Monday, September 8, 2014

My U.S. Open top 10

New York Public Library Lion
Here, in ascending order, are my top 10 U.S. Open occurrences:

10. Are we in Melbourne?: It doesn't generally happen at the U.S. Open, but the heat rule had to be applied on several occasions, making play difficult for everyone, and causing semifinalist Peng Shuai to endure what appeared to be a pretty scary heat illness incident.

9. Swiss Miss just misses: Martina Hingis, who--with Jana Novotna--won the U.S. Open doubles title 16 years ago, came very close to winning it again. She and Flavia Pennetta made it all the way to the final, in which they were defeated by the 4th seeds. In the course of their run, Hingis and Pennetta took out seeds number 5 and 3.

8. Mission accomplished: In winning the U.S. Open, wheelchair doubles team Yui Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley won the Grand Slam. In addition, Kamiji won the U.S. Open singles title (and also the 2014 French Open).

7. Giving youth a bad name: Just when you think it's safe to head back to the court, there's Kimiko Date-Krumm, ready to give you a lesson. Younger players haven't broken through in a really big way for a while because they keep getting tripped up by their elders. And then there's the comeback Japanese star, who--with partner Barbora Zahlavova Strycova--made it to the U.S. Open semfinals in doubles. The took out the Chan sisters and they upset 2nd seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. Date-Krumm will be 44 in three weeks.

6. Just add Sania and stir: Sania Mirza and her Forehand of Fire teamed with Bruno Soares and won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title. This is Mirza's third major mixed doubles title. She no longer plays singles because of the damage done to her wrist by that incredible forehand, but she has continued to excel in doubles.

5. What did I do to upset you?: Down they went, one seed after another. Only three of the top eight seeds played in the round of 16, and only one (Serena Williams) was left to play in the quarterfinals. 2nd seed Simona Halep was taken down in the third round by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 3rd seed Petra Kvitova lost to Aleksandra Krunic in the third round, and 4th seed Aga Radwanska went out in the second round, a victim of Peng Shuai.

4. The best show in New York: That would be Aleksandra Krunic, a player whom ESPN commentators had never heard of, which means they don't watch Fed Cup matches (kind of interesting, since the USA's Fed Cup captain is also a major commentator, but what do I know?): Krunic's Fed Cup doubles exploits with Jelena Jankovic, who she acknowledges is a mentor, have taken Serbia dramatically into victory.

In Flushing Meadows, the rather slight young Serbian player put on a big show of athleticism, speed, serving, returning, court poise, and even a little Radwanskan trickery. It was an absolute joy to watch her, and she was just as notable in her interviews as she was on the court. Krunic came close to taking out Victoria Azarenka, in what was a memorable match, but Azarenka's toughness and experience ended the Serb's run. Nevertheless, Krunic--at least for me--was a major highlight of the 2014 U.S. Open.

3. Awesome times two: They both met unfortunate fates in their semifinal matches, but Ekaterina Makarova and Peng Shuai had great runs at the Open. Makarova, always a danger at a major, broke through to the semifinals for the first time, taking out both Genie Bouchard and Victoria Azarenka in the process. Peng put on a service clinic, going 40 games without dropping serve. She showed the exit to Aga Radwanska, Roberta Vinci, Lucie Safarova, and Belinda Bencic. Against Caroline Wozniacki, she had some unexpected drama when heat illness overcame her and she staggered off the court and on again in a hopeless attempt to keep competing.

2. New dominance--same country: Who says the Russians are finished? Not only did Makarova make it to the semifinals in singles, she and partner Elena Vesnina won the doubles championship. It was a dramatic match, and the Russian pair dropped the opening set to Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta, the unseeded veterans who fought their way through a tough draw. Makarova and Vesnina have now won two majors together.

1. Hear. Her. Roar.: Nike just about always does well by Serena Williams, but this time, the effect was especially appropriate. Williams was dressed in an oh-so-Serena leopard print, and she took to giving the crowd a little cat roar after her match victories. Katy Perry's "Roar" became the top seed's U.S. Open theme song, and Williams had plenty roar about. She didn't have any particular problems with her draw, and in both the semifinals and the final, she easily dispatched the estimable Ekaterina Makarova and the "new and (quite) improved" Caroline Wozniacki--both in straight sets.

This was Williams' sixth U.S. Open championship; she won her first one in 1999. She has now won 18 singles majors. Unable to get past the round of 16 in Melbourne, Paris and London, the champion really did save the best for last, proving--yet again--that you can never, ever count out Serena Williams.


Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, MJF's massive lack of contribution to the Krunic story does sort of explain some of her FC coaching "decisions" (essentially, anything other than, "Serena, you got this one?") during the U.S. team's slide down the ladder even as the talent base has strengthened, doesn't it?

bill said...

Call me a softy, but I liked the Martina-Chris moment with Serena after her victory.

A low point just before that was the public adding-up of Serena's prize money. I have no problem with her winning $4 million (gulp - I guess) but the way they announced it sounded a little like Let's Make A Deal or the Price is Right: "and you get an additional $1 million as a lovely parting gift!"

Anyhow, a great win by Serena and a memorable Open.

Diane said...

Oh, I loved it that Chris and Martina were with her (I just don't like it that they were there because of irrelevant arithmetic and irrational "standards")!

And Bill, I had the same "game show" take that you did when the prize money was awarded.

Eric said...

At least they didn't have the big check, too. I can't remember if they had the big check last year...

Diane said...

I hate the big check.