Things We Learned on Day 12 of the 2015 US Open



Um, so, Serena Williams will not be winning a calendar slam this year. Anyone else still in shock about that? I’m still in shock about that. Look, Williams is a human being and is susceptible to nerves and Roberta Vinci was not going to fold this match away.

So, it happened. Vinci defeated Serena to advance to the final.

Aside from nerves from Williams, let me just say that Vinci did exactly what you should do in the position she was in. She went out there and she played out of her skin. She played like she deserved to be there. She played like of course she could defeat the favourite of all favourites.

Perspective is important here. It’s obviously sad from a Williams perspective that she hasn’t won the calendar slam here, but her achievements are still other worldly. Courtney Nguyen put it best:

So, after the appropriate moments of sadness, I will now return to my usual way of enjoying tennis…WE GET A FIRST TIME SINGLES SLAM WINNER! I am a lover of chaos, a lover of new achievements, a lover of people defying the odds to do something extraordinary.

Vinci did the unthinkable by progressing to this final. That’s extraordinary. That’s a great story. That’s the drama and the fun of our sport.

2. We will have an Italian women’s champion

It wasn’t just Vinci out there causing surprises, Flavia Pennetta also caused a shock by taking out no.2 seed Simona Halep. Granted, Pennetta is less of a surprise given her US Open calibre (take a look at her past results here, she shows up in New York) and also taking into account her big wins in the past…Indian Wells 2014, anyone?

That said, Pennetta has never won a singles slam and will now have the opportunity to join a stellar list of women who have done so in this era. That she and Vinci are both over 30 is also an extraordinary thing to note: experience is valuable in the modern game. You’ve got to keep your head.

I have no idea who’ll win this, although I’d naturally lean slightly towards Pennetta. It’ll be fascinating.

3. Cilic has had a good tournament, but a bad semi-final

Marin Cilic could easily have fallen in the first week, given the pressure of trying to defend a slam title for the first time. He didn’t though, he made it all the way to the semi-final on his quest to try and reclaim the title. In the semi-final though, the game just wasn’t there. Djokovic looked more than solid – he didn’t blink for a moment. Every bit the world no.1, the Serbian did not look like he was interested in entertaining another upset on Arthur Ashe court as the two big seeds performing before him had fallen.

Cilic, on the other hand, looked completely out of sorts. He was very clearly suffering from injury. His shots just weren’t there at all. His game frayed quickly. It was a step too far for the Croatian, and he found himself capable of winning only three games across three sets.

This marks the first year that Djokovic has reached all four slam finals, and he looks very good going into this one. He’ll have a certain Swiss to get past first if he wants to emerge champion…


1. Roberta Vinci or Flavia Pennetta will be a Grand Slam champion tomorrow. I needed to start with that, because I still can’t wrap my head around it. And nope — writing it down doesn’t make it any easier to fathom.
2. I said this about Rafa when he lost to Djokovic at the French Open, and I will say it about Serena now: Winning this major would have definitely added to Serena’s legacy, but losing it in no way diminishes it.

3. Serena is still the GOAT. To win the Serena Slam twice, 12 years apart, and to do it in this generation, when the margins between the players in the Top 50 (and beyond, really) are razor thin is just nothing short of phenomenal.

The pressure. The emotional and physical toll. Hell, even the odds. She overcame them all for five straight majors.

Courtney Nguyen summed it up so well:

4. OHMYGOD, Eurosport.

5. If you missed it like I did, do yourself a favor and watch Roberta Vinci’s post-match interview. It’s a master-class in, well, just about everything.

6. Look, I’ll admit it: I’m devastated that Serena’s not going to win the Grand Slam. I had thought/hoped that through this unfathomable feat she could finally get the respect and appreciation that she so richly deserved; I wanted to see history; and I knew how great it would be for women’s tennis. Basically, my heart is broken for Serena.

7. But I really, truly, am happy for Italy. I CAN BE BOTH THINGS, OKAY?

8. My office was totally for putting the Serena match on this afternoon, but notsomuch the Halep/Pennetta match — though I’ll admit I didn’t ask because, well, it’s only my second week, and also I was super busy with other stuff. But that scoreline confuses me — I was enjoying watching Halep’s fight.

9. I also don’t have much to say about the men. Besides the Fognini/Nadal and Anderson/Murray matches, the men’s side has been rather lackluster. But Federer is looking really, really great right now, and has a very good shot on Sunday. But Djokovic looks good too.


10. Martina Hingis and Leander Paes ruin lives.



1. Serena hits a wall.

The thing about Serena is that, even when she was down 4-5 in the third set and not playing well, most of us thought it was more likely than not that she would break. Credit to Roberta Vinci, who came in with a smart game plan and took advantage of Serena’s considerable nerves. Of course this loss does nothing to diminish anything that came before, but Serena will regret letting herself get as edgy as she did.

While it’s true that her achievements thus far have been impressive, it’s normal to mourn the chance to have made another mark on history. That the loss came against a player who was eminently beatable on a less nervy day will sting, but hopefully Serena will return to the tour still motivated to chase Steffi Graf’s and Margaret Court’s Grand Slam records, which are still distinctly within reach.

2. Simona hits a different wall.

It’s hard to say whether Halep’s loss today was attributable to mental fatigue from her long road forward, the ban on Darren Cahill participating in her preparation against Flavia Pennetta, another Adidas player, or the momentousness of the occasion. However, she, too, must feel that this was an opportunity lost, particularly now that Serena won’t be in the final. Her semifinal run at this year’s Open salvaged what had been a largely disappointing year for Halep, and should prime her to continue her strong form. What will be interesting is what happens with Darren Cahill — it’s clear that he has been an important positive force on her team, and is enjoying his role. With Adidas closing up its player development program, Cahill might just be available for one of those Edberg/Becker limited time super-coaching gigs.

3. You want your history, you got it.

With their summary dismissals of an injured Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka, respectively, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer meet again in a Grand Slam final. Whether buoyed by SABR or not, Federer looks the best he’s looked in a long time. Then again, this was the case before the Wimbledon final, so it’s always hard to predict how the match-up will go on day form. But, given the consistently great form these guys have shown over the year, it’s fitting that they are the ones who’ve made it to the final. The winner will make a new mark in tennis history either way — Djokovic reaching the double digits in Slams, or Federer extending the record to 18. It may not be the history we necessarily were expecting to see this weekend, but it should be compelling all the same.

4. Two of these ladies will be Grand Slam singles champions by Sunday.

Forza Italia, indeed. If Flavia wins this one, I’m waiting for Fabio to become a SuperWAG.

5 Responses

  1. s
    s September 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm |

    “I had thought/hoped that through this unfathomable feat she could finally get the respect and appreciation that she so richly deserved; I wanted to see history; and I knew how great it would be for women’s tennis. Basically, my heart is broken for Serena.”

    Sadly, based on a lot of what I’m reading this morning, even the CYGS wouldn’t have been enough. People are so hateful 🙁

  2. cjb
    cjb September 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm |

    Re Vinci’s ‘powderpuff’ game (Amy): it might not have been pretty but it certainly got the job done.

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  4. Joshua Gibson
    Joshua Gibson September 13, 2015 at 10:17 am |

    Have you guys seen this article from the SI vault? Frank DeFord telling the tale of Sukova def. Navratilova in the 83 Australian to end her bid for the Grand Slam (the Australian was played in December back then.):

    It features DeFord referring to eventual champion Chris Evert as “little Chrissie”, a totally weird story about Evert paying Pam Shriver $200 bucks to go into the men’s locker room, and the phrase “tennis panties” (apparently Evert didn’t pack any.)

  5. cjb
    cjb September 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm |

    Oh God – ‘little Chrissie’ – so many writers (not just male) were condescending about Chris in those days – she was a grown woman in ’83. ‘Ice Dolly’, ‘Ice Princess’, ‘Miss America’ –

    For so long Chris defeated journalists – a book could be written about their responses to her. I’m not surprised she had a bit of a breakdown in later life.
    (she has discussed that publicly, no secret.)

    I’m not keen on her as a commentator but I think she had one of the most difficult lives in the media spotlight in her playing days and coped reasonably well.

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