Ahn people.

Ana Ivanovic dodged a bullet in winning her opening round match against Vera Dushevina of Russia. It's going to be interesting to see how she does here since she didn't play the Olympics although she made the trip to Beijing.

The most interesting match this afternoon is on and I'm going to sign off and watch it is taking place between Richard Gasquet and Tommy Haas. Louis Armstrong is just about full while cavernous Ashe stadium is sparsely populated despite Marat playing at the same time. Who says New Yorker's don't know tennis?

End Note

Here's the Class Picture from last nights Opening Ceremony which honored all the past champions.
Who is missing? Sampras, Agassi, Graf, Connors and Henin.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

You Catch More Flies With Honey...

by Savannah

Now that he has announced that he is gone as of December 2008 more is coming out about the why of his departure. Thanks to Tennis Week's Richard Evans we have the following information about the departure of Etienne De Villiers from the ATP.

The sad thing is that a majority of the very top players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal actually seem to dislike de Villiers personally. But, equally sadly, de Villiers brought that on himself. There is an anger inside him which he does not seem able to control. Charming one minute, he could blow a gasket the next. Staff below the executive level were afraid of him; players who were only trying to put forward alternative opinions were shocked at being yelled at and the leaders of other tennis organizations such as the ITF and Grand Slam chairmen quickly tired of his outbursts.
But it was the manner in which he tried to implement them which made him either feared or disliked. You can only storm out of so many meetings before people lose patience with you.

And you cannot fool tennis players. The current group at the top of the game — one of the brightest collection of young men that we have had for some time — were the first to see through the South African’s bombast. From the moment Federer, Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko, fully supported by ATP Council President Ivan Ljubicic, went public at a joint press conference in Monte Carlo 2007 to criticize their leader for proposals that eventually ended up costing the ATP a fortune in a Delaware court room, the writing was on the wall.

The ATP won the case against Hamburg a couple of weeks ago but, as I explain in the new issue of Tennis Week, the whole performance did no one any good and a lot of people’s reputations suffered as a result of what was revealed at the trial. Not for the first time, the game’s image suffered as a result of pig-headed and poorly executed leadership.

For the entire article please go to The Evans Report

Heard Around

by Savannah

I spent Saturday afternoon at my sister's with family and friends. It was an enjoyable end of summer get together with good food and conversation. As a tennishead my mind did drift from time to time towards the US Open. I'm sure you'll all understand that.

I also missed the end of the men's diving competition where an Australian beat out the Chinese divers to take the gold medal. I did see the 4x400 mens and women's relays that everyone in the world had seen in real time except for those of us in the United States. Oh well. We rarely get to see track and field at all here. Maybe after these Olympics the meets will get the coverage they deserve. Constant reference was made to the World Championships in Osaka during the coverage. World Championships? Osaka? Who knew?

Speaking of deserving coverage this is the last year the USA network will cover the US Open. A pity. ESPN2 will take over in 2009. I for one am sorry that USA lost out. It was USA network that showed that late night match between Pete Sampras and Alex Corretja where Sampras emptied his guts on the court and still managed to win. I remember my then husband and I sitting riveted watching that match until it ended. If ESPN2 had the coverage we would've seen a highlight clip the next day. For USA it didn't matter if the players in a match were American or not. If the match was good we saw it. If a match went over the time limit for coverage USA simply extended it's coverage. If a court was not wired for TV someone was dispatched to bring tennisheads as much coverage as could be gotten. Late night match? No problem. I'm hoping I'm wrong and that ESPN2 will realize that tennis, like baseball, is timeless. Scheduled starting times are there as a guideline not a hard and fast rule. They have no problem covering hours long baseball or American football games. More often than not if the Little League from Podunk Nowhere is playing it's championship match tennis has to wait. Again I hope I'm wrong. Meanwhile I'll enjoy the coverage from USA the next few days. I'm going to miss it.

Tennis Australia

Regular readers know I am a clay court junkie. I get used to hard court play after awhile but nothing beats the sublime beauty of the match of wits, endurance and tennis skill that is clay court tennis. Apparently some folks in Australia are stirring the pot by hinting that the demise of Australian tennis is directly related to the demise of clay court facilities down under. So what does Tennis Australia do? Yank the offending magazines from news stands. I didn't know the Red Queen from "Alice in Wonderland" was running things tennis wise down there. Here is an excerpt from the Australian online paper The Age

(Pat)Rafter, normally loath to stir the pot, has joined Stoltenberg in questioning the direction of TA.

"There is a bunch of respected past champions willing to make a contribution to the development of elite juniors, yet currently at Tennis Australia there is only one view and one way forward," Rafter writes. "I believe it's time to hear much more from those who have been there on the tour, and know what it really takes to succeed."

McNamee said that the "fall from grace of Australia as a tennis superpower was highly attributable to the demise of clay courts".

At least the Aussies are engaged in a debate about this up to now taboo subject. I can't wait for a brave soul in the USTA to stick his or her neck out and say the exact same thing. I wonder what Darren Cahill will have to say about it?

The so called Brave New World of the ATP is set up to take power away from clay court events and shift it to hard courts just at the time when some see that the problem is the lack of clay court knowledge and discipline, again something I've been ranting and raving about for some time. It's going to be interesting to see what happens in Australian tennis going forward. I wait for the American reaction.

Seen Around

PMac on the practice courts coaching Andy Roddick. Haruka was out at the qualies all week and says that every other player started their warm ups and practices with their ground strokes. Yesterday she watched Andy working with Patrick and says the only thing Andy was working on was his serve. He came out swinging for the rafters with no other prep. She says he did do a few minutes working on his ground strokes before playing a game but the time allotment was very different from the other players. It could be that he worked on the other parts of his game elsewhere of course but it struck her as odd.

If you live in the NYC area and can drive or take public transportation to the Billie Jean King center you miss a golden opportunity to see all of the world's players warming up for the US Open if you don't. You also get to see the Qualifying Tournament which is FREE people.

Haruka was also a volunteer at Arthur Ashe Kid's Day and said it's so much more than what you see on television. The players who are not participating in the festivities are wandering the grounds. She was standing on the grounds when Marat Safin and Gael Monfils walked by deep in conversation yesterday. And yes, Marat is every bit as hot in person as he appears to be on television. Just sayin'. Meanwhile here are some still pics from the event yesterday.

The party scene continued. Roger and Serena seem to have enjoyed themselves once again. Here are pics from the Wilson Party they attended. Oh, and that Djokovic guy was there too.

Serena dear please wear the rest of your dress the next time.

The Order of Play for Monday will be out later today.

Saturday's Winners

by Savannah

Marin Cilic Men's Champion

Caroline Wozniacki Women's Champion

Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa Men's Doubles Champions

Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond Womens Doubles Champions

Congratulations to Lucie Safarova who won Forest Hills

Friday, August 22, 2008

Seen and Heard Around

by Savannah

The US Open starts on Monday, August 25. The forecast is for showers. That means Tuesday should be big fun out at the BJK National Tennis Center. I'm not sure if I'll brave it. I know, who am I kidding? But forecasts are just like any other prediction. We'll see what happens. I know that I will be there Wednesday night. I just bought the tickets today. I hope I get to see some good matches. Nights during week one aren't bad because if the main event is stinking up the joint you have other choices. It's during week two that it gets iffy. You pays your money and you takes your chances. I'm already excited about my first day out at Flushing Meadows. The unisphere. The overpriced food. The scene kids. The hipsters. Even an emo or two or three. Middle aged and old. Drunks. The staff sneaking off to inhale medicinal cigarettes. Children young enough to be Olympic gymnasts up way past their bed times. And oh yeah, the tennis. In the three ring circus that is Flushing Meadows the tennis still gets played.

Look hard enough and you'll see your fave being escorted to the players area or their next match. Head for the practice courts during the day and you'll see any and everybody working on their games rain or shine. No bitching about slick lines on those courts. Fans of all ages have their faces pressed against the chain link fence while conversing on outrageous topics some of which has to to with tennis.

Myself I prefer the day matches. You sweat like a pig right along with your fave but you're surrounded by people who know tennis. They're not there just to be able to say they went to the Open. They're there because they know the game and love it. One of the best tennis commentaries I've ever heard was between two matrons sitting a couple of rows behind me during a day match. They were not being paid to commentate, they were just talking. If ESPN would hire those two the public would be well served. That is why I like day matches.

I'll post as soon as I can after I've been out there. I'm bringing my camera. I hate uploading pictures but if I have any worth uploading I will.

Tennis This and That

As you all know by now Etienne de Villiers has said he will step down at the end of this year. Thanks to a friendly judge in the corporate friendly state of Delaware the ATP was found innocent of all charges brought by the Hamburg Masters Event. It's not my style to dog someone out when they're down but to Mr de Villiers I have to say don't let the door hit you on the way out. It appears that Brave New World will go ahead as he and his minions planned and that means that European tournaments have taken a kick in the gonads. Hard court events are now being favored over diminished clay court events all with the aim, in my opinion, of favoring American players. I'm not sure who the ladies and gentlemen are who will gain by this but it's well known American stars like James Blake, who ran to de Villiers causing the Las Vegas fiasco and bringing an end to the Round Robin experiment, were firmly behind the Brave New World ideas. How old is Blake now? Roddick is having what I'll call a most unusual year and, well, who is there after them?
De Villiers is going to help pick his successor. You best believe it's not going to be someone looking to put aright all the things that were done in the name of improving tennis. I think it'll be someone on the present board. I hope I'm wrong.

The US Open Women's Draw

Last year there were howls of protest from some fans because the WTA draw looked as if it were designed to complement those cup cakes that were baking in the oven for Maria Sharapova. Miss Maria is not playing the Open this year due to shoulder issues as I'm sure you know but once again we have one of those weird ass draws where the Grand Slam event is taking place in the top half of the draw while the Tier II is taking place in the bottom half. I mean come on guys. Serena, Venus, Ana, Dinara, Alize, Aggie, A-Bond are all in the top half. So are Nadia, Ai, and Dominika Cibulkova. The bottom half? Marion, Vera, Lindsay, Chaks, Schnyder, Shahar and of course, Jelena. The one player there who could benefit from this is Elena Dementieva. It's going to be interesting to see if she follows up her Olympic Gold with a good showing here. Can she make the semi's? Who knows? In 2004 Sveta took it all. She's in the bottom half. When she plays well no one can touch her. Jelena, it's nothing personal. Forget about how things turned out for Maria last year. Prove to people your getting the number one ranking was not a fluke and that you can play your way to a Final and maybe even win. You never know.

When I party I party hearty

There have been tennis events all over Manhattan this week leading up to the Open. On Wednesday night Maria Sharapova appeared at an event thrown by Canon promoting a diamond encrusted camera. Naomi Campbell was not seen among the folks who attended but Maria was there smiling for the camera. She could've called Naomi and asked about the shoes though. She has horrible taste in shoes.

Dominika Cibulkova

Nicolas Kiefer
Then there was the Taste of Tennis event Thursday evening where tennis players and chefs mingle to serve up what one can assume is fabulous food for those who paid to rub elbows with their favorites. It was well attended and the players got to show off a little on the red carpet.

Juan Carlos Ferrero and a fan

Andy Roddick
Also taking place Thursday evening was a little soiree thrown by Nike. Nike closed off Mercer Street in what I guess is now called NoHo, the area north of Houston Street in southern Manhattan that is just so chic right now. Lots of Nike wearing athletes were there. I'm sure it was all suave and sophisticated.


Spike Lee, Serena and Roger