Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My U.S. Open top 10

Nike, Goddess of Victory (detail on Central Park statue of Gen. Sherman)
My top 10 U.S. Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. This time, the opponent was too tough: Two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament because of illness. She played her first round match, but then couldn't go on because of pain, and had to give Sabine Lisicki a walkover. Williams, it turns out, has Sjogren's Syndrome, but it took her years to get a correct diagnosis. She is currently undergoing treatment and plans to return to the tour.

9. Don't stop believing: 2009 U.S. Open star Melanie Oudin, aka Little Miss Upset, quickly turned into a falling star after that tournament. But she and partner Jack Sock won the 2011 U.S. Open mixed doubles title, and they took out the top seeds along the way.

8. Don't stop competing: 38-year-old Lisa Raymond won her sixth major doubles title when she and Liezel Huber defeated defending champions Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova in three sets. King and Shvedova were close to winning on several occasions, but Shvedova's nerves got in the way, and the 4th seeds hung in and overtook the defending champions.

7. Some things never change: Serena Williams and world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki met in the semifinals, and Williams defeated Wozniacki in straight sets, proving--yet again--that Wozniacki's defensive game is not sufficient to get the job done. Williams, gone for almost a year, won the U.S. Open Series, and then went all the way to the final of the U.S. Open, proving--yet again--that she should never be counted out.

6.  Advanced math: Sam Stosur said she lost track of the score in the historic tiebreak she played against Maria Kirilenko in the second set of their round of 16 match. Kirilenko won that utterly thrilling tiebreak 17-15, and it was the longest tiebreak ever played in a women's match at any major. Stosur, however, would go on to win the match.

5. It's enough to make you vomit: Flavia Pennetta tried, repeatedly, to vomit whenever she could take a moment during her round of 16 match against Peng Shuai. She heaved, she staggered, she breathed heavily, she foot-faulted; she also got a warning for taking too much time in between points. Though there was obviously something wrong with her, the Italian somehow won the first set 6-4. But during the second set, with her eyes glazed over and sweat pouring down her face, Pennetta looked like would barely be able to make it to the handshake. She stepped away from the wall and served for the match, but was broken. She went down 0-5 in the tiebreak. It was almost over--but then it wasn't, and Pennetta won the tiebreak 8-6, which meant that she had won the match.

4. German surprise: The German stars were expected to make a big splash at the Open, but after injury, nerves and an easy defeat by the 2nd seed got in the way, the last German standing was world number 92 Angelique Kerber, who went all the way to the semifinals. Kerber defeated the 12th and 26th seeds--both hard court stand-outs--and went on to take a set off of the eventual champion. She played spirited and aggressive tennis throughout the tournament, and made her exit after having one of the most unexpected runs ever. 

3. I can't stand the rain: There were rain delays throughout the U.S. Open, and the tournament was completely rained out for two consecutive days. There is no roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and--to add to the troubles--Louis Armstrong Stadium had to be closed because of water bubbles that kept seeping in. Some players became angry about the scheduling, and chaos ensued.

2. That didn't just happen, did it?: For the first time ever, both the French Open champion (Li Na) and the Wimbledon champion (Petra Kvitova) were upset in the first round. Worse, they were both upset because they played so poorly. In the second round Marion Bartoli, Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova were also upset.

1. Sam I am!: The tournament's 9th seed was virtually ignored by tennis journalists and commentators both before and during the tournament. In the third round, she played the longest women's match (3 hours and 16 minutes) in the history of the U.S. Open. In the round of 16, she lost the longest tiebreak (32 points) ever played by two women at a major, but went on to win the match. Samantha Stosur didn't play on Arthur Ashe Stadium--not even when those in charge finally scheduled her to do so. Because of the rain delays and the closing of Louis Armstrong Stadium, Stosur's semifinal was moved to the Grandstand. Stosur's moment on the big stage finally came during the final, when she played runaway favorite Serena Williams, and beat her in straight sets. Stosur's performance was nothing less than brilliant, and the former doubles star is now a U.S. Open champion in singles. Stosur is the first Australian woman to win the tournament in 38 years.


svente said...

This was an exciting tournament. I'm not sure, even as I read this, which on your list provides me with the most definitive emotions.

Venus' news is still a stunner.

Flavia playing like a pro and a champion through illness still makes me anxious and, oddly, since I don't know her, proud.

Sam battling and breaking records while simultaneously being treated like someone who walked in off the avenue and then Winning. It. The. F@#k. All. was absolutely fantastic. And long deserved.

Oh, sport!

bill said...

I like the photograph - General Sherman is nowhere to be seen! And I enjoyed your top ten, Diane.

Diane said...

It's a huge statue, Bill. He's there, I assure you.


The tournament began in a very disappointing way (Li, Kvitova, Radwanska, Bartoli going out) fo rme, but then it really did get exciting. I needed that week to adjust, I think.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. Glad to see Sam given her due. I enjoy your blog.


Diane said...

Thanks, David. I'm really pleased for Stosur. She never gave up.

Yuan said...

Excellent piece. Being a long time fan of Sam, I'm absolutely stoked to see her win her first Grand Slam in such emphatic fashion. You touched on all the significant events that happened - the early upsets, the rain, the incredulous matches and the continuing question mark over Wozniacki's status as world no 1.

You have also rightfully chosen not to talk about Serena's outburst in the final, easily the most attention-grabbing story, and gave full credit to Sam's amazing performance. This will be a tournament to remember. Thanks for two weeks of insightful coverage.

Diane said...

You're welcome, Yuan!

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