1. This is a lovely piece from Doug Robson remembering his mother’s love of tennis and Roger Federer.
2. I had the bad timing to head to a yoga class as the third set of Nishikori-Wawrinka was getting underway. I figured Stan would wrap it up in four sets. Needless to say, I was shocked when I saw the scoreline after the class was over.
I just love everything about this photo of Kei’s box. Look at Michael Chang!
3. Patrick McEnroe is out as head of the USTA’s player development program. This WSJ piece details some of the controversial happenings during his tenure:
In 2012, the player-development program benched its top junior girl, Taylor Townsend, and said it would not support her entry into the U.S. Open junior tournament because of her fitness. Townsend, then 16 and the top-ranked junior in the world, traveled to the Open on her own and played the event.
The program also suffered from high turnover and complaints from parents and former students that it was too harsh. Some coaches claimed that instead of helping players, the USTA used scholarships to poach good players from coaches who had worked with them since childhood. There was also a lawsuit, filed by a girl who was 14 at the time, alleging that she was put on a restrictive diet and trained “to the point of exhaustion” despite having informed the program that she had a prior eating disorder. (The suit was dismissed.)
McEnroe acknowledged that the development program had made mistakes and that the USTA board had told him he needed to do better.
“I got my a— kicked a little over a year ago by the board and they said, ‘You guys aren’t doing enough and there are a lot of people p— off at you,'” he said. “We thought we were doing well. But then when we really looked at it we were like, ‘Jeez, you know, we need to do better.'”
4. Sadly, I couldn’t take in much of the two long matches played on the ATP side today. I did, however, watch the first two sets of Murray-Djokovic. It was about what I expected. That match-up is an absolute slog.
I thought Murray was hitting his forehand as well as I’ve seen him hit it, and there were a lot of positives to draw from that match. Based on what I saw from him these last couple of weeks, it looks like he’s capable of playing great tennis again. He should focus on racking up the ranking points during the Asian swing, and I expect his 2015 to start out a lot better than his 2014 did. While we can’t blame all of Murray’s struggles on it, sometimes it takes a lot longer to recover from the after-effects of an injury than from the actual injury.
5. Ekaterina Makarova was too strong for a rusty Victoria Azarenka, and Azarenka had a few interesting things to say after the match:
Q. Having been a part of the last two finals, how disappointing is it not to be back there again?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Very disappointing. How many times — like how do you feel? How do you think somebody will answer a question like that? Of course it is disappointing. It’s not about that you have been two times in the final before that’s going to make it better. It just is what it is today. It’s not the end of the world. It’s something I can take positive from this tournament, you know. Two months ago I didn’t even think that I was going to be able to play today. But, you know, trying to ask and put some kind of pressure like that with those questions I think is no point.
Q. Are you able, under the circumstances, to say you have some satisfaction in getting this far based on everything that’s kind of gone on?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Definitely. You know, it’s first time since Australian Open where I was able to play five matches during the tournament, so I can definitely take out the positive of this tournament. You know, whatever I have done on and off the court during practice I never give up on every single day. You know, I have been working really hard. I know that’s going to pay off. So today is just one of the days that I have to go through, and I’m going to go through it.
Q. What sort of schedule do you now have coming up, do you know?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I’m going to play a tournament in Tokyo. I entered tournaments in Wuhan and Beijing. I’m going to try to play as much as I can in the end of the year.
1. Huge kudos to Ekaterina Makarova, who made it to her very first major semifinal today after beating Victoria Azarenka. After the match, she told Chrissie and the ESPN crew that in the past when she made a QF of a major she was satisfied, but this time she wasn’t at all.
I enjoyed her press conference a lot.
Q. You have had a wonderful career. This is a little bit of an unusual question. Many good results, many years on the circuit in the WTA, but in our country we don’t know that much about you. Could you talk a little bit about what your interests are and your background and who you are as a person?
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, you know, it’s tough to say something about yourself. (Smiling.) Um, well, I think I’m trying to stay in the shade, you know, a little bit, to be in my world. I’m not using that much like social networks. Yeah, I can say that I’m maybe closed a little bit. But I’m really enjoying to play on the big stage, the big courts with all this crowd. I’m feeling differently than in other places.
Q. Can you imagine all of a sudden lifting the tennis trophy here and winning this tournament?
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Yes.
Q. What would it mean to you to win the US Open?
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, so much. To win the Grand Slam it’s — I don’t know. It’s always the dream, you know, from the kid when I was going to the school and then came back home and watching some matches. You are like watching and you want to be there, you know, some day. You don’t believe that you can be here, and finally you’re here and going so far.
2. Sometimes it’s worth refreshing our memories about Justin Gimelstob’s insanely sexist and damaging remarks a few years back. I was reminded of them when I was researching my Svetlana Kuznetsova profile a few weeks ago, and was appalled all over again. The piece by Bill Simons of Inside Tennis has the most comprehensive overview. Seriously, it’s impossible for me to pick just one section to excerpt because it’s all just so horrendous and embarrassing for tennis.
But all of this is mere prelude. What was alarming was in ‘05 when he claimed that women on the WTA Tour live in a “bizarro” world, with more and more skimpy outfits. Soon he predicted that that tennis “courts will resemble volleyball courts with g-strings and bikinis.” He suggested that the women were in competition with the supermodel types who often date or marry ATP players because they “have to share the players lounge with the 1 percent most beautiful creatures in the world.” Then he claimed, “If you look like a beached whale, keep your clothes on.”
Gimelstob added that Anna [Kournikova] might not even be smart enough to read the league schedule and, as if turning his racket into an assault weapon, said “I’m going to just serve it right into the body, about 128 mph right into the midriff” and added, “I have no attraction to her, because she’s such a douche.”
Then, if those venomous comments weren’t enough, he seemed to condone the unthinkable, saying, “I wouldn’t mind having my younger brother, who’s kind of a stud, nail her and then reap the benefits of that.”
There’s so much more in the article, but the most disgusting thing is that most people in tennis–including great feminists such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova–basically completely turned a blind eye and moved along.
And this is the thing–some will accuse me of dragging up old stuff here, but when you never properly deal with the atrocities in the first place, when the punishments are so small as to be considered laughable and when apologies consist of a pre-written statement and an undisclosed donation to the Women’s Sports Foundation, well, I mean, it’s hard to put the past in the past and believe in second chances.
Anyway, I know that was random, it was just on my mind.
3. Speaking of sexism in tennis, I tackled Caroline Wozniacki, the tired ex-girlfriend trope, and why how we talk about women’s tennis matters for Sports on Earth.
4. Is Benito the worst? Yes, Benito is the worst. Victoria Azarenka was trying to show her opponent respect by not talking about her food poisoning, and then he does this:
@BenRothenberg maybe should add that we are normally around the press area during tournaments. Excuse… (me)… For revealing the truth…
— B1PR (@b1pr) September 3, 2014
Just, well, pretty tone deaf for a PR guy.
5. Kei Nishikori is now 10-2 in his career in five-set matches, which is just incredible for a guy who is known for being rather fragile.
Q. Are these two matches that you think that four, five, six months ago or maybe before Michael started working with you you could have won both of these in the past?
KEI NISHIKORI: Um, I don’t know. I always love to play five sets. I think I have good records for, you know, winning third or fifth sets. It’s not like I love to play five sets, but I have a lot of confidence to play in the fifth. I get more concentration and my tennis is getting better playing in the fourth or fifth sets. Yeah, these two match, it’s gonna help for sure.
Big props to him for battling through another long match, this one in the midday sun, and making it to his first Slam semi. At the Citi Open he was so excited about hard-court season, and then of course he had the toe injury that took him out of the Masters. I’m so glad it didn’t derail him for the U.S. Open.
I am, however, annoyed that I can’t include him in stats on ‘90s players because he was born on December 29, 1989, but I’ll get over it I guess.
I’m excited to see what resistance he can provide in the semis after a couple of days of rest.
6. ESPN’s announcement of PMac’s “resignation” from the USTA Player Development program was ridiculous. They all praised him endlessly and joked and giggled, and Chrissie even said that the American women were “as strong as they’ve ever been.”
ESPN should be at least feigning journalistic integrity by investigating the USTA and the effectiveness of the Player Development program, not having on-air metaphorical toasts with head of the organization. It’s embarrassing for the sport, at best.
Conflicts of interest, huh?
7. Random tweets I favorited:
Almost seems as though they're both playing better defense than offense
— Tim Smyczek (@timsmyczek) September 4, 2014
One of my favorite players to cover, Johnny Damon, is here on Ashe. Says he built a replica of Ashe as his home tennis court in Tampa.
— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) September 3, 2014
Kimiko Date-Krumm: "Can you imagine I'm in the semifinals? I'm 43 now. Almost 44!"
— Bobby Chintapalli (@bobbychin) September 3, 2014
A. MURRAY. To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock, Awaiting the sensation of a shor
— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) September 4, 2014
GIF: Andy Murray blows forehand, whacks himself in the leg and screams http://t.co/IxBeKsP9tB
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) September 4, 2014
— Ang (@4AllSurfaces) September 4, 2014
Djokovic sometimes handle prosperity as well as Dubya handled Clinton's budget surplus.
— Juan José Vallejo (@juanjosetennis) September 4, 2014
Don’t let his face fool you. Andy Murray is having FUN.
— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) September 4, 2014
8. That Murray/Djokovic match was fun in a masochistic way, like most of their matches. I used to really, really not like their matches, but I’m warming to them.
My takeaways? Well, Murray is on the right track (A link to my Bleacher Report article on the subject) and the fall season is going to be an excellent time for him to find synergy between the mental and physical aspects of his game again.
And Nole? Yeah, he’s going to be pretty hard to beat. #analysis