1. I loved seeing Richard Gasquet come through against David Ferrer in five sets today for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s always fun to see an underachiever live up to their potential. And it’s not easy to outlast Ferrer in a physical five-set battle. Second, this:
2. The Wall Street Journal took a look at exactly how much tennis action happens during a match:
Fans live for long points. But exactly how much action is there in a tennis match? We took a stopwatch and timed two matches at the U.S. Open last week to find out. The answer: Not as much as you’d probably think. In the two matches we studied, only 17.5% of the time was spent actually playing tennis.
3. I loved this anecdote from Jason Gay’s write-up of Serena Williams’ 6-0 6-0 clinic against Carla Suarez Navarro yesterday:
As 10 p.m. approached, a small gathering of tennis fans wandered through a U.S. Open souvenir shop not far from the entrance to Ashe. Among the customers inside was Carla Suárez Navarro, who’d played in that big stadium just a short while ago. She was with a group that included her mother, who was at the cash register paying for a large bag of gifts.
Suddenly, the staff behind the register began singing “Happy Birthday.” One of them said later they weren’t sure if they should, but they just went for it.
Happy Birthday to You…
Happy Birthday to You…
Suárez Navarro stood there in her sweatsuit, as if stunned. On a rough night, it was a great New York moment. This could not not have been the birthday Carla Suárez Navarro wanted, but she smiled. There was no shame. This happens. She was a tennis player who had run into history. She had run into Serena Williams.
4. This happened:
1. Flavia Pennetta and her compatriot Roberta Vinci played an entertaining, tactically brilliant match. That it ended up being brief matters very little, and it was solely due to Flavia Pennetta, who all of a sudden has gotten back her very best tennis.
I had forgotten just how good her backhand down the line is, and how smartly she sets it up with sharp angled cross-court backhands. I had forgotten how good of a competitor she is. It goes without saying that it was nice to remember, and I hope we get to see much more of her in the coming months.
2. Keeping the memory motif going, it was an exhilarating experience to watch Richard Gasquet catch fire and tap into God Mode in the second set of his dramatic win over David Ferrer. Going into the match, I gave Gasquet no chance, given the horrific head-to-head against Ferrer (1-8), and the small detail of his strenuous five-setter against Milos Raonic. However, Richard proved many wrong (including myself), and found a way to squeak through in the fifth set, after watching his two set lead disappear into thin air.
If you like to watch players hit insane shots that make no sense, watch that second set. Heck, if you like tennis, go watch that set. Because Richard was doing some incredible things with his racquet. It was breathtaking to see every little aspect of his game perform at such a high level.
What is Gasquet’s reward for winning two very tough five-setters against a borderline top-10 player and the World No. 4? Rafael Nadal, who’s only dropped one set so far in this tournament, and hasn’t lost his serve since the Cincinnati semifinals. Rafael Nadal, who’s beaten him in all 10 times they’ve played each other.
Like today, very few people will expect anything out of Gasquet. But who knows, he might surprise us …
3. I find it hilarious that the two times Gasquet has made the semifinals of a slam, it has been after five-setters in the quarterfinals. I also love the odd symmetry of those two matches: at Wimbledon years back Gasquet mounted a comeback from two sets and a break down. This time, it was his turn to lose the two set lead. Ah, tennis.
4. I didn’t really expect much out of Daniela Hantuchova tonight, and while the scoreline doesn’t flatter her effort, she sure gave her all in her loss to Victoria Azarenka. In a way, the unfortunately clad Belorussian is the worst possible opponent for Hantuchova; Vika loves to get people on the run, and Daniela Hantuchova is not known for her great court coverage.
Still, Hantuchova fought bravely, which is all a professional athlete can ask of him/herself.
5. As with Hantuchova, I expected very little out of Tommy Robredo today. Nadal has dominated their encounters with relative ease; he always bullies Tommy’s backhand, banishing his older compatriot far behind the baseline for most of their rallies. To make matters worse, Tommy has usually struggled to get deep returns off of Nadal’s serves, and today was no exception. It was an uphill battle for Tommy, and it didn’t help that Nadal’s level in the first set was so good even his uncle deemed it “unbelievable.”
The 12-time champ rolls on. The stars seem to be aligning for him at this US Open, though he’s almost guaranteed to face a very tough test in the final.
1. Oh geez.
@McEnroeTweets i do 🙂
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) September 5, 2013
2. This is a wonderful piece by the incomparable Christopher Clarey on Federer, Hewitt, and shifting expectations. He drew some beautiful parallels and really made me think.
Hewitt, like Federer, is 32 and was once No. 1 in the world; was once the planet around which the tennis moons orbited. But the intense Australian has moved on from those increasingly distant days and found meaning at a new, lower level.
Public expectations have adjusted with Hewitt’s own, which is not yet the case with Federer. Though it is quite difficult at the moment to imagine a day when the sport might view Federer losing in the fourth round of a major tournament as a solid result, the expectation game can shift quickly.
What is already clear is that Federer, now ranked seventh and in the midst of his least convincing season in a decade, has downshifted into a genuine underdog’s role, with Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray occupying higher ground.
Now it is a question of whether he can or truly wants to adjust to that status. Now it is time to find out truly how much he loves the game when he is not dominating the game.
3. Speaking of Clarey, I completely agree with this tweet:
All right I'll say it: So far this #usopen has been one of the least compelling major tournaments in ages. Here's to a strong finish
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 5, 2013
I’m not saying there aren’t storylines … there are, of course. But overall, it’s felt very predictable and low-stakes. I do feel like, on the men’s side, the fact that Murray now has two Grand Slams really changes the dynamics. Plus, all three of the top guys remaining have US Open titles already. I mean, I understand that a major is always a big deal, but it’s just not quite as compelling of a storyline.
I do think there’s a potential for a strong finish for the men and the women–with Azarenka, Serena, Li, Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal still in the draw, there could be some epic clashes on the horizon. And, of course, if Pennetta, Gasquet, Wawrinka, or Youzhny want to really make things interesting, that would be welcome as well.
4. What a wonderful day for Richard Gasquet. I must say, I did not know if he had it left in him to get a win like this, and I’m so glad he proved me wrong.
This exchange from the press conference is adorable:
Q. We don’t know for sure who your semifinal opponent is, but if it is Rafa, your record on the pro tour is not so great, but can you talk about I was trying to be nice but can you talk about the match you played when you were 13?
RICHARD GASQUET: I saw on YouTube that video sometimes. People are talking about this video, you know, when I played against him, against Rafa. YouTube and I can see I’m winning against him, so I don’t believe it sometimes (laughter).
Q. Can you tell us how weird that was?
RICHARD GASQUET: No, I didn’t know him when I played him, you know, when I was 13 years old. He was already fighting a lot already, already running so much, and I remember I won maybe 6-4 in a set, and I told my father after, He’s a big fighter. I didn’t lie; I was true. In the future, this one is biggest player in the world in the history. So for sure I won that time at 13 years old, but since this match I didn’t…
Q. Where was that, do you know?
RICHARD GASQUET: It was a match in Tarbes, one of the biggest tournaments for the younger children under 14. You know, it’s good to win under 14, but is better to win on the pro, and I didn’t. But life is long, huh? We are only 27 years old. Even me. So why not? We will see.
Here’s a video of the match that Gasquet was talking about:
Hilarious photo of Nadal and Gasquet together when they were kids pic.twitter.com/JRn7clhILx
— Matt Cronin (@TennisReporters) September 4, 2013
5. On that same theme, a photo of Gasquet on the cover of a French tennis magazine when he was nine:
Here is Richard Gasquet on the cover of France's Tennis Magazine when he was 9. http://t.co/YN5EIpidQX
— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) September 4, 2013
And tomorrow’s paper:
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 4, 2013
6. Kudos to you, Flavia. Great to have you back. We need your badassery.