Things We Learned on Day 8 of the 2015 US Open


1. Oh my god. I haven’t been that invested in a tennis match since Federer-Benneteau at 2012 Wimbledon. Kevin Anderson, currently making a big push to reach the top 10, beat Andy Murray to make his first career slam quarterfinal! With his great head-to-head record about his QF opponent Stan Wawrinka, he also has a decent shot at reaching the semifinal. (I so hope he does, not only because he plays wonderful tennis, but also because I bought a ticket to the men’s semis, and I’d love to be there to cheer him on.)

That was a heck of a match, too. Anderson played about as well as he could have, even when Murray fought back to take the third set. There was much talk about Anderson choking and so forth (I truly hate that stuff, by the way), especially after the rough five-set Wimbledon loss to Novak Djokovic, but he was rock-solid. Many props to him and his team, and of course to Changeover blogger Kelsey!

I hereby declare the official hashtag of Anderson’s slam run: #Anderslam.

He hit some phenomenal shots in the two tiebreaks he won. Case in point:

My personal excitement aside, it will take something special from any non-Djokovic or Federer player still left in the draw to make the final. Here’s the lineup for the quarters:

Djokovic vs. Lopez
Tsonga vs. Cilic

Wawrinka vs. Anderson
Gasquet vs. Federer

2. All the outrage over Anderson’s bathroom break (Murray had a temper tantrum about it in the match, which I suspect was mainly because he was losing) and other bathroom breaks seems absolutely ridiculous to me. If you’re good enough to win a tennis match, you should be good enough to be able to wait 10 minutes for a break that is completely within the rules. It’s frankly disrespectful to Murray’s abilities as an elite player to think that his chances of winning the match would’ve been affected by something so silly.

I watch a lot of different sports, but this sport is the only one I’ve ever watched in which it’s considered totally outrageous for the players to take breaks allowed for in the rulebook and use them to their advantage. Bathroom breaks are not even gamesmanship in my book. Breaking: tennis players continue to have bodily functions during their matches. Some injury timeouts cross the boundaries of gamesmanship, but most don’t. And I find it especially hard to get worked up over a break in between sets for one of the players to use the restroom.

3. I’m really sympathetic to the fact that most people don’t know who Kevin Anderson is, and I understand that CNN writes for a much broader audience than the tennis community. But coining a guy ranked in the top 15 as “unknown,” is pretty outrageously wrong, especially given the fact that the most dramatic men’s match at Wimbledon just weeks ago was probably the five-setter featuring Anderson and Djokovic.

You can’t call someone who is that highly ranked an “unknown,” because if you’re using people who have never heard of tennis as a standard, then Novak Djokovic or David Ferrer are probably “unknown,” too, but you’d sound ridiculous saying that. Anderson is known to anyone who has followed a couple of tournaments, and that’s who is going to read an article about the US Open in the first place.


1. I’ve long said that the best-of-five format was helping the elite men much more than hurting them, and it’s good to have some data that backs that up.

At Premier and Masters events, men and women are upset at very similar rates, while at the Slams, male top seeds are upset far less often.

2. Read Brian Phillips on Genie Bouchard and Nick Kyrgios. Don’t make me tell you twice.

I don’t know if there’s a lesson here beyond human charisma being impossible to resist when you give it a strong situational multiplier, but it was something to see. Bouchard and Kyrgios are opposite players in so many ways. She’s precise, determined, and steady. He’s frantic and impulsive. She narrows her eyes, shifts her weight from foot to foot, and hops in place between points, kicking her heels up high; you have the impression, when she’s playing, that she’s working, managing resources, adjusting mental sliders to find the right allocation of effort. He paces along the baseline like a nervous groom before a wedding, clutches his head, flicks his eyes from place to place. You have the impression that he’s acting out to keep from melting down. Where she’s intimidating, he’s uncomfortable. People always call Kyrgios “hip-hop,” but that’s a lazy comparison; his paranoid quickness, his quickened-ness, puts me in mind of a wired mid-’80s David Byrne. Against Cibulkova, Bouchard would approach the umpire to argue calls she didn’t like, and if she was angry she was lawyerly, too, focused and rational. (She’d unconsciously adjust her racket strings while she pressed her case.) Against Murray, Kyrgios lost the grip on his racket and sent it rocketing into the stands.

3. Okay, that Simona/Sabine match was a disaster of epic proportions, but you know what? It was exactly the kind of match I feel like Simona needed to get through at a major. We’ve seen her acquiesce too often this year on the big stages, allowing herself to be completely overcome by her opponent or her injury or the moment or whatever. She was close to letting that happen, but managed to fight it out.

(Sabine helped, of course. She always does.)

Let’s hope that Simona is healthy enough to make it a match against Azarenka.

4. Kudos, Kevin Anderson. What a well-deserved, hard-fought victory over Murray in four sets. You have to love that his big breakthrough to a major quarterfinal came not because a draw opened up for him, but because he busted through it in a wonderful atmosphere.

Anderson plays Wawrinka in the quarters, and don’t look now, but Anderson has won the last four matches in a row against Stan …

5. Let’s take a moment to say goodbye to Michael Russell, who said goodbye to his career today when he and Donald Young lost their doubles matches.

There were some nice tributes on Twitter:


1. Simona Halep survives …

We’ve had some great matches in the US Open so far. Simona Halep vs. Sabine Lisicki will not be remembered as such. Their three-set encounter included every horror you can imagine: unforced errors in the low 70s, Simona on a hampered leg, Sabine suffering cramps, serves so slow they’d make Errani blush. It was, frankly, a horror show. Simona did not enjoy it:

Somehow, having dropped the first set 7-6 and looking like she could barely move, Simona Halep managed to stick in the match both mentally and physically, eventually grinding her German opponent into submission. It was familiar territory for Lisicki, who had come through an equally ugly third round match versus Barbora Strycova, but ultimately her body and mind couldn’t maintain the energy for a second time.

Halep will have her work cut out for her in the QF, with a certain Belorussian looking in great form.

2. …Victoria Azarenka thrives

Azarenka’s fourth round match was just what she needed after the dramatics of her wonderful third round encounter with Angelique Kerber. The World No. 20 wasted no time against the USA’s Varvara Lepchenko, coming through in straight sets, 6-3 6-4.

It’s so great to see Azarenka playing good tennis and receiving a draw that actually rewards some of her hard work. She’s looking very good for her match up with Halep, and for once might be the less-injured player on the court.

That ranking should build up nicely from here.

3. End of the road for Donald Young

What a run, though! Young has made a big impact in this tournament and his progress has been a delight to follow. Stanislas Wawrinka was too strong for him this afternoon though, pushing through in 4 sets with some wonderful play on his backhand.

Given that before this match Wawrinka had not dropped a set in the tournament, this is certainly a good showing from Young and he should be pleased with this week of results. Let’s see if he can continue the momentum or if this was another classic flash of success from him.


1. #Fightergirls

It wasn’t always pretty (or in the case of the Halep-Lisicki, it was downright ugly at times), but we ended today with a quarterfinal that promises to be a lot of fun.  Both Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka are incredible fighters — and the contrast in their styles should provide for a compelling match.  However, Halep struggled with a left leg injury at the close of her match with Sabine Lisicki, and Azarenka was taped for a leg injury as well as an allergic reaction to her Nike kit (Nike, please stop torturing Vika; Vika, maybe Adidas will treat you better?) — but I suspect they will both show up for a fun match on Wednesday.

2. Can do Kando!

After his painful loss after leading Novak Djokovic two sets to love at Wimbledon, the tennis gods owed Kevin Anderson.  As it turns out, he didn’t need them after all — as he played confident clutch tennis to score the upset over Andy Murray.  With Stan Wawrinka looming in the next round, things are pointing towards a nice run.

3.  Roger Federer is very good at tennis.

Playing John Isner requires a high level of concentration and the ability to capitalize on the slimmest of advantages.  For much of this match, Roger Federer was unable to convert the rather generous number of break points he was able to earn.  But with clutch play in two tiebreakers, and converting one of his thousand (give or take) break points, he was able to take this one in three.  Make no mistake, Isner played well, but this match showed how good Federer can be in a close tussle, and his raw talent in handling the big servers.

4. ESPN does good promos.


5 Responses

  1. Joshua Gibson
    Joshua Gibson September 9, 2015 at 3:47 am |

    I think it’s pretty clear that the best of five format helps the elite players. It’s a big part of the reason why it will be so hard to get rid of the blasted things — no top player is going to support such a move because they understand it’s a huge advantage to them. Most journeyman type players, the sort of who show up at most but not all majors and once in a while get to a third round, play fewer best of five matches in their careers than Djokovic has this season — obviously he’s going to be better able to handle all the ups and downs of a long match. [Add to this list of things that help elite players at the expense of their lower ranked counterparts: magical roofs on courts the plebes aren’t allowed to look at except when player one of the Great Ones, computer replay technology available only on some courts (seriously majors?!), etc.]

    I think that these things are bad for tennis, by the way. I’ll admit that the chaos we’ve seen at more than one major in the last five years on the ladies’ side is not ideal either (although as an intense fan it’s WAY more interesting to me than what happens on the men’s side. The depth of the women’s draw — Chris Evert declared at least four or five of the Round of 32 matches to be “semifinals at least” — is just wonderful), and I get how “important” the Big Four are for tennis’s mass appeal — even if one of the big four is kind of out of his league, right? I still think tennis would be better served by giving new blood more frequent opportunities to emerge. This can still happen, and frequently does in a relentless and churning cycle, in the women’s game for two reasons: they break serve more often and they don’t play best of five sets.

    1. TheExpress
      TheExpress September 10, 2015 at 2:10 am |

      I can see why you would think it’s a bad thing that best-of-five favors the elite and limits upsets. I can also see why some people look at a tournament like this one with all the withdrawals on the men’s side and want to go to best-of-three to prevent injuries. But the thing is, best-of-five is just…awesome. In my view there is not nearly enough of a difference in the injury rate or the rate of upsets to justify getting rid of a format that has produced so many great matches throughout the years(The Wimby ’08 final, for instance, would have ended with a quick 2-set Nadal win). There are great, epic, amazing best-of-three matches, of course, and most men’s tennis is played Bo3. But the drama of a 3-5 hour match, the endurance test, the mental test of being out there the whole time; it’s a fan experience that is unmatched, imo.

      Personally I think women’s tennis is robbed of the epicness of best-of-five and should play it in the Slams as well. One compromise solution could have both men and women play Bo3 for the first four rounds, then Bo5 from the quarters on. This would make the early rounds more upset-prone, but when the tournament got down to the business end the players would face the challenge of best-of-five.

  2. Joshua Gibson
    Joshua Gibson September 9, 2015 at 3:52 am |

    Also, I pretty much agree about bathroom breaks etc. If it’s in the rules, it’s legal. Get over it. I understand players becoming frustrated, but so what? That’s life. But the bathroom break thing has become really annoying, for several reasons:

    1. Like the general problem of enforcing the time rules, one of tennis’s core principles (undermined by TV already) is that “play shall be continuous” — taking a break allows a player to rest when he should be playing.

    2. Everyone involved — current players and former players — agree that the breaks are getting longer and more frequent. I can accept that on some courts, the bathroom will be a fair distance away. But often it’s absolutely clear that someone is dawdling for the sake of dawdling. Whether this is “gamesmanship” (with the intent to distract, annoy or throw off one’s opponent — which is apparently “bad” even though it’s obviously what every player wants to do?) or just taking a little nappy poo in the john, I won’t venture to suggest.

    3. I don’t care how tall he is, it doesn’t take Kevin Anderson that long to take a leak. And if he’s doing something else, he should be pacing his food intake a little better!

  3. cjb
    cjb September 9, 2015 at 5:09 am |

    In the ‘old days’ ( and not that long ago) there were no such things as bathroom breaks. Have players’ internal anatomy changed since then ?

  4. dollymix
    dollymix September 10, 2015 at 12:05 pm |

    I suspect players today drink much more fluids than players in the ‘old days’, due to a) typically longer, and b) definitely more physically intense matches resulting from the evolution of the baseline game and a much greater emphasis on strength and conditioning. And of course, the longer a match goes on, the more likely a player is to need the bathroom even if he/she is drinking the same amounts of fluids.

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