Saturday, August 24, 2019

Last Slam on the Left: U.S. Open 2019 -- The Women

Well, looks like another boring women's draw, with nothing to look out for until the quarters. Ho hum.
OK, you know I'm just playing. Before we continue, I am declaring this blog a Serena 2018-free zone for the next two weeks after this paragraph. ESPN made a documentary about last year's women's final. Like, last week. Guys. All of us had something to say about it in the moment (including me), but that was last year. And now, everyone's crying "rigged draw," presumably some sort of payback for last year? The last thing I'll say is the other reporting out of this situation suggested that Carlos Ramos will no longer be allowed to chair Serena's matches. This bothered me for a moment -- he called a code violation that later was on the up-and-up, so why is he being penalized? But then, it occurred to me that perhaps the person most excited about the prospect of never having to call a Serena Williams match again might be ... Carlos Ramos.
OK! Let's get into it!

Early Rounds to Watch

Serena Williams v. Maria Sharapova: OK, Serena stans who think this draw is rigged. Who here thinks Maria Sharapova can beat Serena Williams? I wanna see hands. No hands. Exactly. I will be watching this of course because there's history here, and off-court drama but this will be a straightforward match and there's no previous recent history to suggest otherwise. If Serena's back is still a problem, y'all do know she'd quit before she went out and had to lose or retire to Sharapova, right?

Aryna Sabalenka v. Victoria Azarenka: Now here is a match that is a tough call. I like Sabalenka, but Azarenka is starting to play some good early-round tennis in recent tournaments. I think this will be the second-most entertaining first-round match we'll see, close behind

Garbine Muguruza v. Alison Riske: See, Serena stans? It could have been a LOT worse. Like, how the heck is Muguruza, in her current form, supposed to beat Alison Riske, who had a way better Wimbledon than most would have expected, and is probably feeling pretty good about herself?

Angelique Kerber v. Kristina Mladenovic: Kerber has also been shaky this summer. Good thing Mladenovic has been shaky for about a year and a half.

Who Are Our Quarterfinalists?

Why is Sabalenka in red? I kinda like this draw for her, even with Osaka in her quarter. I kinda think she could win the whole tournament. But it's crazy to think that because she does not have an easy draw. My spidey sense says that Sabalenka is waiting for people to stop tipping her for winning tournaments so she can play with less pressure again. But I could be wrong, so why not highlight a horrendous calculation for the world to see?
Man, Serena has a tough quarter down there at the bottom. There's Kerber, who has no problem beating Serena at a major and Ash Barty. Let's not forget Su-Wei Hseih -- that's a three-hour match right there.

Who's Going to Win?

The more I think about this Sabalenka pick, the more I wonder if there's loose glue around here I might have been sniffing. But it could happen. Maybe? I think I might need a backup pick

Last Slam on the Left: U.S. Open 2019 -- The Men

Before we go on, I stand by this draw. Maybe it's crazy. I'm going with my heart!
The hardcourt season on the men's side feels different. It's been fairly unpredictable and mostly, that's because of a guy named Daniil Medvedev, who has collected some impressive wins this summer, including Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Cincinnati Open, Dominic Thiem (who, I guess doesn't do tennis except clay?) and Karen Khachanov. It's August and Rafael Nadal is still healthy and Roger Federer has played one U.S. Open warmup -- and it didn't go well. So it's weird. And then this draw has a fairly loaded top half and a bottom half that is very friendly for Nadal. I'm not buying that John Millman will be an early problem. But there are a few fun early matchups worth checking out:

Early Rounds to Watch

Denis Shapovalov v. Felix Auger-Aliassime: This is almost as bonkers as that other first-round matchup everyone is talking about. Actually, it's worse. This matchup this early is not really fair and I am not sure who will win. Unlike the other matchup. Patience, kiddies. We'll get there.

Vasek Pospisil v. Karen Khachanov: I'm picking Khachanov, but that's a pretty stiff first-round challenge.

Djokovic v. Sam Querrey: ... if they both win their first round. Hmm.

Frances Tiafoe v. Alexander Zverev: Hear that, Frankie? That's opportunity calling if you can beat Ivo Karlovic in the first round.

Who Are Our Quarterfinalists?

Right, right. Sacrilege. I know. But hear me out.
Besides Tiafoe/Zverev, there is some space in this draw for weird things to happen. Like Federer/David Goffin. We haven't seen much of him this summer, but Federer does not seem to be at his sharpest and this could be a chance for someone who is a bit more in-form, such as Goffin. And with Medvedev in Djokovic's quarter? Djokovic has lost twice to him this year, including already this month.
In the bottom half, I know it's not popular, but I think that even for someone struggling like Stefanos Tsitsipas, there are worse draws. Nick Kyrgios' head is halfway into the next NBA season. Thiem? I don't know. What time do you have? Is the moon in retrograde? Did I really pick him for the quarters? Ay dios mio.

Who's Going to Win?

It's not just because of his sexy ass, but I'm tipping Rafa. The draw's looking good for him, he's healthy (for now) and no Djokovic before the final. I think the biggest potential issue in his half could be Khachanov, who's playing well right now and kinda reminds me of Marat Safin's game, except clearly much less sexy.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

So You Say There's a Hard Court Season Going On

Lots to catch up on over from the last few weeks. Let's stream-of-conscience right in:

1. Things Sofia Kenin Thinks About As She Avoids Eye Contact With the Ball She is About to Strike:
  • Did I turn off the coffee maker this morning?
  • Was the ending of Interstellar literal?
  • How will I know if my toss is bad?
  • How did Black Widow and Hawkeye, despite all the research that went into the Avengers' plan, not realize that one of them was going to have to be sacrificed for the Soul Stone before they got to Vormir?
  • I definitely forgot to turn off the coffee maker. Let me call the fire department real quick before I hit this serve

2. Venus Williams calling her coach down so he could fetch her a coffee is truly the best use of on-court coaching I have ever seen.

Venus made the quarters at Cincinnati, losing in the quarters to Madison Keys. Despite the scoreline (3 and 4), it was pretty tight. Still, Venus is not really herself anymore.
It will always remain an injustice that she had the season she had in 2017 -- had an edge on Muguruza in the Wimbledon final -- and didn't get one Slam title out of it. On days like these, I feel like that was her last, best chance. Some have speculated that she's still playing for the 2020 Olympics, to which I would say, "why?" (If she were trying to get on the team, she'd have a hard time qualifying, especially because there are three women who right now would be named to the team over her, no question. You almost have to choose Bethanie Mattek-Sands for doubles, and that leaves two spots. Would either Williams sister get one?) I really try to never be that person to second-guess someone's career and how long it should last, but I don't know why she's still doing this, especially playing singles. She obviously isn't moving the way she used to, and you can still set a clock to her double faulting in tight moments, such as last night late in the second set. If I saw some improvement in her game, I'd feel differently, because it would be a sign of her working to tweak it, even if it didn't always work. Maybe this doesn't feel like the right time for this conversation -- she did just have the best run of her season. But that run was winning three matches in a row. Against a couple of quality opponents, but still. I hope I'm wrong. I hope she's got another 2017-like run in her.

3. Am I the only one who can't spell Cincinnati correctly the first time?

4. I got a question over on Facebook about Nick Kyrgios. I was running around like crazy this week, and didn't get to see his latest antics until after his match. Here you go!

I don't understand Nick Kyrgios. I think he tries. He's even playing doubles with the only guy on tour with rainbows coming out his ass and I thought he was trying to have more fun, be more positive. Then this type of nasty display comes and I think about that New York Times profile about him in 2016, in which his lack of passion for tennis was on display. It would be a shame to lose one of the most naturally talented and entertaining tennis players of this latest crop, but I don't think tennis makes him happy, so why is he doing it?
If you want to get to the nuts and bolts of what started this -- a serve-clock violation -- I'll say this: You can be right in an argument and still be wronged, but being wronged does not give you free reign to do whatever it is you want in response. Things you don't deserve happen to you more than they should, which is never, as you don't deserve them. But they happen. Your response is directly tied to your level of maturity. If you've watched enough tennis, you've seen a player get a penalty they didn't (or think they didn't) deserve. It's not as likely that you saw that player drag this injustice around with them for the remainder of the match like a soaking wet rag doll. I mean, at the end there, it looked like he spat in Fergus Murphy's direction. That is, um, yeah ... extra.
(Why did he give away a busted racquet?)