So Let’s Recap (Most of) What Happened

Written By: achangeofends - Aug• 31•10

I know. I know. I’ve been bad. I promised you a Day 1 Recap. Well, today you’re getting two for the price of one as I discuss some of my favorite (and least favorite) moments of Days 1 and 2. You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit of a mess. I just moved into a new apartment, my family’s moving half way across the country this week, and I started my senior year of college today, which means recruiting time is upon us and I need a really good job to keep up my tennis habit. But, you shouldn’t care about any of this. You should be preoccupied by the awesome tennis that has already been displayed in the first two days of the US Open, the most glamorous of the Slams.

I often complain about ESPN’s coverage of tennis (i.e. cutting out in the middle of Isner/Mahut Wimbledon madness to air a meaningless World Cup match), but I have to say that their coverage of the US Open Series and the US Open has been great. They’ve even continued coverage of matches that over run their allotted timeslot. Clearly they air more of the US Open than any other major because it’s in New York and for some reason a lot of Americans only appreciate American athletes and American events. However, was it really necessary for ESPN to air a commercial completely knocking the other 3 Slams and touting the USO as the best?

Personally, I think there’s something special about all the Slams. I hail from the lovely state of New Jersey (don’t judge me, I know you’re judging me), so the USO takes place in my back yard. No, really, I’m from the part of New Jersey you can actually see Manhattan from. For this reason, and many others, I love the US Open. New York is like no other city in the world. There’s something kind of magical, yet raw about the city and that energy extends to the US Open. The night matches provide some of the most exciting tennis of the entire year and I don’t think fashion ever plays a bigger role in a Slam. But, I would never go so far as to say it’s the best.

I visited the French Open for the first time this year. It’s usually my least favorite Slam to watch on TV, but once I was there, it was a totally different experience. I think Paris is one of the best cities on Earth and the French takes on that Parisian feel. There are so many hard core tennis fans in France and I met people from all over the world that were using their vacation time to come to the French Open. I’ve never been to Wimbledon, but it’s pretty much the gold standard of tennis and I don’t look forward to any two weeks of the tennis year more than I do Wimbledon. Wimbledon is classy and historic, much like London. Finally, there’s Australia. Honestly it’s the most often forgotten Slam, but apparently a player favorite. They do call it the ‘happy’ Slam and many players have made a run there where they haven’t had much success at the others.

Like I said, I get national pride, ESPN, but that’s no reason to malign the other Slams.

Alright, I believe I promised you some of my observations from the last two days.

So, much like the first few days of Wimbledon this year, we’ve already seen a great deal of five set matches on the men’s side and several top seeds have been tested. Djokovic gave everyone quite a scare today, down two sets to one against countryman Viktor Troicki. I think this was an extremely telling match for Djokovic. He’s been as high as 2 in the world this summer and comes into the USO as the number 3 player. Based on rankings, the guy should always be a contender for the title, not a guy who could lose in the first round. There’s been a lot of talk about Roger, Rafa and Murray, but almost none about Djokovic taking home the title, even though he has one Grand Slam title and has made it to the final of the USO before. Why? Because he looks like he’s about to keel over when it’s hot. I wasn’t there today, but apparently it was hot, really hot. That wasn’t good news for Djokovic. But, he pulled out a five set victory in crushing heat, and even though he wheezed his way through the on-court interview, it should bring out some confidence.

Who else needed five sets in their first match? Gael Monfils played a hotly contested match against Robert Kendrick. Kendrick overshot the baseline on what would have been a break point in the fifth set. No big deal, he doesn’t get the break. However, Monfils went to bat the ball out of the way. It was unclear whether Monfils’ racket actually hit the ball before or after the ball hit the ground. Big difference. The chair umpire ruled that Monfils hit the ball after. When Monfils was asked about it after the match, he said he was unsure of the timing and thus stuck with the umpire’s call. If you go back into the tennis vault, you’ll recall a similar incident at the 2008 Olympics where James Blake believed opponent Fernando Gonzalez did not admit that the ball hit his racket. They did a replay of Monfils’ shot several times and it was really difficult to tell when the ball hit the ground versus when it hit the racket, so I’m giving Gael the benefit of the doubt and backing up his assertion that he was unsure.

Arnaud Clement, a tour veteran who hasn’t had great results lately, took out Marcos Baghdatis in five today. Baghdatis is coming off great results from the summer hard court season, so it was a bit of a shock to see him go out so early at the US Open. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. Baghdatis is so up and down that there are no guarantees with his game. I think he peeked a bit early this summer and may have played a little more tennis than he’s used to. That’s the problem with winning, you have to keep playing more matches.

David Nalbandian has also had a great hard court summer after returning from injury. But did he peek too early? It took him five sets to defeat Rik de Voest, a 30 year old qualifier. Based on his draw, I gave him a good shot of getting to the quarters. Hopefully he got all the bugs out of his game with this match and will be all set to face Serra in the second round.

Spaniard Fernando Verdasco also went to five sets in his first round match against Fabio Fognini. Fognini actually ousted Verdasco in the first round of Wimbledon this year, so I was happy to see Fernando get his revenge, but it really shouldn’t have been this difficult. Verdasco is a very talented guy and should be blasting players like Fognini right off the court. If Fernando wants to stay in the top 10, he’s going to have to bring the heat.

America’s favorite diet story, Mardy Fish, also took five sets to defeat Jan Hajek, but it was a very weird five setter. The sets he won, he won 6-0, 6-0, and 6-1 and yet somehow he lost two sets. Fish is having the best year of his tennis career and I would love to see him make it to the second week after putting in so much hard work. Plus, I’d really like to see him play Andy Roddick again, but I think it’s Andy’s turn to win.

Perhaps the biggest surprise first round battle occurred between world number 5, Robin Soderling, and qualifier, Andreas Haider-Maurer. I watch a ton of tennis and I have never heard of Andreas Haider-Maurer, so I figured it would be a pretty routine day for Soderling. Over the last year, Robin has transformed himself into a player that can really contend for any title. He’s consistently talked about with the top players and has a real chance of winning a Grand Slam in the next couple of years. I watched some of the match, but still can’t really explain it. Robin wasn’t playing poorly, but Haider-Maurer definitely upped his game. I think the five setters really come down to experience. When the qualifier finally realizes they have a chance at beating a top player, they tend to fall apart. I’ll definitely be watching for more from this guy.

Dmitry Tursunov came super close to beating 15th seed Jurgen Melzer. Tursunov is recently back on tour after being injured. He’s fighting his way back up the rankings and it’s slow going. Luckily he had a protected ranking which gave him entry in the USO. Dima used to be a top 20 player so hopefully he can fight his way back. Taking the 15th seed to five sets after being two sets to love down, well, it’s a good start.

Perhaps the biggest five set victory was Paul-Henri Mathieu over Lleyton Hewitt, a former US Open champion. Poor Lleyton’s been plagued by hip issues for the past several years. He’s a real crowd favorite and always a pleasure to watch. Props to Paul-Henri. He’s also on the comeback trail and has some choking issues at big moments, so an impressive win for PHM.

Ok, I promise a women’s update is on its way, but I have class tomorrow so I’m going to have to cut this post short. On second thought, this post is really long enough so you’re lucky I’m tired. We’ll talk women tomorrow. Goodnight all!

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