Fifty thoughts from the U.S. Open
Novak Djokovic and Sam Stosur are deserving champions of the U.S. Open
Serena Williams disgraced herself with tirade at umpire who made the right call
Other storylines: Schedule chaos, Donald Young, young U.S. women, Bryans upset
Rare photos of Roddick
Best players without a major
Fashion at the U.S. Open
Celebs at the U.S. Open
Me? I'd like to see a list of search terms from the 2011 U.S. Open. It would read like a Mad Libs game gone nuts: Egg, Fish, Young, Crack, Hindrance, Cramps, Keys, Crankypants, Luck, Earley, Rain. There was also some fine tennis. Cleaning out the notebook from a wet and woolly U.S. Open that, even by tennis standards, was more than a little bizarre:
Your men's winner, Novak Djokovic, was as good advertised. In winning his third Grand Slam event of 2011, he has already turned in one the best seasons in tennis history. And he did it with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as contemporaries. If you can't hit through a guy and you can't hit around him, how exactly do you beat him?
Sam Stosur is your women's champion, and damn if she doesn't deserve it. Her run culminated with a rout of Serena Williams in the final, a win that, one hopes, does not feel the least bit marred by her opponent's repugnant behavior. But the Aussie's run also included a third-round victory over Nadia Petrova in the longest women's match in tournament history; a recovery from losing the longest women's tiebreaker in major history, against Maria Kirilenko in the fourth round; and a three-set win in an "everything-to-lose-nothing-to-gain" semifinal against 93rd-ranked Angelique Kerber. Good on her, as they say in her parts. Consider this a victory for sports psychology, too.
Serena Williams disgraced herself. Watch this and there's just no way around this conclusion. You will not find a better (which is to say, worse) example of indefensible behavior. This is an athlete -- one whom, in so many respects, we should admire -- acting with the height of arrogance, bullying, unaccountability and cluelessness. Before the tournament, we joked that there was a Saturday Night Live skit waiting to be cooked up about Serena's comically bad PR instincts. Sadly, it's a lot less funny today. (As, for that matter, is Andy Roddick's suggestion that tennis borrow from the professional wrestling playbook.)
Over the years, Serena has gotten a lot of passes and "yeah buts" and "extenuating circumstances." This time? There's an unmistakable sense that she lost fans and credibility in equal measure on Sunday night. Serena announces she's dedicating the final to the memory of 9/11. Then she berates a foreign umpire (who made the correct call), threatened her and called her "unattractive inside." Slapped with a code violation, she responds: "A code violation because I expressed who I am? We're in America last time I checked!" Just galling. Period.
Nadal reached still another Grand Slam final -- and played well once he was there in a match of tremendous quality. But he has yet to solve the Djokovic riddle, having lost six in a row to the world No. 1. Djokovic is to Nadal what Nadal is to Federer?
After eight days, this tournament was riding high, filled with gripping matches, robust crowds, heartening stories and scant controversies. After that, the deluge. The rain came and the good karma left. The USTA has to realize that it's not operating from a position of strength. Nadal's observation that it's "all about the money" is clearly widely shared. Even if the roof debate is a moot point, the USTA needs to go hold an off-site meeting somewhere and figure out what can be done to prevent this chaos from erupting each year at the sign of the first gray cloud.
Caroline Wozniacki possesses the defense to remain at the top of the game for a long, long time. Caroline Wozniacki lacks the offense to win majors.
At least until the rain came, the story of the tournament may well have been the emergence of Donald Young. Though The Donald's run came to a screeching halt in the round of 16 with a loss to Andy Murray, he did himself proud on so many levels. I was particularly struck, though, by his insistence on taking the high road. There was no bitterness, no I-told-you-so, no gloating. Just a likable, humble kid admitting mistakes and trying to move forward. This, as much as his nuanced game, suggests that he has truly matured.
Taking advantage of Bob and Mike Bryan's first-round loss to Ivo Karlovic and Frank Moser -- both the biggest and most underrated upset of the tournament -- Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner won the doubles title. But add Petzschner to the detention list for this ethical lapse. Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber -- combined age: 73! -- won the women's event.
At around 5 p.m. on Saturday, it looked like Roger Federer stood a darn good chance to win his first post-30 Slam and his first major of 2011. Then, of course, he squandered a pair of match points -- on his serve -- never recovered and lost to Djokovic. For all of his numerous successes, Federer's fate at the last three U.S. Opens must sting intensely. Federer is coming in for a beating over his postmatch comments, but, to me, they were more revealing than anything else. To mere mortals, it seems perfectly sensible to attempt a go-for-broke shot down match point.
Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin won the mixed doubles title. While the event might be little more than a sideshow -- and an easy way for journeyfolk to pick up some cash -- this title was freighted with significance. For Sock, 18, it added still more excitement to his successful Open. For the 19-year-old Oudin, who hasn't won a main draw singles match since April, maybe this could goose her career a bit.
In the juniors, American Grace Min outlasted top-seeded Caroline Garcia to win the girls' title and Oliver Golding of Great Britain beat top-seeded Jiri Vesely in the boys' event. For unmatched juniors coverage, follow Colette Lewis on Twitter.
What a strange tournament for Andy Roddick. He won his first match and then raised eyebrows (and hackles) with this ESPN interview. Playing his forth-rounder on Court 13, he scored his best win of the year under the most outré circumstances, taking out David Ferrer. A day later -- not, significantly, two days -- his body was shot and he offered virtually no resistance against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. There were a lot of questions about Roddick's future. Right now, it's really more about his body than about his game or his confidence.
Even before the rain, there were a lot of gripes about the scheduling. I don't get too worked about this. It's a no-win job and many folks forget about the time zones. Here's something to bear in mind. If Nadal takes the court at, say, 9 p.m., It's 3 a.m. in Spain. Actually, bad example. People are probably still awake there. If Federer plays at 9 at night, it's 3 in the morning in Switzerland. For this reason alone, it makes sense for Americans to play the night session.
I was, though, struck by this line in Harvey Araton's New York Times column on the subject. "[Tournament director Jim] Curley cited Mardy Fish, the men's eighth seed, as an example of the latter. Fish would seem to have earned more attention than Roddick, whom he has replaced as the highest-ranked American. But Curley said Fish actually prefers to play during the day." Um, OK. So players' preferences are part of the equation? And if the preferences are known for Fish -- a newcomer to the top 10, who'd never before been beyond the fourth round of the U.S. Open -- have the many other players of comparable achievement been consulted as well? Seems like an awfully slippery slope.
In a tournament that had plenty of weird moments (such as Roddick's "this seat's taken") the strangest for me was watching Petra Kvitova (and a junior player who turned out to be a close friend) walk the length of the food court during Labor Day weekend -- while wearing an I.D. -- and go totally unnoticed by hundreds of fans. The name isn't familiar? We're talking about the reigning Wimbledon champ here.
Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro: Can any win another (or a, in Murray's case) major? Discuss.
Um, when did Maria Kirilenko turn into the best volleyer in the women's game? And never mind the points she won with net play. She also won scads of points -- including one down match point in that memorable tiebreaker against Stosur -- simply by pressuring her opponent to make a passing shot. Check out these net stats!
Great hardcourt summer by Fish. But you suspect he'd happily give up the titles, the wins, even the defeat of Nadal in Cincinnati, for one defining run or even a signature win at a Slam. He came up short again, losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round.
Even controlling for exuberance, it's hard to not be at least guardedly optimistic about the showing of the American prospects. Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys all look like bona fide players. How high can they go? It depends on a million factors, some beyond their control. But there's cause for hope.
On the men's side, the tournament was barely a few hours old when Ryan Harrison was dispatched by Marin Cilic and handed the nickname "Mr. Crankypants" by Mary Carillo. There was a lot of discussion about Harrison's behavior and implosions. I think there's a world of difference between self-flagellation (a victimless crime) and abusing officials. And after seeing so many Americans who are genial souls but not exactly "foxhole guys," it's hard to get too worked up about a kid who wants it so badly, he belts balls out of the stadium.
The opposite of "Crankypants" ... How do you not like Andrea Petkovic? A grounded yet eccentric player who's having the time of her life as she tries to push the borders of her limits.
John McEnroe to Dan Patrick in last week's Sports Illustrated: "[Jimmy] Connors, I wanted to fight. I liked my chances. I was willing to duke it out with [Ivan] Lendl, but I probably would have come up short. I'm sure they felt the same way." I stand by the premise that the former players take up way too much oxygen, often at the expense of today's players. But I admit, I would buy the pay-per-view.
The most underrated battler in tennis? Here's a vote for John Isner.
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