I didn’t get to watch much today so I won’t make a list, but I did pay attention to Mardy Fish’s final match vs. Feliciano Lopez. I was rooting pretty hard for Fish’s career to last a few more days, but at least he went out with a good fight.
During his late-career renaissance, Mardy Fish was by far the most exciting American male player to watch. In 2011, which was when I started obsessively following little tournaments online and began blogging, he was playing some truly excellent tennis. Whenever he played, I was glued to my computer screen or my iPhone, sometimes rooting for him, sometimes rooting against him — I’ve gone back and forth because I’m weird like that. But his game was always fun and exciting, and he was everything you would want in your country’s top-ranked male tennis player.
When he disappeared after that strange walkover to Federer, I didn’t think much of it. I figured he’d be back eventually. It took a long time for it to sink in that he really wasn’t equipped to handle the tour anymore. But he never forgot how to play elite tennis, as he demonstrated over the last couple of weeks of his career. I’m sad to see him go because I feel like he played a role in making me such a huge tennis fan, but I’m mostly happy he felt able to return to the court and end his career in front of a supportive American crowd. I hope he will live a happy, fulfilling life now that this chapter of his life is done.
And I hope he’ll keep up his entertaining Twitter banter with John Isner.
@MardyFish could have 4 if it wasn't for you. A**hole
— John Isner (@JohnIsner) July 28, 2014
— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) July 22, 2014
Oh, sooooo jealous! https://t.co/r5nptRvJ0T
— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) September 1, 2015
(I’m heading to the US Open tomorrow, so I’ll have more to say then!)
1. Keys and Brengle enjoying their days in the Madi-sun (sorry)
Madison Keys and Madison Brengle continued their progressions through the tournament today. Keys has not looked on good form at all lately but has put it together for the US Open and absolutely crushed opponent Smitkova 6-1 6-2. Keys will now face a juicy encounter with Aga Radwanska and then potentially Serena Williams in rounds three and four – she’ll be a force to be reckoned with if she continues this form.
Brengle is rediscovering some of the tennis that took her to an Australian Open fourth round earlier this year. She was only defending second round points here in New York (as a wildcard, she lost to Sabine Lisicki) so she’ll be very pleased with her progress so far, especially considering the tight affair she was able to endure versus Zheng in R1. The 25 year old defeated Tatishvili 6-3 6-2 and will face Kontaveit in the third round.
2. Bethanie prepares to take on the biggest challenge
When the draw emerged, it looked likely that Serena Williams would face a fellow American in the third round. Most bets would have been on Sloane Stephens, but Coco Vandeweghe put an end to those theories in the first round. As the new favourite to take on Serena, Coco quickly faltered. She was not happy about it:
Instead Bethanie Mattek-Sands, clad in resplendent long-sock, will bring her experience and passion to the challenge of trying to put a stop to history.
3. Paire backs up the Nishikori win
I always had faith it would happen.
Benoit Paire continued the good form that saw him overcome defending finalist Kei Nishikori in the first round, with a four set win over Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan. It looked as casual as always, but Paire is genuinely playing some good tennis and maybe, just maybe, he does care about this whole tennis thing. I’m coming around to it, okay?
Paire through, 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3.
4. Mardy Fish, we will miss you
It was a tough ending to the professional career of Mardy Fish today, competing in his home slam for a glorious swan song. Fish fought valiantly against no.18 seed Feliciano Lopez, but his body could stand no more once the match extended into a fifth set. Cramp started to set in, putting a sad end to the story of a man who has come to represent as much off the court as he has on the court.
Lopez did what every competitor should, and took advantage of his hampered opponent to close the match out 2-6 6-3 1-6 7-5 6-3.
Don’t call it an ignominious death for Fish, whose exit from the court was understated due to the physical circumstance. Fish is a vocal advocate of gay rights and speaks openly about the effects of mental health. Both brave things for any sportsperson to do in the public sphere. We’ve not seen the end of Mardy Fish, and long may he continue to be a positive presence in our sport.
5. Billie Jean, Dancing Queen
6. Rafael, you look glorious
OH MY GOODNESS RAFA NADAL’S KIT IS A THING OF BEAUTY:
If you don’t like that, you don’t understand clothing. Nadal progressed to the third round over Schwartzman in straight sets, 7-6 6-3 7-5
1. Serena Serenas again.
When we looked at Serena’s draw, no one picked Kiki Bertens as a player that would derail Serena’s Grand Slam, but for a few moments there in the first set, it was looking like Serena’s story might have a most improbable end. Yet, as always, Serena came back from behind to break Bertens as she served for the first set, and then to overcome an 0-4 deficit to win the first set tiebreak. Afterwards, Serena admitted some nerves, but she quickly righted the ship. She’ll have to maintain her calm in the next few rounds where Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Aga Radwanska or Madison Keys and then either Belinda Bencic or Venus loom.
2. There’s nothing neutral about Belinda Bencic.
Belinda Bencic is very good at tennis. Belinda Bencic is 18. So…things happen.
Incredible scenes. Bencic wastes 8 set points, cries, saves 3 consecutive match points and converts her 10th SP to force a 3rd set. — José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 2, 2015
Bencic is stalking across the court like an enraged queen.
— Katie Bee (@breakpointsaved) September 2, 2015
Im through!!! apologizing for my attitude today, i know it was horrible but we all have bad days, right? #superfrustrated
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) September 3, 2015
That looks exhausting without playing a tennis match on top of it. Good thing Belinda got it out of her system — because she plays Venus next, and I’m pretty sure Venus doesn’t do tantrums.
3. Tough times for the man formerly known as Showtime.
After Dimitrov loss today to Kukushkin he loses his Showtime nic name until posting way better results
— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) September 2, 2015
BG sure knows how to kick a man when he’s down — this has been a tough year for Grigor Dimitrov. I’ll give Grigor credit — it’s not because he’s not trying. While he really should win a match against Mikhail Kukushkin, Dimitrov didn’t give up when down 2 sets to love, but could not come all the way back to win. Dumping a coach, changing a racquet and ending a high profile relationship in the space of a few months clearly has not helped Dimitrov’s game.
It’s hard to know where to start to get Dimitrov back on track, but yet another early exit from a Slam will give him plenty of time to think about it.
4. Seedless isn’t only for watermelons.
The seeds certainly keep dropping — today saw the exits of the top two seeds in the Men’s Doubles draw — Bob and Mike Bryan as well as Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. The Bryans lost to their compatriots, Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, who will now take over the doubles slot for the U.S. in its next Davis Cup tie. The Bryans saved four match points to force a third set, but were unable to sustain momentum and were broken early in the third set and could not convert the break points they had later in the match.
This is the first year since 2005 that the Bryans have not won a Grand Slam title — an incredible run. They’re planning to retire after the 2016 season, so the opportunities to see them in action are running out — don’t miss out while they are still around.
5. Sometimes victory isn’t just about what happens on the court.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come at all. Mardy Fish’s return to tennis after over three years of struggling with anxiety was a victory in and of itself, even if the result on the scoreboard was a defeat. Fish showed some of the superlative play that brought him into the top ten in the early going, but Feliciano Lopez was too match tough for Fish, who succumbed to cramps towards the end of the match.
Fish’s willingness to share his experience with mental illness, particularly in his piece for The Player’s Tribune will surely help those who suffer from this illness, both on and off the tennis court.
While Venus Williams did win her tennis match, her patchy play and inability to close out the second set after serving for it twice show that she is a long way from the peak form that brought her two titles in Flushing Meadows. But it was absolutely a pleasure to see her playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and a good move on the part of the tournament to honor a player whose influence on the game extends far beyond her accomplishments on the court. While, unlike Fish, it’s not clear when Venus will retire, her willingness to compete through illness and to take a stand on issues of equality show that for her, too, tennis may end up as only the starting point on an incredible journey ahead.
6. The Djoker Lives!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Novak Djokovic that he managed to kick gluten and find his inner legend. But, the steadiness and zen that come from reaching his potential and occupying the number one spot have, at times, obscured the goofy impression-loving kid we all got to know almost a decade ago. Luckily, after a routine win over Andreas Haider-Maurer, Novak had plenty of energy to do this:
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 3, 2015