Nadal's slam, Clijsters's romp and more from a satisfying U.S. Open
Rafael Nadal cemented himself as one of today's greatest athletes
Roger Federer struggled badly during the fifth set of his loss to Novak Djokovic
There was really no blame to be had for Victoria Azarenka's scary collapse
Cleaning out the notebook-or the digital equivalent -- after a hot, windy, wet but ultimately, satisfying 2010 U.S. Open.
Rafael Nadal completes the career Slam, winning the 2010 U.S. Open men's title. With any luck, the casual American sports fan now get it. Simply put, this is one of truly great athletes alive today. Just a command performance. And impressive as his serve and improved volleying may have been, his mental game won him this event.
Go ahead and mock the quality of the women's final. But there are worse spectacles in sports than a champion at the top of her game. Simply put, no one was going to beat Kim Clijsters the way she played Saturday night. In her "second" career, she's totally rewritten her tennis legacy.
It's rare that a top player loses in a Major and doesn't walk away disappointed. But Novak Djokovic must be thrilled with this event. He reached still another semifinal. He stares down Roger Federer for the best win of his career. He plays valiantly against Nadal in the final. Just a terrific event for a player in need of one.
Vera Zvonareva didn't offer much in the finals. But credit the highest-ranked Russian for winning a dozen matches between the last two Majors.
A real highlight of the event was the success of the Indo-Pak Express, Aisam Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna, a Pakistan and an Indian, who reached the doubles final and brought all sorts of attention to their agenda of peace. If you were moved by their effort and want to contribute, we're told that www.indopakexpess.com will be live soon. Not to be overlooked: the Bryans won still another title and contributed $10,000 to Pakistani flood relief in the process. This was tennis at its best. In the women's draw, Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova backed up their Wimbledon title by winning in Queens.
Hard to know what to make of Federer's defeat, still another match in which he held match point and couldn't seal the deal. Yes, he didn't drop a set for five rounds, reached the semis and came within a point of meeting Nadal in the final. One winner -- or Djokovic error -- this is a moot point, so let's not get too carried away with doom. But in that fifth set, he was scarcely recognizable at times. His forehand broke down, he missed scads of easy shots, his strategy was often puzzling, he played passively on big points. Love to be a on fly on the wall for the postmortem with Paul Annacone.
Surely I am not alone in my sympathy for Venus Williams. Her sister is out of the tournament. At age 30, the window of opportunity is closing. Despite an absence of match play, she advances through 5.5 rounds. Then at 6-6 in the second set of her semifinal -- with Zvonareva looming as her opponent in the final -- Venus plays as tightly as I've ever seen her play suggesting that, despite her nonchalance, she knew what was at stake. She lost the breaker. She lost the match. She lost a big opportunity to win another Major. Venus never asks for sympathy. She gets it anyway.
Jack Sock might have the name befitting a drummer in a British punk band. But he also has a terrific game that he rode to the boys' title. (Remind me to tell you my Jack Sock story another time.) Between Sock and Ryan Harrison (see below) some glimmers of hope on the American male tennis front.
Through five rounds, Caroline Wozniacki appeared galvanized by her top seeding and poised for a breakthrough. Then she laid an egg in the semis, losing -- comprehensively -- to Zvonareva in the semis. Not a bad loss. Not a bad tournament. But a disappointment nonetheless. (And her loss enables Serena Williams to remain No. 1.)
Can we administer a mercy killing to the U.S. Open Series bonus money? Anyone? Apart from being gauche -- at no other sporting event is such relentless emphasis placed on money -- it is just pointless. Players are not incentivized by this bonus. It rewards nothing. From thousands of inner city rackets to the sponsorship of the New Haven or Atlanta event, that money could go to so many better causes. Clijsters won an extra half million (whistle! catcalls!) for placing second in the series. Her achievement? She won the Cincinnati event. Then she reached the quarters of Montreal (mandatory) before losing in part because of an injury. Then she. Oh, wait, that's it. One tournament win and one quarterfinal -- and both events will be mandatory next year -- and she takes home $500,000? Cut bait, folks, and put that money elsewhere.
Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber won the mixed title.
One big loser this tournament: Arthur Ashe Stadium. Bloated, windy and uncovered is no way to go through life. USTA president Lucy Garvin has a few more months to her term and -- before she's succeeded by Jon Vegosen -- she is looking to make a lasting impact statement. While a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is prohibitively expensive, she intimated that there might be an alternative plan in the works. Stay tuned. (And we'll address more in tomorrow's mailbag.)
On the plus ledger for the USTA, the usopen.org site is a winner and the live streaming is the future.
It was a bittersweet event for Stan Wawrinka, who beat Sam Querrey in one of the tournament's better matches and reached the round of eight. Once there, however, he squandered a 2-1 sets lead to Youzhny. If it's any consolation, he had the most menacing players box of the tournament.
You're reluctant to oversell a young player. But you're also reluctant to undersell him. Ryan Harrison still has rough edges in need of planing. But from footwork and foot speed to his "tennis cortex" there sure are reasons for optimism. As for squandering multiple match points in his second round loss, part of being 18 means having a short memory.
Another shout-out to Esther Vergeer, the queen of the wheelchair event. By her standards -- she's closing in on 400 straight victories -- Federer and Nadal are journeymen.
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