Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My U.S. Open top 10

Melanie Oudin showed us that you don't have to be the tallest to be imposing.

This was the strangest U.S. Open I have ever seen. Generally speaking, the French Open is my favorite of the four majors, but the non-stop drama in New York this year made the other tournaments pale by comparison. In fact, other majors may seem a bit dull after this one. Here are my top 10 U.S. Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. We don't know her, and anyway, she's Belgian: Pam Shriver had never heard of her. Brad Gilbert called her Wicker Chair. Yanina Wickmayer didn't get very nice treatment from commentators in the U.S., but that didn't stop her from going all the way to the semifinals. Sure, she had help from the disappearing draw in her half, but she had a respectable run, taking out 16th seed Virginie Razzano, Peng Shuai, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, and Kateryna Bondarenko.

9. Pardon?: Heather Watson, Great Britain's top-ranked junior, became the first player from that country to win the U.S. Open junior girls championship. Fellow Brit Laura Robson made it to the semifinals.

8. I hope they have built-in shelves: Serena and Venus Williams won their 10th doubles major in Flushing Meadows. It's getting hard to keep track of the number of trophies the sisters have collected over the years.

7. And maybe someday, they'll pronounce her name right: Caroline Wozniacki broke through big-time at the U.S. Open, going all the way to the final. She played clever tennis and held her nerve admirably throughout two weeks of play. She has had a stellar season so far, and is now number 6 in the world.

6. Where is everybody?: The early round upsets were stunning. In the first two rounds, we lost Sybille Bammer, Alisa Kleybanova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli, Anabel Medina Garrigues, Patty Schnyder, Sabine Lisicki, and Elena Dementieva. The third round featured the upsets of Victoria Azarenka, 2006 champion Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and world number 1 Dinara Safina. Eventually, the draw was so emptied of top names that two unseeded players competed in the semifinals.

5. Who needs tactics?: "...it's not like we strategized at all," Carly Gullickson said when she and Travis Parrott won the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship. But they must have done something right: They took out the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th seeds, as well as another team comprised of award-winning players, and at least one player on each team had won at least one doubles major.

4. Mam-ma Mia!: Flavia Pennetta, in the second set of her round of 16 match against Vera Zvonareva, smacked five glorious winners to save six match points, and in doing so, created the most thrilling extended episode of the tournament.

3. Foot fault!: The foot fault call heard 'round the world led to all hell breaking loose in the women's semifinals and beyond. "All hell" included: reporters hurriedly distributing incorrect information about both the call and Serena Williams' shockingly rageful response, intense outrage from people who saw only the poorly shot CBS footage, indignant suggestions that the rules of tennis be followed arbitrarily, the usual sexist and racist attacks on Serena Williams, a barrage of sexist and racist attacks on the lineswoman who made the call, and more irrational and crude pronouncements than I care to list.

2. The power of belief: Scooting around the court with her pink and yellow shoes and imperturbable attitude, Melanie Oudin made knocking off tall Russians look like so much fun, I wanted to do it. Pavlyuchenkova. Dementieva. Sharapova. Petrova. The player nicknamed "Little Miss Upset" frustrated a veritable matryoshka of Russian players, but before she could remove the last one, Caroline Wozniacki did it for her, then defeated Oudin, also. Nevertheless, the tough-minded 17-year-old with "BELIEVE" stamped on her shoes had one of the most exciting and memorable runs in recent tournament history.

1. Remember me?: Comebacks are popular these days, but they're hard to pull off. Not so for Kim Clijsters, who left the tour over two years ago, had a baby, started training all over again, played in two tournaments, then dropped in to win the U.S. Open. Her run was as dramatic as the tournament itself, and included a 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 win over Venus Williams, as well as a 7-5, 6-4 win over Serena Williams.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insightful, concise and straightforward summary of the frivolous foot fall misinformation desseminated over the weekend.

The late Ralph McGill (the famous editor who turned the Atlanta Constitution into a truly great newspaper) would be proud of your prose. Keep it up.


Diane said...

I appreciate your kind words very much. Whenever something like this happens, it seems that people are just not willing to look at an essential reality--that several factors are in play at the same time.