Sunday, August 26, 2018


The draw gods were very kind to tennis fans. I am not sure if the actual players feel the same way, but here we go!

1. Simona Halep: The one to beat. And it won't be easy. So good luck, ladies listed below. Here stands one of the most mentally tough players the tour has seen since Serena and Maria. I know a lot has been made of the logjam in her quarter, but what she did this summer turned me into a convert. Her match against Sloane Stephens, and even Kiki Bertens, were just awesome displays of tenacious tennis. When you consider that she was doing two-a-days in her last two tournaments. And all of that extra tennis played could come back and bite her in the form of exhaustion. But I don't think she gets tired, y'all.
2. Caroline Wozniacki: Ever since she won Australia, she's been all over the place. Her first round is against Sam Stosur, and if/when she comes up against Bertens, she's probably going to go to the low end of that "place."
3. Sloane Stephens: I have to admit that I thought that her title here last year was a blip, a lucky bounce here and there. That semi against Venus literally hung on a couple of tough rallies. But Sloane has backed it up with a French Open final appearance and a couple of really strong showings against Halep. I wish she had a real weapon, something that could end a point in under 15 minutes, but here we are.
4. Angelique Kerber: Hey, when's she's not No. 1, she's killing the competition. Her Wimbledon final performance was just stellar. She's got a good draw and I can see her making the semis, easy.
5. Petra Kvitova: She's had a strong summer, but there are some floaters in this draw she needs to look out for -- Aryna Sabalenka and Naomi Osaka.  
6. Caroline Garcia: Garcia has had an up-and-down season, not a lot of consistency. And her first round is against a resurgent Johanna Konta, so that's not great. Then possibly Monica Puig, who beat her last week in Connecticut, and as someone who watched that match, I have no idea how Garcia managed to lose. So not much hope for her here.
7. Elina Svitolina: If this were a tournament that wasn't a major, I'd say, sure. Let's go with Svitolina. But it's a major, so Agz Radwanska will likely be the first and last person Svitolina sees on a tennis court in New York. 
8. Karolina Pliskova: I have concerns. She's got some coaching changes going on -- she just snagged Conchita Martinez, so maybe she can help Pliskova figure out how to win this summer. She's had losses to Sabalenka and Bertens, and even Ekaterina Makarova the last few tournaments, so we will see.
9. Julia Goerges: It's great to see Goerges having great results again and she's in Svitolina's quarter, so maybe things will work out for a run to the quarters? 
10. Jelena Ostapenko: Given her high-risk game, you just have to wait until the match with her. Andrea Petkovic is going to be a tough first round because Petkovic can handle the power, so should be fun!
11. Daria Kasatkina: Gonna have to do a hard pass here.
12. Garbine Muguruza: We just gotta see what kind of mood Muguruza is in right now. If she's in a good mood, this draw is here for her. If she's in a bad mood, Maria Sakkari or Pliskova will be waiting to see her out of Queens.
13. Kiki Bertens: It has a heckuva year for Bertens. I really love her game. The thing that had been missing until this year was the mental toughness. She'd have players in a corner and then she'd blink. Not this year. The way she handled that Halep match in the Rogers Cup final was really impressive. Quarters at the least for her.
14. Madison Keys: On the whole, it's been a pretty meh year for Keys. So I'm not expecting another run to the final from her. 
15. Elise Mertens: Nah.
16: Venus Williams: It's not been a great year for Venus, and if she wants to replicate her semifinal run from last year, she'd have to bypass her sister, Simona Halep, and probably Muguruza and Pliskova. That's just her quarter. I don't know is all I'm saying.

The Stragglers
Serena Williams: Yes, it is completely possible she wins the whole thing. What's more likely, though, is that her lackluster court movement will be exposed early on by some quality opponents -- there are many in her quarter alone -- including her own sister.
Aryna Sabalenka: I still want to know if what she was sniffing during the Fed Cup last year was legal. Whatever it is might have taught her how to volley, because her game is locked and loaded right now. I just watched her win the Connecticut Open and her game is BIG. It's also INCONSISTENT. She is also as MOODY as the average teenager.
Magdalena Rybarikova: She's in Svitolina's quarter and I see her as the main beneficiary when Svitolina flames out for some ridiculous reason.

First Round Matches to Watch
These first round matches could be very consequential to the way this tournament shakes out. Not even hyperbol-ing right now.
Patty Schnyder v. Maria Sharapova: I don't give her more than six games, but you gotta love Patty Schnyder out here talking trash on the Tennis Twitter streets like she never left the game. 

Simona Halep v. Kaia Kanepi: Picking Halep, but should be entertaining at least.
Venus v. Svetlana Kuznetsova: The sad part is that if Venus gets out of this match, it just gets worse for her.
Sachia Vickery v. Svitolina: Many opportunities for Svitolina flame-outs. This will be just the first.
Johanna Konta v. Caroline Garcia: Konta needs to get her ranking up. Because this is cruel.
Jelena Ostapenko v. Andrea Petkovic: Petkovic has retired that dance by now, right?
Sabalenka v. Danielle Collins: Collins has cooled a bit since the spring, but this still could be entertaining. 
Laura Siegemund v. Naomi Osaka: Fully expecting Osaka to make it through this one, but should be a good match. 
Wozniacki v. Stosur: Sam Stosur won the U.S. Open once. Let that one marinate.


I did a U.S. Open preview 10 years ago. Which makes this blog the thing I've been most committed to in my whole life. Which, yes, is a little depressing. But the point was to mention that here is that this is how my preview began 10 YEARS AGO:

Nadal and Federer are astounding tennis specimens is what I'm getting at. OK, let's get back to the future:

1. Rafael Nadal: So far, Nadal has had a strong year, and stayed fairly free from serious injuries. His draw here is better than most, although Karen Khachanov could end up being a situation. But his hardcourt warm-up was judicious and sharp, and when he's fit, as it appears he is now, you gotta tag him for at least the semis.
2. Roger Federer: Federer's looked good too, this summer. No hardware like Nadal, but pretty sharp until he came across Novak Djokovic. His quarter here is full of minefields. Nick Kyrgios in the third round, which ... well, you know. It depends on which Kyrgios shows up, if he's in a good mood, if he brought his tennis kicks instead of his basketball shoes. Djokovic is also in his quarter, so he's going to have to get a bit sharper than he was in Cincinnati.
3. Juan Martin del Potro: Any major with del Potro in form is better for it. He'd face a group of tough competitors on the way to the semis -- Andy Murray, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and maybe John Isner or Wawrinka. But as long as his wrist is feeling good and he's able to spank forehands all over the place, it could be a good tournament for him.
4. Alexander Zverev: If Zverev should again determine that this is his time, it's actually a decent time! He could run the table up to the semis if he wanted. His main obstacles could be Kei Nishikori, who is pretty steady and Marin Cilic.
5. Kevin Anderson: I tell you what, I thought Anderson was pretty lucky to get to the U.S. Open final a couple years ago, but it would appear it wasn't luck. If he hadn't been screwed over at Wimbledon with the schedule and the twelve-week match against Isner, he might have won the tournament.
6. Novak Djokovic: The way he's been playing the last couple of months, it's hard not to imagine him in the final. Of course, this is also the same person who lost to Taro Daniel, Marco Cecchinato and Bernard Paire this year.
7. Marin Cilic: Is it me, or does Cilic look like he plays with a chip on his shoulder these days? He's just been fired up lately. I'm picking him for the semis, too.
8. Grigor Dmitrov: I wonder if there's ever been a player -- any player, no one specifically -- who wouldl ever show up to a tournament feeling good and then looking at the draw and then just feels like packing up his gear and going home. Just a random thought I had. Oh, and by the way, Dmitrov's opening round opponent is Stan Wawrinka.
9. Dominic Thiem: Who even knows. Dude basically fell off the map after the French.
10. David Goffin: Kind of surprised he's in the draw. He's apparently struggling with a shoulder injury, so not expecting too much.
11. John Isner: He's in the Wawrinka quarter (sorry Dimitrov), so he's got a chance for a good run.
12. Pablo Carreno Busta: I'm not trying to be a jerk, but how is Carreno Busta seeded this high?! I'm really not, but ...
13. Diego Schwartzman: I really like his game, but he's stuck in Zverev quarter and there's a lot of talent in there. I don't know about this year, buddy.
14. Fabio Fognini: See. No. 12.
15. Stefanos Tsitsipas: This kid is crushing it lately. This summer, he's beaten Djokovic, Thiem, Zverev and Goffin. He's obviously having a lot of fun doing it, too. Do yourself a favor and follow him on Twitter. He's living that life right now. As for this tournament? If he touches a hair on del Potro's head, he's dead to me.
16. Kyle Edmund: He's got a pretty meat-and-potatoes type game, not real flashy, but effective. Not sure he'll be able to get past Nadal in the fourth round, though. Side-note: If I told you Edmund was only 23, would you believe me? I wouldn't have pegged him for a day under 40. Just saying.

First round matches to watch:
Wawrinka v. Dimitrov: As noted, I'd be stunned if Dimitrov got out of this match.
Nadal v. Ferrer: So long, David!
Shapavalov v. Felix Auger-Aliassime: I've not seen this Felix guy yet, so I'm excited to see what the hype is about.
Fernando Verdasco v. Feliciano Lopez: One of the great disappointments of this blog will be that my nickname for Verdasco, Hot Truth, never really took off.
Adrian Mannarino v. Frances Tiafoe: UPSET WATCH
Marcos Baghdatis v. Mikhail Youzhny: I hear they're giving out free walkers after this match. To the players! (rim shot)
Isner v. Bradley Klahn: I was going to make some tasteless joke about Isner playing his first round against someone whose last name is Klahn, but then I decided not to.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Coach Swap: Serena Williams and .. the French Davis Cup team?!

It's been a long time since my last "Coach Swap." It's been so long that it involved Venus Williams and another player whose whereabouts are now unknown to me.

But this one's important because Serena Williams needs some help, STAT.

Now, unlike most tennis fans, I do have a memory and I do recall that Serena advanced to the Wimbledon last month. But I've been reading her interviews lately, and the Time magazine piece confirmed the thing I've been thinking.

Serena Williams needs Amelie Mauresmo to join her team -- temporarily. I'd say through the end of 2018. This isn't to suggest that Patrick Mouratoglou (one day, I will spell this name correctly without consulting the Google) is flawed in some way. But he's been bugging me a little bit. When he tells Serena she needed to stop nursing, my knee-jerk was to ask why, because he's a man. It bothered Serena and we know that at least another mom who was a pro had some questions, too.

Yeah, so I didn't like that.
As someone who changed her diet to keep up nursing my kids, I didn't understand the health-related concerns Mouratoglou might have had. The foods you consume to keep your body producing breast milk (such as oats and barley) doesn't fly in the face of healthy foods. And I also know that many women haven't had the pounds drop off from breastfeeding. It happened with my first child. The second one, not so much. But there are no health reasons that I can think of that would make nursing a problem for an athlete. Unless you're worried about the time investment, and it is that. You do need to change your schedule.
Now, Serena has said that she decided to stop nursing on her own because she wasn't losing weight fast enough. But it is clear she struggles with this because she talks about it ALL THE TIME. If I'm a coach, I'd prefer to deal with a player who is mentally free to focus on tennis when she's at practice, but maybe that's just me.
The main thing Mouratoglou can't understand with any depth is that the body of any woman who has delivered a child has changed. Literally, parts of you that were in one place have settled into another. The way Serena moves on the court now, it occurs to me that perhaps it wouldn't hurt to have someone on the team who plays tennis -- and who has given birth and is fully aware of what that means, which is where Mauresmo comes in.
Mauresmo is obviously a good coach -- she worked with Andy Murray. She's the coach of the Davis Cup team for France and helmed the Fed Cup team for a time. The last guy who did that was, yeah, a guy. She's also a mom. As a player, she struggled mentally, and overcame it. Sounds like insight Serena might need right now.
Before her pregnancy, Serena's movement was catlike. Her flexibility? I don't know too many women in their mid-thirties who could do a full split. And sometimes, watching her play now, it seems as though she's trying to do the same things. And it's not to say that she'll never be a good mover on court. It is just to say that her body has changed and it might be necessary to move in a different way. I am not a pro (obviously), but I'll use myself as an example. After my first child was born, my hips felt weird. They felt like they were still shifting whenever I laid down to go to sleep.
One time, I became convinced that my hips were dislocated. They didn't hurt, but they weren't the same and every time I woke up, I'd take my first steps and they didn't feel reliable. It's hard to explain. I still sleep with a pillow between my legs for this reason.
I can't wear the jeans I used to wear, because my hips are wider apart now. After I had two babies, suddenly, I had boobs. I needed a solid sports bra to keep them out of the way.
I played league tennis throughout my first pregnancy with no problem (and the approval of my ob-gyn), all the way up to what I thought was my final month of pregnancy. (The kid was a little early ...) My second pregnancy, I had to stop at five months. I reached for a ball during one match and felt a sharp pain in my lower abdomen. It turned out to be nothing involving my daughter, but I stopped anyway. But by that time, I understood that this baby was carrying differently and I had to move differently because my natural movements weren't as ... well, natural, anymore.
Is Serena's coach aware of these types of changes? Like, really aware? And can he make Serena really aware of these changes, and watch her movement with this in mind? Like, say, perhaps a woman who has been pregnant?
No, Mauresmo didn't play on the tour while she was pregnant. She was pregnant while she was coaching Andy Murray and it's hard to believe she never played while she was expecting. Even if she didn't pick up a racquet during that time, Mauresmo is not only a fine coach, captain and motivator, she understands what has happened to Serena's body and that is what Serena needs right now.
She needs someone to tell her it's OK and that she's not a crappy mom because she wants other things. She needs (needed) someone to tell her, "You want to keep nursing. OK. When do you feed your baby? When do you need to pump? We will practice during those free times." She needs someone to tell her that she doesn't have her old body and it's not coming back and it's totally fine. It's a different body and it's going to have more weight for a while, and we (Serena and Mauresmo, because in my head, this has already happened) are going to get you moving in a more efficient way for your new body. It occurs to me that Serena thinks that if she can't do the same things she used to, that she can't be great any more. But there are many ways to achieve greatness.
Mouratoglou knows a lot about tennis. Something tells me he doesn't know much about the female body and how it recovers after giving birth. Having someone on the team who can understand what Serena's body is dealing with right now would probably help.