The Business End of the U.S. Open 2021


I have been wielding some daily commentary on Twitter. Definitely a different community, so this different genre has been my vehicle of choice these days. Twitter is faster, easier (granted, less thoughtful) and has curbed my appetite to blog. I should also mention that this outlet, as most of you know, is rife with cultural (social and political) theater, which can provide all kinds of unnecessary distraction and dare I say “news” in a timely scrolling fashion.

Moreover, the ability to talk in-match is a cool feature of the blue bird, especially when there are some other tennis folk on there with whom I can “talk.”

There’s a lot going on in the mind of a tennis fan watching this tournament. Or there should be.

I’m not talking about all of the back-and-forth of fans on social media, haranguing each other about their player this past week plus in NYC, nor about the notorious GOAT war-of-words and numbers. FYI, that ship sailed.

I’m talking more about the state-of-the-game.

On the one hand, as we can all easily argue, rather pathetically really, the quality of the game has diminished over the years, especially in light of the end of “the era.” As it stands this year, we’re missing Federer, Nadal (the former is retired, the later getting pretty close I’d suspect), but also Wawrinka (see Fedal), Del Potro (bummer) and Thiem (defending champ in a complete tail-spin). In addition, some of the usual mid-levels that once filled the draw and put-up sometimes worthy efforts but more often a series of soft resistances, have pushed-off into the clouds of tennis memory, into that time machine of inevitability.

There is an influx this year of youth, on both tours. This has dropped daily, like new tracks of music, full of dynamic energy and diversity, as different in personality as they are in ethnicity: another side of this three-dimensional coin of inevitability, as the world turns, as more people from more countries gain access to a racquet and the means to play and compete.

What I clarified in my last post is that I don’t really trust many of these favorites in the draw, other than Novak; I believe pretty confidently that he will win this tournament.

Medvedev, Zverev and Tsitsipas are really the only other favorites and the later of that trio, as we know, has been eradicated.

I still don’t trust Medvedev. Zverev has my interest, but not necessarily if Novak is still playing at this business-end and he’s finding his game.

But there’s a lot going on, still, with all of this tennis in NYC over the last week and a half.

Although watching some of these youngsters upset more familiar names can be quite exciting, especially if one doesn’t like a more familiar victim, we often get a run-down draw, diminished of quality competition. This happened in this tournament. Watching the 18 year-old Carlos Alcaraz Garfia get past Tsitsipas and then survive the German qualifier Gojowczyk (who happened to upset Humbert in the first round) ended-up being a big let-down, for the entire enterprise (crowd, draw, etc.). Sure we can say hey great, look at this new talent, perhaps with astral brilliance, but certainly not in the end, certainly not this year.

Unlike many others I watched react in real time and beyond fall in love with this new Spaniard, I was not nearly as impressed. He beat a Tsitsipas who was neck deep in distraction given bathroom break-gate. He is still smarting over that bathroom break that Novak took in the French final. Down two sets, Novak took a break and returned before reeling-off three straight to claim his second French, notch #19 and keep the CYGS alive. I remember seeing the Greek recount the loss to Djokovic, pointing to this bathroom break with which Novak transformed himself, almost magically, into the player with this suddenly indomitable form. Stefanos was spellbound and seemed to be (as we can now see) enthralled with this new strategy.

No doubt this helps explain the Greek’s newfound yet ridiculous etiquette-dismissing routine.

The crowd had turned on him; other players (opponents) turned on him: bad move, buddy.

The Spaniard played really well (hit the shit out of the ball), but that wasn’t as impressive as people wanted it to be.

Either way, that draw, as we saw, circled the drain. Felix got a pass and he now gets a shot at Medvedev in the first SF.

There were some other interesting developments involving this youth. I am pleased to see a young guy like Alcaraz hit the ball like that and play with that kind of fight in the Bo5.

Same with the American kid Brooksby. I think his odd-ball grunting is near interference (it occurs randomly), but nice to seem him shelve that crap vs. Djokovic. The kid has a nice finessed style, plays great D and just needs to work on that serve, among a few other things.

Although the S. African Harris fell apart today against Zverev (that was a shit draw in which Khachanov and Shapovalov both shit the bed), he looks like he could have some life on this tour.

A mixed bag all the way around.

But a fresh look, either way.

Tiafoe at some point said there’s a little more belief in the locker room and around the practice courts (or wherever else one picks-up on this insight). The changing of the guard is underway, at least amongst the swell of mid-level talents and, to be fair, a few hopeful legitimate big title threats (mirror mirror on the wall . . .).

The stat tracking the number of five-set matches at this year’s Open illustrates, some, this surge in dramatically competitive matches. People on site are beside themselves with all of this bloodlust, some of which is coming from this aforementioned youth.

Which brings us back to Djokovic. Nothing really to write about until tonight.

This QF match vs Berrettini was one for the memory banks. The first set was OK, both players staying the course, though Djokovic should have broken-through at a couple of spots. But the Italian, grinding just to stay buoyant, somehow relevant, produced his own service break at 5-5. Djokovic (practically) gifts another first set to his opponent; this is a pattern, for sure.

But the last three sets, 2 2 and 3, were sheer master class stuff. You needed to see it. Brilliant. Almost perfect tennis, at least of that two-handed variety. But Novak isn’t even, really, a two-hander. He is, but he isn’t. I’ll get after that some day.

I’m probably betraying my analytical brain at this point.

Tonight became, again, a world class game of tennis consisting this 34 year-old warrior king grabbing momentum of a match (or a set), while slowly constricting his opponent’s chances, meaning watching the poor fellow lose oxygen, belief, and balance: the opponent has been reduced to hoping and endeavoring to overcome his weaknesses that Novak has begun to exploit.

Yeah, tonight’s QF vs Matteo was a gem.

As for the Semi-final matches: I like Novak to beat Zverev and Felix Auger Aliassime to overcome Medvedev.

Hopefully I will write more about all of this tomorrow. I guess both matches are Friday, giving the Russian and Canadian an extra day off. That’s nice.

Felix is lifting-off. We thought this day would’ve been a year or two ago (probably would have been earlier but for Covid2020). Either way, he’s found his serve and he’s got a bolstered coaching presence in his box. Look it up.

I don’t like the Russian’s tennis. As I have said many times, his mental approach is quite good at putting him in a position to win. He’s serious. He gets pissed and channels this pretty well, unless he gets behind and starts to lose. Then you see what he’s really made of. His game is limited. He stands too far back. He pushes the ball. He’s mostly defense and let’s his opponent self destruct. Smart strategy, actually. And this probably works with Felix, a really young guy who does make errors.

But I’m predicting a great match from this powerful and athletic Canadian.

Talk to you soon. Thanks for reading. Good night.

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