We have reached the U.S. Open Quarter Finals. What are the big surprises? Nadal and Murray are out? Nadal, even though he was 1,000,000 – 0 when up 2-0, is not a surprise. With Murray, a top 15er finally administered what a few of us have suspected all along: Murray’s game is second-tier goods. Slice it however you like it: he hasn’t the class of the other top men (Federer and Djokovic). On top of that, we’re about to see another guy, couple of years older than Murray, perhaps make the claim that he, not the Brit, belongs in this top of the sport discussion: Stan. He has as many majors as Andy and he’s hinting at another run at a major championship.
I have never been a Murray fan (although the way he fought against Anderson tonight had some charm). He lacks composure, consistent depth in his game (anything other than a textbook ground stroke?), a second serve, and he acts like Kyrgios’ clumsy big brother, ranting around the court throughout a match. I don’t get it, I mean all of the love for Murray. The Djoker is the only player to make Murray look and feel special, the Serb having generously gifted Murray his two majors. The muscled lad looked shaky all week, especially during that match against Mannarino. Who? I read comments that Murray’s fitness was marvelous to be able to come back from that 0-2 deficit. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Murray was smashed and should never have fallen that far behind. Too much tennis. That match pretty much sealed his chances (though they were sealed in my sports book long ago). He lacks championship mettle. And if he had a cold? He’s gone. In the end, not much of surprise.
I have not had a chance to watch every match, obviously. In fact, I’ve seen just a few, but the one’s I’ve been lucky enough to turn-on have been spectacular. The Anderson-Murray tilt tonight was incredible. Happy to see the South African prevail. I remember seeing some of his Wimbledon tune-up at Queens Club. He lost the final there to Murray. We can all recall his great effort against Novak at Wimbledon. He had the Serb on the ropes. No question.
This is a big match for Anderson, to beat Murray at the Open and reach the QF. Hats off.
Another big match I saw this past weekend was the Fognini-Nadal battle royal. Much has already been said about this one. I covered my ass (I saw the Spaniard with an outside chance at making the QF on this blog) and picked Fognini in a little prediction contest, meaning I liked Fognini here, as well. I wrote about a cheese cake draw Nadal had at Cincy; I would say his draw here at the Open was very tough. With Coric out of the gate, Fognini and possibly Lopez (or a healthy Raonic)? Tough draw for him since the latter two have recently beaten him soundly. I enjoyed watching the Hamburg final where the Italian played Nadal tough (again) and got in Nadal’s face about carrying-on conversations with his box. What he couldn’t finish on the clay in Germany, Fognini more than finished at the Open with some of the most brilliant clutch shot-making any of us has seen, especially against a player like Rafa. His backhand was for the ages, standing tall, on or inside the baseline and dominating the final three sets. The fifth was unbelievable theatre. Fognini was simply brilliant vs. Nadal in the 3R at the ’15 Open, a match I will never forget.
I caught tonight’s Fed-Isner match, as well. Loved it. But let’s jump to talk form and match-ups as we prepare for week two:
Djokovic is still the favorite, of course, though I am not thrilled with putting more than a couple of eggs in that basket. I haven’t seen much of his week on the court, but I know he’s struggled historically in this tournament and he’s had an amazing year, played a lot of emotional and physical tennis. The weather looks to be cooling a bit, but we also know the NYC September humidity and breeze, and possible precipitation, along with the intensity of U.S. Open tennis from the top men in Arthur Ashe Stadium will be dealing the players plenty of pressure to overcome. Again, this is Novak’s to lose. IMO, for any extended talk of his position amongst the all-time greats, he has to win this 2015 Open. He will most likely get a shot as only a Lopez and a Cilic/Tsonga winner are all that stand in his way to reach the Final. He’s had success against all three players.
Unless Tsonga’s form is really superb, of that 2011-12 quality, I see Cilic winning this match. Neither player has really been tested (Tsonga over Paire, Cilic over Chardy were each good wins) until now. This should certainly be a beauty to watch. What I have seen of Cilic suggests he’s finding some form and we all know what he did last year. He’s faced a bit of challenge in some of his matches, but has finished them convincingly. He looks confident.
Murray’s loss has emboldened Wawrinka’s run. No question. I have not had a chance to see much of Stan past the 1R and have been wondering if there is any lingering injury to speak of; he seems to have his health. If his serve and overall command of the court are in-tact, he should arrive to meet his mentor in the other SF. No one is over-looking Anderson as his game is clearly to be reckoned with, but can he back-up such an emotional win vs. #3 in the world? If Stan has his Stanimal form, which we’ve seen devour a major or two in the past year or two, hide your valuables. No one intimidates Wawrkina.
Not even Fed, and I like Fed for yet another Open final four. I like Fed’s form a lot. I am playing with the intangibles a bit here. Admittedly, I have history on the mind. However, wanting Fed to win for history’s sake alone is dumbo the elephant in dixie-land. It’s too emotional.
Right now, I like Fed for his tennis. I love him on this surface. Fed’s hard court game is truly all-time as he’s given the best stage to showcase his shot-making and athletic genius.
Sure this isn’t Cincy. But what we have is a player who’s game of old has awoken. The all-court Federer is a nightmare and it’s safe to say he feels pretty comfortable in Ashe Stadium. I have told as many people as I can that the SABR, alone, is not a huge factor. It’s a symptom of his overall aggressive play. His play at the net is accompanying his serve, especially that first serve (has to have that). His decisions to go to net throughout the points have sparked a lot of chatter in the locker room. That’s the word. It’s not that people can or have figured-out SABR; it’s that they aren’t sure what he’s going to do. Tonight vs. Isner, I don’t recall seeing this SABR, but of course he was playing a guy whose 2nd serve averaged 115.
What I don’t want to see is Roger run around too many BH (I saw a few tonight and he paid) or resort to a gimmicky (almost) trick shot. Some of these moves work, but the bread and butter of his championship form are big first-serve, serve-and-volley, and brilliant shot-making. Does that sound like the formula for every player? It’s Roger we’re talking about and if his form is that of the old Roger Federer (with a more all-court athletic approach), its the best tennis in the world. Play your game, Roger.
His serve is a huge factor. More than ever. Given his age, etc., easy (free) points are priceless. Shorter rallies. If his first serve lands, he will dictate points and be at the net. Such activity will be tough for opponents to deal with. Novak and Stan can certainly beat Roger (of course Cilic and Tsonga have had recent success, as well). Many have vs. Roger over the last few years.
But I think he’s playing a stronger hand here at the Open. I like his chances (I did not say as much during Wimbledon as Djokovic seemed much more the favorite there, despite people thinking that that’s Roger’s best chance to win a major). I like him at the Open. Sure he lost a very tough one in ’09 to a rising star who was beating the teeth out of everyone. Sure Nadal made just silly (bizarre) runs in ’10 and ’12. Sure Cilic won a cartoon show in ’14.
But as I said from the beginning: This one (2015) is about one or two players. Nothing fancy. The usual suspects. Doing what they do best in the biggest tournament of the year. Enjoy!