Foot Fault!

Calling all the lines of professional tennis

Category Archives: US Open

“You Gotta Get That Dirt Off Your Shoulder”.

0:34. From Jay-Z’s lips to Donald Young’s ears.

The Empty Quarter Moves On

Kvitova gone, Radwanska gone. You could be forgiven for thinking that, coming off a solid US Open series which included her reaching the quarters in Toronto and giving Serena Williams her toughest hardcourt match of the year, Lucie Safarova would be sure to take advantage of her part of the draw essentially imploding in on itself.

But instead, she became part of that implosion as she played embarrassing awful ‘tennis’ (and I use that term loosely), - hitting 42 unforced errors in 13 games (almost 3.5 errors per game) en-route to a 0-6 1-6 loss to resident junkballer Niculescu whose ugly bag of tricks should really not be effective on any player in the top 30.

Awaiting Niculescu in the fourth round will be Angelique Kerber who backed up her upset victory over Agniseszka Radwanska by easing past gossip queen Alla Kudryavtseva and into the fourth round. This all takes me back to what her friend and countrywoman Andrea Petkovic said just two months ago.

“I called (Kerber) and I asked her to come to my academy where I train, and she came there for four weeks and practiced really, really hard. I promise you she’s going to be at least top 30 like in six months, because she worked really, really hard and she’s a great player and she’s definitely going to come back. “

One more win will take Kerber from #92 all the way up to around 41-45 after the US Open. I don’t know about you, but from where I’m standing that’s a pretty damn good prediction.

Marin Cilic embarrasses two young prodigies at the US Open

A couple of years ago, many people had Marin Cilic down as the next big young player. Most likely not quite a slam winner, they said, but top ten? Sure. Top five? Probably. But since the Grand Slam semis and quarters, it’s been nothing but disappointment after disappointment for Cilic fans. This week, seeded a lowly 27th, he was put into a section with new youngsters Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison. It’s telling that he has fallen so far that he was completely ignored, with most licking their lips at the possible second round between the two young prodigies Tomic and Harrison.

So what did he do? He simply embarrassed, shamed and sent both packing in the most humiliating fashion.

His first round match saw him come up against America’s next big hope, Ryan Harrison. The match was a tight three setter with Harrison creating countless chances for himself, but every time Harrison had a chance to make a proper match of it, Cilic simply chuckled, smashed down a couple of forehand and backhand winners and pegged the American back. Lather, rinse repeat. Harrison has become known as - to put it lightly - one of the most volatile personalities and with every fightback from Cilic, the ticking timebomb that is his personality ticked closer and closer to explosion.

And explode, it did. He kicked and hit balls out of the stadium, cursed down every crowd member and their dog, swore loudly, threw his racket like a twelve year old, and so on. It was horrible, ugly and by the end of the match the crowd, his American home crowd, were booing him and booing him off the court.

Afterwards, the American analysts weighed in on it, with Mary Carillo branding him, in typical Carillo fashion, ‘Mr Crankypants’ as Tracy Austin chuckled along and nodded approvingly. Meanwhile Justin Gimelstop, Harrison’s mentor, shifted edgily in his seat attempting to pass Harrison’s antics off as him having ‘competitive fire’. And really, it’s no wonder that he’s 19 and still acting like he belongs in the Under 10s if that’s the crap that people close to him are feeding him.

Next came Bernard Tomic. And though he didn’t personally embarrass himself, it was Cilic who did it all for him; demolishing the Australian 6-1 6-0 6-2. Afterwards, Tomic attempted to explain the loss by saying he had a virus; something I for one don’t buy. The loss was met with complete disbelief and shock, but the fact remains that outside of his great slam runs in Melbourne and Wimbledon, Tomic is an abysmal 2-8 in Tour matches this year - most of which coming through the countless wildcards given to him by Tournament Directors in the hope that he’ll catch alight and bring publicity to their. He hasn’t.

What he has done is the epitome of abusing the wildcard system. He has been handed wildcards into almost every single event he has participated in this year. And bar two inspired events where he has exhibited his potential, he has lost soundly in all and his ranking has flown up as a result, bypassing all the character building aspects of tennis. It doesn’t exactly inspire hard work and a fighter’s mentality when everything has been handed to him on a platter, and it could have more serious implications later in his career.

And so the moral of the story? Don’t mess with Marin Cilic; he will embarrass you, he will expose you and he will end you. Watch out, Roger.

Petra Kvitova Becomes First Big US Open Casualty

Six or so weeks ago at Wimbledon, we revelled in complete shock and awe at Petra Kvitova’s stunning performance throughout the fortnight. We all expected a massive letdown, but it never came and she stormed to the title - not even challenged in the two matches she dropped sets in.

A month and a half later and, it’s all the complete opposite. Since Wimbledon and her self-enforced break and recovery, Petra has won a mere two matches before twice coming up against Andrea Petkovic and twice getting completely demolished. We all thought that was poor and disappointing, but Kvitova this week things have only got worse, with Kvitova losing in easily the most abysmal fashion to Alexandra Dulgheru, a bonafide claycourt specialist.

So, what’s going on? Is Kvitova simply a grasscourt/fastcourt specialist with no chance anywhere else? Are we seeing history repeat itself yet another Ivanovic-type meltdown with Kvitova struggling to come to terms with her newfound status and crumbling under the pressure? Or is this simply Kvitova being Kvitova? The asthma?

The answer is both yes and no on all accounts. A no in the sense that it would be silly to put the blame one one single thing for her abysmal form since Wimbledon; she certainly is an inconsistent player and certainly more at home on grass than anywhere else. However it’s easy to forget that before the US Open series, her win-loss record for the season was 39-6 - impressive by any standards, and hardly one of a player often charged with being unable to string two tournaments together. She is the only player to have won titles on all surfaces in 2011 and along with Sharapova, was the only player to make the fourth round or better of all three previous slams in 2011.

But all are certainly contributing factors to Kvitova’s recent form, and it’s going to be up to her and her team to sort out those problems before it escalates from simply a run of poor form into a whole new crisis. And let’s hope they do, because the ‘tennis’ (and I use that word lightly) she produced yesterday was not pleasant in the slightest.

Grigor Dimitrov attempts to plant Un Kiss on Gael Monfils at the US Open

Generally, French players tend to seal matches between their compatriots and friends with a peck on each cheek. Nothing serious or alarming; it’s just how they roll. This meant that after Gael Monfils’ victory over Grigor Dimitrov, Dimitrov who lives in Paris at the Mouratoglu academy, absent-mindedly leaned in for a kiss. But it all went horribly wrong.

Who knows if it was intentional, or rather if he was expecting Gael to turn his cheek which clearly didn’t happen - with Gael hilariously looking half-amused and half-confused as he leaned back - but one thing’s for sure; he will never ever live that down. Not with players. Not with fans. And most certainly not with me.

Also, I think it’s safe to say that Dimitrov has single-handedly destroyed any ‘baby Federer’ comparison from this point onwards. Roger would never.

(GIF via nidssserz)

Open or Closed? US Open Women’s Preview

Open. In the absense of Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters for so much of 2011, that one word sums up to a tee the first 7 months of the year. With the greatest players momentarily out of the picture, new players have risen to prominence, both confirming and exceeding expectations, going further on the road to greatness than ever before.

This batch of players is, of course, led by the two brand spanking new Grand Slam champions of 2011. Madame Li, who shocked none by storming to the finals of the Australian Open before shocking all by going one further on the dirty red clay of Paris, and Queen Petra who simply validated the buzz surrounding her for the best part of a year by coronating herself as Queen of Wimbledon for both 2011 and undoubtedly many more years to come.

But are there indications that the door is closing and real order is slowly being restored? She has only been back for four and a half events, and it’s almost as if Serena never left, picking up from where she left off in July of 2011. She needed just two tournaments to find her game and fitness, and already she is back to overpowering, outserving, outgutting and outhinking the rest of the tour to two titles and an unbeaten record on the US hardcourts, clinching the US Open Series for the first time in her career. She goes into the US Open the heavy favourite to add one more to her current tally of 13 slams and 3 US Open titles.

And then there’s Maria Sharapova, the bookies second favourite, also by a considerable distance. Her serve is still shaky and unreliable, her groundstrokes and footwork still prone to inexplicably falling apart, but she’s still winning and that speaks volumes. She is winning so much that though she has played only 11 tournaments to Wozniacki’s 17, this week (Wozniacki will pass her again after her finals showing at New Haven) she sits at the very top of the race for the first time in over 3 years. The recovery of her game and form since her return 2 years ago has been such a long and treacherous process, but her recent form indicates that the curve of improvement continues to move steadily upward..

Outside of the two warriors, there are many worth more than a mention; The aforementioned Li and Kvitova, though out of form since their big victories, have proven that they are deadly any day, on any surface and at any time. We also have yet another ‘comeback’ from Venus Williams who has seemingly picked up every injury and illness there is to pick up over the last year. But you count her out at your own peril, and looking at her draw, it’s certainly not all bad for the unseeded 2-time US Open Champion. And then there are the others who will be looking to bite and scratch their ways up the pecking order - Zvonareva, Stosur, Azarenka, Bartoli, Petkovic, Lisicki, Jankovic, Ivanovic, and of course that number one girl… (you know the one dating that Golfer dude? Yeah, that one), to name but a few.

So here begins a fortnight of the insanity that has come to epitomize the US Open. We’ll see parts of draws falling to pieces while other parts hold together like superglue, epic classic matches right next to complete and utter crapfests, in addition to more drama than every current New York Broadway production combined. And, as usual, we will love every minute of it.

Predictions, predictions, predictions
Serena Williams def. Li Na
Maria Sharapova def. Venus Williams

Serena Williams def. Maria Sharapova

Full Draw

Let’s Talk About The Men’s US Open Draw, Shall We?

Amongst a slew of raised eyebrows and exasperated headshakes at the appalling handling of the draw ceremony by both the USTA and ESPN, the US Open singles draws were finally drawn and quartered yesterday for the world to see.

For the men’s draw, you couldn’t escape the feeling that it was a complete anti-climax, as for what feels like the thousandth time in the last three years, Djokovic and Federer are seeded to meet each other in one semifinal, with Murray and Nadal in the the other. Yet again, it’s hard to look past those four, and its equally hard not to just roll eyes and shrug like Janko at the rest of the ‘contenders’ in the final slam of the year.

But enough idle discussion. Here’s the men’s draw analysed and discussed.

Djokovic’s quarter
The first few rounds are undeniably soft for Novak Djokovic, but at the same time there’s a hell of a lot of talent in his section, with the most notable names being Richard Gasquet in the fourth round and either Gael Monfils or Tomas Berdych in the quarters. I’d say that Berdych has the best chance of pushing Novak. We all saw him at Cincinnati as he finally appeared to break out of the mediocre form that has defined his year so far, easily dispatching Federer and then looking up to the task of putting Djokovic out of his shoulder-induced misery, before his own shoulder injury struck. Monfils himself took a set off Djokovic at that very tournament, but Berdych is the only player here who has proven that he can step up and produce his very best tennis on the very big stage, and there will always be that (albeit small) chance that he can do it again.

Federer’s quarter
One thing Federer has proven all this year is that playing brilliant tennis in the early rounds means absolutely nothing if you can’t reproduce it in the deep end of tournaments. However, this tough section could be the kick up the ass he needs. Tsonga could beat him, Fish could beat him, Verdas-ok, I’m getting a bit carried away there, but you get the picture. Grandpa Fed is vulnerable right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. One thing I’ll say is that even taking his recent form into account, you would be a fool to bet against him. An idiotic, punkass fool.

Murray’s quarter
For someone who most likely regards the US hardcourts as his favourite surface, his recent results on the stuff have been, well, odd. Over the last two years, he has captured two masters titles on the stuff while simultaneously suffering two early exits in a row at the US Open in addition to first match losses at a grand total of 5 tournaments on US soil in that period

This section could easily add yet another early exit to the list in the form of Wawrinka (last year’s conqurer), Del Potro, Soderling or even Lopez, or else he could ease through his section and into the third round, considering all four are either just coming back from injury or come to the final slam of the year in poor form.

Nadal’s quarter
This, my friends, is what is known on the streetz as a ‘catwalk’. Rafa has been the most vulnerable of all top players recently, but I just can’t see him losing barring a massive disaster for him. Youzhny could well channel his form from this time last year which could give him a good chance of landing the big upset, or else Roddick could play himself into form with his soft draw and begin to resemble the top player again. But yeah, no…

Predictions, predictions, predictions:
Djokovic def. Federer
Nadal def. Soderling

Djokovic def. Nadal (exciting and unpredictable, of course).

Early matches to look forward to:
1R: Gulbis vs Youzhny, Baghdatis vs Isner, Monfils vs Dimitrov
2R: Harrison vs Tomic (which isn’t going to happen, but it’s fun to dream), Federer vs Bellucci (for the laughs), Ferrero vs Monfils

Keep an eye on:
Ryan Harrison

Full draw

Two Guys, One Vase.

Yesterday, Andy Murray picked up his first Masters 1000 title of the year and 7th of his career, leading Novak Djokovic 6-4 *3-0 when the world number one was force to retire.

It was a tough situation all-round. It has to be tough for Andy to win such a big title like that. But he’ll take it. Will the level he showed this week be enough to capture his first slam at the US Open? Not even close. He was far too passive for most of this week and the level of play wasn’t particularly great in any of them. But at the same time, a title is a title and a Masters 1000 is a Masters 1000.

He’ll go to the US Open full of confidence, and judging by the Cowan and co’s excited muttering at the prospect of the Big 3 all being either injured or in poor form at the US Open, with all the British pundits once again expecting him to win his first slam there. Expect an article from Simon Reed claiming that Murray is the favourite to win the US Open in 3, 2, 1…

Of course, it’s also tough for Novak. We all remember the days when he was called ‘Fakervic’ and every top ten player and their dog all systematically criticized him for his various ailments. Nowadays, his peers’ views don’t appear bother him as much as they clearly did back then. And even so, when it got to the point where he was rolling first serves in at 88mph and couldn’t hit forehands without pulling up and wincing in pain, retiring was the only and logical option so close to the US Open. It took him a long time to make that decision, and he was probably more reluctant to quit because of all of the scar tissue from back in the day. However, apparently not everyone was convinced;

My only reaction to that is oh. As in ‘OH, is that Jamie Murray or Janko Tipsarevic?’ It’s one thing to be happy for your brother/friend or whatever. But it’s another thing altogether to start acting like some groupie living your life vicariously through that person and going as far as to start gloating on twitter about it. Grow up, son. It ain’t cool.

But anyway, let’s talk about the ATP in general. Really, this has to be one of the most uninteresting periods on the ATP for a long time. The start of the year was exciting; as the Djokovic run gathered steam, we all watched with baited breath to see who would be the player to end it. In retrospect, it just had to be Roger Federer, and the manner in which he euthanized the streak was stunning. Absolutely stunning.

But since then? Well, all there has been to watch is Rafa’s game and confidence falling apart while Roger has appeared completely disinterested for the most part - the sparkle in every part of his game other than his serve nowhere to be seen. And this all really shows that, contrary to popular belief, there is zero depth in the ATP right now. Every single top 4 player has been playing poorly during this US Open series, and yet no player has been even remotely close to taking advantage. We all thought that Fish’s time had come this week in Cincinnati, but after easing past Nadal, he then put on a complete shocker against Murray and threw away probably the biggest opportunity in his career thus far to pick up a Masters 1000.

So on we go. Who knows what will happen in a week from now when the final slam of the year finally kicks off? It could be a completely boring trainwreck of a tournament continuing on from the trend set by the last handful of weeks, or else something special and unexpected could happen. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

What To Take From Serena Williams’ Stanford Victory

Serena Williams announced her comeback yesterday by clinching the first title of her comeback and first summer US hardcourt title in ten years, defeating Marion Bartoli 7-5 6-1 in the final.

1) She’s back, baby
Starting with the painfully obvious - yes, she is back. It’s pretty amazing actually. After a 49 week layoff with two foot surgeries and a near-fatal health problem, in her third tournament back she dusts aside three of the standout players of the last couple of months in straight sets. This may sound a touch melodramatic, but I almost feel like this makes her even more feared than back when she won Wimbledon last year. I mean, she completely trashed Sharapova and Lisicki before eventually beating Bartoli easily, yet there is still so much room for improvement.

2) Still so much room to improve
For her, the fact that she is beating all of these great players yet still has so much room to improve is brilliant. Even now, you can see she’s still quite unsure about certain aspects of her game, and still having to almost re-learn them after so long out. Particularly her timing, footing and general feeling around the ball has been off since the comeback, with her being forced to dramatically improvise her strokes on some of the most seemingly routine balls.

3) Serena’s patience - looking to the future
Serena’s patience this week was also notable. Over the years, so much has been said about her power and athleticism. It’s as if people see the big muscles and are immediately compelled to wax lyrical about how much bigger and stronger she is than the rest. What often goes unnoticed is the fact that both today and long before (as the story goes) the rest of the tour raced to the gym in a futile attempt to “catch up” with Serena and her sister, one thing that has set Serena apart is her ability to construct points before using her strength to finish the point. And with her turning thirty and losing some of the natural athleticism and explosiveness of old, this patience has become far more central to her game. Her last three scorelines were easy, but they were no 07 Australian Open final. Instead, she alternated between keeping the ball at a great length, using angles to drag her opponents off-court, before crushing anything that was, well, crushable. And that is ultimately what could help her to prolong her career for years more.

With this win, Serena’s name will undoubtedly fly to the very top of the US Open bookies’ favourites list. But there’s still a long way to go in this US hardcourt season, and after a period of such steep and dramatic decline on the WTA, we’re entering into quite an interesting period ahead of the US Open. It will be fascinating to see who else stands up and commands attention as we edge closer to the final slam of the year.

Because, in every sense of the word, it really could be anyone.


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