1. Bernard Tomic is lucky you don’t get extra points for winning in style. He wouldn’t be gaining any from his five set win today against Albert Ramos. On the bright side for the young Aussie, his draw just opened up nicely with Daniel Evans taking out Kei Nishikori. He has a solid chance to go deep in the tournament if he plays better than he did today.
2. Speaking of Tomic, with today’s win, he improved to a 5-1 record in five-setters for his career.
3. This can’t be real:
— DavidLaw (@DavidLawTennis) August 27, 2013
4. With today’s loss to Ivan Dodig, Fernando Verdasco completed a 2013 Calendar Year Slam of losing five-setters at every Grand Slam tournament. He can take comfort in the fact that John Isner did it last year.
5. Ernests Gulbis lost in five sets to 26-year-old Andreas Haider-Maurer, in just Haider-Maurer’s 18th-ever ATP career win. That, along with his other Grand Slam results this year, will cost him in his quest to improve his ranking.
1. How much more forward-thinking can you get than streaming six courts for free on your site? That’s what the US Open did today, and it was a glorious reminder of what a huge event can do for the fans (and itself). It’s also a glimpse into the future of tennis broadcasting, I think: a scenario where a fan doesn’t sit passively through commercials, studio shows and empty narratives, but instead just follows matches that seem interesting. One thing I loved about this year’s streaming was that as you hovered over a court with your mouse, you got the score of the match being played there. Brilliant. Through that simple function, I was able to catch a few key moments that I would’ve otherwise missed. Getting stats from matches is also easy, so the viewing experience (which included a couple of glitches, but those are always difficult to iron out on the first day of an event like this) becomes full of added value. Bravo, US Open.
2. Daniel Evans, he of the large Jesus tattoo on his left forearm, produced one remarkable performance today in thoroughly outplaying Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. The 23-year-old Brit (ranked at No. 179) was down a break in each of the two sets. I thought his forehand was impressive, as well as his demeanor; you could see that the unheralded man from Birmingham was full of belief that he could pull the upset.
Now, after giving full props for Evans and his near impeccable display, I can focus on trying to figure out just what Kei Nishikori showed us today. To an extent, it’s simply unacceptable that the 11th seed of this event couldn’t find a way to overcome (or indeed, trouble) the World No. 179. I thought that Nishikori was particularly clueless during the rallies, which was doubly puzzling given one very notorious fact: Daniel Evans doesn’t have much of a drive backhand. The Brit uses the slice almost exclusively on that wing, something that would probably clue you in to his ranking, or to the fact that at age 23, Evans has only played six ATP-level matches in his life.
Despite the above, Kei Nishikori, he of the great backhand, could not find a way to make Evans pay for all of that slicing (some of which had depth and bit, but a lot of which didn’t). The Japanese No. 1 tried to put pressure on Evans’ second serve, but even then he failed to take the second set, in which Evans served fewer than 50% first serves. And lest you forgot to notice, Nishikori couldn’t hold on to break leads in each of the first two sets.
All in all, it was a seriously depressing performance from one of the ATP youngsters. And adding insult to injury, poor Kei had to walk out on court wearing the worst kit Uniqlo has made so far:
3. Bernie Tomic is an absolute mess. The future GOAT was somehow down two sets to one and a break to Albert Ramos. Yep, World No. 75 Albert Ramos, whose 16-28 career record on hard courts strikes fear in the hearts of … nobody in particular.
Albert Ramos, who ran out of gas in the fourth set of this match, still managed to win 72% of first serve points. In a related note, Ramos’ average first serve speed today was … drumroll please … 99 mph.
Albert Ramos, who after getting more or less pummeled by Bernie in Set 1, didn’t even face a break point in Set 2, and fended off just one in Set 3.
What was sadder was seeing one of the most prominent ATP prospects be bossed around the court by a marginal player like poor Albert. Bernie seemed all too happy to drop back and chase around Ramos’ predictable shots into open space. There was barely any willingness by the future Calendar Slam winner of stepping in and using his slappy (but sometimes effective) forehand to punish his opponent’s frequent lack of depth, or think about putting to use his great drive backhand. There was a lot of pointless junkballing, and a lot of questionable shot selection. In other words, a mess.
Yes, Bernie did escape with a victory. All credit to him for being fitter than his opponent, who had more or less tapped out after just four sets. But the manner in which it was obtained was pretty fitting to the future 25-time Masters 1000 champ’s post-Australia form (today’s win made his out-of-Australia record a pedestrian 14 and 14). And it made you realize that there’s a good reason why Bernie wasn’t prominently featured in most of the traditional “young guns” pieces ahead of this US Open.
I’m not setting my Bernie stock on fire yet – he’s young, and there’s still hope that he assembles a proper team and gets rid of his father. There’s a ton of talent there, but most of it is still in raw form. Very raw form sometimes.
Hope never dies, they say. The amount of hope I have for Bernie has been in the ER for a while now. Who knows … it might not make it.
4. This is very true:
Stephens, in her so far pretty short career, is really good at these "winning ugly" types of matches. Not a surprise here.
— Matt (@SecondServeHack) August 26, 2013
If Bernie Tomic was depressing in victory, so too was Sloane Stephens. Sloane also faced a marginal player in Mandy Minella, the pride of Luxembourg. Sloane also found herself on the brink of defeat, down a break midway through the third set.
Like Bernie, Sloane has an abundance of natural talent, but is still only learning to use most of it. Too many times does she stop moving her feet properly for shots. Too often does she get drawn into pointless rallies in which all she’s doing is reacting to whatever her opponent is offering. Her insane athleticism bails her out most of the time, but that won’t be the case against the very best in the game.
I’m hoping that one day, Sloane and Bernie will dazzle us with a polished version of their current selves. Because they could. But there’s a lot of polishing that needs to be done.
5. I call Ernests Gulbis an “occasional top 10 impersonator.” What we need to remember is that no impersonator can keep their act going all the time – sooner or later they get exposed. In Gulbis’ case, that happens whenever he finds a way to lose to someone like Andreas Haider-Maurer in the first round of a slam.
6. It took Rafael Nadal all of five points to come up with a spectacular piece of mind-bending skill:
1. I am really, really, really going to miss James Blake. I know that he hasn’t really been around much the past few years, and that it’s certainly his time to go, but I still got surprisingly choked up–as did he–when he announced his retirement today.
I came into tennis when he did, and I was for a long time a hardcore fan of the Americans. He was a part of one of my favorite tennis memories, the 2007 Davis Cup triumph for the Americans, and the fact that he’s now joining Roddick on the sidelines makes me really feel like it’s an end of an era.
I wrote a bit about James here, and I have another more in-depth piece on him in the works for later in the week. I hope he can win a couple of matches here, and I hope the J-Block goes crazy. I know most people were anti-J-Block, but I was always a fan.
2. Venus still has it! Seriously, how great did Venus look today? You guys all know that I love her, and to see her come out so strong–with the flashy hair and bright dress and on-point game–was just a thrill.
3. Sloane Stephens has some grit. She played some ugly, ugly tennis today, but I am really impressed that she was able to win in a third-set tiebreak. These are the matches that she has to get through, and you can color me impressed. Now, if she would play better in the next round that would be helpful.
Beyond the Baseline has some quotes from her.
I pretty much agree with anything she says, so I’ll go with that.
6. Take a bow, Alisa Kleybanova. What a huge inspiration.
7. This is another great piece from The New York Times, this time by Craig O’Shannessy. He examines the differences between the men’s and women’s games, but purely from a statistical perspective. It’s nice to see a piece like this without a motive.
This is a great line: “Men and women are different in size, shape and strength, and that difference needs to be celebrated rather than used as a tool to support one tour over the other.”
8. Apologies for yet another self-promo, but here is a piece I wrote for Sports on Earth about the trouble with American men’s tennis. Jose Higueras was nice enough to sit down with me for about 20 minutes to discuss how things were going with the USTA, and I also tracked down Brad Gilbert, who just started working for the USTA as a coaching consultant this month, for a quick interview.
I also talked to Donald Young after he was the only American man to make it through the qualification rounds. It was fun to watch him play last week, and see hints of the game that used to create so much hype. It was also nice to hear the huge crowds cheering him on–that must have been nice for him after such a rough few years.
I don’t understand the decisions he makes, and he seems to still have a lot of growing up to do, but he is a nice kid. (He’s, um, 24.) He didn’t get a bad draw this year, and I’ll be curious to see if he can make anything of it.
Overall, last week was quite exciting for me. I had a credential only for the qualification rounds, but just being in the (extremely empty) media center, tracking down players and coaches for interviews, watching the qualification matches up close, and trying to pull it all together was very stressful but also a whole lot of fun. I am very, very lucky to be doing what I am doing right now, and very thankful for those who are giving me the chance to do that. This website has been a big part of that over the last nine months, so perhaps I just wanted to share that with you, and say thanks.
9. To end on a non-sappy and self-absorbed moment:
Best G-rated moment from Gulbis' press today #usopen: Q. Who do you think is going to win the tournament? ERNESTS GULBIS: Haider-Maurer.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 26, 2013