Enjoy your favorites while you can
It was a day for goodbyes for some veteran players at the U.S. Open
The payoff for seeding 32 players comes in the Open's second week
Sam Querrey should be able to crack the top 20 later this month
NEW YORK -- A few thoughts on a day of goodbyes at the Open ...
1. Around the same time Marat Safin bowed out on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Fabrice Santoro was playing his last Slam in the boonies. Amelie Mauresmo, who mustered all of four games in a desultory loss to Alex Wozniacki, sure looks like she's on her last legs. Same for Ivan Ljubicic, a loser to Novak Djokovic on Tuesday. A reminder that time stops for no one, seasons change ... and the rest of those graduation-speech clichés. And if you're a fan, enjoy your favorite player while you can.
2. Does seeding 32 players take some starch out of the tournament? I was arguing this with Jimmy Connors on Tuesday night. My take: Sure, it reduces some of the upsets and tight matches in the early rounds. As I write this, the "biggest" upset was a struggling Ana Ivanovic losing to Kateryna Bondarenko. But the payoff comes in the second week when the "protected" seeds face off. It's a trade I think we should be willing to make.
3. No, after you, I insist. For the first time, a men's match will precede a women's match for the Arthur Ashe night session. Roger Federer plays Simon Greul followed by Serena Williams and Melinda Czink. The old thinking, of course, was that the women play best-of-three sets so it's only natural they would kick off the festivities. But this seemed a bit unfair to the men, who, in the event of a long match, sometimes didn't take the court until the infomercial hours. (See Andy Roddick's 11 p.m. start on Monday.) Now we'll switch roles. But rest assured the powers-that-be hope that Federer wins in straight sets!
I agree with your first point from Tuesday's column that American tennis doesn't look so bad with a lot of new faces, but are any of these players considered potential future top 10 players?
Top 10? Sure. I think Sam Querrey, who will almost assuredly crack the top 20 this month, is your best bet. I've quickly grown to like Melanie Oudin, who is undersized but emulates Justine Henin's aggression. She totally dictated play Tuesday against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a prototype Big Banger. We keep hearing about the welter of fine 14-, 15- and 16-years-olds.
Look, the world has changed. The notion of one country dominating is a thing of the past. (And if you look at the girls' junior rankings, the "Russian Revolution" is likely a one-generation phenomenon.) No question, the American influence has fallen off from its peak. But there are still plenty of sources of optimism.
Ernests Gulbis' match with Andy Murray was fun to watch. It is incomprehensible why Ernests is ranked No. 95. He was brilliant but inconsistent. He could have had the No. 2 seed in serious trouble, but instead he went out in straight sets. The commentators at the match were extremely negative with "rich kid" and "sitting on beach chair" lines. How do you see Ernests' career in the future?
I thought the commentators went overboard, noting Gulbis' financial good fortune. (Andy Roddick? Roger Federer? Rafael Nadal? John McEnroe? Were any of them from the mean streets?) OK, he's the son of a billionaire and takes private flights. He's also 21. He's allowed a sophomore slump. Lots of talent and while he may never harness it, it's a bit early to bury the kid. Even if he doesn't shop at Wal-Mart.
Please spare a line for Venus' U.S. Open dress! It's simple and elegant, yet so detailed it merits a meditation on the dress itself. Wish the camera crew felt the same way, though, because I couldn't get a nice still view of the sketching on the back. The endless variations of the basic dress form are still surprising to me -- people's creativity never seems to end. Venus really did an incredible job on it. Kudos! (I'm assuming she designed it.)
I tend to overlook fashion. But at Wimbledon I was struck by Nadia Petrova's attire, a classically elegant white dress adorned with some tasteful frills. "Finally, tennis attire I might buy for my wife." I looked at the label and then recalled that Venus was designing Petrova's clothes.
Thanks for pointing out the plight of the poor linespeople put on camera when they make a mistake. Another thing I wonder about is why the players give such perfunctory handshakes to the chair umpire after matches. Would it kill them to actually look up at the umpire and say thanks while they shake hands?
Most players don't so much as shake the chair's hand they randomly brush it. But a few -- I recall Monica Seles in particular -- do the full grip and eye contact routine. (Aside: I hate how basic civil behavior and common decency get spun into great virtue in sports sometimes.)
How would you define an upset? To me, an upset is Robin Soderling taking down Nadal at the French, as it was completely unexpected. Kateryna Bondarenko beating Ana Ivanovic, on the other hand, didn't strike me as an upset because right now, Ivanovic losing to anybody doesn't surprise me. You even picked Bondarenko as your "blue-plate upset special" in the first round. Is it an upset when the outcome was borderline expected?
If a borderline upset happened in the woods with one hand clapping, would anyone see it? Think about it.
Hop on the Kim Clijsters bandwagon while you can.
Khairi Akbar of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: "While you guys are arguing about the order of play for the matches, spare a thought for us Asia Pacific tennis fans who haven't been able to catch the marquee matches because we're working!"
Interesting charity event involving Steffi Graf.