I returned to the
A sign of the recession: In past years,
American Express offered rides along the boardwalk from the subway station to
Ashe: Bob Bryan/Mike
The celebrated Bryan twins, featured recently in a profile in The New Yorker, faced off against two tall Aussies, Ball checking in at 6’3” and Guccione at 6’7” (or, for our non-American readers, 2 meters). As is fairly common for identical twins, one of the Bryans (Bob) is left-handed and the other (Mike) right-handed. Indeed, Mike was the only righty on the court for this match, and Ball — son of Syd Ball, a doubles runner-up in the 1974 Australian Open — the only one to hit a two-handed backhand.
I do want to support the doubles game,
but this match was short on brilliant exchanges and long on domination by the
serve. The first twenty-one points of the match were won by the serving team,
till Mike Bryan nailed a backhand return up the line for a winner off Ball’s
serve on the second point of the sixth game. (As is well-known, the
In the seventh game, the Aussies had two
break points on Mike’s serve, which they failed to cash in. Ball and Guccione
were sailing along on their own serve till the former toed the line in the tenth
game and opened with a double fault. Before you knew it, the
In the second set, the
Final Score: Bryan/Bryan d. Ball/Guiccione 6-4 7-6(2)
I watched a couple of minutes of the doubles team of Andy Ram and Max (The Beast) Mirnyi practicing. You know Mirnyi has become a doubles specialist when you see him stand in the middle of one of the service boxes rather than near the center service line to practice his volley.
I caught a couple of minutes of Laura Robson’s three-set win over Lauren Embree. I spent enough time to learn that Robson is left-handed, which is never a bad thing. (Do you detect a southpaw bias here?)
Court 10: Christian Lindell (SWE) (Q) v. Suk-Young Jeong (KOR) (Q)
If you want to get close to the action, it’s not a bad idea to watch a second-round junior match between two qualifiers. I got a front-row seat behind the court as the unknown Swede, soon to be 18, blasted serves and forehands in the third set of his match with the unknown South Korean, only 16. Interestingly, Lindell is a big-time grunter, except on his serve. When I arrived, the score was 1-1 in the third, but Lindell then stepped it up, racking up two breaks and holding from 15-40 in one of his service games to get to 5-1. He served out the match, 6-2, finishing by running around his backhand and pulling a big forehand down the line for a winner.
The vicissitudes of junior tennis life: Lindell wore wristbands from Nike and an adidas baseball cap. Maybe Jeong is a bigger prospect, because he’s younger: he wore a Fila ensemble from head to toe.
Final Score: Lindell d. Jeong 4-6 6-3 6-2
Armstrong: Lukas Dlouhy
(CZE)/Leander Paes (
The fourth-seeded team had
opened a 4-1 lead in the third set by the time I arrived, and they held serve
for 5-1. It was interesting to see the teams use the I formation, especially in
contrast with the Bryan Brothers, who did relatively little outright poaching,
though the twins are certainly active at the net. I felt sorry for
To make things interesting, Dlouhy was broken — broke himself, with a double fault — when serving for the match at 5-2. Norman saved a match point on his serve in the next game, but the great doubles veteran Paes, whom I saw beat Pete Sampras in singles in New Haven in 1998, served out the match at love.
Final Score: Dlouhy/Paes d. Moodie/Norman 6-3 5-7 6-4
Armstrong: Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) (6) v. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) (24)
Though Ferrero has made a noteworthy comeback this year, this match proved a nice opportunity for Del Potro to hit some balls and not worry about losing. Arguably, the only major difference was the serve, but what a difference! I say this because Del Potro was +21 on aces versus doubles faults (22, 1), whereas Ferrero was only +2 (4, 2). Del Potro won 99 points in all, to Ferrero’s 75. Thus, 19 of the 24 points of Del Potro’s edge came purely from aces versus double faults, and you can be sure that Del Potro had a fair number of unreturnable serves that were not aces.
Stated simply, Del Potro is a monster. He’s listed at 6’6”, but everyone thinks he’s taller, and his wingspan is condor-like. His fitness is questionable, particularly after he ran out of gas against Andy Murray this summer in Montreal, and maybe his ability to control a match and himself is not what it could be (consider his loss to Roger Federer at Roland Garros), but you would not want to be on the wrong side of a tennis ball struck by this man.
Early in the match, a
mighty Del Potro groundstroke elicited a lob from Ferrero. Del Potro ran forward to hit the smash,
and blew it. A young man sitting in front of me sighed that Del Potro always
misses those. He and his wife were Argentines, and they’ve watched Del Potro
play any number of times. I asked if they had any residual sympathy for Spanish
players, because of the common language, and they said no. The husband added
that he really doesn’t like the Chileans Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu. But he also said that
When Ferrero served at 3-4 in the first set, a number of spectators surmised that Del Potro would turn it up a notch in this game, and he did, breaking at love. Del Potro served out the set, closing with an ace at 135 mph and a big forehand.
In the second set, Del Potro escaped two break points in the fourth game. He got two break points in the next game, cashing the second when Ferrero’s forehand flew long. Del Potro broke again in the ninth game to take the set 6-3.
Ferrero saved two break points at 0-1 in the third set, and Del Potro averted two in the fifth game. Ferrero’s resistance finally broke in the eighth game. He fought from 15-40 to deuce, but then netted a forehand and sent a backhand long for the final break of the match. Del Potro held to take his third consecutive 6-3 set.
Final Score: Del Potro d. Ferrero 6-3 6-3 6-3
Ashe: Marin Cilic (CRO) (16) v. Andy Murray (GBR) (2)
Well, I didn’t see this
one coming, though I’d heard intimations of what was going on by listening to my
American Express radio. When I got to Ashe, the powerful Croat was leading
I think of
Final Score: Cilic d.
Stosur/Rennae Stubbs (AUS) (3) v. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (
What must it be like to discuss fashion matters with Bethanie Mattek-Sands? On this day, as in the past, she featured basketball-style tube socks: well, basketball-style from the George Gervin era. The Aussies, for their part, wore sunglasses and baseball caps on an overcast day. The caps might not have been a bad idea. At the end of the cloudy day, my hands, nose, and ears, the only parts of my body that were not covered, were all bright red. I guess the experts are right when they say you are exposed to ultraviolet rays through the clouds. As for the shades, MaliVai Washington asked Stosur about that after the match. She joked that she had had a late night.
The match turned into a comprehensive win for the Australians. They served and volleyed effectively, and they know how to play doubles. Mattek-Sands generally stayed back on her serve, Petrova often did on hers, and they were just not as deft as their opponents. This, although Petrova has been at least to the doubles quarterfinals of each of the majors and Mattek-Sands has won seven doubles titles. The winners’ dominance is evident from their garnering 63 points to 34 for the losers.
Final Score: Stosur/Stubbs d. Mattek-Sands/Petrova 6-2 6-3
Armstrong: Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) (11) v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) (7)
I’d been waiting for this match all day, and it did not disappoint. Gonzo, a free swinger, as all tennis fans know, goes for broke off both the forehand and the one-handed backhand. This was my first time seeing Tsonga, a/k/a Ali, in person. He has an impressive serve, a commendable affinity for the net, and a powerful forehand. On the other hand, two aspects of the scouting report make one wonder how he has made the top ten. First, his backhand is a problem, which can be addressed in three ways: (1) run around it and hit a forehand; (2) hit a one-handed slice and hope to keep the point going till he can get a forehand; (3) hit a stiff-looking two-hander that he shovels over the net with his left hand remaining rigidly on the racket handle through the follow-through. Second, while he looks wonderful going to the net and setting himself up to take over the point, he misses relatively uncomplicated volleys. Against, Gonzo, he missed many.
In the first set, Tsonga jumped out ahead by 3-1, needing four break points to get through Gonzalez’s resistance. Gonzo slammed his racket against the IBM speed monitor, then handed it to a fan, to great applause, and tried another one. Tsonga faced only one break point in the set, incurred when he netted a makeable backhand volley, and served it out at 6-3.
In the second set, Tsonga, serving at 0-1 30-40, popped up a backhand volley, giving Gonzalez the opportunity to pass with his lethal forehand for the break. The break stood up all the way, and Gonzo won the second set, 6-3.
The third set proved crucial. Before Gonzalez served at 2-3, the fans started doing the wave and were reluctant to stop. Chair umpire Lars Graf finally put a stop to it with: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.” Gonzo fell behind 0-30 and then double-faulted at deuce for a break point. Tsonga tried a crosscourt forehand passing shot that landed just wide. Gonzo saved a second break point with a swinging forehand volley and a third with a 129 mph serve that Tsonga returned long. Tsonga missed another return and then Gonzo held for 3-3 with a run-around forehand pulled down the line for a winner.
At 5-5, Gonzo got to 15-40 and eventually a third break point on Tsonga’s serve, but the Frenchman escaped. Gonzalez held at 15 to force a tiebreak:
Gonzalez faced a crisis in the first game of the fourth set, saving two break points, one when a Tsonga forehand pass just missed the line, as confirmed by the post-challenge review. The set went on serve till the tenth game. With Tsonga serving at 0-15, the players contrived a great point, with Gonzo sprinting wide to hit a backhand pass, which Tsonga stretched to retrieve from behind him and flick with his forehand for a crosscourt winner. But then Tsonga double-faulted to 15-30 and missed a sitter forehand for 15-40. He saved the first match point with a 116 mph ace wide to the forehand. The match concluded with an emblematic point, as Tsonga missed a backhand volley long. The Chilean fans, needless to say, went crazy.
Final Score: Gonzalez d. Tsonga 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) 6-4
Good News Postscript: My first dispatch reported Sabine Lisicki’s gruesome ankle injury and wondered how severe the damage was. The AP has since reported that an MRI came back clean and the sprain should sideline Lisicki for only about three weeks.