Dominant start for top men's seeds
Men's bracket is chock full of competition while the women are unsettled
The star-making process is going into overdrive for Melanie Oudin
If it stays cool and he conserves energy, watch for Juan Martin del Potro
NEW YORK -- Admiring consistency in the men's bracket, rolling out the red carpet for a rising star and checking your mail on Day 5 ...
1. Rolling, rolling rolling. As of Friday afternoon, the top 10 men's seeds had dropped exactly one set combined. (Andy Murray beat Paul Capdeville 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 in the second round.) Compare this to the denuded women's draw. Remember the days when the men were maddeningly unpredictable, each Slam bringing a new winner, and the women seldom offered an unexpected outcome until the latter rounds? Total role reversal here. Instead of using this as an opportunity to bash the women, why not a) appreciate the drama of the matches, however sketchy the quality may be, and b) appreciate that the plots change in this sport.
2. Melanie Oudin, welcome to the show. A few weeks ago Oudin was a little-known prospect, feisty but undersized, one of the many young players the USTA hopes breaks through. Today she is ... everywhere. My cab ticker tells me she's a "rising star." On sports radio, we're told she's suddenly one of "threats to Serena." Wilson wants her for an appearance. Tennis Channel does, too. During her press conference, her agent sits in the back nodding knowingly. The star-making process is sort of fascinating/horrifying to observe up close. Wish the 17-year-old well. Yes, with her tennis, but also with the pressures that attend success.
3. A/C Del-Po: You won't see him playing a night match and he was conspicuously absent from the pre-tournament sponsor schmooze-o-rama. But don't fall asleep on Juan Martin del Potro. Been fortunate enough to catch his matches and he is playing well enough to win. If it stays cool and he conserves energy in Week 1, look out.
Do you think it would be a good idea to let the women's rankings be determined by the amount of prize money they have won during the year? This seems to me the fairest measure of both consistency and performance in the major tournaments. If prize money determined the rankings, Serena would be No. 1 followed closely by Dinara Safina at No. 2 and Svetlana Kuznetsova, winner of the French, at No. 3.
The problem is that the rankings need to serve a dual function of incentivizing players to enter tournaments. If it's based solely on prize money, the majors carry too much weight.
From Joe DiMaggio: "There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time. I owe him my best." Source: The Sporting News, April 4, 1951. Why Ernests Gulbis will never make it: "A ball player has to be kept hungry to become a big leaguer. That's why no boy from a rich family has ever made the big leagues." Source: New York Times (April 30, 1961)
I love John McEnroe. But I chuckled at his ripping Gulbis for his entitlement. Any of you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? There is passing reference to a plane crash that occurred on John McEnroe Sr.'s "estate" on Long Island. It's not as though Johnny Mac grew up on the unforgiving streets, motivated to use tennis to rescue his family from eking out a meager existence. Roddick had a tennis court and pool in his backyard. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal grew up with plenty. As, for that matter, did Kobe Bryant. No one talks about them being insufficiently "hungry." Others grow up with little and still have trouble finding motivation. I think drive is largely in your hardwiring, not your circumstances. Cut Gulbis some slack.
Memo to Serena and Jelena Jankovic: For a good template on how to conduct a gracious interview after a surprising loss, take a few moments and watch Elena Dementieva's postmatch comments. She not only did not once say the result was because she "lost," but she also was gracious enough to say some positive things about her opponent's game. You can continue to act like immature 13-year-olds into your 30s, or you can grow up and stop being such insufferable boors. Here's the thing about denigrating an opponent who has just beaten you: He or she has just beaten you, meaning whatever you say about them you are saying that you are worse. So even if you are so self-absorbed that you have to make everything about you, at least pretend to praise your opponent -- it makes you look better, too.
Most of us are in agreement that Dementieva is delightful and gracious. But, particularly if you're Serena, you say, "All well and good to compliment Melanie Oudin after her win. But I would never be in that position." Quick word about Jankovic, whom some of you are ripping: Yes, she is prone to high drama and emotion. But I saw crying both before and after her match and have no doubt the death in her family affected her play. Think common decency demands that we give her a pass on her loss.
It's worth taking a few minutes to watch or read the transcripts from the interviews with Jesse Witten and Taylor Dent on the U.S. Open Web site. In regards to Witten, now I see why you're always telling people to root for the qualifiers. Great stories, and it shows there's a lot more out there than just Federer and Serena and the marquee names in tennis.
I wanted to pick your legal brain: Considering U.S. limitations on child labor, can a 16-year-old play a night match? Also, is there a limit to the length of a match a minor can play? Meaning, if the same 16-year-old plays singles and doubles, is the U.S. Open obligated to suspend the match if the player's daily work hours have been exceeded?
Someone correct me here ... but as independent contractors I don't believe they're subject to federal labor and employment laws.
I have an issue with your statement about Serena "winning when it matters," when she doesn't bring her A game to Tier I events. Are you suggesting, to the fans and players, to "forget all the other tournaments and just focus on the Slams"?
I'll keep saying it: It's not an ideal situation and it's disappointing that it's become an either/or. Ideally, Serena plays with the same passion and skill in Cincinnati as she does at Wimbledon. She diminishes herself with this "two faces of Eve" thing. One of Michael Jordan's great assets was consistency. Yes, he won NBA titles, but he also went for 50 points in some meaningless Tuesday night game in Milwaukee. Still, with respect to Serena, I can't escape the fact that, unlike so many of her colleagues, she shows up when the stakes are highest.
As a loyal reader but relatively casual fan of the game, can outsiders like me get a pointer on how to pronounce "Oudin"?
I have to say the two weeks of the U.S. Open are most enjoyable. To be able to come home from work and turn on USA Network (now ESPN) was one of the highlights of my summer. Though the depth of the coverage on ESPN is great, Pam Shriver is no match for Ted Robinson and Mary Joe Fernandez is no Michael Barkann. Were those two approached by ESPN to join this year's coverage of the Open?
Robinson, now the radio voice of the San Francisco 49ers, is here for Tennis Channel. Michael Barkann was supposed to be here for the USTA but, we hear, has a pair of screws in his foot!
Dinara Safina -- the worst No. 1 ever (with honorable mention to Marcelo Rios)?
Why stop there? I think she is The Worst Person In The World!