Cincy ended with Rafael Nadal (over Isner in two tiebreaks) and Victoria Azarenka (coming from a set down versus Serena Williams) taking the trophies. Talk about a tune up. Their remarkable title wins set them up beautifully for the upcoming U.S. Open. Azarenka’s victory means that Serena will not be considered the prohibitive favorite on the women’s side. Rafa’s win, following his impressive title run in Montreal, means that however much The King of Clay tries to wriggle out of it, he will be The Man to Beat in NYC.
Cincy was fantastic this year. We had some interesting developments on the women’s side, and not just Vika’s upset over Serena. I think we’re all still absorbing Bartoli’s sudden retirement, and gossiping over Maria Sharapova’s dismissal of Coach Connors after her loss to Sloane Stephens. On the men’s side, I think the Federer vs. Nadal quarterfinal was the highlight, but there were many other notable developments like John Isner’s impressive series of wins over Gasquet, Raonic, Djokovic and Del Potro on his way to the final; Dimitrov’s three set tussle with Nadal; and Murray and Djokovic, supposedly the two best hard court players of the moment, bowing out early. It felt like everybody was charged up this week, raring to go before the US Open. As much as I see Nadal as the favorite on the men’s side, based on the performances in Cincy I also feel like the resistance will be fierce.
Long time GTT readers may have missed Andrea Nay’s coverage this week. She was at the tournament and kindly offered to share some of her photos. I selected these because I think they each capture something true about our favorite players. Let me know what you think!
Here’s Roger Federer working on the practice courts. Roger told reporters this week that he was returning to his old, smaller racquet for now after some experimentation with a new, larger frame. I, for one, was relieved to see him with his red and white stick, and I think his return to the racquet coincided nicely with a return to form. From what I’ve heard, he was all business on the practice courts, along with Coach Mirka. Yes, he lost that quarterfinal to Nadal, and will be seeded a shocking No. 7 at the U.S. Open, but he also revealed a kind of no bullshit determination this week, not to mention some glorious movement and forehands. A title would have been nice, but I think Roger showed just enough awe inspiring stuff in Mason, Ohio, to prove that he’ll be a force in N.Y.C. What do you think?
This may be one of my favorite Rafa photos of all time. Never have I seen that famous eyebrow of his so engaged, so sly, so wary of the competition even as he steamrolls them into the court. It captures Rafa’s on court essence, along with what makes him so hard to beat: Paranoia.
Ah, Nole. I admit, I’ve come to really, truly adore this guy over the past couple seasons. Part of the reason for this is his calculated attempts to win us over – the dancing, the impersonations, the NYFD cap. Never has a PR offensive seemed so sincere! This is a guy with a big heart, a big intellect, a big game and, of course, a big ego. How else could he have found the confidence to chisel his own monument into Fedal Mountain, inserting himself permanently into what was supposed to be a two-man Golden Age. But this season’s been tricky, and will test his resolve as Rafa and Roger have also been tested in years past. He’s going into the US Open as the No. 1 seed but is facing some questions given his losses at Wimbledon and the French, as well as in Cincy and Montreal this summer. He’s not Nole the Invincible anymore, with all the mental and physical fraying that implies. Both Rafa and Roger have been in this situation before and have shown that they can win even with dents in the armor. Can Nole?
What’s ahead for Grigor Dimitrov? We may as well ask, “What’s ahead for tennis?” Like quite a few young guns this year – Sloane Stephens, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki – he’s proven that he has a spark of greatness that could lead to a full on inferno. But will they have enough space in this crowded field of the Legendary and Super Talented to fuel that flame?
What are you takeaways?