Monday, August 19, 2013

The Rear View Mirror - Western & Southern Open

by Savannah

Before we talk about yesterdays matches let's look at stats of the two finalists posted by Bobby Chintapalli

That's what makes yesterdays outcome inevitable. Emphasis mine.

“Entering the Cincinnati final, Williams is 29-2 on hard court so far this season, and Azarenka is 24-1.” This little tidbit is why I’m completely against the tennis habit of not counting withdrawals as losses, particularly when a player has already played a match in a tournament. When you read quote above, you’d think Azarenka has only lost one hard court match all year, right? You’d think she’d have won a bunch of titles, given the sheer number of wins. But no – she’s won only two (one of which is the Australian Open). That hardly equals to 24 wins and just one loss.

Now don't get me wrong. The third set of that match, Serena playing on fumes but still trying to figure out how to get a win, Azarenka, the much fresher of the two, hanging tough and countering Serena's every move with one of her own, was one of the best we've seen played on the WTA tour this year. Azarenka deserved the win and while coach Patrick Mouratoglou had already said Serena had a lot of matches on her Serena would never use that as an excuse.

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Picture via Reuters

But you know what was the best part of the match for me? No on court coaching. Sam Sumyk, Azarenka's coach, was very close and would've come if summoned but he wasn't. Patrick was sitting a few rows up but he knew he wouldn't get the call. This is what tennis is supposed to be. Two people across the net from each other each one trying to out smart the other. No one flying out of the stands to talk to his or her seemingly disinterested charge while she towels off, checks her nails or sips at her water. Two sweaty, somewhat disheveled athletes who happen to be female, battling to win a prize that would be a first for both of them. It was a great match for a tennis fan. It was a great match for women's tennis. Too bad so many fans did not hang around to see it.

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Picture via Reuters

The mens final was a bit different in tone and meaning. John Isner, who will be in the top twenty starting Monday August 19, is the only US player who seems to really, really care about how he plays. He's changed his game from one of just mindless ball bashing and added some subtlety, even some movement into his play. And yes, he shows some emotion.

The only thing that bothers me about Isner is his aversion to playing overseas because he's uncomfortable. He can't eat what he likes. And darn it they speak other languages. Even the British form of English isn't what he's used to. How many times did the comms say that he plays better in the States because he likes it here? How many times did they say he can eat what he likes here? I guess it's me. When someone is college educated I expect them to have a broader outlook, to want to see the world on its terms not on his or her narrow perspective.
I don't think I ever heard Andy Roddick say something so silly. Everyone prefers the food they grew up with but if you travel you know you are going to have to eat the way the natives of the country you're visiting eat. If this is the attitude of United States players we're going to be happy to be in the top 20 for a long time.

For Rafael Nadal can I say winning that match at a venue where he's never played well, on a surface that his detractors said he'd never play well on, can only be seen as a triumph? "They" wanted him to have surgery. He didn't. "They" said he wouldn't play Cincinnati because back to back hard court tournaments would not be good for him. "They" questioned whether he'd ever be at the top of the game again.

But even the commentators had to give him his due. They talked about how he adjusts to what the player across the net is doing. They talked about his patience. They had no choice. For Rafa fans this is nothing new. It's how the man plays. I don't know why comms based in the States always act surprised that Rafa can think. They do the same thing when it comes to Serena though don't they?


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This selfie, courtesy of @Marion_Bartoli, perhaps gives a hint as to why Marion felt she was physically unable to continue to play tennis. But don't weep for the Maiden. She's got a gig commentating for Eurosport and will start next week covering the US Open. Life goes on.


Karen said...

It was a fantastic match. I loved every single minute of the tussle and yes not having either woman call her coach down courtside made it that much better. I also loved that the commentators took off their jingo hat and just enjoyed what both women brought to the table. Did you notice that unless you were die hard Rena fan, no one was upset at Serena's loss. It was a well fought match and kudos to Vika, a player I have come to appreciate, really gutting that one out.

Serena now has to find a way to combat Vika's ROS, which is lethal. If Serena has an off serving day like she did yesterday, Vika is there to pounce. Vika's serves were not big but Serena just kept hitting and missing. You can bet that at the USO if these 2 meet, there will be no hit & miss from Serena's end of the court.

The fans in Cincy missed a great match. Their loss. Both women competed admirably and Stacey, wherever she is should be proud of what these 2 did

jo shum said...

Well said and well commented.
It was a match of physical and mental exchanges. It was tight, fun and nervous. Both didn't back down. Both not playing their best but putting their best they could produce.

Their fight in court and friendship off court boast really well for wta. Happens a to be the best 2 players too. Wta has come a long Way to see that.

Karen said...

Yes it has. Serena has marked Vika as her heir apparent on the women's tour. Now Sharapova is trying to keep herself relevant, because her tennis career is in crisis mode, so she is falling back on the whole candy line to remain relevant. I mean really, a name change

Savannah said...

That whole name change thing has been put to bed by its creator Max Eisenbud. If tennis had serious journalists they would've called bull shit from jump.

What needs to be talked about, Pova's career crisis, the coaching stunt (funny how that just went away in all this name change crap isn't it?) and her father's possible return as her coach, at least for the US Open.

Tennis journalists need to be talking about Azarenka's amazing performance in Cincinnati against Serena. Serena hit the proverbial wall but she wasn't going without a fight and Azarenka gave her one. It's her, not Pova, that everyone should be talking about.

But institutional hatred of Azarenka - and I'm not a fan - is almost as entrenched as the hatred of Serena. Despite many fans of women's tennis licking their chops at the prospect of these two meeting in the final the tennis establishment wants no part of it.

Sad isn't it?

Karen said...

It is sad because for years everyone was talking about who would take over the mantle from Serena? Who would be able to stand up to her. Well now we have someone, someone who Serena has anointed. Someone that Serena in her own way is selling to the public. It is not Sloane. it is not her sister venus. It is not any other young American. It is the Shriekster. It is the player that every so called journo and blogger takes pot shots at. I am sure that Serena has sat Vika down and given her a media lesson. I am sure that Vika has been a very good pupil. It will now be Vika's time to shine and I think Serena will be very happy with that outcome.

I watched the USO final from last year last night and man even the second time around it was amazing. Who knew that Vika, who could not even win a title to save her life would be a GS champ, not once, but twice. This girl is so mentally tough. I heard the whooting sounds when she was playing her semi against JJ on Saturday night and she never even paused in her service motion. She just went right into it and won the point. Amazing transformation.

me said...

First off--thank you for such a superb tennis blog! I have you bookmarked at the top of my list! I've always just wanted to say that to you. Also, where oh where did the Match Notes section on the WTA website go? I can't find them anywhere! But it seems the WTA has different priorities these days than making Match Notes available to their rabid fans. Anyway, again, thank you for your stupendous blog and here's to an exciting US Open. I won't lie--I'm rooting for Rafa & Serena to succeed but hey--strange things happen at the US Open! Much love to you from here in San Francisco! :)

Savannah said...

Thank you "me".

Like you said strange things happen at the US Open.

oddman said...

'For Rafa fans this is nothing new. It's how the man plays. I don't know why comms based in the States always act surprised that Rafa can think. '

Absolutely loved this. So true. Guess cos he doesn't speak their language too well, he must be this mindless ball-bashing idiot. I'd invite any one of those comms to read some of the translations of his Spanish interviews. And, I love watching Rafa think on court, change his tactics midmatch, and figure out how to play each opponent. The man doesn't have a winning H2H over everybody for no reason!