2009 US Open: The Highs and Lows

USREPORT-US-TENNIS-OPEN-WOMENWell, the U.S. Open has come to an end. And I’ve gotta say it was CRAZY!!! It was easily the most bizarre Grand Slam I’ve ever witnessed. So let’s go over the highlights and the low-low-lowlights.

High Points:
1) Juan del Potro: Pretty much no one gave him a chance, except my brother, actually, who picked Juan to win in five. I, on the other hand, had picked Roger in a three-set steamroll. I really should leave any and all predictions to my brother in the future. Anyhow, Juan fought like hell, and when he connected with that thunderbolt forehand, there was really nothing Roger or ANYBODY could do. He’s still got areas to improve–namely his movement–but he’s crashed the Federer-Nadal-Murray-Djokovic Party in a major, major way.

2) Kim Clijsters: I had mixed feelings about Kim winning because it showed how little the women’s level of play has improved in the last couple of years. That being said, Kim clearly put in a heck of a lot of work, and she clearly earned the win. Seeing the joy evident in Kim and her family took the bad taste out of my mouth after what happened in the semifinal–more on that later.

3) Caroline Wozniacki: She obviously benefited from a draw that opened up to her red-carpet-style, and I’m still skeptical that she has a top-level game. But one thing she doesn’t lack is pure star quality–she’s the Taylor Swift of tennis–and her smile lit up Arthur Ashe Stadium. As sexist as it may sounds, the WTA needs its share of pin-ups, and Caroline fits the bill to a T.

4) Tennis itself: This U.S. Open provided roller-coaster drama on almost a daily basis. It was Grand (Slam) Theatre, and I’ve gotta think that many new tennis fans were born during the fortnight.

5) Melanie Oudin: The kid’s goin’ places. She’s got good power, she’s a born fighter, and she hustles with the best of them. If she just stays healthy and keeps on learning, she should be in the Top 15 by this time next year.

Low Points:

1) Serena: Oh, Serena. We all knew she was a diva, with all that implied. But she went over the line (no pun intended) with her actions. Some people have tried to make the issue about gender and race, but they’re really grasping for straws. The bottom line is that Serena did wrong. I was worried that Serena would put on her nothing-ruffles-me mask and refuse to admit wrongdoing, but she has gone on to apologize, and I was very glad to see that. I do think she has learned her lesson, and suspending her–as some have suggested–would just be counter-productive, hurting both Serena AND tennis. Like Venus suggested after she and Serena won the doubles title, “Let’s move on.”

2) Roger Federer: He’s still Roger (i.e. the Greatest Ever), and the man’s got nothing else to prove. Still, I can’t help but feel a touch of hubris has crept up into his persona, and that played a part in his loss to del Potro. He had the match in his hands, in absolute control, and he stopped pressing on the gas pedal. At one point, he hit a casual behind-the-back shot, which del Potro easily put away. It was Roger showing off, when he needed to just focus on the task at hand. By the time he regained his full intensity, del Potro had risen like an awakened giant, and the match was out of his control.

3) The Officiating: The umpires and the linespeople put on a bizarre sideshow at times. I actually excuse Serena’s “victim” from this, because I can’t help but think that the woman simply called what she saw: Serena foot-faulting. But the umpire in the men’s final was weak and ineffective (Roger ended up telling him, “Don’t tell me to be quiet. I don’t give a shit…”), and the line-calling in Roger’s semifinal against Novak Djokovic was just terrible.

4) The WTA: Kim hadn’t played a major in two years, but she swept through the field without a whole lot of trouble. It supports the belief that many players at the top of the game are there almost by default, not because they’re true champions. I’ll excuse the Williamses because Venus was clearly suffering with a bum knee, and Serena’s situation was just too out there. But Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and pretty much every other established player–besides Kim–seemed to lack that extra fighting spirit that marks true champions.

Serena – Duncan Sheik

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