Monday, September 05, 2016

U.S. Open 2016: So, about last night ...

OK, let's just start right away with the Rafa Nadal v. Lucas Pouille throwdown in the fourth round. I suppose we just have to deal with the fact that we are now at that place that whenever Nadal or Roger Federer lose, people feel the need to hasten their retirement. Because anyone who played the way Nadal did last night needs a walker, right? Wrong, of course.
Nadal did not give away that match, or choke, or anything else of the sort. Although at 6-6 in the fifth-set tiebreak, I would argue that he blinked. He had an easy forehand to roll up the line for a 7-6 lead and some breathing room and he missed it, to the surprise of everyone. I mean, my eyes followed where the ball was supposed to go and when it didn't get there, I thought he must have hit it so fast I missed it. Literally the last thing I thought was that he missed it.
But anyway, blinking and choking are different to me. Nadal played one of hist best matches of the year. Obviously, I don't follow Pouille very closely (who does unless you're French?), but I'd have to wager he played one of the best matches of his year last night as well. There is really nothing in the way of weakness that I could see. Now one thing that will happen naturally with a hard hitter like him is that his shots will go off the rails, and they did at times, which was when Nadal was able to capitalize. It seems to me that he would struggle against a flatter ball striker who would give him less to rally with than Nadal's topspinny shots would. For example, I could see why Pouille went down to a Tomas Berdych-type at Wimbledon. But man, Pouille gave very little away yesterday and as a result, it was a great match to watch. It looks like we've got a lot more to see from him -- he's only 22.
Also in the "What a match!" category but in an entirely different way was the Petra Kvitova/Angelique Kerber match. Anyone who has ever watched Kvitova play well must wonder how she isn't in the top 3 in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, last night's match was your answer. Forty-three unforced errors in under 90 minutes. Mistakes strewn about the court like discarded beer cans in the stands at the end of the night. Thumping forehands followed up by shots that were several feet wide of the court. Double faulting on match point. I pointed out on the Twitter last night that whether Kerber won the match had precious little to do with her, but Kvitova and it turned out to be true. When Kvitova's shots were good, they were very good, and when they were bad, there was Kerber waiting. I sometimes wonder if Kvitova doesn't still suffer from the expectations that I think is plaguing Garbine Muguruza after winning an unexpected first slam. But women's tennis needs her to pull it together. Right now, it needs some serious depth in order to avoid the Serena-Kerber monotony. So pull it together, woman! I need to be entertained.
I think it's funny now in retrospect that people actually thought Novak Djokovic had a chance to lose to Kyle Edmund, the young Brit. Did anyone else happen to notice Djokovic's "interview" on the way into Ashe Stadium? Here it is in a nutshell:
Interviewer: And here's Novak Djokovic. What's your strategy going into the match?
Novak: It's good to be here. I'm ready to play.
Interviewer: How do you feel? How's your arm?
Novak: I'm looking forward to the match. Goodbye, Felicia.
He was about his business and it showed. Time to settle in for a nice deep Djokovic run at the Open.
We have a little time before play starts again on this, the most laborious of days. Let's look at some of the matchups, with a rating from 1-5, five being the most likely to produce an upset:
Dominic Thiem v. Juan Martin del Potro: 5. Thiem is the seed here, at eight. Nope. Not gonna hold.
Karolina Plishkova v. Venus Williams: 4.2. Venus is playing well, but still subject to the mid-match errors, so I think the 10th-seeded Plishkova could take advantage.
Grigor Dmitrov v. Andy Murray: 1. Move the traffic along, fellas. Nothing to see here.
Agz Radwanska v. Ana Konjuh: 2. I just tend to give Radwanska the advantage against anyone under the age of 21. They just don't have the patience to deal with the cat-and-mouse stuff, although I personally love watching it.
Carla Suarez Navarro v. Simona Halep: 4. Navarro is also tricky as hell.
Ilya Marchenko v. Stan Wawrinka: 2. I forgot to mention the circumstances around this match, so *time out* Everyone needs to calm down about Nick Kyrgios. He was hurt. Yes, he can be petulant and immature and flighty and all of that, but he is also a kid. He also quit the match against Marchenko injured, so now isn't the time to pile on, unless there's some indication that he faked it, and there is not. We need to do a TWA therapy session about Nicky, but it'll wait. Let's talk about how Stan Wawrinka fought like a man to beat back a match point against Daniel Evans. DAT BACKHAND DOWN THE LINE, THO. That was the single sexiest tennis shot I've ever seen. *time in* I think Wawrinka is going to win.
Serena Williams v. Yaroslava Shvedova: 2.2. I don't know about this one. I sense rumblings.
Kei Nishikori v. Ivo Karlovic: 2, but I will be reserving my spot on my couch for this one.

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