Sunday, September 01, 2019

Last Slam on the Left: Whatta Week!

OK, let's start with what's top-of-mind: Boy, that Goffin upset was a bad call, was it not! Yikes.
So yes, of course, I watched the marquee matchup of the tournament so far: Coco Gauff v. Naomi Osaka. I actually did expect it to be close. But clearly Osaka came prepared. It's not as if Gauff had been playing hacks in previous rounds, but I really noticed her lack of patience last night. Which makes sense -- she's young, and has been well-served by her athleticism so far. But she would win points off Osaka and then fail to reproduce a similar point.
But who cares about the X's and O's, right? After the match, Osaka did something that is essentially unheard of -- she asked Gauff to do the on-court interview with her -- she shared the stage. And I'm not gonna lie -- it made me cry. It was endearing. These two grew up together and it was a moment to lend a nod to the sacrifices Gauff's parents made and the journey she's on. I mean, I get it.
I want to say that I think Gauff has the potential to be amazing. She's not like the Williams sisters in that she has had proper coaching her whole life, so she won't have to unlearn some of the mechanical issues they did when turning pro. She has a great foundation. This is really why I'd like people to leave her alone. Like, everyone. The fans who want her picture. The media who want a minute with her. And Naomi Osaka, who thought it'd be a good idea to share the spotlight with another up-and-comer, perhaps considering that she was another woman of color on the biggest stage in tennis. I get it. I honestly do. She's a great story. They both are, together.
So Coco Gauff is 15 years old. And no one wants to say this right now because we're in a touchy-feely moment, but in sports, we eat our athletes and idols alive. The black ones especially, and especially in tennis. If you need further evidence of this, just look a bit further down the draw to Taylor Townsend, who, along with Donald Young, were touted as the future of American tennis. Then she didn't live up to everyone's expectations and when a young athlete does this, the encouragement decreases in volume and in enthusiasm. Now she has materialized again with a great run here, and it has been in spite of the lack of support. Let's not even get into what happened to Jennifer Capriati. Does anyone else remember the crap that Venus Williams had to take -- from her own countrypeople, too -- about how cocky she was? Venus was 17 and everyone had something to say when she expressed her belief that she could beat anyone. Most of it wasn't good. Because certain attitudes aren't acceptable from certain people. You know.
Unfortunately, I don't doubt this also will happen soon enough to Gauff, but I would like for people to begin treating her like the 15-year-old that she is. I would like for people, especially grown-ass adults, to recognize that pulling on a kid's shoulder bag and begging her for a selfie is draining. I'd like the post-match ESPN interviews to last for three minutes and that's it. And I would like for other players to quit dragging her into the spotlight in Arthur Ashe stadium right after she's taken a worse loss than she probably expected she would. I think I understand what Osaka was doing and it was a beautiful gesture that I would have had no problem with, had the recipient been maybe 19 or 20. Coco Gauff is 15 years old and we are about to wear her out before she even gets going.
So, with that public service announcement out of the way, wow, what a tournament! Basically, as usual, my draw began falling to pieces. For example, picking Aryna Sabalenka to go deep in a tournament bit me in the ass once again. I thought for sure after watching her beat Victoria Azarenka that she'd run the tables, because that was a tough match. Nope. One round later, she's out.
Angelique Kerber. Ashleigh Barty. Simona Halep. Kiki Bertens. Sloane Stephens. Petra Kvitova. All gone before week 2. And of course, this is great for tennis.
But I am ready for tonight (Sun. Sept. 1). Novak Djokovic, he of the sore shoulder and everlasting grudge against randos in the stands, is playing Stan Wawrinka, and when the draw came out, I picked Djokovic for this matchup. But with Djokovic getting all sensitive during practice and cutting short his match prep last round, I don't know. Wawrinka is looking good right now. I think we're looking at four sets ... to Stan?
And then there's Elina Svitolina v. Madison Keys. I had the opportunity to watch Svitolina in person as she beat Venus Williams on Wednesday at the Open. (Oh heck yes, I went back to the U.S. Open and have a post upcoming about that experience!) I also saw Keys that same day and both of them looked really strong and consistent. I would give a slight edge to Keys because of her serve.

Yeah, not a great shot, but had to find some type of way to brag about having been there in person. But let me go get some popcorn and geek out on tennis all night.

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