Saturday, September 03, 2016

U.S. Open 2016: Well, this week has been interesting.

Indeed. This week has been real interesting. Where to start? I'll figure something out, I suppose:
1. Why not Rafa Nadal? So when I posted my men's preview, a fellow tennis fan questioned picking Nadal to advance to the quarterfinals. "You got a dog going too far," he told me. I defended my pick, but it's not like I was gonna offer up my firstborn over it. Nadal has been a bit spotty and seemingly short on confidence lately. But at the Olympics, there was a spark. And at the Open, we've got a legitimate spark shower. (Let's not get too crazy yet.) But he's stalking the court again and hitting tweener lobs and pushing people around with his forehand again, guys. Plus, the favored guy in his quarter, Milos Raonic (who basically jogged through his second-round loss in discomfort), is already out of the tournament. I'm not going to advance this dog yet because of this dude

2. (courtesy ESPN) who benefits most directly from Raonic's loss. First of all, it's insane that Gael Monfils has never truly focused his athletic ability to pull in a Slam. It might never happen, but if it were to happen, this is a great opportunity for him to harness his talent for a deep run. It's the end of the season, the top seed of the tournament is looking dicey, and Monfils is apparently feeling good enough to practice in the rain on his birthday. You know what else is interesting? It just seems that players who share Monfils' birthday are really just the smartest and best at whatever they do. Just an unbiased observation over here.
3. We were all worried about Novak Djokovic after the first round, were we not? He was literally showing signs of injury and spent a good chunk of his match against Jerzy Janowicz on the ropes. But he has had a couple of strokes of luck at the expense of Jiri Vesely and Mikhail Youzhny, who were both too injured to play against Djokovic. So he's had some time to rest, which is good because up next, he has
4. Kyle Edmund. You know, the Kyle Edmund. He's ranked 84 and has won about $3.50 in prize money this year, but came to the Open and beat Richard Gasquet and ... wait for it ... John Isner. **mini-rant begins here: This is exactly what I figured was going to happen when Isner came up with this 'I'm staying home from the Olympics so I can focus on winning the U.S. Open.' nonsense. The third round. The. THIRD. ROUND. Who gives up his probable last chance to go to the Olympics, just to flame out of his home Slam anyway? That guy, everybody. That guy. end of mini-rant** This Edmund guy might be a bit of a problem for Djokovic, who faces him next. Hope he's been icing that wrist.
5. It's fairly common to see young guns win their first major and then wander the wilderness for a while, but it would be nice for tennis Garbine Muguruza could finish her odyssey sometime soon. She also flamed out of the second round to this person, Anastasija Sevastova, whose name I had to Google and then cut-and-paste. Muguruza's gonna be fine eventually, I think. It must be extremely difficult to perform under the expectation that you're going to win all the time because you won a big one already. But she wouldn't be the only one to find herself derailed in such a situation. After Serena Williams won her first major in New York in 1999, she didn't win another until the French Open in 2002. Pete Sampras' gap was from the U.S. Open in 1990 to Wimbledon 1993. So it happens. She'll probably be fine. Probably.
6. One of my predictions (of, like, three) that are holding up is the progress of Madison Keys through this draw. She barely held on yesterday to beat Naomi Osaka, who has got a big bag of game herself, excuse you. But as I said, if Keys has a big opportunity in this tournament, and her next test is Caroline Wozniacki, who appears ready to play tennis again, and not Svetlana Kuznetsova. Plus Muguruza is already gone. It's not teen spirit Keys should be smelling, it's her chance at her major semifinal run of the season.
7. Lastly, let's talk about what's coming up and then go spend the rest of the day flipping between tennis and college football, which is The American Way, OK? Best matches on the docket: Agz Radwanska v. Caroline Garcia, Juan Martin del Potro v. David Ferrer, Carla Suarez Navarro v. Elena Vesnina, Kei Nishikori v. Nicolas Mahut and Venus Williams v. Laura Siegemund. And then there's really just the best decision yet for U.S. Open officials: putting Nick Kyrgios up as the last night match on Ashe against Ilya Marchenko. What do you get when you cross a drinky late-night New York crowd with TWA card-carrying member Kyrgios?
Magic, everybody. Magic.

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