Breath of fresh air
Djokovic has tall task in final; Henin the gold standard
Posted: Saturday September 8, 2007 10:57PM; Updated: Sunday September 9, 2007 2:24AM
NEW YORK -- We caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer S.L. Price, who is covering the U.S. Open, to get his thoughts on the upcoming men's final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and Justine Henin's 6-1, 6-3 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women's final.
So who wins between Federer and Djokovic?
Like everybody else, I like Federer to win every Grand Slam he plays in except for the French Open. He is always a prohibitive favorite but I think Djokovic has a big enough game and a big enough attitude where he can actually beat Federer. I would not be surprised if that happens.
What has Djokovic's run to the finals -- he is the third youngest man (20 years, three months, 18 days) to reach the U.S. Open final in the Open era -- meant for this tournament?
Serena Williams and Andy Roddick were really dour and contentious in their exits from the Open, a bad look for American tennis after a very nice start. So of all people, Djokovic has come in and basically taken this Open by storm. And not just as a tennis player but as an unbelievable figure of fun.
Rarely do we see a tennis player let the crowd in as Djokovic did this week, right?
I've been covering the U.S. Open since 1990 and his impressions were the best non-tennis thing I've ever seen here. Secondly, I have never seen a player who can play so seriously and at the same time play with such lightness. He is able to be light and funny and roll his eyes and smile at a point, and yet not let it undermine his concentration and focus. That is a completely rare talent. This guy is different and special. And he's just 20.
On Saturday Federer advanced to his 10th consecutive Grand Slam final. If he wins the final, where do you rate his 2007 season as compared to previous years?
His record (51-6) is slightly less than last year, but Grand Slams are the gold standard to all the players. If Federer wins three Grand Slams and is in the finals of the fourth, which is basically replicating last year, the guy is at the same level he was in my mind, and in the players' minds as well.
Where does Andy Roddick stand after this tournament?
He is feeling the heat from other players around him, Djokovic being the most obvious one. In many ways his performance against Federer was a step up, and he really should be proud of the way he competed and the way he went at Federer. But do I feel like he is the guy equipped at this point to take Federer down? No. I think there are other players who are more equipped to do that.
How would you describe the women's final?
Horrible. It was a really bad women's final and it's really too bad. The draw was bad from the start. It was top-loaded and as a result, you were left with this kind of final. On the other hand, Justine is an absolutely worthy champion.
The Williams sisters went down in the quarterfinals (Serena) and semifinals (Venus). What do you take away from their two weeks?
Coming into this tournament they were the miracle twins of this tennis season: Serena wins the Australian, Venus wins Wimbledon and both were completely unexpected and fed the fire that you never know what to expect from them. However, they were both big favorites here because of that and again the unexpected happens. They do not compete nearly as well as we thought they would. Certainly in Serena's case, she more than ever gave ammunition to those who don't like the fact she does not give opponents credit. Summing up what Justine did to her in the second set of their match as "lucky shots" was truly absurd.
Is Henin the player of the year in women's tennis?
No doubt. She won the de facto final when she beat Venus in the semis and she's won two majors this year. In the women's game, which is always a complete tossup, Justine Henin is the one constant. She is the gold standard in the sport right now.