Pete’s highlights: The US Open in fourteen facts

Should I have done this earlier? Yes, I should. But a mix of laziness + lack of time + lack of will to sit at the laptop to write delayed the process. Better late than never. Here, I present you, my final analysis of the US Open. A day-by-day commentary on all the action in Flushing Meadows.

 

This girl is gonna be a thing real soon.

Day 1 – The future is bright, my friends – If the first day of the US Open told us something (other than Kvitova’s consistency), it was that there are a bunch of young girls out there ready to make some noise. Americans Irina Falconi, Christina McHale and Madison Keys all survived the August, 29th, with wins over Zakopalova, Wozniak and Craybas, respectively; Heather Watson gave her best to Sharapova – and Maria barely survived; her countrygirl Laura Robson, who debuted at the main draw of a Slam, advanced to the round 2 after Ayumi Morita retired in the second set. Thing is, they may now be winning in the first Monday of Slams. Soon, it could be second.

 

Simona Halep celebrates: The last of the 2011 Slam champions fell to her hands

Day 2 – Meaning of ‘Open Field’ – As Simona Halep finished off with Li Na in two sets – 6/2, 7/5 – another thing was clear, after only two days into the Open: For the first time since 2008, WTA would crown four different Slam champions in the same season. With Kim out for the year-and-maybe-more and Petra Kvitova’s surprising-but-not-so-much loss to Dulgheru, Li Na was the only reining Slam champ alive in the draw. As she lost, 2011 Grand Slam winners left the US Open bearing an outstanding 0-2 record at the remaining Major. Good? Bad? I’m going for the first.

 

Waves after beating Dolonts; Let's just all hope this wasn't her last US Open win.

Day 3 – We are gonna miss Venus Williams – Whether you like the Sisters or not, you must admit they are true legends of the sport. Seven-time Slam champion Venus Williams, after getting through Vesna Dolonts in the first round, set the anticipated, big-serving meeting with Sabine Lisicki. A meeting which never happened – Venus was forced to withdraw due to an auto-immune disease that causes her retirements galore. At 31, and with health problems, Williams’ future as a tennis star doesn’t seem like a long road anymore. Which only shows how we are gonna miss her exotic dresses and big serves when she calls it a career.

 

Day 4 – Some people are stupid and should never be allowed to touch a computer – Seeded #29 and en route to an imminent third-round meeting with Wozniacki, Jarmila Gajdosova, or simply Jarka, had her run halted by doubles-specialist Vania King in the second round. Winning only two games – both in the first set – Jarka, who was born in Slovakia, said goodbye, to Flushing Meadows. And to Twitter. Thanks to some shitheads who offended her, Gajdosova announced she would no longer be part of the TwittFamily. The decision, however, was not permanent, and she is already back. What is, unfortunately, permanent is the prickness contained in some lost souls, who ramble around the Internets to harass players. Go get a life, morons. Or better. GFY.

 

Day 5 – Balance is maintained – Anyone who closely follows tennis could have called it: From the beginning, it was 100% certain Sharapova wouldn’t win the US Open. And I’m not saying that just because Serena was in the draw. No. Just because of this: Maria Sharapova has a 3-2 record in Slam finals, being 3-0 in even numbered years and 0-2 in odd ones. In the event that Masha had been the last woman to survive, I’m sure the balance that keeps the world as we know it would be disrupted, and we would be locked in a black hole that transgresses the limits of time and space. Truth or not, she lost to Flavia Pennetta in three sets, the first big win for the Italian in 2011. That automatically assured an “underdog” in the semifinals – since the other seed in this half, Kvitova, had already said goodbye.

 

Ashe's lights were too much for her and McHale; Soon it won't, anymore.

Day 6 – Easy, USA – First of all, let’s cut this “USA teniz iz dead!!!!!!11111!!!”. It is not, mainly on the ladies’ side. But still, let’s be patient, shall we? For the second consecutive day, the organizers put one of the up-and-coming players to play on Ashe, night session. Just like Christina McHale in the day prior, Sloane Stephens couldn’t show her best tennis, as she fell to (a reborn?) Ana Ivanovic in two sets. Can’t blame neither Sloane or Christina. They are still teens, with lots to learn. Better not expect anyone to sub in for the Williamses like, now. We all know what happened to Oudin. Giving time to time is the key.

 

This was from her McHale match, but really, I could not leave this pic out.

Day 7 – Ladies’ nite in Queen’s – Anyone who stayed for the night at the BJK complex and truly appreciate this sport can’t say they felt disappointed. On the Grandstand, Samantha Stosur and Maria Kirilenko played an instant classic – besides the longest WTA Slam tie-break, with Sam squandering eight match points and Kirilenko battling her way to a third set. In the end, the Aussie, as you can imagine, survived a clash that showed all the grit, fighting and skills that women’s tennis have, proving that strong is beautiful, yes, but beautiful beyond photoshopped athlete-models and Stella McCartney dresses.

 

Yeah.

Days 8 –  AWESOME. (While it lasts) (And it’s not a lot) – Wasn’t that hard to figure out I was talking about Svetlana Kuznetsova, right? The crafty Russian, who has two Slams to her name, showed once again her enormous potential in the match v. Caroline Wozniacki, in the fourth round. Sveta, alongside Schiavone and Stosur, has one of the most interesting and plastically pleasant styles in the whole WTA. However, Kuznetsova is like a time-bomb these days. She was hitting forehands with a good depth and volleying like awesome (though her overheads were simply ludicrous). She kept the level until the 7th game of the second set, if I’m wrong, when she squandered a break lead (she was holding her games with certain ease before) and everything went boom. Caro won 6/7, 7/5, 6/1, and not only sent Kuznetsova packing, but also “helped” sending Juan Monaco home in a quicker way.

 

Bored Pavs is bored. And cute.

Days 9 and 10 – Rain rain go away rain – The morning of the ninth day of the US Open saw rain. The morning, noon and night. Play was called off before anybody even thought about calling it on. The very next day saw another ‘wet problem’, as the discussion about a roof began to surface again. As a result, only 10 games were played (3 in Muller-Nadal, 3 in Young-Murray and 4 in Roddick-Ferrer) that day, that even saw the ladies’ coming out to warm up. Play was once again canceled, though. HOWEVER, thanks to rain we had this EPIC pic from Anastasia Pavlyuchencute.

 

Day 11 – WTA is not ready for Serena – As I’m used to say, you can’t blame someone for being too good. You can’t also force other people to love it. That’s more or less how I feel about Serena Williams (by the way, I know this topic would fit better in other days, but apparently the other days were already taken by better headlines). Thing is, as she made a typical-WTA first set, but picked up the pace and demolished Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second, it was clear that that woman, who stayed almost a full year away from pro-tennis and was back into a Slam semifinal without dropping a set, is way above the others. You can’t really blame her. Her opponents? Maybe. But still, while she keeps hungry the way she is, only someone playing the match of a lifetime will be able to beat her. As for the others, expect beatdowns and sleepwalks through the late rounds.

 

Day 13* – There is nothing wrong with Caroline Wozniacki’s game – And this affirmative is justified by the last topic. Let’s say Caro suddenly changes from her comfort zone, morphing into a more aggressive – therefore more susceptible to errors, like, say, Cibulkova. I can already see people claiming her style is “dumb”, mere “ballbashing” and that “she doesn’t deserve to be #1”. Caro is what she is, guys. Can’t blame her for dating a golfer, can’t blame her for making whatever capitol sins she commits on Twitter. It’s not pushing – it’s defense-oriented tennis. (I think). It’s not pretty, but has assured her a lead by over than 3000 points on the #2 Maria Sharapova.

 

This pic is pretty lovely

Day 14 – Samantha Stosur is a FREAKING MONSTER – #1, she’s Australian and #2, she is a former doubles #1. These two factors combine into the fact Sam has the variation running through her veins. And she indeed does! Very few players can mix it up like Stosur these days – with an outstanding kick-serve, slices and volley. Sam is, however, also a paradox: her best results as a singles player came in the slow clay surfaces, like Charleston and Roland Garros. And even though she is already a grown woman (27) who’s not part of the “blonde” group of WTA players who sometimes drag more attention thanks to their looks rather than their tennis, she is also keen to having blackouts, walkabouts and then it’s done.

The former #4 did, however, leave all the downsides of her game in the closet when she left the hotel room that day. Samantha brought her A-game into the final and, counting with Serena’s inability to work with the first set, the Aussie literally ate her up with the 2nd serve forehand return winners to clinch her first Major title, 6/2, 6/3 scoreline. Quite good for her debut on the Arthur Ashe stadium, huh?

I would also like to leave my sincere wishes that this title triggers Stosur’s A-game more often. I know she has been in the top-5 and now she is a Slam winner, but with her skills, she should have way more than three singles titles. She should be a permanent contender for any and every WTA tournament held.

 

* – The day 12 of the US Open was used only to play the ATP semifinals.

Guts

It is truly a pity that in the other end of an amazing, almost unbelievable comeback/heart-warming history of overcoming there is always someone heartbroken, lonely packing his/her stuff, throwing the towel behind the neck and leaving, head-down, timid waive to the crowd and some tears in the eyes.

It happened today.

After the match point converted. This pic says a lot

Flavia Pennetta, straight out of a big win vs. Maria Sharapova and Peng Shuai played each other on the Louis Armstrong Arena, for a place in the US Open quarterfinals – Flavia had been there before, twice, but for Peng it would be a first.

Saying it was an instant classic won’t make justice to the match. O.K., I only watched it from the second set on, but still, it was a pretty boring tennis match. When it comes to tennis, however, the skills of the two players involved are never the only reason why a match is interesting. There is a very rare, almost unique, sauce out there, common in many sports, but only the professionals of tennis have mastered it to another level. For this rare spice, we call Drama.

And this we had galore today, mostly from the Italian part involved. From the very beginning of the second set, Flavia Pennetta started feeling ill under the blazing New York sun. From the middle of it, she was barely moving and sweating – a lot, like, really a lot, in an uncomfortable way even from viewers. But of course she wouldn’t let it go without a fight – after all, she was closer from the win than her Asian counterpart, since she had the first set already in her Adidas (I’m assuming it’s Adidas) bag.

So they played, with the constant threat of Flavia throwing up, the same way Peng was missing chances. Pennetta served for the set at 5/4, Shuai broke her, typical WTA thing. But the real deal was the tie-break.

Dry-heaving – and I’m not sure this is a verb, but what-ever – and with her movement heavily compromised, the Italian saw Peng open a 5-0 advantage, that became a 6-2 lead, with multiple set points for Peng – and who knows what would have happened to Pennetta in an eventual decider?

In the end, no decider was needed. I wish I had the video for the entire breaker, but unfortunately, I don’t. So the match point follows. It was Flavia’s fourth of the afternoon, and crowned one of the most emotional and dramatic comebacks I have seen in a while. Pure guts. In the end, you can’t just not feel bad for Peng and pumped for Pennetta.

But still, I believe it’s worth thanking Flavia – not just congratulating her for reaching the Open quarterfinals for the third time in the last four years – for sending us another reminder why we love this sport. Forza!

HERE A LINK FOR THE VIDEO, since I can’t incorporate it to WordPress.  Meh.

In the quarterfinals, Flavia Pennetta will play unseeded Angelique Kerber; whoever will prevail, will debut in a Grand Slam semifinal.

The right way

I had to reissue this post in the middle of the writing process. All because Venus Williams’ unspecified illness turned out to be Sjogren’s Syndrome, autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain. I really have no words to describe how saddened I am, so I only leave here a wish for a speedy recovery.

Now the happy part of this post. I’m back to writing about the ladies! It’s been a good while, really. I can’t even remember – but I suspect the last time I had aired a post with WTA as main subject was back in Wimbledon. So let’s talk McHale, shall we?

I once wrote a post about the situation of the American tennis – talking about this ‘between harvests’ (I think I used this very same term) period, when the Williams sisters weren’t around, and the US women’s tennis was left in the hands of girls like Mattek-Sands and King. I also mentioned about the up and coming teenagers.

Among them, Christina McHale.

She is decent at tennis.

Well, she is here. Not here like, ‘hey, look at me Caro, I’m coming for your ranking’. It’s more like ‘hey, look at me Caro, I might be coming for your ranking someday really soon’. All normal, as predicted – we are beyond the point 15-yos could win Slams.

I got to watch her for the first time today. And, well, I was really impressed. I follow her since the start of the year, I think, when she would either have WCs or qualify. First time I took a closer look, she was taking Sveta out of Indian Wells. Back from the digression. Today, playing Bartoli – who, in other news, is not quite the same since Wimbledon – she felt no fear. She totally went for it – just like Marion, in fact; the French showed some A-display of tennis, hitting hard and even making some cash at the net, breaking Chris twice and serving for the set at 5/4.

But then McHale broke her, and I have no idea how, because my stream just puff, died, and the whole match changed after. Bartoli even had a confident hold at 5/6, yes, but that was it. Her gameplan totally failed in the tie-break, and Christina had it in the bag, 7-2. In the second set – which I barely watched – the young American broke her twice in the first three games, lost one of the breaks, but re-broke and ended up sealing her way to the 3rd round with a 7/6, 6/2 win over seed #8.

How she used this forehand pretty much impressed me today

Darn good, highlighted by her backhand – some killer winners she hit – her conscience – she craftily moved Bartoli around to hit winners into the open court – and total and complete absence of fear. And the results of course: In her last three events, the Jersey native took out world #1 Caroline Wozniacki (Cincy), two-time Grand Slam champion Sveta (Dallas) and now Bartoli.

Of course, she’s not ready yet – and I (who am I to say something?) didn’t even have to tell you this – one who’s aware of her post-upset results will understand and concur. The consistency – against everybody, and through a week – is not there, just like big, important results outside the USA.

But for a 19-year old, who has just broke through the top-60 and is almost in the second week of the US Open, I dare to say she is in the right way.

30 Days of Tennis Challenge – Epilogue

So, it’s over. Exactly third days (or maybe thirty-one) gone since the day I was fascinated by David’s post on Tumblr, I finally finished it.

I really enjoyed selecting all the players, stadiums, tournaments, clothes for the respective days. Of course, some days demanded more time and others were a bit boring, I can’t deny it.

But the fact is, Daily Scores had never been so visited before the Tennis Challenge. The blog set twice a new record for most pageviews – both times on a Sunday. I have also averaged a below-average number of daily views throughout ALL the days, when the challenge was up.

And for this I thank you very much. I like to write, yes, but to know, this feeling of having your pieces read by other people, that makes me keep going.

I also invite you to stay here. Daily Scores will keep going, maybe not with daily posts, but hey, it is bigger than the challenge, right?

The complete list of the days/respective posts and a direct link to them follow.

 

Prologue and explanation

Day 1 – Favorite men’s playerAndy Roddick

Day 2 – Favorite women’s playerKim Clijsters

Day 3 – Favorite doubles team – Max Mirniy/Daniel Nestor

Day 4 – Least favorite men’s player – Rafael Nadal

Day 5 – Least favorite women’s player Justine Henin

Day 6 – Most memorable match 2011 Australian Open final

Day 7 – First player you became a fan of Roger Federer

Day 8 – Earliest tennis memory2000 Roland Garros final

Day 9 – Favorite retired men’s playerGoran Ivanisevic

Day 10 – Favorite retired women’s playerElena Dementieva

Day 11 – A player nobody would expect you to loveBethanie Mattek-Sands

Day 12 – A player that you aren’t a fan of but you respectCaroline Wozniacki

Day 13 – Favorite Grand Slam tournament Wimbledon

Day 14 – Favorite non-Slam tournamentATP 250 Queen’s

Day 15 – Most attractive women’s playerDaniela Hantuchova

Day 16 – Most attractive men’s player Marat Safin

Day 17 – Favorite women’s outfit – Victoria Azarenka’s Nike White Dress (2011)

Day 18 – Favorite men’s outfitJurgen Melzer’s Adidas white and green kit (Indian Wells 2009)

Day 19 – Who were the #1 the day you were bornJim Courier and Monica Seles

Day 20 – Favorite men’s Slam championJohn McEnroe

Day 21 – Favorite women’s championMartina Navratilova

Day 22 – Favorite umpireCarlos Bernardes

Day 23 – Favorite mixed doubles teamAlizé Cornet/Marcelo Melo

Day 24 – Favorite tennis couple Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova

Day 25 – Favorite tennis WAG Brooklyn Decker

Day 26 – A match that makes you happy2010 Miami Masters final

Day 27 – A match that makes you sad – 2011 Roland Garros R64

Day 28 – The Grand Slam you would most like to go toUS Open

Day 29 – Your favorite tennis surfaceGrass

Day 30 – Your favorite tennis related picYoung Mikhail Youhzny & Igor Andreev

30 Days of Tennis Challenge – Day 27: A match that makes you sad

Lots of matches make you sad. Break-points wasted, ridiculous points played at important moments, stupid challenges, tantrums in all the wrong moments, a mental breakdown, match-points squandered, one poor game that costs the match. All reasons to piss you off for a good while.

Lots of matches made me sad. None of them more than the second round of Roland Garros, this year.

They were opening the Chatrier, at 6 a.m. local time, and even though I could – yes, I indeed could – wake up a few minutes early to watch it, I opted for not to. It was Tuesday, I remember well.

She was coming off a long lay-off caused by a controversial injury, but had won in the opening round without drama. In fact, she had some troubles to finish the match, but hell, who doesn’t? And despite my awareness of her remarkable inconsistency, I thought – yes, I thought – she could overcome another obstacle. Winning ugly is still winning, right?

Heck, I woke up, didn’t put my glasses on, turned on the TV. Up a break in the first set. Fine, I convinced myself everything was fine and she would do it. TV is off, the glasses are on, the bus is taken, I’m on my way to college. Arriving there, I learn the first period professor didn’t come. I go to Latin, then, which I should have in the second period.

I turn on the wireless, and log onto the Mobile Twitter. Bum. She is down match points after being up match points.

Dead inside. It was a matter of time, then. I feel drousy, empty inside. It’s like someone I love so much has just died. I can’t stay there anymore. I get up, leave the classroom, walk to the library, and, on the computer, I log on to Twitter – fuck those people who are waiting, really. Ten or eleven tweets in a row, only saying what I feel. I logoff, get my stuff in the classroom and start my journey back home.

I arrive here earlier than I should. Talk my sister into not turning me in to my mom, sleepwalk to my room, slip into my bed and… I fall asleep.

Lots of matches already made me sad. Lots of matches will make me sad. But like this? Never happened before. And I really wish it will never happen again.

30 Days of Tennis Challenge – Day 24: Favorite tennis couple

Just like any other sport, tennis drags a crowd to the stadium, where two – or four; more commonly two – players battle through several rounds until there is a winner for the whole thing. This winner usually gets four things: a) a trophy; b) points for the ranking; c) glory and d) a paycheck.

Oh, and fans. But that’s an extra. My point is, the same way any sport attracts fans due to, well, the sport itself, we may never forget how gossip – and by that I mean off-court activities, like who’s dating who and what is this he is drinking/smoking?

So today we start the gossip stint of the Tennis Challenge – will last only for today and tomorrow, right. It’s not something big, riiiight, but I had to write a prologue. Right.

 

This pic: Cuteness

My favorite tennis couple, then, is Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova. Heard rumors they are no longer together, but can’t be true, right?

I really like these two. Berdych is the hard-hitting, big-serving, bit-mental, huge-potential-few-results, I’ve-already-told-Madrid-crowd-to-STFU guy I usually like. Plus, he’s just beaten Federer for the third time in their last four meetings. Pretty wicked, huh?

And Lucie, well, she’s a cute girl. Even her name is cute. And she is lefty. Uber cute.

30 Days of Tennis Challenge – Day 23: Favorite mixed doubles team

Maybe the ‘challenge’ is to test your randomness. Because I don’t see any other way ‘favorite mixed doubles team’ would feature ANYWHERE. There are only four (five, if you count Hopman Cup) mixed events throughout the season, and even though they are a nice form of entertaining, to free your mind from the tough and drenching singles five-setters, I, personally, barely pay attention on who’s and who’s not playing.

Whatever. I declined Kim-Hewitt, for the same reason I have denied her before: do not want this turning into 30 Days of Kim Challenge. My next choice then would be Roddick-Serena, but it still hasn’t happened (though they’re planning to team up for the Olympics).

Next? I thought Jarka-Bellucci, but nah. Then Dulgheru-Marrero, but hell, who is this Diego Marrero guy and what the hell does he think he is doing with my girl? I also excluded some really nice pairings – like the ones involving Hantuchova and Golovin-Gasquet – because I didn’t follow tennis back then. Sucks, huh? Very well. I managed to remind of this one, so, my favorite mixed doubles team is…

 

Alize hit Melo's back with one of her serves. I remember that.

Alizé Cornet and Marcelo Melo! Alizé was my first tennis crush – she’s so cute, isn’t she? – and still today, even though she’s not one of my primary favorites anymore, I still like her. And Marcelo “Giraffe” Melo is Brazilian. I know this goes against my philosophy, but being Brazilian is a good reason for me to grow respect towards a tennis player – for many reasons (patriotism not included).

Don’t know if they played together again after the ’09 Australian Open, when they eventually reached the quarterfinals but were forced to withdrew due to an Alizé’s shoulder injury.

 

Useful:

Prologue and explanation

Day 1 – Favorite men’s player

Day 2 – Favorite women’s player

Day 3 – Favorite doubles team

Day 4 – Least favorite men’s player

Day 5 – Least favorite women’s player

Day 6 – Most memorable match

Day 7 – First player you became a fan of

Day 8 – Earliest tennis memory

Day 9 – Favorite retired men’s player

Day 10 – Favorite retired women’s player

Day 11 – A player nobody would expect you to love

Day 12 – A player that you aren’t a fan of but you respect

Day 13 – Favorite Grand Slam tournament

Day 14 – Favorite non-Slam tournament

Day 15 – Most attractive women’s player

Day 16 – Most attractive men’s player

Day 17 – Favorite women’s outfit

Day 18 – Favorite men’s outfit

Day 19 – Who were the #1 the day you were born

Day 20 – Favorite men’s Slam champion

Day 21 – Favorite women’s champion

Day 22 – Favorite umpire