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US Open: Odds & Ends

Instead of traveling through the entire alphabet from A-Z looking back at the US Open fortnight at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York, here is an “Odds & Ends” collection that glances at just what happened.

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Dominic Thiem - US Open 2020 (via Twitter, @usopen)
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Dominic Thiem of Austria dramatically downed Alexander Zverev of Germany, in five sets to take away his first major championship trophy in the Men’s US Open final. The day before, Naomi Osaka’s impressive comeback earned her a third Slam title in a three set match in the Women’s title round against a resurrected Victoria Azarenka. Ordinarily, these victories would have been the perfect beginning to this Grand Slam tournament summary. But, in a championship featuring the inexplicable, this year’s US Open showcased a variety of differences. All of this and more is the reason  “Odds & Ends” takes a look back at an event that was out of the ordinary. It will provide insights defining the unique happenings during the fortnight that took place in what was called a bubble, but the bubble was bound to leak, and in some cases – actually burst with a bang and not a fizzle. 

 

Novak Emulates An Earl  

image via ubitennis.com

Story after story has been written about Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 seeded Serbian and rightfully the odds on favorite to claim his 18th Grand Slam singles title, losing his direction mentally. It all began with Djokovic having just lost his serve to trail 5-6 in the first set of a fourth round match with Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain. As he was unhappily changing sides, he retrieved a tennis ball from his pocket and petulantly and blindly whacked it behind him. He was frustrated. But, instead of hitting the back fence at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the ball slammed into Laura Clark, a lineswoman, hitting her in the throat. She fell to the court gasping for air. 

Actually, the rules are very clear as to what should have happened. Djokovic had crossed the bad behavior line and he should have been defaulted immediately. That didn’t happen until after a ten plus minute United Nations-like debate took place. Soeren Friemel, US Open Tournament Referee, Andreas Egli, Grand Slam Supervisor and Aurelie Tourte, Chair Umpire, gathered at the net while Djokovic pleaded his defenseless case. 

Admitting he had lost his temper, he stressed that he didn’t hit the linesperson on purpose. Summarizing his comments, “You can give me a point penalty…or a game penalty…You have many options. You say you have no choice but you do have choices…She didn’t have to go to the hospital or anything…You have options, you don’t have to default me. This is the first time this has happened to me in a Grand Slam…happened to me on the big stage. I know it’s tough for you whatever call you make, but I shouldn’t be defaulted…” In reality there was no need for a confab. By rule, a default was the correct response. 

Maybe it’s the New York eclectic vibe, but over the years, there have been some genuinely atomic reactions at the tournament. Who can forget 1979 when Ilie Nastase, the rambunctious Romanian, interrupted his 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 second round loss to John McEnroe with an almost twenty minute long tirade-stall that could never have led to much of anything, except perhaps Nastase’s last gasp.

This was certainly on the list of the Top 10 Most Memorable Eruptions, but No. 1 on The Most Unforgettable list took place in 1951 when the tournament was known as the US National Championships and was played on grass at Forest Hills. Coincidentally, the match between Gardnar Mulloy and Earl Cochell, was like the Djokovic – Carreno Busta affair, a fourth round contest. Mulloy, the No. 11 seed, defeated Cochell, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. 

The score turned out to be incidental due to Cochell’s behavior. Ranked in the US Top 10 from 1947-1950, he had “game” attached to an “explosive temper”. Renowned New York Times sportswriter Allison Danzig pointed out in his column that Cochell temperament was on “full display”. The highlights included hitting a ball out of the stadium, making a feeble attempt to return a Mulloy serve with the racquet in his left hand. (He was righthanded.) He added to his performance by serving underhanded. The crowd reacted vociferously and Cochell, ever the showman, climbed the umpire’s chair, trying to grab the microphone so he could address the unhappy fans. 

He failed. But, of course he wasn’t finished. In the locker room following the match Tournament Referee, S. Ellsworth Davenport, confronted him. Rather than seeking to make amends, he unleashed an obscenity-laced tirade. Two days later on August 31, 1951, he earned the distinction of being banned for life by the United States Lawn Tennis Association — now the USTA. The ban was eventually rescinded in 1962, but by then he was well past his prime. (Since he turned 98 in May, perhaps he could reach out and compare notes with Djokovic.)

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Djokovic, Kerber, Alcaraz Face Seeded Opposition

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A shot of a double rainbow over the grounds on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Third round singles action begins on Friday, which is the first day seeded players clash in the draw.  Novak Djokovic, Angelique Kerber, and Carlos Alcaraz will all face seeded opposition on Friday.  And in perhaps the day’s most marquee matchup, Italy’s Jannik Sinner takes on John Isner, who eliminated Andy Murray on Wednesday.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Diane Parry – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Jabeur is now on a seven-match win streak, dating back to her title run two weeks ago in Berlin.  She has earned two comprehensive victories this week, dropping just four games in each of her first two rounds.  Parry is a 19-year-old who also nabbed her first two matches in straight sets.  And just a few weeks ago, Diane also reached the third round of her home Slam in Paris, where she upset Barbora Krejcikova in the defending champion’s return from an injury layoff.  There is plenty of promise in Parry’s game, but upsetting the new world No.2, whose style of play is a great fit for grass courts, would be a shocking result.


Angelique Kerber (15) vs. Elise Mertens (24) – Second on No.1 Court

Kerber got off to a terrible start this season, with a record of 2-8.  Surprisingly, Angie found her form on her worst surface, with a clay title run in Strasbourg.  Since last year, the 2018 champion is 15-3 on grass, and has not lost a set this week.  Mertens is now into her 18th consecutive third round at a Major, though just barely.  She needed to save two match points in the second set on Wednesday, before coming back to play an extended third set on Thursday, to eventually prevail 7-5 in the third.  Elise claimed their only previous encounter in three sets, which occurred three years ago in Doha.  But on grass, Kerber should be considered the favorite.  Angie thrives off the low bounces these lawns provide.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic (25) – Second on Centre Court

After Djokovic was prevented from playing the Australian Open in January, it’s Kecmanovic who benefited from taking the top seed’s place in the draw.  Miomir took full advantage, reaching the second week of a Major for the first time.  And he has continued that momentum throughout the year, accumulating 27 match wins through six months.  But he will likely be outmatched by his fellow Serbian on Friday.  Djokovic is on a 23-match win streak at Wimbledon, and after some subpar form in his opening round, he comfortably dispatched of Thanasi Kokkinakis on Wednesday.  Novak has claimed both his previous encounters with Kecmanovic, making him a clear favorite to reach the round of 16 at The Championships for the 14th time.


Jannik Sinner (10) vs. John Isner (20) – Third on No.2 Court

Isner demoralized the British audience on Wednesday by earning his first victory over two-time champion Andy Murray in nine tries.  John’s serving was extra impressive in that match, striking 36 aces across four sets.  But the rest of his game was highly effective as well, with 82 winners and only 32 unforced errors.  And as Ben Rothenberg highlighted on Twitter, he broke Murray twice after only breaking him once across their previous eight matches.  Meanwhile, Sinner came into this event 0-4 in main draw matches on grass, yet gained two four-set wins this week over Stan Wawrinka and Mikael Ymer.  Jannik and John’s head-to-head is tied at 1-1, with Isner prevailing last year in Cincinnati, and Sinner prevailing later in the year in Davis Cup.  As monstrous as Isner’s serve can be, maintaining his high level from Wednesday in all aspects of his game will be challenging.  I give the slight edge to the more well-rounded game of Sinner, whose penetrating groundstrokes should earn him a few breaks of serve.


Carlos Alcaraz (5) vs. Oscar Otte (32) – Third on No.1 Court

Despite only playing two grass court matches in his career prior to this fortnight, Alcaraz appears pretty comfortable on this surface.  After surviving a tight five-setter in the first round against Jan-Lennard Struff, Carlitos prevailed in straights in the last round.  But his opposition on Friday is quite a formidable grass court player.  Otte is a 28-year-old who, as a qualifier, pushed Andy Murray to five sets at this event one year ago.  And Oscar is now 7-2 on grass this season, coming off back-to-back semifinals in Stuttgart and Halle.  He also reached the second week of last summer’s US Open, and is now ranked inside the top 40.  Yet based on what we’ve seen Alcaraz achieve this season, building a record of 34-4 with four titles, the 19-year-old’s mix of power, speed, and finesse should be enough to overcame the veteran from Germany.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Frances Tiafoe (23) vs. Alexander Bublik – These are two of the sport’s most entertaining players to watch.  And both are in strong form, each winning all six sets they’ve contested this week.  They played just last week in Eastbourne, with Bublik victorious in three sets. 

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu – Ostapenko has twice reached the quarters or better at this event, and was the runner-up a week ago in Eastbourne.  Begu is a 32-year-old who reached the second week of Roland Garros a few weeks ago.  And Begu took their only prior matchup, four years ago in Madrid on clay.

Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Tatjana Maria – Sakkari has easily advanced to this stage, and is vying for her fourth appearance in the round of 16 out of the last six Slams.  Tatjana is a 34-year-old who upset Sorana Cirstea in the last round.  In the first round of this year’s Australian Open, Sakkari defeated Maria in straights.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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WIMBLEDON: Day Three Talking Points heartbreak for Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray

Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu exited Wimbledon on day three.

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Andy Murray (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Yesterday at Wimbledon cannot be sugar-coated. It was not a good day for British tennis.

 

Expectations of 19-year-old Emma Raducanu have been high since last year’s shock US Open triumph.

But she has had injury issues this season (abdominal most recently) coming into Wimbledon.

As well as being thrust into the global spotlight.

And the teenager was completely overpowered by an in-form Caroline Garcia of France.

The former world number four winning on Centre Court 6-3 6-3.

Having won the grass court warm up event Bad Homburg, beating Bianca Andreescu in the final, Garcia looks more than at home on the surface.

For Emma, her Wimbledon challenge will have to wait another year.

More disappointment followed

Meanwhile, former British number one Andy Murray was beaten by an inspired John Isner.

The two-time Wimbledon champion had never lost to the American with a perfect 8-0 winning head-to-head.

But he came up against an inspired Isner, who put on a serving clinic to stay untouchable on serve.

With some fine serve and volleys to boot.

Murray did well to claim the third set tie-breaker when two sets to love down.

It even looked like another famous comeback would be on the cards for the 35-year-old.

But those hopes were firmly extinguished as the 37-year-old veteran sealed yet more personal Wimbledon history as he won 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.

Put into context, the former world number one also had an abdominal injury coming into Wimbledon that forced him to pull out of Queen’s.

The three-time Grand Slam champion suffering this in the final of Stuttgart against Matteo Berrettini.

Had it not been for that injury, who knows what might have been.

Murray says he will focus on improving his ranking of 52 so he doesn’t have to face dangerous guys like Isner, seeded 20, so early on in the Grand Slams.

Doing so before the US Open is his next goal.

Best of the rest – Cameron Norrie survives in five

Defending champion Novak Djokovic stream rolled his way past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Winning in straight sets 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

And there was some good news for British tennis as ninth seed Cameron Norrie fought through in five sets.

He beat Spaniard Jaume Munar, who came through the Rafa Nadal Academy, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.

Coming back impressively from two sets to one down.

The endurance and stamina of Norrie shining through in the fourth and fifth sets.

He faces Steve Johnson next who beat Britain’s Ryan Peniston 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

The main shock on the women’s side came as Estonian Anett Kontaveit was stunned by Jule Niemeier.

The 22-year-old German knocking out the second seed 6-4, 6-0 with a bagel final set.

And former champion Garbiñe Muguruza was beaten by Belgian Greet Minnen 6-4, 6-0with a final set bagel as well.

There were also wins for third seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, Jeļena Ostapenko of Latvia, and Greece’s fifth seed Maria Sakkari.

In the men’s, young stars Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Italy’s Jannik Sinner are also through to the third round for the first time.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Compelling Matchups Scheduled All Around the Grounds on Thursday

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A look at the grounds of The All-England Club (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 4 play is headlined by top names such as Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff, and Stefanos Tsitsipas.  Those names are all considerable favorites in their second round matches, so other matchups on Thursday’s schedule may be more compelling and competitive.  And with many of those encounters scheduled at the same time, multiple screens are recommended.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Filip Krajinovic (26) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Second on No.2 Court

Despite his usual poor behavior, Kyrgios survived in five on Tuesday against British wild card Paul Jubb, who is ranked outside the top 200 in the world.  But Nick is in strong form this month, with an 8-3 record on grass, having reached the semifinals of both Stuttgart and Halle.  Krajinovic is also in the midst of a strong grass court season, coming off a run to the final of Queen’s Club.  Like Kyrgios, he also required five sets to advance in the first round.  That was actually Filip’s first-ever win at SW19, as he was 0-4 prior to this fortnight.  Krygios leads their head-to-head 3-0 at all levels, though they haven’t played since 2015.  On grass, Nick’s formidable firepower should be plenty to prevail again over Filip, as long as he can maintain his composure.


Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Second on Court 12

On Tuesday, Andreescu achieved her first career victory at The Championships.  Bianca had only played five tour-level matches on grass ahead of this year, though she’s now 5-2 on grass this month.  Rybakina reached the fourth round of Wimbledon a year ago, but lost two of her three grass court matches coming into this event.  In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to Andreescu based on recent form.  And while Elena has accumulated 22 wins this season, only four of them have come at Majors, and none of those four against a top player like Bianca.


Barbora Krejcikova (13) vs. Viktorija Golubic – Second on Court 18

This is only Krejickova’s fourth singles match since February due to an elbow injury.  Her opening round victory was her first since returning to the tour.  Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist here a year ago, when she defeated both Danielle Collins and Madison Keys.  Yet she has not been able to follow-up on that result, as she has a losing record since that run.  They have split four previous meetings at all levels.  Their most recent clash occurred two years ago in Dubai, with Barbora prevailing 6-1, 6-2.  But her lack of match play, along with Viktorija’s grass prowess, make Krejcikova an underdog on this day.  While results on other surfaces have not followed, Golubic is now 13-7 on grass since last season, which includes a semifinal appearance earlier this month in Nottingham.


Karolina Pliskova (6) vs. Katie Boulter (WC) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Pliskova was the runner-up a year ago, losing the championship match to Ash Barty 6-3 in the third.  Unfortunately a hand injury forced her to miss the first two months of 2022, and she’s only 9-10 this season as a result.  Boulter is a 25-year-old Brit who pushed Aryna Sabalenka to three sets at last year’s event, and is 8-3 on grass at all levels this season.  And just like week, Boulter beat Pliskova on grass in Eastbourne 6-4 in the third.  Now can Katie repeat that result on her country’s most prestigious court?  She’ll certainly have the full support of the Centre Court audience, and her experience last year on this court could prove extremely valuable.  Considering Pliskova has only twice won back-to-back matches this year, an upset on Thursday feels entirely possible.


Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Jack Draper – Third on No.1 Court

This could easily become the most competitive show court match of the day.  And the British crowd will be vociferously behind Draper, especially late in the day on the tournament’s second biggest court.  Jack is a 20-year-old Brit who last year took a set off Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.  And he’s collected 31 match wins at all levels this season, which includes four Challenger titles as well as a semifinal run just last week in Eastbourne.  But de Minaur is also having a strong season.  The Australian has 25 wins, all at tour level, and was also a semifinalist in Eastbourne.  Both players won their first round matches in straight sets, so they’re surely feeling fresh and confident.  While Alex’s defensive skills will force Jack to strike some extra balls, Draper’s offensive weapons will be rewarded on this surface.  And the crowd’s encouragement may be the x-factor Draper needs to prevail.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Jordan Thompson – Tsitsipas prevailed in four sets on Tuesday, bringing his Wimbledon record to just 4-4.  He’s 1-0 against Thompson, who is only 8-12 this season at tour level.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Ricardas Berankis – Nadal is now 31-3 on the year, and seemed rather unbothered by his chronic foot injury in the opening round.  Earlier this season in Australia, he defeated Berankis in straight sets.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove (LL) – A victory for Swiatek on Thursday would be her 37th consecutive win, tying her with Martina Hingis for the longest women’s singles win streak across the past three decades.  Lesley is a 30-year-old ranked 138th in the world who at last year’s Wimbledon earned for first-ever main draw win at a Major by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Simona Halep (16) vs. Kirsten Flipkens – Halep is on an eight-match win streak at Wimbledon, dating back to her title run in 2019.  36-year-old Flipkens has said this will be her last-ever singles tournament.  She was a semifinalist here in 2013. 

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu – Gauff scarcely survived the first round, overcoming Elena-Gabriela Ruse 7-5 in the third.  But Coco should be able to settle into the tournament from here, especially against Buzarnescu.  She’s currently 127th in the world, and on Tuesday won her first WTA-level match in nearly a year.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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