Things We Learned on Day Six of the US Open


1. Every summer, John Isner plays his best tennis in the US Open series. And then every summer, like clockwork, he turns into a pumpkin at the big tournament. Can the tennis media stop acting like he’s a serious US Open threat? He’s not.

2. While I was watching Caroline Wozniacki play against Camila Giorgi, a question occurred to me: how would people perceive Wozniacki if she had the same career accomplishments she has now, but was more of a ball-basher? Personally, I think there would be more appreciation for what she’s done, and less discussion of the weak competition she faced during her reign as World No. 1. I’m not sure that’s right, but it’s an interesting thing to consider.

3. Haha:

Q. If Tim Smyczek loses tomorrow, there’s a chance that no Americans would be in the second week of any major this year for the first time ever. What would you make of that, and your part of that?

PHILIPP KOHLSCHREIBER: I’m part of that? I’m sorry.

4. Right around this time of every Grand Slam tournament, I get sick of the clichés I hear from commentators. Some of my least favorites:

“______ needs more free points.”
“______ is playing too tentatively.”
“______ needs to come to the net more.”

I’m sure I’m missing a lot of them.

5. Simona Halep looked dangerous in her beatdown of Maria Kirilenko today. Everything was working, as it has been lately for the Romanian. She’s the hottest player on the WTA Tour that hardly anyone is talking about.

6. I enjoyed Ivo Karlovic’s quotes in this piece about John Isner adding an inch to his official ATP height to match Karlovic at 6’10:

“You know, I don’t know if it was his back that was hunched, maybe, and now it is more straight?” he said. “But I should also do new measurements to see if I also can extend it, maybe.

Karlovic, who at 33 is five years older than Isner, then realized there could be a negative consequence to redoing his own numbers. “Or I go down now, maybe, because I’m already older,” he said.

Asked if he was taller than Isner, Karlovic wavered.

“Yeah,” Karlovic said. “I mean, I don’t know. Who knows now? Usually, yes. But now I don’t know anymore.”

Juan José

1. Simona Halep has an unbelievable chance to make the US Open semifinals after her demolition of Maria Kirilenko. As if the violent 1 and 0 scoreline wasn’t impressive enough, it’s worth noting that Kirilenko was seeded seven spots ahead of Halep.

It’s truly amazing how the young Romanian has exploded onto the scene in the past few months. She was a somewhat forgotten title-less young player up until the mid year mark. Since then she’s managed to win four titles and now knows that only Flavia Penneta and either Roberta Vinci or Camilia Giorgi stand in the way of her first ever Slam semi.

Should Halep make it that far, it would be fascinating to see how her game stacks up against one of the ruling elite in women’s tennis. I, for one, am rooting for that Halep-Azarenka semi to happen.

2. Rafael Nadal is looking better and better. Today’s match with Ivan Dodig was tricky, but the Spaniard breezed by without incident. As a bonus, he now knows he’ll face Philipp Kohlschreiber instead of the always tricky John Isner. The rich getting richer, eh?

3. This graph explains perfectly what has happened to Ana Ivanovic’s career in the past few years:

4. Janko Tipsarevic is into the second week of this year’s US Open. What’s sad (and telling about the year he’s having) is that this seems like one of the more unexpected developments in this year’s US Open.

5. The Dan Evans thrill ride ended today. The Brit is fun to watch, even if he has a glaring, obvious weakness in his iffy backhand. Many will hope to see more of him in the future, and I’m among them. However, I fear that this was a one-time thing.

6. Camila Giorgi hits the ball really, really hard. She ran Caroline Wozniacki ragged for most of their match today, as the former World No. 1 once again avoided the second week of a slam. I thought it was a rather sad performance from Woz, as she ended up with over twice as many UFEs than winners, something that’s anathema to the way she approaches the game. Other than waiting for Giorgi to implode, Caroline did little to steer the match towards her best interests.

About the 21-year-old Italian: there’s no subtlety whatsoever on Camila’s game, as she points out herself:

Giorgi looks at the ball, and she hits it really hard, with more or less the same spin every time. That should be good enough to reach the top 50, given that she also has a pretty potent serve. However, there are obvious issues: tactical awareness, anticipation, or the ability to adjust aren’t really visible. I’m not sure she can survive a match in which she’s forced to defend and look for ways to turn that around. At the end of the day, there are reasons why Camila had to go through the qualies to reach the main draw this year.

All that being said … man, wouldn’t it be fun to be able to crush the ball as hard as Giorgi does? If I could do it, that’s all I’d do, too.


1. If you follow my writing, you know that I’m not the most technically-minded person. People like Amy, Juan José, and others are much better at analyzing that, so I just leave that to them. But, I mean, even I could have come up with better analysis than this!

2. Rafa, along with the rest of the top guys, is looking really great right now. And it really seems like he was in a great mood in his press conference today:

Q. One of the papers published an interview today with Francis Roig, and he said when you were off for the year you did a lot of target practice trying to hit water bottles and knock one over. Is that an important part of your training? Roig told The Wall Street Journal start of the year you were trying to hit targets on the court, water bottles.

RAFAEL NADAL: (Through translation.) Well, we work on that all the time to try to have objectives on court, on the sides, but I never hit no one. I am not very good on that. (Laughter).

Q. You have been invincible on your service through the tournament, you know, not a single loss of serve.

RAFAEL NADAL: Will happen. No worries (Laughter).

Although, it doesn’t seem like he follows doubles really closely…

Q. What are your thoughts when you see the Bryan brothers, who are now going for the Grand Slam in doubles?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. They already won the first three? Well, I wish them best of luck for the tournament. I think if they really make it is something very difficult and will be a very good thing.

3. This is amazing:

4. Oh Fudd.

5. I’m disappointed in John Isner, and I really think he’s disappointed in himself, too. He really only needed one more win to seal a great summer–nobody expected him to beat Rafa–but this loss to Kohls really just makes it seem like it was all for nothing, unfortunately.

I’ll have more thoughts on that tomorrow.

6. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be beatdown city, but I’m still really excited for Serena/Sloane tomorrow. It’s about time that we get another on-court chapter to this overblown saga.

7. I am all aboard the Giorgi bandwaggon.

8. Get to know Tim Smyczek, your last American man standing. You know, just like we all predicted.

9 Responses

  1. Mark
    Mark September 1, 2013 at 1:24 am |

    Re: John Isner as a threat, I think Amy is just bitter about him making it further than “dark horse” Juan Martin del Potro. 😉

  2. Fig
    Fig September 1, 2013 at 8:11 am |

    Love the graphic of Ivanovic’s toss. It was so clear from watching that match what a problem that is for her.
    She seems to toss with her whole body, and its just not working for her.

  3. Jason
    Jason September 1, 2013 at 10:42 am |

    Wait…the “Be Fed” thing *wasn’t* a Twitter joke?

    Regarding “come to the net more” being tossed about, I think the problem is essentially false extrapolation. Someone like Rafa might go 5/7 for net points in a given match, and one could just look at that, go “that’s 71% won! He’s so effective up there, he should rush forward all the time.” The issue is that most players win such a high percentage because they *only* go to the net when they already have the point nearly won–or when they’re forced there by a drop shot. Rafa’s excellent overhead means he is really good at finishing points at the net, but he has a lower ability to *create* at the net. If he just went to the net on a rally shot, he’d get passed, and that goes for most folks. A few players can create from a neutral position and still win net points, but not many, not with the punch behind passing shots these days.

    Most people, therefor, are better off only moving forward when they have to, when they’ve gained a nigh-overwhelming edge in the point, or rarely as a surprise tactic. Though that’s still an important skill to develop, IMO, again see Nadal’s excellent overhead. I sometimes feel this is an issue with some players such as Sharapova, who have to hit more ground would-be winners than they really need to because they don’t have the ability or willingness to go in and finish the point off.

    Hopefully that made sense.

    1. Amy
      Amy September 1, 2013 at 11:48 am |

      Jason – I couldn’t agree more. Your points are exactly why this commentary about coming to the net more is lazy and bad. It’s rarely that simple.

  4. Ray
    Ray September 1, 2013 at 11:36 am |

    I have to take a hard stance on John Isner and his future. If John does not change his attitude he will never be a contender to win a major. I understand that at his home slam he would like the crowd to be on his side but that will not always be the case. He cannot deal with being uncomfortable which I believe is part of the reason he has only been in two finals not on american soil. His comments about pumping up the crowd being exhausting are sickening. If that is not how you play tennis don’t change yourself to do it. As much as I’m not a fan of Azarenka, she has the ability to block everything out and just play tennis. Djokovic is also a polzarizing figure and he “rarely” lets the crowd get to him. After 8 wins in Paris, Nadal will STILL get less support than Federer. Isner needs to grow up.

  5. marron
    marron September 1, 2013 at 11:51 am |

    ‘After 8 wins in Paris, Nadal will STILL get less support than Federer.’

    Great comment, Ray, true and Rafa doesn’t let that ever bother him. He’s there to play tennis. Crowd can do whatever it wants to. I was a bit shocked at Isner’s actual age, he acts more like a 20yr old. Yup, ‘grow up’ is a good piece of advice.

  6. Claire
    Claire September 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

    My friend saw Serena crying on the practice courts yesterday. No one knew if it was because of an injury or something else but still! That, and the fact that this is a day match when it should probably be a night match, make me think that this match won’t be as straightforward as you might expect!

    1. Lindsay
      Lindsay September 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

      Oh geez–that bit about Serena crying isn’t good. But I wouldn’t read into the scheduling–CBS has the daytime matches on Labor Day weekend, so the biggest matches always get scheduled for them. Only Tennis Channel has the night sessions.

  7. Patrick of La Verne
    Patrick of La Verne September 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

    Just a couple of thoughts. I was very impressed with Giorgi when she played Serena in the early going at Charleston. Her serve was absolutely terrible that day (I’ve never seen a higher and rarely a more erratic ball toss) but the girl can run and she can hit. Yet another fun Italian to watch.

    “how would people perceive Wozniacki if she had the same career accomplishments she has now, but was more of a ball-basher?” In a strange sort of way, and despite the fact that their styles of play are so dissimilar, I think there is a parallel between the careers of Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki. All had wonderful success at a very young age (Venus and Maria, of course, had more grand slam successes, but each was only briefly ranked #1) even though their games were rather circumscribed, and their early successes kind of blinded them to the flaws in their game.

    Caroline is still young enough to change her game, but of course, change is a scary thing. If you can beat 99% of the players who make tennis their career by playing a certain way, is it really a good idea to make radical changes that “might” give you a better chance of beating the other 1%?

    For some reason, golfers are much more likely to tinker with their game than tennis players. Tiger Woods has famously changed his swing a couple of times, and in each case spent a year or two wandering in the wilderness until he fully mastered the new swing. An even more cautionary tale is Padraig Harrington, who won three majors in the space of a couple of years a while back, made some changes to “improve” his swing, and has struggled ever since.

    But Caroline is young, and is a wonderful athlete, and a few tactical changes, as opposed to structural “swing” changes, might help a lot.

    Serena was several years older than Caroline when she belatedly came to realize (in part because of Venus’s decline about 2009-2010) that she didn’t need to go for clear-cut winners on nearly every shot because very, very few of her other opponents had the mobility, the power, or the ability to turn defense into offense with a lightning-like flip of the wrist like the player she had played thousands of hours – and half a dozen grand slam finals – against — her sister, Venus. Just making a series of solid shots, allowing a fair amount of margin, would generally put most players in an untenable defensive position, and sooner or later she would get the error or the short ball that would lead to an easy winner. Most players, unlike Venus, did not have the ability to recapture the initiative in such situations. A simple tactical point, but it has made all the difference in her results the last four or five years.

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