Wow, what a week of tennis on display up north. The meaty part of the US Open series has started, with the women in Montreal and the men in Toronto treating us to some intriguing match ups and (re)igniting some fun story lines as we look forward to the last major of the year.
Here are just a few things I’m thinking about after the Rogers (not Roger’s) cups have been distributed.
1. Well, first things first, congrats to the weekend winners Agnieszka Radwanska and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both players, oft-touted, often just not quite good enough, showed they can take on the legends of the sport this weekend. I thought Aggie’s thoughtful style was particularly enjoyable to watch versus Venus’s power tennis, while Jo, riding a wave of great play this week against the likes of Novak, Murray and Dimitrov, made land in great style today with his straight sets win over Roger Federer in the Rogers Cup final.
2. So, now, could this finally be Jo-Wilfried’s time to win a Major, what with his game roaring back to life and the Big 4 in a convenient state of mild befuddlement? Novak’s understandably distracted, Rafa may not even play the rest of the summer, Murray is still in reboot mode and Roger is, well, it’s kind of hard to say exactly, though he seems embroiled in some kind of “midlife” crisis involving a return to the early aughts, serve and volley Rog. I often steal a favorite line from a favorite movie of mine, and implore Roger to “K.I.T.!” during the big points of his matches (that would be “keep it together!”) but right now that phrase could be a rallying cry for any of the Big 4. Or for Jo-Wilfried, for that matter. We all know he has the talent and at this point he’s had the experience in the big matches – if he could just K.I.T. in NYC, we could be looking at yet another new Major titlist in 2014.
3. Of course, I’d be even happier if Roger got his tennis unscrambled in the meantime. Yes, I realize he made it to the finals this weekend (not to mention at Wimbledon last month) but the Great One still appears to be working something out – whether it’s a mere kink or a big life question remains to be seen. I think, as I mentioned, it’s about finding that right balance between the S&V and the D, though after today’s final in Toronto he should probably just settle for making a few down the line backhands. It’s a fascinating, terrifying, time to be a Roger fan.
4. Venus Williams. Talk about a player on the edge. In many ways, I feel like she and Federer are hiking the same cliff side path right now, though Venus seems to be edging along with little more than a half empty water bottle and some trail mix to keep her going. Like Roger, Venus won a title in Dubai this year and displayed second-best form at Wimbledon (she gave Kvitova her toughest match of the fortnight). They both have shown grit and perseverance this season, a willingness to scrap, but also an unfortunate and heartbreaking – for their fans, at least – fragility. I absolutely loved V’s win over her little sister in the semifinals this weekend, yet was sadly unsurprised by the deflating loss she suffered to Radwanska in the final. The specter of her Sjogren’s syndrome is always lurking, and regularly conjured up by the commentators, but I think it’s her big, bleeding tennis champion’s heart that’s tormenting her right now. I’m just going to let my sentimental side gush open\for a moment and say that I’m openly cheering for a Venus championship in Flushing. (Now who needs to keep it together?)
5. But first, on to Cincy! The Cincinnati tournament is, in my mind, the most American of the Masters events: midwestern, hot, humid and without the flash and pretension of Miami and Indian Wells. This year, Roger and Murray share a quarter of the draw and on the other side, Novak faces a gamut of tricky opponents, including the winner of Simon vs. Tomic in the second round. Serena could meet Kerber or Radwanska in the semis, Sharapova and Bouchard could clash on the other side of the draw and Venus can’t catch a break with Safarova in the first round. This dog days tournament is already presenting us with more to chew on before the US Open kicks in.
6. Cashmere bathroom tissue.
What are you thinking about right now?