Archive for the ‘USO’ Category

Episode 24 – US Open Wrap

Posted by Brodie under: Podcasts, USO

12 Sep 2016

In this week’s massive episode, Brodie and Juan Jose wrap up US Open in style focusing on the awesome women’s final and its contrasting styles, why Angelique Kerber is so fun and good for tennis, the weird men’s final, Stan Wawrinka’s rise and the story of his truly bizarre career and finish it off by giving some props to the 16 year old US Open Junior champion Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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4 Feb 2016

del potro us open 2009

Juan Martin Del Potro is back! Delpo makes his return at Delray Beach this spring, and for Throwback Thursday, I take a look at his incredible 2009 US Open victory over Federer.

This match was one of the greatest slam finals of time. The quality, the drama, and where this match sits in my personal tennis history make it probably my favourite match of all time. I remember it vividly, and that’s because in part I later downloaded the match and watched it again in full another three times in the years that followed.
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US Open Men’s Preview

Posted by Brodie under: USO

28 Aug 2015

arthur ashe atp

First Quarter – Djokovic’s Quarter

At first look, this is a scary looking quarter for Djokovic. Pospisil in the second round, and of course Nadal in the quarterfinals. While we are still talking about Rafael Nadal, he can be a rather predictable player. Maybe it’s because he practices at full tilt and plays all his matches with nearly equal intensity that we generally know his form coming into bigger tournaments – he’s not a type of player who waits to “turn it on” for bigger events – but it’s difficult to see this going any way but Novak’s. Five sets on quicker courts will do Nadal no favours, and Djokovic is still the best player in the world.

The only other real challenger in this section is Milos Raonic. He’s struggled to find proper form after surgery, and he never really has much of a chance against Djokovic’s fantastic returning, especially across five sets where it’s tougher to get a bit lucky in a couple of tiebreaks. It looks scary at first, but Djokovic should advance to the semifinals easily, maybe without even dropping a set.

Predicted Quarterfinal – N. Djokovic vs. R. Nadal

Second Quarter – Nishikori’s Quarter

What’s up with both second quarters of both draws being total messes? We all love you, Kei, but you’re impossibly hard to predict when your body is falling apart every other week. Dimitrov is slowly turning into this generation’s Berdych, a player who can look brilliant at times, even beat top players, and look hopelessly lost and checked out at others.

How’s this for another batch of players who are impossible to predict – Tsonga, Monfils and even last year’s champion (hey, remember that?) Marin Cilic. In his defense, Cilic has always performed well at the US Open, but does anyone really know what kind of form he’s in? Could Tsonga show up and make a run? Either way, this quarter more or less guarantees some serious changes in the rankings in a couple of weeks time.

Predicted Quarterfinal – J.W. Tsonga vs. J. Chardy

Third Quarter – Wawrinka’s Quarter

I was legitimately surprised to hear that Kyrgios and Murray were slated to play in the first round, mostly because I thought Kyrgios would be seeded. And therein lies the problem. Nick Kyrgios has yet to put together a good, consistent string or results, and he probably doesn’t have the wherewithal to put together a solid game plan that he can execute against Murray, such as being a bit more patient earlier in rallies. I actually find this quarter rather boring and will likely be very predictable, barring some sort of epic Stan collapse.

Predicted Quarterfinal – S. Wawrinka vs. A. Murray

Fourth Quarter – Federer’s Quarter

This quarter is all about Federer. He should have a couple of easy warm up matches against Leo Mayer and then Darcis or Baghdatis. I’ll be curious to see if Kohls or Isner can push him and take a set or two off of him to see how he responds. Fed was excellent in Cincy, but he was never really challenged, and he can be stubborn when up against someone who is employing a game plan that is working against him. Federer has looked very good of late, but let’s not pretend like this is the Federer of years ago.

Elsewhere, ready your servebot gifs! Isner and Karlovic at night on Arthur Ashe would be hilarious, mostly to see (and hear) people going crazy over aces and ridiculous(ly boring) tiebreaks.

The rest of this quarter doesn’t serve up a heck of a lot, outside of Berdych and Gasquet, who are tough to have much faith on at the best of times. Gasquet/Kokkinakis is likely the second best first round match after Murray/Kyrgios and the best in this section, and the winner of that match will play the winner of the almost equally as enticing Hasse/Brown match. As far as early round ATP matches go, pretty fun. Overall, the top half of this draw looks like it will be a lot more fun.

Predicted Quarterfinal – T. Berdych vs. R. Federer

Predicted Semifinals – A. Murray vs. R. Federer, N. Djokovic vs. J.W. Tsonga
Predicted Final – A. Murray vs. N. Djokovic
Champion – N. Djokovic

US Open Women’s Preview

Posted by Brodie under: USO

28 Aug 2015

arthur ashe wta2

First Quarter – Serena’s Quarter

A thought occurred to me after seeing Serena’s draw – what odds would you need to bet the field over Serena? While Williams is in one of the most dominant stretches of her career, we like to quickly forget the tough, earlier round losses she can sometimes have, and she is human. She remains the favourite to win this section and the tournament, but it certainly doesn’t look easy.

Sloane Stephens in the third round is one hell of a warm up match for the rest of the tournament. Sloane captured her first title this summer and looks to be in strong form, and she has always relished the pressure that comes along with slams. Beyond that, she could face Madison Keys, though the young American’s health and lack of playing time will likely prevent her from getting that far.

Elsewhere, a possible meeting with Bencic (who defeated her in Toronto), Pliskova or even her sister, Venus, await. Under the bright lights of Center Court, these should be manageable matches. This is all in theory, of course, and whoever Serena gets will be a tricky test. When you write her into the semifinals use pencil, not pen.

Predicted Quarterfinal – S. Williams vs. B. Bencic

Second Quarter – Sharapova’s Quarter

To put it honestly, this quarter is a bit of a mess. A primetime showdown of Sharapova and Ivanovic in the quarterfinals would be ideal for tournament organizers, but seems highly unlikely to happen after Sharapova hasn’t had a summer hard court season due to injury. Ivanovic herself has a very difficult first round match against Cibulkova.

The remaining names – Jankovic, Bouchard, Kuznetsova hardly inspire much confidence. Expect this section to implode and quickly. Your guess is as good as mine.

Predicted Quarterfinal – E. Svitolina vs. R. Vinci

Third Quarter – Wozniacki’s Quarter

It’s a shame Petra Kvitova has been suffering from mono lately. While she’s been healthy enough to play and practice, she’s been working with her team to make sure they find the proper balance, and she’s definitely not at 100% heading into New York. She’s never made it past the fourth round, and the extreme heat can make things more difficult for her, as well. It’s not set to be as hot as it can be – could that help her out a bit?

It’s tough to know where Caro Wozniacki stands health wise, as well. She always notes that this is her favourite tournament, and it can translate into her style of play which seems to include just about 5 to 10% more aggression which has got her some big wins in New York.

Otherwise, we should all be watching Garbine Muguruza closely if she can pass the first couple of hurdles. The relatively quick courts will do her wonders if she can find a groove, and she isn’t slated to face anyone particularly difficult until the third round, with Andrea Petkovic. With all that said, it’s difficult to have a ton of confidence in any of the top three seeds.

Predicted Quarterfinal – A. Petkovic vs. C. Wozniacki

Fourth Quarter – Halep’s Quarter

Halep fans should be pretty thrilled with this quarter. Ideally she will get a match or two on Arthur Ashe and get used to some of the bigger courts in New York, and her first couple of matches should be easily winnable ones. Beyond that, she could face players such as Lisicki or Bascinszky – but that’s all assuming they can actually make it that far. Slapmila Giorgi could be a bit of a sleeper in this section as well.

Otherwise, the match of this section could be a third round match of Kerber and Azarenka. Vika is still finding her form and Kerber has been excellent this summer, and Kerber might even be the favourite to win that match. They’ll likely face off against Safarova who has found some fantastic later career form, and is the sixth seed in New York.

This section is a tough one to call, particularly the eighth with Vika, Kerber and Safarova – it may depend on the health and form of Vika which is still very much up and down.

Predicted Quarterfinal – A. Kerber vs. S. Halep

Predicted Semifinals – S. Williams vs. E. Svitolina, C. Wozniacki vs. S. Halep
Predicted Final – S. Williams vs. S. Halep
Champion – S. Williams

US Open Draw Preview – Men

Posted by Brodie under: USO

24 Aug 2013

2013 US Open

Top Half, First Quarter (Djokovic/Del Potro)
Someone had to be given the cruel gift of a red hot Juan Martin del Potro in their quarter, and to say Djokovic was unlucky to land him would be an incredible understatement.

This quarter is difficult to call for many reasons. To start, Djokovic’s invincibility late in close matches has not only seemed to weaken, but all but disappear. His capitulation to Isner in Cincinnati was shocking, and his body language spelled out a general disbelief in the dropping of his level during big moments.

That being said, Novak Djokovic is still an incredible tennis player, and outside of Grigor Dimitrov, has a generally straight forward draw to the quarterfinals (I still can’t see Grigor outlasting big name players over five sets). Del Potro’s health is surely a question mark but should get past Haas and make that quarterfinal happen. A very dry quarter. A Djokovic/Del Potro quarterfinal is an incredibly tough guess at this time, and will depend on Delpo’s health and form up to that point. At this point I’ll go with the safe bet of Djokovic considering this is five sets.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Djokovic vs. Del Potro

Top Half, Second Quarter (Murray/Berdych)
This is a fantastic early section of the draw for Murray, but an incredibly difficult draw overall. To start, Almagro is the only real (and entirely beatable) threat over the first four matches for Murray, to the point where he is easy to pencil into the quarterfinals. Really. That’s it.

The rest of his quarter offers up far more intrigue, and several juicy early matches in of itself. Berdych/Benneteau and Wawrinka/Anderson could all be big court worthy third round matches. One never knows what Berdych is up to, but he seems to generally find small pockets where he really harnesses the big game that he has and peaks. I liked his chances against Murray last year, but the extreme wind left him in a difficult position and left him with not much hope.

Finally, while he’s had an up and down season, Wawrinka’s match against Djokovic at the Australian Open was one of the most high quality matches played all season, anywhere. Stan has caused Murray problems before and isn’t afraid to go for winners in central rallies, something that can really cause Murray problems. I’ve generally been very unimpressed with Murray since winning Wimbledon. If you bet on tennis, I think he may have a bit of a let down tournament in his first ever major title defense. You’re better off looking at some of the other big names lurking in the draw.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Murray vs. Berdych

Bottom Half, First Quarter (Ferrer/Gasquet)
To say that a quarter in a fast court slam that belongs to Ferrer and Gasquet is a bit of a mess… may be a slight understatement. It is incredible how underwhelming the rest of the quarter is in terms of general quality – a lot of these guys are slow court players.

Three big hitting, inconsistent names stand out. Raonic, Janowicz, and Gulbis. Raonic lurks in Gasquet and could not have asked for a better draw. For all the complaints about tournaments slowing down, the US Open is still an incredibly quick tournament, and Raonic could cruise on the back of his serve. There’s no guarantee that Gasquet even gets that far. An incredible opportunity.

A year ago the prospect of Tipsarevic and Ferrer in the same small section would be exciting. In 2013 it leaves a lot to be desired. Tipsarevic has had a dumbfoundingly terrible year, and despite an excellent start to the year and a Miami final, Ferrer has been injured and not playing well as of late. This is a gigantic oppourtunity for the other big serving up and comer, Janowicz. He could potentially play Gulbis. For both, it’s a matter of the head. While Janowicz can go off the rails, I think he might be well suited to five setters – he seems like the type of guy who can get it out of his system and right the ship. The same can’t be said about Gulbis.

All in all, expect the unexpected with this section of the draw. I’ll go the “safe” route, but who knows who could end up in the quarterfinals.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Raonic vs. Janowicz

Bottom Half, Second Quarter (Nadal/Federer)
What can be said about this quarter that hasn’t already been realized already? It really is difficult to see Federer losing to Sam Querrey or potentially Kei Nishikori. That said, no one saw his loss to Stahkovsky coming at Wimbledon. While Federer’s game was incredibly passive at Wimbledon, he showed signs of his old self at Cincinnati in being more willing to keep things deep as well as go down the line and really open play up. If he can keep that level up, book him in the quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal’s overall draw is a gift wrapped basket with chocolates on the pillow. John Isner in the fourth round is one heck of a draw, but Nadal managed to solve the Isner problem by failing to gain a single break point and beating him in two tiebreaks. If this happens, which I think it will, it will likely be a night match with the near entirety of the world’s tennis only stadium behind Isner. We’ve seen John succeed in situations like this before (Roddick), and I would give Isner a realistic shot at winning that match.

All that said, if you’re into tennis betting, it seems idiotic to bet against Nadal at this point. He figured out Federer in Cincinnati and you would have to like his chances even more in a five set contest.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Nadal vs. Federer

Predicted Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Nadal vs. Janowicz
Predicted Final: Nadal vs. Djokovic
Predicted Champion: Rafael Nadal

US Open Draw Preview – Women

Posted by Brodie under: USO

22 Aug 2013

2013 US Open

Top Half, First Quarter (Williams/Kerber)
Another tournament, another quarter that looks like a cake walk for top seed Serena Williams. After storming through Toronto without losing a set and nearly winning Cincinnati while running on nothing but fumes, Serena has to be the massive favourite yet again. While Serena has had a ton of success on grass, hard courts are likely her most comfortable surface. While she is on a crash course to meet Sloane in the fourth round, Stephens has been struggling of late (particularly with patches of questionably passive play) and may not even get that far.

The other side of this quarter is one of the more intriguing sections of the draw. While it technically belongs to German Angelique Kerber, Dunncurrber (Dunnkerber?) hasn’t shown the type of form or resiliance on court that was saw from her last year, and could be up for an incredibly difficult ask in the second round against Eugenie Bouchard, who is quickly gaining steam.

Also in this section is an intriguing Flipkens/Venus Williams first round match, as well as the always unpredictable Jie Zheng. Speaking of unpredictable, who knows which version of Kaia Kanepi could show up.

This quarter is Serena’s to lose, and shouldn’t be a problem. Who she will play in the quarters will be up for debate, and at this stage it is difficult to put money on Kerber. I like Bouchard’s chances against both Kerber and Kanepi (she’s quickly becoming comfortable dealing with players with pace) so…

Predicted Quarterfinal: S. Williams vs. Bouchard

Notable Early Matches: Flipkens vs. V. Williams (1R), Bouchard vs. Kerber (2R), Stephens vs. U. Radwanska (2R), Shvedova vs. Rybarikova (2R)

Top Half, Second Quarter (Radwanska/Na Li)
Consistency in non-majors pays, and Radwanska has really reaped the benefits of her high seeding at the US Open. The only real danger for A-Rad is Pavlyuchenkova, assuming she gets that far, and one would assume Pavs would likely self-destruct anyway. A looming fourth round match with Lisicki would be a fascinating clash of styles, but Lisicki’s health is always a question mark, and she hasn’t quite lived up to potential on the high bounces of hard courts. Tough to assume she’ll get that far.

The other side of this quarter is a complete treat. The interesting names in this section would suggest a planned Li Na/Jankovic fourth round match won’t happen. Madison Keys is an incredibly difficult ask for Jankovic in her first round, particularly as JJ doesn’t look too interested in grinding out big hitters these days. Furthermore, if Sorana Cirstea is healthy again, she should be able to get to the third round where she could play Jankovic (who she beat quite handily in Toronto).

On the other side of this 1/8th is Li Na, a player I’m not normally high on, but was impressed with in Toronto. Her opening round matches are pretty winnable, and I think she is a player who likes to warm her way into tournaments.

While Cirstea beat both Jankovic and Li Na in Toronto, her abdominal injury could be a real concern (it forced her to retire in New Haven). I’ll go with the safest bet for that section.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Radwanska vs. Li Na

Notable Early Matches: Jankovic vs. Keys (1R), Robson vs. Garcia (1R), Puig vs. Kleybanova (1R)

Bottom Half, First Quarter (Wozniacki/Errani)
It’s difficult to know what is going through the mind of Caroline Wozniacki these days. She appears to be trying to add some aggression to her game, and I’m not entirely convinced that’s actually the right move. Watching her courtside in Toronto, I was still incredibly impressed at how well she moves, makes small adjustments before shots, and rarely misses (she missed out on two match points versus Cirstea). I think her level may be much higher than her results give her credit for at the moment. Her entire section is incredibly weak, and Caroline loves New York. I like her chances of getting back on the horse at the US Open.

The section below her is another 1/8th with serious question marks and a whole lot of potentially juicy early round matches. Errani/Kirilenko is the name of the game, but these quick courts don’t favour Errani, and I was surprised at how poorly Kirilenko was playing in Toronto.

Everyone has quickly looked for another potential name to come out of this section, and most eyes have been drawn to Kuznetsova. My eye was quickly drawn to the player I have half jokingly dubbed the 2015 Roland Garros champion, Simona Halep. Simona was a top junior player, but at 5’6 appears to be a player that has looked like she might not be able to translate her skills in the pros. Having seen her play recently (including on her clay run) I was struck at how well she was dealing with big hitters, and how comfortable she is at getting the ball deep for a player her size. While she doesn’t hit as big as a Cibulkova, her tennis instincts are incredible, she has an excellent eye for when to put extra spin at the ball, when to come to net – all things that smell of incredible natural talent. It is a tough ask for her to put everything together on quick courts, but I think this might be the tournament that launches Simona into the top 20 and into the eyes of tennis fans.

Predicted Quarterfinal: Wozniacki vs. Halep

Notable Early Matches: Halep vs. Watson (1R), Vekic vs. Halep/Watson (2R), Vinci vs. Safarova (2R), Kuznetsova vs. Anyone.

Bottom Half, Bottom Quarter (Azarenka/Kvitova)
Oh, Kvitova. Whatever shall we do with you? Petra and Li Na remain two of the hardest players to judge in terms of their levels. Speaking of which, this section also contains Samantha Stosur and Nadia Petrova. While Kvitova has looked consistent so far this year, I actually think she prefers slower hard courts that give her some more time to get around and really set up to crush things. With Stosur winning Carlsbad (and your guess as good as mine), I might have to go all in.

This quarter, and ultimately half, belongs to Victoria Azarenka. Still a wildly underrated player (largely due to the comfortable shadow of Serena and Maria) Vika has a real chance to win this tournament. A match against Ivanovic may be tough but entirely winnable. She’s lucky in that she can only play one of Kvitova or Stosur, and may not end up having to play either. I think she has the stuff to outlast Petra and hit Sam off the court, particularly judging those players current form. Look for Azarenka to crush early and crush often off the back of a big Cincinnati win.

Predicted Quarterfinals: Stosur vs. Azarenka
Notable Early Matches: Goerges vs. McHale (1R), Pironkova vs. Riske (1R) Stosur vs. Hantuchova (2R), Kvitova vs. Petkovic (2R), Ivanovic vs. Cibulkova (3R)

Predicted Semifinals: S. Williams vs. A. Radwanska, Wozniacki vs. Azarenka
Predicted Final: S. Williams vs. Azarenka
Predicted Champion: Azarenka

13 Sep 2012

(0.5 Kim Sears’ hair > Yours)

1. Murray Really Does Have It In Him It was always going to be a matter of when, not if, but after Djokovic’s career year last year, there was significant questions about Murray finally breaking through and winning that first slam.

He needed a bit of luck, as many champions do, but his ability to realize it was his moment in the fifth and shut down a tiring Djokovic was truly impressive. I think it would be silly to start getting carried away thinking Murray is a big favourite to win the Australian, but suddenly he looks a legitimate chance to win at least one of three major titles next year, and that is a refreshing change.

2. Serena Williams – Greatest Ever?* It was tedious to sit through people wonder out loud if Serena was the greatest player years ago, when her amount of major titles barely stacked up to the 22 of Steffi Graf. While now only at 15, *Serena can’t be considered the greatest in terms of results, but surely has to be considered the best in terms of pure objective power and ability. McEnroe noted that having missed so much time, there’s a legitimate chance she could play for several more years and not get tired. She might have that 22 number in the back of her head, and if she does, watch out.

3. Super Saturday Doesn’t Work Regardless of whether or not it actually rains on Saturday, loading up the end of the week with so many important matches is suicidal, and has provided us with five straight Monday finals, going back to Federer over Murray in 2008. (That was 2008? I feel old). If it rains Thursday or Friday, the entire thing is basically screwed. As I mentioned many times, the decision on this is largely due to ratings for TV, and it needs to stop.

4. Jo Needs A Coach. Bad. It’s no secret that I’m a big Jo fan. He has massive power, but he’s also pretty natural, has a crafty element to his game, and is quick around the court, particularly back to front. However, while being coachless for a while has allowed Jo to stop thinking and go hit the ball, his loss to Klizan is unacceptable for someone of his quality. Sort it out, dude.

5. Azarenka The First Legitimate Top Player of the New Generation While Caro was number one for some time, it has been her friend and mirror image Victoria Azarenka who has made the biggest surge for the upper levels of the game. The spoiled brat syndrome has all but been converted into a cool confidence (hashtag #Vikaswag please) that has pushed her to the next level of mental strength. Outside of Roland Garros, she has to be in the conversation to win any of the other major titles next year, and arguably had the second best year to only Serena.

6. There Is Still a Place for Crafty Fighters Maybe it’s come from their great success as a doubles team, but despite being no match for Serena, both Errani and partner Vinci made some impressive runs this US Open. As far as the women’s game has come with big hitters and big servers, they can still be prone to having their game break down, and players who really want to fight to the end can always have a chance on their day. Likewise, Vinci uses some mega slice on her backhand that throws off players who like it simple and flat. A lesson a lot of players could learn.

7. Delpo a Threat Again There wasn’t a whole lot between him and Djokovic, despite the close score. Quality over quantity (of sets won), my friends. This was always going to be an important year for del Potro to really push his game to get back to the top. Now ranked sixth and likely playing the World Tour Finals, JMDP is now setup to get some nice draws and push deep into the second weeks of slams. Get it, son.

8. Ivanovic Steadying the Ship – Slowly It’s hard to believe this was the former number 1s first slam quarterfinal since she last won one at the 2008 Roland Garros. I don’t need to remind Ana fans that it has been a pretty terrible fall from grace. Regardless, Ana appears to be figuring it out, and by that I mean finding that controlled, consistent aggression she once had. She can beat the players she should be beating. The ball toss and serving in general remains an issue, but the ground strokes and brain problems are really starting to find a happy medium, which is a positive sign heading to 2013.

9. Canada Looks Strong You know who I’m talking about. Filip Peliwo of course! The kid is on fire, and made all four junior slam finals this year, winning Wimbledon and the US Open. Junior success never automatically translates to senior success, but he seems to be a genuinely great kid as well as having a real controlled competitiveness to him. He’ll need to keep working, like any junior, to bulk up a bit, among other things, but he already looks like he has a bright future ahead of himself. Oh, and yeah, Milos had a great tournament, falling to Murray in the fourth round.

10. WTA Full of Impressive Youngsters Sloane Stephens equaled her 2011 fourth round result and Laura Robson matched it. These two ladies, YOUNG ladies, have tremendous attitudes and tremendous power. I’m absolutely convinced they have top 20 stuff, likely top 10, as they already impress and are no where near turning 20. Believe the hype, these kids are the real deal.

This Is No Rehearsal

Posted by Brodie under: Serena, Superhero, USO

13 Sep 2011

After a foot injury turned to a life threatening disease, Serena Williams missed her chance to return to the biggest stage of tennis and right the wrong that was her infamous shouting tirade on lineswoman Shino. She missed the chance to defend her Australian Open title, and missed Roland Garros too. Finally, she returned to Wimbledon in a wave of emotion that moved tennis fans everywhere. She was so happy to be there.

Truth be told, no one expected her to win that tournament, and she didn’t. That was fine. It was the calm before the storm, the trumpeting of the return of the “real” number one. The Queen was back, baby.

The stage was set all too perfectly. After casting out the number 1 Caroline Wozniacki like a heretic from the church of tennis nerddom, she was in the final. This wasn’t any final, however. Pushed back to Sunday because of the rain, it would take place on the 10th anniversary of September 11th in New York, happening at the same time as the triumphant return of the NFL’s first Sunday. It was all so American. All too perfect.

Her opponent would be Australian Samantha Stosur who she had dismantled in the Toronto final just weeks earlier, and had dismantled on many occasions before.

It wasn’t such smooth sailing, however. In many fans thirst for blood in the semifinal, they failed to see the chinks in the armour of Serena. She looked impatient at times, and missed easy shots. Her defense backed her up against an opponent seemingly incapable of hitting winners, and she was fine.

Stosur is not Wozniacki, however. She made her pay, keeping her off balance with her trademark kick serve, and punished the short balls down the line on the forehand wing when the opportunities presented themselves. She took the first set.

We as tennis fans didn’t jump to conclusions. It’s why they play the games, but it’s also why they play three sets. Serena would make errors, keep her calm with her trademark stretched left arm, palm-to-the-court “I’m not going to freak out” look. She would spank a couple winners, get fired up, gain her focus and composure, and her opponent would crumble under the weight of it all. It would be one way traffic from there, and the prophecy would be fulfilled.

If football is a game of inches, tennis is a game of milimetres. It’s also a game of milliseconds. After hitting that fateful forehand at the start of the second set, she yelled out a “come on!” before Sam got to the ball and lay a racquet to it. The point was rightly awarded to Stosur. It was one way traffic indeed, but the cars were on the wrong side of the road.

“You’re out of control. You’re totally out of control. You’re a hater, and you’re unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? And I never complain. Wow. What a loser.” Just some of the deep insights that came out during the changeover.

Serena, rather sarcastically if you ask me, reflected after the match that she would have to check the rule book and thought obstruction was more like the “hat rule”, in that if you lose your hat, the point is called a let and you replay it. She was wrong.

Ironically, the tour has come under much scrutiny with the absence of Serena, Maria, Kim, and now permanently Justine in that many lower ranked players are able to make it deep into tournaments and in fact win them as the top seeds crumble and fall away. Sadly, despite Serena doing the same thing, Stosur rose to the occasion and took it, and not just in this match.

Her match versus Petrova was incredible (see my post below). The longest match in US Open history for the women, she dropped the second set, barely. But like what many of the top men do, frankly, they keep faith in that they were the better player on the court, stick to the game plan of staying aggressive and looking for openings, and wait it out on their way to victory, however slim it may be.

It was the same story in the next round as her and Kirilenko ground out one of the longest tiebreaks ever. While it would be lovely to say that winning it was a turning point for Stosur, that was not to be as Kirilenko took it 17-15. That was all fine and dandy for Stosur. She kept working, kept attacking, and smothered the exhausted Kirilenko and the train kept rolling.

When we look back at this tournament, it will be highlighted by the final, the return of Serena, and her inevitable frustration and fall. Really, it should be highlighted by those two fantastic, epic, historical matches that took place late at night on Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand respectfully. While the worlds’ eyes were elsewhere, a champion was forging the ground work for an historic run to the finish line.

Fistful of Steel

Posted by Brodie under: MaKiri, Superhero, USO

5 Sep 2011

It just wouldn’t be a Labour Day weekend without some drama after the sun goes down and the lights come on.

What was originally scheduled as the third match on Arthur Ashe was pushed all the way to a late start on the Grandstand as to avoid delaying the night session, and the fans were treated to some tennis dessert as Samantha Stosur took on Maria Kirilenko.

The first set was all Stosur from the beginning, dominating from the baseline off the forehand wing and troubling Kiri with her big kick serve. Kiri scratched out a hold and broke Sam serving for the set, but was then broken herself, and the set was over in a blink, 6-2.

From then on, MaKiri decided it was do our die, and it was a beautiful thing to see. Instead of trying to out hit Sam from the baseline, she took any and every opportunity she could to get to the net. This often meant taking short balls inside out on the forehand and pushing Sam to her weaker backhand side. It was textbook net rushing harkening back to the often used strategy of 20 years ago and more.

The greatest part, however, was that it was working. A wonderful doubles player in her own right, it didn’t matter if it was forehand, backhand, or right at her, Kiri had all the answers at the net.

After a grind of a set, it was off to a tiebreak, one that is now already partly legendary. Set points and match points saved abound, it was full of insane winners, long rallies, and missed opportunities. 32 points, and 17-15 to Kiri.

Jacked up on adrenaline, she came flying out of the gate in the third to hold at love and take a couple points off Sam’s serve. Two nights ago, Sam played the longest women’s match in US Open history against Petrova, where she served for the match in the second and blew the tiebreak. She kept calm on serve in the third and found a way to secure the only break of the final set at 5-6 to take the decider.

Not unlike two nights ago, Sam kept her cool. Something has to be said about both her mental strength and her fitness. It was pretty clear that Kiri’s adrenaline and level of play would not hold up all set, and like a vulture swooping in to claim its prey, Sam broke early and cruised to take the match as if the second set had never happened.

Make no doubt about it, Sam is playing incredibly well right now. The errors are there, and always will be when you play the way she does. The important thing is that she’s sticking to her game plan (kick serves, finding a way to the forehand, pushing out wide and staying patient) even when things get tough, but not playing stubborn enough to not make small adjustments (such as her approach to passing shots against Kiri, specifically the third set). Her past two matches have been insanely close, but her opponents have been on their game and they’ve deserved to be.

After a great run in Toronto, and now overcoming two difficult three set matches, Sam’s confidence has to be sky high. Up against Zvonareva in the quarters and then possibly the winner of Pennetta/Kerber, she might just be the favourite to make the final.

Glory Days

Posted by Brodie under: Flavs, Masha, USO

2 Sep 2011

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

It’s been a weird summer for Maria Sharapova. After getting blown off the court in Toronto, literally and metaphorically, by a crafty youngster, she went on to win Cincinnati. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy, but above all, it was effective. At the end of the match she was the better player, and at the end of the tournament she was the best player.

Unfortunately for her, it was a fine balance, and this week the scales didn’t quite tip as she would have liked them.

“I made way too many unforced errors. I fought back to get myself back in the match in the third set. I think the first three, four games on every game I had a chance to win that game, whether it was a breakpoint or it was a game point on my serve, and I didn’t win those games.” “Um, I didn’t feel comfortable with most of my game today,” said Sharapova.

Make no doubt about it, there are always two players on the court. Pennetta was incredibly consistent today, and persistent. She also overcame a huge mental hurdle in the third set, when she blew two break points to go up 4-0 and eventually found herself back on serve.

” Well, I just starting to play not too much shots in the same position to try to move her a lot and try to let her run a lot, and I think it was working really good. All the time when she move on the forehand she have a little bit of problem; with the backhand she can do whatever she want. So also I starting to be really aggressive when she was serving. I try to just let her think too much and maybe make some double fault,” said Pennetta. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s luck, but getting Maria Sharapova to over think is a wonderful strategy, and it worked.

For Masha, it’s a match in a string of frustrating up and downs since her comeback from her shoulder injury. The ability is there, but the changes to the serve still haven’t quite worked out and one could argue the mental steel isn’t quite there either. After a double fault that brought up 0-30, 4-5 on her serve in the third she looked near tears. It was as if to say “no matter how hard I push back, I just can’t quite make it.” She lost that game and the match.

Luckily for Sharapova, her year is not over and she has a chance to return to Asia, where she found success last year, and the Year End Championships. ” I’m not really looking forward to a 14 hour flight in a couple of weeks. Yeah, the year is not over. We’ve still got I think I still have three tournaments to go or so. Yeah, once they come then it will be time to play again and raise my level. Until then, I just have to, you know, keep working in order for me to go out in the match and raise it.”

Photo: Getty

Mind The Racket Podcast:

Episode 7 – US Open Week 2 Wrap-Up