Things We Learned on Day 11 of the US Open


1. I love Andy Murray:

2. I enjoyed this Atlantic piece that centered around a John McEnroe quote calling Rafa “the Leonardo da Vinci of tennis.” I’ve often thought that Nadal’s on-court intelligence is underrated.

Unlike Federer, Nadal has more frequently conjured up images of sweaty, fast-and-loose iconoclasm and brute force among sports journalists. In the years since his inaugural French Open victory in 2005, and most noticeably in the first few years after, he drew comparisons to pirates, cavemen, bulldogs, bulls,bulls, more bulls, bulls in china shops, bulls in Federer’s china shop, and, um, “Apaches.”

So I wondered at first if McEnroe had somehow forgotten which player he’d just watched, or if he’d maybe meant Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (same headwrap!). But his offhand remark actually sheds light on a truth about Nadal that’s been somewhat underappreciated until recently: He may not be the magical athlete-artist Federer is (or—gulp—was), but he’s the Leonardo da Vinci of the sport in that he’s a whiz kid—a tennis brainiac.

3. I love the subtle similarities in these pictures — the foot preparation and body angle.

4. It’s always tempting to go overboard drawing conclusions about the future from one tournament, or a stretch of tournaments. I don’t think this US Open–though certainly disappointing–means much towards Andy Murray’s chances of continuing to contend for slams. He’s played a couple of dud matches lately. It happens. The Asian swing is a good chance for him to right the ship, and I fully expect him to be a threat at the World Tour Finals.

Juan José

1. Leander Paes is the king of a shot that you’ll only see in doubles: the service line volley. In their huge upset of the Bryan brothers today, Paes showcased that specific shot over and over again. He’s a natural net rusher, so that’s where he takes the return of serve. It’s uncanny how much control he has on a shot that he hits just a few inches above the ground.

Why do you see this shot in doubles and not in (contemporary) singles? Because of space, really: in doubles the return of serve almost always goes cross-court (since a bad down-the-line reply can be swatted away by the opponent who’s standing at the net). In singles, there’s way more options for the returner as to where to send his/her reply.

Anyway, it was fun to watch such an uncommon shot hit in such a masterful way.

2. All my thoughts about Stan Wawrinka’s emphatic upset of Andy Murray can be found here.

3. The Tennis Channel did today the kind of cool thing it should do more often: it showed wheelchair tennis. It was live, even. Not only that, but they had Esther Vergeer, the greatest ever at what she used to do, providing commentary during it. It was really neat to learn about the different tactics that are employed in wheelchair tennis and about Esther’s first year in retirement.

The match itself, between World No. 1 Shingo Kunieda and Argentine Gustavo Fernández (who shockingly, is just 19 years old) was pretty straightforward in favor of the former. However, there were some pretty nifty rallies. All in all, a wonderful use of air time.

4. It’s extremely difficult to gauge the form of a contender when they’re hardly being challenged. That’s what kept going through my mind as I watched Novak Djokovic dismantle Mikhail Youzhny during the first two sets of their quarterfinal match. The only thing I could gather was that Djokovic was still having some lapses in shot selection, and shot execution that a better opponent would be better suited to take advantage.

That’s when Mikhail Youzhny summoned some of the form that saw him get to the top 10 years ago, and took the first set that Novak Djokovic has conceded since the US Open started. The World No. 1 rebounded in style, dishing out a fourth set bagel.

We’ll get more information about the man on a 7-year US Open semifinal streak on Saturday: Stan Wawrinka proved to be an extremely dangerous foe in Australia. It’ll be interesting to see if Wawrinka will have PTSD from that match, or if he’ll gather some extra confidence from the fact that he pushed Djokovic to the absolute limit.

5. I just realized that I won’t be able to enjoy the last few rounds of the US Open with the ESPN Deportes broadcast, “thanks” to CBS. This is a very sad thought.

6. Quick story: this morning I went out to my tennis club to hit with the ball machine. I didn’t warm up all that much (I rarely do – feel free to judge me), and I made the mistake of hitting the first round of balls with settings that were more than a little challenging: high, topspin-heavy balls that had quite a bit of pace. Nothing like easing into the session, right?

I picked up the balls, and set up the machine to hit backhands. But after 30 or so of my one-handers, I felt the left side of my back seize up. I had felt this kind of awful pain once before in my life and that time I ended up lying on the ground for about an hour. This time I thankfully was able to walk to the bench that sat next to the net, and lie down.

Four elderly men were playing doubles in the court next to me. They used the other side of my bench during their changeovers. I stayed lying on the bench for close to an hour, until my wife was able to pick me up. Not one of the elderly gentlemen bothered to ask if I was alright, even though it had to be weird to see someone just lying on the bench while a ball machine is still running. They did, however, discuss whether a Martian would get used to the Earth landscape, or whether they would prefer their own native desert (in related news, the tennis club is located down the street from NASA’s Johnson Space Center).


1. So, Youzhny wrote a thesis for his PdD on what it takes to beat Djokovic. I mean … there are so many amazing things about that statement.

Unfortunately, that thesis was only good for about a set.

2. “…” indeed, Stanley.

3. The fact that ESPN refuses to show the beginning of sets is absolutely, positively, INSANE. And it wasn’t always just for commercials–they’d go to the booth for a bit, and then they’d show the Kevin Spacey promo from above!

It was infuriating.

4. The great mystery of Radek’s shirts has now been solved:

Q. I was going to ask about the shirt so I am glad you brought it up. This is a big center court for your personal style, Radek. This shirt, last year’s shirt, can you talk by a little bit about your philosophy and are you a fashion icon in tennis?

RADEK STEPANEK: You know, I think compared to the other guys I have a privilege with my company that I can do whatever I want. They give me the freedom to wear what I want, because when you see those guys, they have their shirts which came in the bag, you know, and they have to play in them. I have the chance to be creative, to show my emotions, to show my feelings, you know, with what I’m wearing. And to play in New York it’s always special, you know. It’s a little crazy. It’s very entertaining. So I’m wearing different shirt here. You know, since last year when I wore the shirt with the Statue of Liberty there and when I came on the court, you know, the support was tremendous, you know. I said, Wow, you know, it feels nice. They had a lot of orders immediately after my match. So I said, It’s something which is entertaining. I think can think of doing something else this year. This came up my ideas, they come always very spontaneously with the way I feel. And, yeah, that’s it.

5. This made me laugh a lot, for some reason. As did the follow-up. Also, I’m guessing what reporters asked these questions, and that makes it funner. Also, the first one is not a question.

Q. When you won that match, four letters came into my mind. SSSS: Stan, silent Swiss success. I’m sorry, I had fun with it.
STANISLAS WAWRINKA: Thank you. That’s a good one.
Q. This is amazing, because we have been watching you this week. Same thing happened, as my good friend here, four letters came to mind. It was a big, bold, beautiful backhand. Could you talk about your backhand? If you could choose again, would you stick with the one hander or go to, and give us a little defense on how wonderful the one handed backhand is.
STANISLAS WAWRINKA: I’m quite happy with my backhand, that’s for sure. That’s one of my best shots in tennis. Sometimes is not that easy, especially to return the serve. And especially when you play Rafa on clay court it’s quite difficult to have one handed backhand. In general, no, I change when I was 11 because my two hand backhand was not good enough. I was quite I had a simple one hand backhand, so that’s how it change. But it’s all about practice.

6. I’m really excited for the women’s semis tomorrow. That is all.

2 Responses

  1. mylardiim
    mylardiim September 6, 2013 at 4:57 am |

    The internet works fast – Lets play “Feed the Apple to Andy”:

    1. Faye
      Faye September 6, 2013 at 5:59 am |

      Haha! The internet sure loves angry/annoyed Andy! So gif-able meme-able!

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