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In a bruising conclusion to tennis's Grand Slam season, Rafael Nadal overcame Novak Djokovic in four sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, to win the U.S. Open. The turning point in the match came in the eighth game of the third set, when Djokovic failed to convert a triple break point after Nadal had slipped and fallen. When asked how he kept his nerve in the moment, Nadal said, "I was sipping on Cava back in Mallorca, as I am wont to do, when I was startled by a passing lark. In the moment I dropped my glass, and it clattered upon my tile floor, yet did not shatter. And I said to myself, 'Rafa, did the glass break?' And then I said, 'No, Rafa, the glass did not break.' And then I said, 'Rafa, is Rafa not stronger than glass?' And then I said, 'Yes, Rafa. Rafa is stronger than glass.' And that's when everything changed for me."Quote found on Grantland.com
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The conversation has changed. I read a lot of comments about how dull the 2013 US Open was and asked myself what tournament they were watching? It couldn't be the one I was privileged to see that ran from August 26 to September 9 2013. A tournament that saw the death throes of US Mens tennis even as US women are poised to make a big splash in the next three to five years. There may be a kid laboring in a public park somewhere trying to make the best of his game but you can bet the USTA will never find him.
It saw the end of the illusions being harbored in Australia about it's women's tennis (Samantha Stosur) and it's men's tennis (Bernard Tomic).
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It couldn't be the tournament that saw a young Haitian American girl named Victoria Duval captivate the crowd on Louis Armstrong Stadium on a cool summer night bringing the crowd screaming to its feet with a masterful dismantling of one of the top women players in the world.
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It certainly wasn't the tournament that had tennisheads ranting on Twitter about being unable to watch two fifteen year old girls, a young Croatian named Ana Konjuh and a young American named "Tornado" Alicia Black.
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The same malcontents wanted to see a kid named Borna Coric play. He's all of sixteen.
Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)
Not only did Andrea Hlavackova win the Mixed Doubles title with Max Mirnyi but she had the audacity to turn around and win the Women's Doubles title partnering with Lucie Hradecka.
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Adding insult to injury a couple of geezers named Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek won the trophy most of the US commentators had already given to the Bryan twins.
An aside. The USTA really needs to rethink the demands put on US players by the US Open series. As you know the Europeans only come for the Premier or Masters events so it falls on US players to pick up the slack and bring in paying customers. The Bryans, loyal to their Federation had played a lot of tennis coming into the US Open. They did the best they could do.
But that's an aside.
I don't like to write the Grand Slam reviews right away because when they're over, especially when this one is over, there is such a let down. For two weeks there was wall to wall tennis. Two and a half if you count the Qualifying event which is now streamed. There are tournaments this week and Davis Cup at the end of the week but it's hard to get too enthusiastic right after a Slam ends.
Not writing right away also gives you time to think. And I kept coming back to these people who kept saying that the US Open was a bust. I tried to see how they could say that after everything that happened but I realized what was motivating them. An era has died. The final nail was hammered into the coffin of the tennis of the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and early 00's.
It's gone. There will always be serve and volley but it's not the only way to play any more. The iconoclasts of this new era aren't wedded to the courts and play they demanded. The racquet's won't let them live in the past. And not everyone is happy about it. I never thought I'd see players sliding on hard courts but they are right? It's going to change the hard court game. Has changed it. Our players can't slide on dirt let alone a hard court. It's not supposed to be done is it?
You hear the nostalgia for the old days in the commentary booth, especially when you're listening to the men and women considered the top of the heap in the United States. They can't analyze what's going on on court because they're too busy trying to make the viewer see the play through forty year old lens. What is happening on court is incomprehensible to them so they joke among themselves, talk about incidents that happened when they were in their prime, anything but describe the modern tennis game.
There are exceptions. Chanda Rubin and Taylor Dent are excellent commentators but the only way you heard them was if you watched online streams. I don't mean to slight any of the Tennis Channel commentators but I don't have that channel so I can only go by what I had access to. Chanda and Taylor have no problems talking about the modern game and breaking it down so even those who think they know it all see the game in a different light. That is what commentary is supposed to be about.
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An old sports show in the United States had a slogan that has now become a cliché. During the opening credits the narrator, Jim McKay, would talk about "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat".
To see grown men and women leap for joy because their hard work, their physical pain, and yes their loneliness and their sacrifice has not been for nothing is something that brings tears to the eyes of many tennis fans, especially this one. When you have two players who have been maligned, called cheats, malingerers, accused of not being loyal to the sport that has made them rich, when you see them come back from what could have been career ending injuries and illness and despite all the noise focus on the goal they've set for themselves and fight through seven matches to win, this is what people pay to see, want to see. It's this that makes tennis great.
It's not treason to cheer for a player from another country. It's not being divisive to point out the way some players are treated. These arguments are made by those who are upset that tennis has moved out of the country clubs of the United States, Britain and Australia and into the world. Tennis has been embraced by the world and it's time for those who ruled in the past to realize the parade has moved on and that they need to get over it. It's you who have to adjust not the rest of the world. The era of the player who rolls out of bed and onto the court is over. If that's the kind of player you want to create fine. They can play each other in what amount to second tier tournaments.
The rest of us will cheer for who we like when we like and how we like. Hopefully one day you'll join in the fun.
I haven't forgotten the other matches and players. Here is a list of the winners I haven't listed above.
Kamil Majchrzak / Martin Redlicki
Barbora Krejčíková / Kateřina Siniaková
Wheelchair Men's Singles
Wheelchair Women's Singles
Aniek van Koot
Wheelchair Quad Singles
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
Michael Jeremiasz / Maikel Scheffers
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Jiske Griffioen / Aniek van Koot
Wheelchair Quad Doubles
David Wagner / Nick Taylor
Jon Wertheim dropped a bit of insider information that seems to have gone unremarked upon.
Off the court during the U.S. Open, a fierce battle was fought between the WTA and four "joint events" (outside the Slams) that disburse equal prize money. While the purses are equal at these events, under a seldom-mentioned agreement, the WTA repays the tournaments for the shortfall in commercial benefit compared to the ATP. The terms of that agreement were renegotiated last week. According to multiple sources, the agreement is close to being finalized. (Discuss: Does this not give the lie to equal prize money? I can pay my kids the same allowance of $10 and technically say it's equal wages, but if my wife then reimburses me $4 because one child does fewer chores, is it disingenuous to claim parity?)
The answer is yes, it's disingenuous.
I also wonder why not much attention has been paid to this arrangement by fans or media. It's always possible that I missed some commentary but I think this is a pretty big deal, especially since the WTA is going to be based in Asia for most of the remaining season.
That alone deserves a full column of it's own. I just wanted to plant that seed in your mind.