I’ve been watching the US Open in bits and pieces (no wifi connection at the beach) and now that I’ve returned to reality, i.e. my cable television and internet connection, it’s tough trying to untangle the big ball of first week storylines – some long, others short, ropy thick or wispy as a baby’s hair. I’m hopelessly behind! Who’s this Martin Klizan character and how’d he beat my man Tsonga in the second round? And what’s all the buzz around Steve Johnson from USC? Well, both threads have turned to lint in the brutal scheme of things: Klizan was bageled in the final set of his fourth round vs. Marin Cilic today and NCAA champ Johnson was bumped out of the Open this weekend by Richard Gasquet. Bottom line: you want to know what’s going on in a tournament, take a look at the draw.
Andy Roddick’s still in the draw, destined to play Juan Martin Del Potro in the 4th round. Thus the biggest storyline of the tournament unspools a little longer: Andy Roddick announcing that he will retire after this year’s US Open.
I’m sure you’ve already read the presser. Here’s my money quote:
Q. How emotional is this for you? I know you like to make light of things. Now that it’s final for you, how emotional is it? What was it about that first‑round match that clicked?
ANDY RODDICK: I don’t know. On some big moments this year, I think I’ve known. You know, walking off at Wimbledon, I felt like I knew. Playing here, I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t imagine myself being there in another year. I’ve always, for whatever my faults have been, felt like I’ve never done anything halfway. Probably the first time in my career that I can sit here and say I’m not sure that I can put everything into it physically and emotionally. I don’t know that I want to disrespect the game by coasting home. I had plans to play a smaller schedule next year. But the more I thought about it, I think you either got to be all in or not. You know, that’s more kind of the way I’ve chosen to do things.
One of Andy’s great gifts to the game – and reporters – was his frankness. He was brilliant at expressing his emotions and explaining the game, highlighting the challenges and ironies of both. He’d make an awesome tennis commentator (a job he once mocked as the easiest in the world). I hope he takes the easy money and joins the regulars in the CBS booth very soon. For now, he says he’s looking forward to being more hands on with his foundation and the construction of his tennis academy in Austin.
REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi via Yahoo!
In many ways, I prefer his short but sweet exit strategy to Kim Clijster’s season-long goodbye, but that’s a matter of taste. Kim announced earlier in the year that her beloved US Open would be the site of her final professional matches, and now the first week’s over and she’s done for good. After losing in the second round to Laura Robson (the teenager’s great play was a first week storyline in its own right), Kim also lost in the first round of doubles with partner Flipkens and in the second round of the mixed doubles with partner Bob Bryan. These performances bummed out her fans – I, for one, was looking forward to at least one final battle royale vs. Li Na, and possibly bonus battles vs. Sharapova or Serena under the lights of Arthur Ashe. But I guess we have the consolation of fully comprehending Kim’s reasoning: It’s time.
“It’s surprising that I kept it dry, I haven’t been crying,” Clijsters said of her tear-free exit after she and Bob lost their super-tiebreak, 12-10, to Ekaterina Makarova and Bruno Soares. “I think that’s just another sign that it’s the right choice.”
I’ll take my cue from Kim and keep the Kleenex in its box.
I’m crying more tears over American men John Isner and Mardy Fish, who both dropped out of the tournament in the past 24 hours in different, if equally disappointing styles.
I wasn’t exactly surprised that John Isner lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round or that it went five sets or even that it ended at 2:30 in the morning. Despite being a top 10 player (that ranking sneaked up on us, didn’t it?) and beating the likes of Djokovic and Federer this year, Big John has underachieved at the Majors, not getting beyond the third rounds this season and reaching the quarters only once in his entire career. And it’s not like Kohlschreiber doesn’t know how to play tennis. What did surprise me was that none of the sets were decided in tie-breaks, a sign that Isner wasn’t serving at peak form, and that he allowed himself to break down mentally over a foot fault call in the fifth. Though he gave the chair ump an earful and his racquet a good crack (and received a code violation for hitting a ball into the stands), John calmed down enough to give an insightful explanation of his problems in the presser (via NYTimes):
“The guy, Philipp, played a good match, played a smart match,” Isner said after the loss, much calmer than he had been on court. “And he deserved to win, simple as that. I wasn’t unlucky or anything; he was better than me. But I do know that I need to rest, for sure, because I was pretty beat out there.”
He added: “I didn’t play the right way, and that’s been the story when I’ve lost at Slams. I’ve played too passively. It doesn’t work out when I do that.”
The loss was even more disappointing, given that he was in the Tipsarevic/Ferrer section of the draw and wouldn’t meet the likes of Novak Djokovic until the semis.
Some video of John’s on court agonies:
Mardy Fish withdrew from the US Open today citing “precautionary measures,” giving Roger Federer a walkover and a place in his 34th straight Major quarterfinal (vs. Berdych). Mardy’s agent followed up with an explanation of sorts:
“We are not 100 percent sure what the issue is and if it is related to his previous issues,” Fish’s agent, John Tobias, wrote in an email to The Associated Press (via SI). “Mardy is fine and will return home to L.A. tomorrow. This was strictly precautionary and I anticipate that Mardy will play in Asia this fall.”
I’m not sure how much the American commentators actually know – but all have used the word “panic” in describing Mardy’s situaton. Justin Gimelstob even hinted that Mardy’s problems were more mental than physical, mentioning panic attacks.
At least the exits of Fish and Isner provide some poetic justice to what’s now become week two’s biggest storyline: Andy Roddick, so long the face of American tennis, is our last man standing.
In additional injury news, a side-lined Rafael Nadal provided an update on his injury situation today, saying he’ll be out for the next couple months to fully recover from his knee injuries, which include ” a partial tear of the patella tendon at the distal pole of the patella plus an inflammation of the Hoffa’s fat pad of his left knee.” He will definitely miss Davis Cup, though the press release makes no mention either way regarding London’s World Tour Finals in November. Is it still an option? We’ll see.
I offer up a few more bits and pieces and a look at the women’s quarters, where many players have made personal progress: Sharapova hasn’t reached this stage at the US Open since 2006 (when she won it), Ivanovic hasn’t been in a Major quarterfinals since 2008, Roberta Vinci hasn’t been there ever until she beat No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska today in straight sets. Serena Williams ran over Alexandra Hlavackeova with a bicycle: 6-0, 6-0 on her way to the quarters. It’s interesting to see Marion Bartoli in the mix again, after her upset over Kvitova, and Sam Stosur playing like the defending champ after a pretty dismal season – she’ll take on Azarenka.
The women’s quarters are as follows:
Victoria Azarenka vs. Sam Stosur
Maria Sharapova vs. Marion Bartoli
Ana Ivanovic vs. Serena Williams
Sara Errani vs. Roberta Vinci (doubles partners, to boot.)
The men are still working on finishing the fourth round.
And a quick thanks to all the GTT regulars for their comments and analysis this week! You guys helped keep me updated – and I loved the on-site perspectives!