Things We Learned on Day 12 of the US Open


1. Wearing hats: they do it differently in Australia.

2. Deadspin’s John Koblin wrote a great piece about tennis players yelling, “come on,” a tradition unique to the sport:

Over the past 10 days, the tennis campus in Flushing Meadows has been the world capital of come on. Walk the grounds and you’ll hear a player say it. Flip on the U.S. Open women’s semifinals today for a few minutes and one will pop out. Nationality, gender, rank, age—come on knows few bounds, except maybe language, in which case there’s also vamos or allez.

“Other day, I heard it in the second point of a match,” said the tennis journalist Pete Bodo. “The second point of the match! ‘Come on!’ That’s not uncommon.”

“It’s just what everybody shouts,” said Judy Murray, mother of Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who said that her son is “definitely” a come on man.

“It’s become the catchphrase of the tour,” said Mary Carillo, the veteran tennis broadcaster for CBS and the Tennis Channel.

“I can’t think of any other comparable chant or cheer or charge in any other sport,” said Ted Robinson, the longtime tennis announcer for NBC and the radio play-by-play guy for the 49ers.

3. Victoria Azarenka’s bat-shaped sweat pattern may have been the highlight of her match against Flavia Pennetta.

4. I enjoyed Ben Rothenberg’s piece for Slate on WTA players’ weights and whether those numbers should be kept:

While Sharapova’s measurements are the most outlandish on paper—she is the only one of the 110 players in the 2013 WTA Media Guide with a BMI less than 17.5—she’s hardly the only player whose listed weight fails the eye test. When compared against one another, or simply against logic, many of the players’ weights seem very, very wrong, all somehow erring on the low side. The 6-foot Kristina Mladenovic, the only other player in the media guide with a BMI under 18, is listed at an incredible 132 pounds. Caroline Wozniacki, who is 5-foot-10, supposedly weighs a paper-thin 128.

When I asked Max Eisenbud, Sharapova’s longtime agent, about his client’s suspect metrics, he didn’t insist that the Russian star, the highest-paid female athlete in the world, does in fact weigh 130 pounds. Instead, he said, “I don’t know too many women that like to speak about their height and weight. But if you look at all sports, the height and weight is never right. Not just tennis.” He added, “I think this is way down on the list of things the WTA needs to focus on.”

The point here is not to shame these women for weighing more than what is listed. Rather, the bigger issue is why the weights of women’s tennis players are an official statistic in the first place. Because there’s no compelling reason for us to know how much Maria Sharapova or Caroline Wozniacki really weighs.

Juan José

1. Flavia Pennetta and Victoria Azarenka have excellent backhands. And yet, their (mostly) entertaining semifinal was dominated by forehand exchanges. I thought this rather surprising trend worked completely in Azarenka’s favor, since she has more of a heavy ball and changes direction with more pace and depth than her Italian colleague.

I was rather disappointed in Pennetta, who happily fell into Azarenka’s trap instead of trying to find ways to use her signature backhand to get Azarenka off balance and be the one dictating rallies more frequently. Of course, Flavia’s errors began before any rally took place: she served rather poorly throughout the match (actually, that might be too kind: Pennetta had an atrocious serving day, and here are the numbers: 44% first serves, 48% first serve points won, and 22% second serve points won. Oh, and one small detail: Pennetta held serve only once in the entire match), and while she broke Azarenka five times (out of six tries, no less), she got broken eight times herself.

That simply won’t cut it, not even against a shaky Victoria Azarenka.

2. Speaking of the woman who’s made four straight hardcourt Slam finals: she once again reminded me of Novak Djokovic today. To be more specific: she reminded me of 2010 Djokovic, a.k.a Mr. “I serve more double faults than aces,” in the sense that back then, Djokovic would simply refuse to let bad service games derail his elite return game. This is not an easy skill to have; most players carry over the disappointment of a bad service game into their subsequent return game. Not so Azarenka and 2010 Djokovic: they may seem ordinary, downright mediocre on serve, but once they switch to become the returner, they’re back to being their world-beating best. This is how they survive and even thrive in big events. And how they keep their lofty ranking, too.

Going into Sunday’s final, Azarenka doesn’t face anything new: she knows she’s serving badly, and she knows she has to improve that dramatically if she’s going to have a chance against Serena Williams. But that was the same scenario she faced ahead of their recent Cincinnati final, and even though Victoria got massacred by Serena in the first set, she consistently found ways to hold serve in the following two sets. So, we gonna see.

3. For many years now, I’ve adopted a simple policy in life: when I have a bad feeling about an upcoming event, I tend to expect the worst possible outcome. Why? Because things rarely end up being as bad as I fear, so the final balance ends up being positive. Disappointments are avoided, and unpleasant events end up being routine instead of traumatic.

Let me clarify: it’s not like I want those events to go badly – it’s just that my gut (and previous experience) feels uneasy about them.

Today’s Serena-Li Na match was as just as bad as I thought it would be. Which is extremely disappointing, yet not really surprising. I enjoy watching Serena Williams and Li Na play other people – just not each other. It’s a weird match-up with weird energy that often produces horrible tennis (with the same outcome 90% of the time, no less). There’s not much more to say about that match, so I would just like to give kudos to Serena Williams for being kind enough to finish the ordeal in a relatively quick way.

4. You saw it above in Amy’s section, but this screencap is just too perfect for words:

And that was my nominee for Screencap Of the Year.


1. Okay, so yes, today was a very disappointing day for women’s semifinals. I will confess. In order to truly treat women’s tennis fairly, you have to admit when it sucks.

That being said, I actually think that Pennetta did better than I thought she would. Truthfully, I didn’t have very high hopes for her at all–her game just doesn’t seem to have any weapons that would bother Vika, and I assumed that she would be beyond overwhelmed by her first semifinal.

There were actually some really fun rallies in the first set of that match, and, despite being by far the weaker player on the court, Pennetta refused to go quietly into the night. I should have known. She’s such a badass.

Don’t get me wrong–I am NOT saying that this was a high-quality match. But there was tension, and there were some fun rallies, and I was not as bored as I thought I’d be.

And, Azarenka’s ability to win when she is playing far below her top level continues to impress me. I’m serious. Despite her serve, her awkward footwork, and her tightness, she just figures out a way to advance. When her game finally clicks back in, she’s going to be unstoppable.

2. I tweeted this out today, and I thought I’d share it here too–I don’t think that Azarenka has been fully fit since she came back from her injuries this spring, and I think that’s leading to a lot of the “off days” that we’re seeing from her. She’s not comfortable on court, and it shows. She’s just a step slower than she needs to be, which causes her to push, which leads her to rush her shots.

Maybe it’s just me.

3. Li Na, we’re on a break. Officially. I love you, but I needed you to show up from the first point today, not for about 20 total minutes in the second set. Sort out your head, homegirl.

But also, keep being amazing:

Q. We know you said that Carlos saved your marriage. Now, with Serena, she’s being coached by her boyfriend. Now that you have been through all this, what would be the advice you would give to Serena for being coached?

LI NA: Don’t be married, okay? Yeah. (laughter). How you say, if Dennis is not my husband I was feeling we are still working, you know. But after marriage is different, totally different, because men is totally change (laughter).

Q. So it’s the guy’s fault?

LI NA: Yeah. The woman is never fault, so…

4. Serena looks scary good, and scary intense you guys. Here are some more thoughts on that.

Also, be sure to check out her amazing double “COME ON!” It’s spectacular.

5. What a day for Andrea Hlavackova, who won the mixed doubles title with Max Mirnyi to start the day on Ashe, and then finished the day on Ashe by beating the Williams sisters to advance to the women’s doubles final.

Something tells me she’s going to remember this one. Nicely done. She was on fire all day long.

6. I loved seeing the mixed doubles final on CBS, and was so glad they gave it the attention it deserves. Mixed doubles is so much fun to watch.

7. I’m so glad we got the Azarenka-Serena final. Make it a great one, ladies.

8. I wrote about Stanislas Wawrinka for Sports on Earth. As always, I appreciate you checking it out if you so desire.

5 Responses

  1. Q
    Q September 7, 2013 at 2:57 am |

    Im a djoker fan but it would be awesome if stan or riche could push through to the finals
    Nice article about Stan btw
    and great photo of Rod, as a fellow aussie I think we are just sun-conscience (like Bernie)

  2. Steve
    Steve September 7, 2013 at 5:07 am |

    Laver aimed his hat in the direction of the sun. ha

    Remember when Nostradamus predicted this?

    “I am absolutely terrified of the Serena Williams – Li Na semifinal. I still remember their atrocity of a match at the WTA Championships in Istanbul last year. It was an affront to the sport of tennis.” – Juan Jose

    Spot on. That match was terrible.

  3. Henk
    Henk September 7, 2013 at 5:36 am |

    The semis weren’t that great but the absence of upsets means we will most likely get a thriller final. Li – Azarenka or Pennetta – Williams would have been duds, I think.

  4. Fig
    Fig September 7, 2013 at 9:34 am |

    I love y’alls commentary. Best on the web :).

  5. Patrick of La Verne
    Patrick of La Verne September 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

    A couple of interesting (at least to me) tidbits that do not seem to have gotten much attention:

    If Serena wins tomorrow, the $2.6 million first prize will put her over the $8 million mark for the season. She will be the first woman ever to have reached that milestone. (That is not counting the $1 million US Open series bonus, which I don’t think is counted as part of official earnings, although I could be wrong there).

    I believe she is intending to play in Tokyo and Beijing as well as the YEC’s, so a $9 or $10 million season is not out of the question. There are only about thirty WTA players who have earned $10 million in their entire career.

    If she wins tomorrow, Serena will also be within a couple of hundred thou of $50 million in career earnings; no other woman has yet to reach $30 million, although Sharapova ($26.7 million and Azarenka ($21.1 million + either $1.3 or $2.6 million tomorrow) almost certainly will.

    Venus is at $28.8 million; if her health holds up for another year or so, she has an excellent chance of reaching that milestone too. She had only earned $221,000 going into the US Open; her R2 singles and SF in doubles will add a little over $100,000 to that total.

    If Serena had won both the both singles and the doubles, she would have gone slightly over $50 million this week.

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