As the first week of the U.S. Open 2010 concludes, that “dream” final with world number one Rafa Nadal and world number two Roger Federer is looking like a real possibility. The two have never met at the U.S. Open. Although Roger is no longer godlike in his mastery of the court, he is playing well enough to look like a potential winner in Flushing Meadows. Admittedly, he has not encountered stiff opposition so far in New York, handily winning each of his first three rounds in straight sets. The highlight of Federer’s run so far has been a repeat of his “between the legs” trick shot that was so amazing at last year’s U.S. Open.
Rafa, who dominated the clay court season and then took Wimbledon, was not necessarily expected to excel here. The hard courts are his least comfortable surface and his body is usually giving out by the time of the last of the grand slams. But he seems to be in good condition and adapting to the fast hard courts of New York. He dispatched Gilles Simon of France 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the third round to move on to the Round of 16. He is even more intimidating than usual in his new black outfit (with neon yellow trim).
Andy and Andy Disappoint Once Again
The early and surly exits of Andy Roddick and Andy Murray in the third round cleared the way for other top men. American hopes had been high that Roddick could finally win that second major while the British fans prayed that Murray would take his first. Officially, Roddick was downed by Serbian shotmaker Janko Tipsarevic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(4), but those who watched the match saw Andy self-destruct, as he has too often in the past.
Roddick’s play was sluggish and overly defensive, with none of the versatility and fire that went into his epic near-win at Wimbledon 2009. When he threw a tantrum over a foot fault call that went on and on and on and unfairly humiliated an older female line judge, I knew the match was over. Andy had gone negative and was blaming others for his poor performance. At that moment this reporter ceased to care whether he ever wins that second major, even if he is the highest ranked American male on the ATP tour.
As for Andy Murray, he lost to the Swiss number two player-Stan Wawrinka-who is perpetually in the shadow of his countryman Roger Federer. Although journeyman Stan was having a great day, he was eminently beatable by someone of Murray’s caliber, if that someone was performing well. Instead, world number four Murray looked bewildered and reactive-that “deer in the headlights” Murray we saw so much of this year after his tearful loss to Federer at the Australian Open.
Murray’s psychological demons were back in full force and his body language during the match and the post-match press conference was glum, glum, and more glum. The dour Scot conceded that he just might never win a major. I’m sure that went over well with the British Lawn Tennis Association. The final score was 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-3. The first two sets were at least competitive, but the third and fourth sets were painful to watch (unless you are Swiss!). Murray seemed to have given up. He simply did not move his feet.
So Who’s Left to Play in Week Two?
Still left in the draw with a realistic chance to contend are flashy world number three Novak Djokovic of Serbia and stoic number five Robin Soderling of Sweden. Djokovic won in Dubai this season, but otherwise has been lackluster. However, he has looked solid so far at the the U.S. Open. He defeated American veteran James Blake in straight sets in the third round.
Soderling is known as a power hitter and giant killer, having taken out Federer and Nadal at major tournaments. He has reached the finals at Roland Garros for the past two years, but is looking for his first major victory. The other top ten player left standing in the second week is Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who played very well against a resurgent David Nalbandian in order to move into the Round of 16.
Americans in the Round of 16
Only three Americans are still in the draw for the second week-Venus Williams as the only female still standing and Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish on the men’s side. Now 30, Venus is not playing her best, but seems healthy and has a lot of experience to draw on. She is among the women whose chances of winning were boosted by the absence of past champions Serena Williams and Justine Henin.
Young Sam Querrey, 22, is looking strong and confident and has had a breakout season, winning ATP tournaments on clay, grass, and hard court. He seems likely to become a top ten player, in part because he is amazingly mobile for such a tall, big-serving player. Querrey could find himself in the quarters or even semis at the Open. Although his friend John Isner lost in the third round, he was dogged by an ankle injury. Veteran Mardy Fish, 28, has been the story of the year as he won back to back ATP titles and showed all of us how dropping thirty pounds and focusing on fitness can lead to success.
Men’s Round of 16 Matchups
Nadal is not the only Spaniard who has learned to play well on non-clay surfaces. Six of the 16 players below are from the “Spanish armada”!
Top Half of Draw
Rafael Nadal (Spain) vs. Feliciano Lopez (Spain)
David Ferrer (Spain) vs. Fernando Verdasco (Spain)
Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland) vs. Sam Querrey (U.S.)
Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) vs. Tommy Robredo (Spain)
Bottom Half of Draw
Richard Gasquet (France) vs. Gael Monfils (France)
Mardy Fish (U.S.) vs. Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
Robin Soderling (Sweden) vs. Albert Montanes (Spain)
Jurgen Melzer (Austria) vs. Roger Federer (Switzerland)
CBS and Tennis Channel Coverage of Third Round Matches at U.S. Open, September 4-5, 2010
Website of the ATP Tour
Website of the U.S. Open 2010