Saturday, September 5, 2015

16 women standing after Act 1 of a drama called the U.S. Open

Statue in Straus Park, on New York City's Upper West Side
I'm sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned house (or an air-conditioned coffee shop) watching the U.S. Open, and I feel exhausted. Just from watching.

First, there were all the early upsets--Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Karolina Pliskova, Lucie Safarova, Timea Bacsinszky, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Alize Cornet all fell in the first round. By the end of the second round, Garbine Muguruza and Caroline Wozniacki were gone. Several players have suffered on court from the excessive heat, and there has also been a good bit of illness going around.

Every major has its share of drama, to be sure; this one has a huge share.

Surviving the heat and the germs, somehow, is Petra Kvitova. Go figure. And surviving everything else is Genie Bouchard.

Who wrote this script?!

There has been plenty of drama on court. Johanna Konta's upset of Garbine Muguruza was exciting, in that Konta has shown so much potential for so long. The match was also notable for Muguruza's failure to perform well on a big stage. She can perform well, but is still a puzzle of inconsistency.

Likewise, Petra Cetkovska (the "other" Petra)--whose career has been terribly marred by injury despite her grace and talent--rose to dramatic heights to defeat Wozniacki, the 2014 runner-up. And then there was Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who needed nine match points to put away Danka Kovinic. That was a highly entertaining match, and maybe my favorite so far, though it competes with what we saw today between Vika Azarenka and Angelique Kerber.

Azarenka had to fight with everything she had to hold off Kerber. I forget who it was, but after the match, a commentator remarked that many of this year's most exciting matches had one thing in common--Kerber was in them. The quality of the tennis was very high, and Azarenka's 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 victory included 50 winners. There wasn't much between the two opponents, though: Both served well, returned well, and volleyed well, though Azarenka came to the net much more.

The crowd's enthusiasm for the two-time Australian Open champion will dim somewhat in the round of 16, however, because in that round, Azarenka will play Varvara Lepchenko.

Of course, the biggest drama of all took place yesterday when Bethanie Mattek-Sands took a set off of Serena Williams. Mattek-Sands (imagine what her career would have been like if she hadn't sustained all those injuries) played extremely well in the first two sets, and didn't play badly in the third, despite the 6-0 result. Williams, by the way, has dropped the first set in the third round of the last three majors, all of which she would go on to win.

Williams' next opponent is countrywoman Madison Keys who upset (a somewhat ill) Aga Radwanska. If Williams wins, she could very well play Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.

Something to make note of: Former champion Sam Stosur has been given the same "What's your name again?" treatment in this tournament that she was given the year she won it. Flying softly under the radar seems to suit the Australian.

The round of 16 includes four players from the USA and two from Italy. The other ten players represent ten different nations. Serena Williams was the only USA player to make the round of 16 last year. Flavia Pennetta, Genie Bouchard, Ekaterina Makarova, and Vika Azarenka all made it to the 2014 fourth round.

All eyes will be on the Williams-Keys match tomorrow. The other one I recommend is the one to be played between Makarova and Kiki Mladenovic. If both players are in form, it could be highly entertaining.


Anonymous said...

kerber is definitely on my list for the most exciting matches. charleston d keys, stuttgart d wozniacki were something to watch. her fight and excellent play in those plus the stanford quarterfinals d radwanska was fantastic.

Diane said...

That Stanford match was surely one of the top matches of the season. Remember, too, when she beat Sharapova on her 7th match point at Wimbledon last hear.

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