Top 20 Takeaways from the 2010 U.S. Open

  1. Without a doubt, two of the biggest opponents at the 2010 U.S. Open were the heat and the wind. Record temperatures during the first week approached triple digits. In stark contrast, the second week was much cooler. Remnants of Hurricane Earl produced winds gusts of at least 30mph in Ashe Stadium. Ball kids were chasing down balls as well as flying napkins.

  1. For a moment, winning and losing suddenly didn’t matter much when Victoria Azarenka collapsed on court during her second round match vs. Gisela Dulko. Azarenka was later diagnosed with a mild concussion after she fell during a pre-match warm-up.

  1. Serena who? Oh, right. The No. 1 ranked women’s player. She made a few appearances to cheer on her sister Venus, and got her feet wet (even the injured one) in the broadcast booth.

  1. We all know that Novak Djokovic is a bit of a showman. Now we know where he gets it from: His parents. They were both sporting t-shirts with pictures of their son during his matches. Hey, whatever works.

  1. Roger Federer’s father was spotted wearing an autographed RF cap from his son. I wonder if he knows how much he can get for that on eBay.

  1. In my quest to take a large quantity of behind-the-scenes photos at the U.S. Open, I stumbled upon this guy, standing in the Unisphere, sweeping up the gunk from the bottom of the fountain--clearly the worst job at the tournament. Some would argue that cleaning toilets would be a worse job, but you never know what’s in that fountain.

  1. Rafa: The guy set a goal, and accomplished it. His personal-best 135mph serve was icing on the cake compared to achieving his career Slam. And he didn’t seem to mind taking this van back and forth to the tournament. There has to be some irony there somewhere.

  1. Venus Williams: Her over-the-top outfits emblazoned with sparkly fireworks made a bold statement, but her game was no match for Kim-possible in the semifinals.

  1. Vera Zvonareva: The last Russian standing advanced to her second consecutive Grand Slam final, and didn’t drop a set until the final. She also didn’t have a prayer against Kim Clijsters in their 59-minute match. Kim told Vera afterwards that it took about 5-6 Grand Slam finals before she won her first title. Now that’s a champion—trying to console your opponent after winning the U.S. Open.
  1. Ryan Harrison: New blood. ‘Nuf said.

  1. Some were hoping that No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki would go on to win the title so that she could take over the No. 1 ranking, but it wasn’t to be. On another note, Donald Trump’s appearance in her player’s box was just that. An appearance. He called her agent to get those seats.

  1. Mardy Fish: I don’t know what you’re eating, but whatever it is, keep it up.

  1. Melanie Oudin changed the mantra etched on her sneakers from “Believe” to “Courage”, but couldn’t repeat last year’s quarterfinal breakthrough, losing in the second round. No offense to Melanie, but maybe the motivational mantra for next year should be placed closer to her head.

  1. Was it just me, or was everyone waiting for Ana Ivanovic to crash and burn in the first round? Her fourth-round run at the U.S. Open not only surpassed everyone’s expectations, it gave us all a reminder that just because you're down doesn't mean you're done.

  1. Was it Novak Djokovic’s fault that fans were denied a Federer/Rafa final at the U.S. Open, or did Roger Federer simply run out of steam? Tough call. In any case, you simply can’t deny Novak Djokovic anymore. The guy came back after saving two match points to beat the greatest player of all time.

  1. The rains came on Sunday just as Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova were facing a potential loss at 5-4 in the third set of the doubles final, and had to finish up the match on Monday. The extra time seemed to be just what they needed to turn the match in their favor, winning their second consecutive Grand Slam doubles title. They now have a 12-0 record in Grand Slam doubles matches.

  1. Esther Vergeer, champion of wheelchair tennis, was the talk of this year’s U.S. Open. I had the pleasure of watching her play, and was simply in awe. The No. 1 wheelchair player won her fifth U.S. Open title and is currently on a 396-match winning streak. She has the same number of Grand Slam singles titles as Roger Federer (16).
  1. Sam Querrey had his best U.S. Open result to date, reaching the quarterfinal in his second match (ever) on Arthur Ashe Stadium. An injured John Isner also had a respectable third round result. I think it’s safe to remove these guys from the up-and-comers category.

  1. Francesca Schiavone’s “Tweener”. Federer’s got some competition.

  1. For the third year in a row, the U.S. Open men’s final was moved to Monday due to a rain delay. Yes, building a roof over Arthur Ashe stadium would be expensive, given its size. But such an undertaking could create thousands of new jobs, and would guarantee a Sunday men’s final. Everybody wins.

      Williams Sisters Fed Cup Commitment Under Scrutiny

      On the Baseline Tennis News

      The U.S.A. will play host to Italy in the Fed Cup final at the San Diego Sports Arena on November 6-7. This marks the first Fed Cup final played in the U.S. in 10 years, and the second consecutive year that the U.S. has faced Italy in the Fed Cup final.
      They’ll be looking to avenge their 4-0 loss to Italy in last year’s final with a home court advantage, and playing on hard courts. The U.S. currently holds a 9-1 leads over Italy in their head-to-head race. Liezel Huber, Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands will once again be part of the U.S. Fed Cup lineup for the final, and they will be joined by Venus and Serena Williams.

      Mary Joe Fernandez, who took over as U.S. Fed Cup captain in 2009 and has been granted a two-year extension by the USTA, is hoping to lead the U.S. to its first Fed Cup title since 2000. Both Venus and Serena have said they’ve committed to play in the Fed Cup final in San Diego, but there is legitimate reason for doubt, given their history of backing out of Fed Cup ties at the last minute, as well as their apparent lack of interest. This year is different. The Olympics are now in clear view.

      Venus elaborated on her commitment to playing in the Fed Cup final after her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open. She insists that this year is different from her 2009 wait-and-see-commitment to playing in the Fed Cup final, and then backing out at the last minute due to injury. “Last year, I didn’t commit. I couldn’t go. This year is different. I’ve already said I’d be there,” said Venus. It is worth noting that Venus and Serena Williams have not made themselves available to play Fed Cup since 2007.

      When it comes to competing in the Summer Olympics, eligibility hinges on a Fed Cup commitment. According to Olympic rules, a player must make herself available for Fed Cup play twice during a four year Olympic cycle to be eligible to play in the Olympics. For the 2012 summer Olympics, that cycle is 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. One of those availabilities must take place the year before or the year of the Olympics (2011 or 2012).

      Upon closer examination, the rules for qualifying for the 2012 Olympics with a Fed Cup commitment are not without caveats.

      Caveat #1: If Venus or Serena are on the Fed Cup team roster and are not chosen by Mary Joe Fernandez to play either singles or doubles in the final, that counts as having fulfilled their commitment to play Fed Cup for that year.

      Caveat #2: If Venus or Serena are injured just prior to the Fed Cup final after they have committed to play, they would have to be physically present at the location where the tie is taking place in order to fulfill their commitment to play Fed Cup for that year.

      What does this mean for the Williams sisters? If either of them follow through on their commitment to play in this year’s Fed Cup final in San Diego, they will need to play again in 2011 and 2012 if they want to remain eligible for the 2012 Summer Olympics, held in London. According to Tim Curry, spokesperson for the USTA, if the U.S. team makes the Fed Cup final in 2012, that tie won’t take place until after the Olympics. That could pose a potential problem for the Williams sisters.

      Will either of them show up and play in November? We’ll just have to wait and see.

      Kim Clijsters Wins Her Third U.S. Open Title

      On the Baseline Tennis News

      FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—Back…Back in the New York Groove…a song by the 1970’s rock band KISS was blaring on the loudspeakers in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

      The newly crowned U.S. Open champ, Kim Clijsters  ran up to her player’s box after winning the championship match. Clijsters, the two-time U.S. Open champ and mother of 2 1/2 yr old Jada, had beaten an unlikely opponent, as well as the last Russian standing, Vera Zvonareva.

      Clijsters set the tone early on in the first set. She had broken Zvonareva to take a solid 4-2 lead. It was apparent that Zvonareva couldn’t keep up with Clijsters, who took the first set 6-2. In typical Zvonareva fashion, she sat through the changeover with a towel over her head to block out the world.
      Zvonareva seemed defeated from the start of the second set. She reached to make a backhand shot, did a split, missed the ball, and slammed her racquet on the ground in frustration. She then double faulted to give Clijsters the 2-0 lead in the second set.

      The crowd was clearly rooting for Zvonareva, almost out of pity, knowing that something wasn’t clicking in her game. Their efforts didn’t seem to make much of a difference. She was slow, and showed very little power in her shots. Clijsters took the third game in the second set. Zvonareva then switched to a new racquet, which seemed to do the trick (temporarily). She won the game, but was still trailing 1-3. After a long rally, Zvonareva came to the net, and Clijsters seized the opportunity for a lob, but the ball went long. (Score an extra fist pump for Zvonareva.) She tried to break Clijsters with 3-4 cross court shots to Clijsters’ forehand, but Clijsters held, taking the set to 4-1.

      Zvonareva’s first ace (and her only ace) came when she was down 1-4 in the second set, but didn’t help much. She double-faulted the last point of the game, giving Clijsters a 5-1 lead, and a chance to serve for the match. Kim was fast on her feet, and dictated points all the way through the match. She hardly had time to break a sweat. In just 59 minutes, Kim Clijsters had beaten the No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.

      This was a second consecutive Grand Slam final for Zvonareva, with yet another disappointing end. She had 24 unforced errors (compared to Clijsters’ 15). Her first serve percentage averaged at 66%. Going into the match, Clijsters lead their head to head 5-2, but Zvonareva had recently beaten Clijsters twice before this final, so she had every reason to believe she could win it all.

      After the match, Clijsters told Zvonareva that it took her five or six times being in a Grand Slam final before she won her first one. “That was probably one of the most frustrating things in my Grand Slam losses in the final was that I wasn’t able to give—show my best tennis out there,” said Clijsters.
      In Zvonareva’s press conference, she talked about the differences between her and Clijsters in this match. “Physically, she was just a much better player than me.” She also admitted that one of the things that she has to learn is how to pace herself at Grand Slams, which, according to Zvonareva, could mean not playing doubles in addition to playing singles.

      Kim Clijsters has now defeated both of the Williams sisters in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, and this year has walked away with $2.2 million dollars in prize money.

      Not bad for two weeks of work.

      2010 U.S. Open Semifinal Preview

      On the Baseline Tennis News9.9.10

      FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—The road to the U.S. Open semifinals has been long, and…shall I say, a bit windy. The blustery conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium have offered little control over the ball from any angle. As a result, players have had to shift their game to survival mode instead of trying to capitalize on their strengths. No major surprises in terms of who’s been able to handle the swirling wind and survive this fortnight.

      Caroline Wozniacki  vs. Vera Zvonareva 

      H2H: 2-2

      Caroline Wozniacki
      Quarterfinal win over Dominica Cibulkova 6-2, 7-5

      Top seed Caroline Wozniacki had only dropped 10 games heading into the quarterfinals on Wednesday night, an accomplishment only matched by Serena Williams in 2002. With her defensive style of play, Wozniacki took control early against the No. 45 ranked Cibulkova, leading 3-1. The wind conditions were a consistent problem, and Wozniacki needed to hit through every shot just to keep the ball from flying. She even had to put her hair into a braid in the middle of the match just to keep her hair from flying into her face. Unseeded Cibulkova started attacking more when she was down 1-5, but she couldn’t pull off taking the first set. Wozniacki broke Cibulkova at 5-5 in the 2nd set, and went on to win the 2nd set 7-5. Cibulkova had 43 unforced errors for the match; Wozniacki just 18. The average first serve speeds for both players were in the 80mph range, an indication of just how much the wind was impacting their games.

      Cibulkova would have been just the ninth unseeded woman to make it to the U.S. Open semifinals in the Open Era had she won.

      The 20-year-old Dane is the youngest of the semifinalists. She has not dropped a set, and has only lost 17 games since the start of the U.S. Open. Wozniacki has had the most consistent hard court season of any player. She defeated Vera Zvonareva in the Montreal final last month, and went on to win New Haven just one week later. Wozniacki is poised to make her second straight U.S. Open final.

      Vera Zvonareva
      Quarterfinal win over Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 7-5

      This match was a first meeting for these two players. Kanepi, the towering 25-year-old from Estonia who has a big serve and solid ground strokes, had trouble with her nerves and the wind throughout this match, committing 60 unforced errors. “I don’t think she was just making errors for no reasons,” Zvonareva said after the match. “I think I was making it difficult for her. She had to go more for her shots. I was trying to guess where she was playing and read her game. So I was trying to make it as difficult as possible for her.”

      The No. 7 seed Zvonareva stayed aggressive throughout the match, but suffered a few setbacks at 4-3 in the second set. Kanepi evened it up at 4-4. She was then serving at 5-4 to stay in the match, and Zvonareva couldn’t pull off the break. Zvonareva held serve, bringing it to 6-5, and went on to break Kanepi in the final game, winning the set 7-5.

      Zvonareva managed to keep her emotions in check, despite the added challenges from the wind. “The weather was definitely not for the good tennis out there,” said Zvonareva . “But no matter what, the match had to be played. The most important thing was to find the right balance between being patient and being aggressive. I think I did it well.”

      This will be Zvonareva’s first U.S. Open semifinal. She will be facing an uphill battle against Wozniacki. In the four times they’ve played against each other, Zvonareva defeated Wozniacki only once on hard courts (Indian Wells 2009). Her most recent victory over Wozniacki was this year in Charleston, beating her in the semifinals, but Wozniacki suffered an ankle injury during that match, and had to retire. Zvonareva will have to be aggressive and defensive in her play against Wozniacki if she wants to secure a spot in the final.

      Kim Clijsters  vs. Venus Williams 

      H2H: 6-6

      Kim Clijsters
      Quarterfinal win over Sam Stosur 6-4, 5-7, 6-3

      For the first time at this year’s U.S. Open, Kim Clijsters dropped a set when she faced off against Sam Stosur on Tuesday night. Clijsters suffered eight double faults, but neither player was serving particularly well. Stosur did manage to throw off Clijsters’ rhythm, which made her a bit uneasy, but Clijsters managed to find her form in the third set. The high number of unforced errors from both players seemed to indicate that the windy conditions had significantly compromised their games (43 for Clijsters, 36 for Stosur). For Clijsters, this quarterfinal match was her 19th straight win at the U.S. Open.

      As the defending U.S. Open champion and two-time winner, Clijsters will be back in familiar territory heading into the semifinals, so her confidence should go a long way in her match vs. Venus Williams. She defeated Venus in the fourth round of the 2009 U.S. Open, as well as the quarterfinals of the 2005 U.S. Open. Clijsters also won the U.S. Open title in both of those years. In their last four meetings (since 2005), Clijsters has beaten Venus each time (all on hard courts). Clijsters is likely the best hard court player on the Tour, and is as fit as she’s ever been. She also leads the pack in backhand winners (29).

      Venus Williams
      Quarterfinal win over Francesca Schiavone 7-6(5), 6-4

      Venus Williams had a 7-0 record going into her match against Schiavone.
      She struggled with her serve, making nine double faults and 33 unforced errors. Venus couldn’t even warm up her serve with the wind on court. Despite the tough conditions, Venus managed to hit a 125mph serve.

      In terms of stats, Venus Williams holds the tournament record for fastest serve speed (127mph), highest number of winners (137), and is the overall ace leader (26). She has also not dropped a set since the start of the tournament.

      Heading into the semifinals, Venus, who will undoubtedly be wearing her 6th attention- grabbing outfit, will also be carrying the American torch. At 30, Venus is the oldest semifinalist, and hasn’t been in a U.S. Open semifinal since 2007. She also hasn’t won the tournament since 2001, but hopes are high for her to reclaim victory.

      Who do you think will reach the 2010 US Open championship match? Leave a comment or send a reply on Twitter at @OnTheBaseline!

      The Serena Effect

      On the Baseline Tennis News

      FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York—With the middle weekend of the U.S. Open upon us (Labor Day weekend in the U.S.), I was wondering: Why are most of the top women’s seeds still in the U.S. Open? Are all of the ups and downs in the women’s game suddenly over as the WTA Tour’s top stars  have seemingly gained courage out of nowhere?

      The reasons seem clear when you look at individual players, yet somehow seem complicated when you look at it from the perspective of Serena not being in the mix. I like to call it “The Serena Effect.” As you’ve probably heard, Serena Williams, the would-have-been No. 1 seed at the U.S. Open, injured her right foot on July 7, which required surgery to repair a lacerated tendon. This injury has kept her out of competition since Wimbledon and out of this year’s U.S. Open.

       Serena’s inability to compete in the U.S. Open has somehow leveled the playing field, opened up the draw, and revealed the depth of the women’s game–which has been overshadowed by Serena’s dominance at Grand Slams over the past few years. With Serena out of the U.S. Open, there is no clear-cut favorite to win, no rivalry, and no potential for an all-Williams final. In fact, Venus Williams could have suffered the same injury as her sister Serena, yet the effect on the U.S. Open’s field of players would not have been the same.

      Here’s something to ponder: Has the proverbial bar been lowered at the U.S. Open without Serena playing? Is there less pressure on players because Serena Williams isn’t standing on the other side of the net, ready to serve her 97th ace? Subjective questions for sure, and the answers can vary greatly depending on who you ask. But however you look at it, the U.S. Open is a different tournament without Serena Williams.

      So who is the most impacted by Serena’s absence? There are four past women’s champions left in the U.S. Open women’s draw: Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kim Clijsters, the defending champion, and arguably the best hard court player on the WTA Tour, has the ability to defeat Serena Williams (or anyone for that matter) on any given day, so this year’s U.S. Open isn’t all that different for her. Maria Sharapova seems to be holding her own, regardless of who her opponent is. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is on a comeback of sorts, would likely fair better in a Grand Slam without Serena. Venus Williams, on the other hand, has lost her doubles partner, as well as someone who knows how to push her own game to greater heights. In some respects, the pressure could be greater for Venus.

      Caroline Wozniacki, who replaced Serena as the No. 1 seed at the U.S. Open, clearly has the most to gain from Serena’s absence. You can argue that Wozniacki didn’t earn the No. 1 seed position, but the opportunity has given her the best shot at winning her maiden Grand Slam, and taking over the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. That is, if she can get past Clijsters, who beat her in the U.S. Open final last year.

      Vera Zvonareva, who lost to Serena in this year’s Wimbledon final, also has a window of opportunity to claim her first Grand Slam title with Serena being sidelined.

      The fact that the top seeds are still in the U.S. Open doesn’t offer any guarantees for a predictable winner. Perhaps this is the downside of a wide-open draw, but in some ways, that is what makes this Grand Slam so exciting to watch.

      Who Are the 2010 US Open Contenders?

      On the Baseline Tennis News

      With a Serena-less Slam, this year’s US Open is proving to be the most wide-open Grand Slam in years. Who do you think has a shot at winning the title? Are there any dark horses or up-and-comers who can steal the spotlight?

      OTB has come up with a list of the top 8 US Open contenders.

      Caroline Wozniacki: A 2009 US Open finalist. This is her first time being the No. 1 seed at the US Open. She’s injury-free and playing well enough to win her maiden Grand Slam.

      Kim Clijsters: Defending US Open champion, and the best hard court player on the WTA Tour. A thigh and hip injury could hold her back from the title.

      Venus Williams: She hasn’t played since Wimbledon, but could be a huge threat. And with Serena out, her chances to go deep at the US Open have significantly increased.

      Vera Zvonareva: She’s had moments of brilliance, resulting in increased confidence, and has become much better at managing her emotions. This could be her chance to win her maiden Grand Slam.

      Na Li: China’s No. 1 player has had a great season, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and making it to the semis in Copenhagen. She hasn’t had a great summer hard court season, but she has done well on the big stages.

      Maria Sharapova: Maria has shown signs of the “old” Maria in recent months, reaching the finals in Stanford and Cincinnati. She is injury free and ready to reclaim her top-10 status. Can she win another US Open title?

      Jelena Jankovic: She may be a top five player, but JJ has been consistently inconsistent with her game. Can this veteran win seven matches over two weeks to win her first Grand Slam title?

      Victoria Azarenka: She’s had a solid hard court season, winning the title in Stanford, and reaching the semis in Montreal. Can she break through at a Major?