Serena Williams, US Open 2214

This is a guest post by Margaret

The Open already felt … uncertain, since one of my favorites couldn’t defend his championship.

An American attending an American tournament, when much had been made of the steadily vanishing number of Americans in the Men’s Singles Draw, I wondered if the tournament’s “big story” would be a victory for American players in Women’s Singles (Serena), Men’s Doubles (the Bryans, gunning for their 100th title), and Mixed Doubles (this is when Taylor (Townsend) and Donald (Young) had reached the quarters, but not yet lost in them) … even in the face of the American men seemingly unable to manage it.

Then Taylor and Donald lost.

And I reverted to having no clue what the “story” might be.

I heard Darth Vader’s Theme adapted to “Darth Federer’s Theme” at the US Open in 2007, its presence underscoring Roger’s relentless march through the draw like it did the original Vader’s stalking and sweeping through The Empire Strikes Back.

That theme followed the (alleged) Darth Fed’s come-from-behind 5-setter against Gael Monfils in those … quarterfinals … this year.

It sounded ominous to me, placed there. And not in a good way.

I wanted to call up the US Open DJ from outside of New York City where I was, and cry “Too soon! Too soon!” as many times as it took for him to shut it off.

We all know how that turned out.

But we didn’t know it when Roger took the court, guided – many would argue, to much-improved results over recent months – by his once-idol, to square off against another man with a score to settle with his sport who was also guided by his once idol … another variation on the “new story”, the theme of the once-kings positioning their new champions, near-champions, or renewed champions like chess pieces, the tight struggle for first-time crowns, or repeat crowns, or to create them kings above all (yes, Roger – please come back. We know you will play as long as we watch, and we will watch as long as you play. One more. Encore. Just one more).

I listened to a clip of Bud Collins commenting on the variety of Johnny Mac’s game, and another clip of Steve Tignor talking about how that one-handed backhand in combination with a frequent net approach in the modern game brought the upside to a player of so much more variety in his or her game at the same time that it brought the downside of much more risk.

I had the great good fortune to spend time with the Mens Champions Doubles Teams of McEnroe/McEnroe and Cash/Martin to witness exactly what Mr. Collins meant (yes, JMac fans, he’s still got it :-)).

Cash/Martin vs McEnroe/McEnroe

The ladies played on Ashe on their historic Championship Sunday. And I got to see them. In that same clip, Mr. Collins talked about Mr. Ashe’s enormous influence on tennis for the good, extending down to what he felt was an inspirational influence for the Williams sisters, both of whom serve now in an inspirational role for a new generation of athletes, and one of whom was looking to put another layer of historic lustre on that influence – if she could get past the Women’s Winner of the US Open 2014 Sportsmanship Award, who was looking for her historic first Slam title.

That – that I couldn’t know, in any match, whose strategy would prevail, whose backhand would prove more devastating, whose legs would last – was, through every match, what kept me pasted in front of any screen I could see it on for the duration of the time I couldn’t be there in person like I annually scrambled to set aside the time to do.

As we take a breath between the great Grand Slams, and warm up for the Davis Cup – we know what the stories are, already, for each of the personalities we follow.

We just don’t know how this chapter of them is going to come out.

And that is why we watch.

Sles, McEnroe, Clijsters and Bahrami

My reports on the Optima Open are finally online! This match took place on Saturday, August 16th (read my complete Optima Open report here).

Last match of the day: a mixed doubles exhibition with Kim Clijsters, Monica Seles, John McEnroe and Mansour Bahrami! It’s always a pleasure to see these great champions play and have fun on court.

Players entering the court:

Warm-up:

4-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, visibly happy to be on court:

Kim Clijsters and Mansour Bahrami

Kim Clijsters

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Optima Open 2014 report

Optima Open

I spent a day in Knokke-Heist, Belgium, last month to attend the third day of the Optima Open, the Belgian stop of the ATP Champions Tour. It was the second seniors event I attended this year after the World Tennis Day showdown in London last March (find all the recap here).

Situated in the heart of the country’s Flemish-speaking Flanders region, Knokke-Heist is considered to be one of Belgium’s most exclusive and affluent seaside resorts. Knokke-Heist is the perfect base for exploring the enchanting Zwin region, on the Belgian-Dutch border.

Knokke

Knokke

Knokke

The tournament has the typical senior event format: 2 groups of 3 players, with the winners of each group facing each other in final. This year the Optima Open also featured a star-studded mixed doubles exhibition event: with three former world number one, winnners of 20 singles Grand Slam titles in total, and tennis’ greatest entertainer, Mansour Bahrami completing the foursome.

Group A Group B Special guests
Fabrice Santoro Xavier Malisse Kim Clijsters
Greg Rusedski Goran Ivanisevic Monica Seles
Henri Leconte Pat Cash John McEnroe
Mansour Bahrami
Sabine Appelmans
Dominique Monami

All results on the official website (Malisse beat Santoro in the final)

Optima Open

Optima Open

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John McEnroe

Enjoy these exclusive pictures of Pat Cash and Todd Martin win over the McEnroe brothers in the Men’s Champions Doubles final:

Cash/Martin vs McEnroe/McEnroe

Cash/Martin vs McEnroe/McEnroe

Cash/Martin vs McEnroe/McEnroe

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2014 US Open coverage

Novak Djokovic

10 tips for your day at the US Open
US Open trivia

Fashion and gear:

A trip down memory lane:

Top 5 strange events at the US Open
US Open biggest upsets
1970 US Open: Margaret Court completes the Grand Slam
1971 US Open: Chris Evert becomes the “It Girl”
1972 US Open: Ilie Nastase defeats Arthur Ashe
1973 US Open: Margaret Court defeats Evonne Goolagong
1978 US Open: 4th consecutive US Open title for Chris Evert
1978 US Open: Jimmy Connors defeats Bjorn Borg
79 US Open 2nd round: McEnroe vs Nastase, chaos on court
1979 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Vitas Gerulaitis
1980 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg
1981 US Open: Tracy Austin defeats Martina Navratilova
1981 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg: Borg’s last Grand Slam match
1983 US Open: Career Grand Slam for Martina Navratilova
1984 US Open: John McEnroe last Grand Slam title
1990 US Open: Linda Ferrando upsets Monica Seles
1990 US Open: Alexander Volkov upsets Stefan Edberg
1991 US Open: Connors, 39 qualifies for the semifinals
1991 US Open: Seles and Capriati introduce power in womens tennis
1991 US Open: playing to perfection, Edberg grabs first Open
1991 US Open: Edberg’s final dominance doesn’t diminish Courier
1992: Stefan Edberg defeats Pete Sampras
1992 US Open: Edberg takes Sampras, US Open, No.1 ranking
1993 US Open: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
1994 US Open 4th round: Jaime Yzaga defeats Pete Sampras
1994: first US Open title for Andre Agassi
1996 US Open: Class act Edberg making one last run at US Open
2001 US Open: Venus defeats sister Serena
2001 US Open QF: Andre Agassi – Pete Sampras
2001 US Open: Lleyton Hewitt defeats Pete Sampras
2002 US Open: last Grand Slam title for Pete Sampras
2004 US Open: First time to NYC for a French fan of Agassi
Andre Agassi gives the Open crowd one more thrill ride, August 31st, 2006

Reports:

Polls:

Who will win the 2014 US Open?

  • Roger Federer (41%, 59 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (28%, 40 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (12%, 17 Votes)
  • Grigor Dimitrov (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Other (4%, 6 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Kei Nishikori (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Stanislas Wawrinka (1%, 2 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 143

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Who will win the 2014 US Open?

  • Serena Williams (38%, 22 Votes)
  • Eugenie Bouchard (17%, 10 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (16%, 9 Votes)
  • Other (12%, 7 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (7%, 4 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (5%, 3 Votes)
  • Li Na (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Jelena Jankovic (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 58

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Will Roger Federer win another Grand Slam title before the end of his career?

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Excerpt of John McEnroe‘s autobiography Serious:

“In the second round at the US Open, I destroyed a young Swedish upstart named Stefan Edberg, 6-1 6-0 6-2, then burned a swath through to the semifinals without dropping a set. On what came to be known as Super Saturday, after the three-set men’s 35 year olds division final, after the LendlCash semi (which ran quite long, Lendl winning a fifth-set tiebreaker), after Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert Lloyd in a three-set women’s final – Connors and I finally walked onto the court at close to 7 pm!
Here was Jimmy’s chance for revenge. In the press conference after the Wimbledon final, I’d said that I now felt all I had to do was play well and I should beat everybody out there. Connors had taken grave exception. ‘That’s an awfully big statement to back up for the next four or five years’, he said.

Now, at Flushing Meadows, it was put-or-shut-up time. Jimmy had won the tournament the last two years in a row; he could work the New York crowd like nobody’s business. He was angry, and hungry.
But so was I. I really didn’t want Connors to open my three-Opens-in-a-row record, and I really wanted to get through to the final and get revenge on Lendl for the French.

The match with Jimmy was a slugfest from the start, an exciting five-setter that wound up running until 11.15 PM. The Flushing Meadows crowd, exhausted with over twelve hours of tennis, started filing out of the stadium when we went to a fifth set. It killed me that we were playing such a great match, but that the stands were only a quarter-full by the time we finished.
But by the time we finished, I was the winner, 6-3 in the fifth – 51 games, 3 hours and 45 minutes later.

I got home very late, still so jazzed up (yet exhausted) from the match that it was past two AM by the time I finally got to sleep. I could barely imagine having to play a final against Lendl. I woke up at noon on Sunday and staggered out of bed. By the time I got to the locker room at Flushing Meadows, I was so stiff I could barely walk. I was very worried – until I crossed the room and saw Lendl (whose match against Cash had gone 3 hours and 39 minutes) attempting to touch his hands to his toes. He could barely get past his knees!
He’s worst than I am I thought. A jolt of adrenaline shot through my body.

I felt that if I could just get in a good two hours of tennis, I could beat him. My body was saying That’s enough, but in some weirs way, the fatigue worked for me that afternoon. The fact that I was tired made me concentrate better, the more tired I felt, the better I seemed to hit the ball. It was a purely mental thing – push, push – and I didn’t get angry at anything because I needed every ounce of energy I had.

I won the first set 6-3. At one juncture, after I double-faulted in the second game of the second set, he had a break point. I came to net on a first serve at 30-40, hit the volley, and Lendl uncorked a huge forehand to try to pass me on my backhand side. The ball hit the tape and cannoned up at a weird angle, and I swung around in a full circle and hit the forehand volley for a winner. Sometimes it helps to be unconscious!

Second set 6-4. That was when visions of the French final flickered through my head. However, I knew I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – choke this one away. I gave the third set everything I had: when I broke his serve once, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to drive a stake through this guy’s heart. I got the second break, went to 4-0, and even though Lendl never stopped trying (the way it seemed he had the previous year, in the final against Connors), I had too much momentum. Final set 6-1.

I had my fourth Open.
It was the last Grand Slam title I would ever win.