TEBBUTT: DOWN TO THE FINAL FOUR
That Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have made it to the semifinals of the US Open is no surprise. The other five contenders in the semifinals on the men’s and women’s sides are all seeded players except for Peng Shuai.
The 28-year-old world No. 39 has had a surprising run at Flushing Meadows, defeating fellow Chinese Zheng Jie in the first round, No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the second, No. 28 Roberta Vinci in the third, No. 14 Lucie Safarova in the round-of-16 and 17-year-old Swiss sensation Belinda Bencic by the uncompromising score of 6-2, 6-1 in the quarter-finals.
Caroline Wozniacki is seeded 10th and viewed as the most credible challenger for favourite Serena Williams remaining in the field. She will have to be wary of this revitalized incarnation of Peng – with her two-handed strokes on both wings – even though she leads their head-to-head 5-1 and has won their last five matches.
The other women’s semifinal pits Williams against Ekaterina Makarova. The 26-year-old Russian has accounted for Eugenie Bouchard 7-6(2), 6-2 and Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-2 in her last two matches, as well as beating Serena and sister Venus in the doubles with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.
Serena is 3-1 against Makarova, including wins at the 2012 US Open and in Dubai this year, but Makarova did beat the current world No. 1 6-2, 6-3 at the 2012 Australian Open.
Like Peng, she is probably playing the best tennis of her life. Serena is the favourite to win her sixth US Open and her 18th overall Grand Slam, but in Makarova and possibly Wozniacki in the final, she would be facing the two best in-form players. If nerves become an issue for her, Makarova and Wozniacki are poised to capitalize on the opportunity.
In the men’s draw, as expected top seed Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Roger Federer have made it through to the semifinals, and are still on course to meet in Monday’s final.
Kei Nishikori has been the revelation of this year’s event, winning consecutive five–setters over Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal. He will not be the favourite against Djokovic but there are circumstances that could be helpful to him. The forecast is for 31 degree Centigrade (90 degree Fahrenheit) weather and possible thunderstorms on Saturday. Djokovic has trouble in hot, humid conditions as was obvious during the Roland Garros final this year when he struggled mightily against Rafael Nadal. The Djokovic – Nishikori semifinal is likely to be first, during the hottest part of the afternoon.
Nishikori has returned serve so well and played so aggressively off the ground that he is definitely in with a shot against Djokovic.
Federer, after his miraculous two-match-points-saved escape against Gael Monfils on Thursday night, takes a 5-0 record into his semifinal with Marin Cilic on Saturday.
The two played an extremely competitive 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 6-4 match at Rogers Cup four weeks ago, so Federer will be aware of the danger posed by the 6-foot-6 Croat, who’s playing the best tennis of his career under the guidance of 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.
An interesting proposition here: with most people expecting finals between Williams and Wozniacki and Djokovic and Federer, what are the chances of at least one of those players NOT making it through to the final? The guess here is that it’s better than 50-50.
NO RAFA – FULL ROGER
The 2014 US Open really missed Rafael Nadal, above on a poster along with Roger Federer at the Nike store on the US Open grounds.
Nadal attracts a different demographic than Federer and would have added some balance to the virtual tournament-long love-in for the great Swiss at this year’s event.
On the subject of Federer, he is truly amazing in all the ways he goes above and beyond at a tournament. The Wall Street Journal did a story about how much time he spends signing autographs after matches. On the day the WSJ observed, Federer signed for eight and a half minutes, more than any other player.
And then he has to do a media conference. Here is his media conference after his win over Roberta Bautista Agut at about 11 p.m. last Tuesday night. Notice how long the interview lasted, and keep in mind that he then did more Q&As in Swiss German and French with the Swiss media. And this happens every time he plays a match almost anywhere in the world.
EUGENIE AND MILOS
After all the build-up following their breakthrough performances at Wimbledon, hopes were high for Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic at this year’s US Open.
Many people expected more of Bouchard, still only 20, but looking back it was probably just not meant to be. Basically, she didn’t know what hit her in Montreal at Coupe Rogers – all the hype, all the publicity, all the expectations after being a Wimbledon finalist. Add to that a knee problem that kept her out of Washington the week before Coupe Rogers in Montreal, knee and hamstring issues at her last warm-up event in New Haven, and Bouchard did not have the preparation she required heading into the US Open. Tough matches against Sorana Cirstea and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the second and third rounds made her vulnerable against Ekaterina Makarova in the round-of-16, especially because the Russian was playing so well.
Bouchard actually won two more rounds than she did a year ago at the US Open. That it’s viewed as a major disappointment is a (positive) sign of the times.
As for Raonic, he won three rounds to reach the round-of-16 against Kei Nishikori without playing anywhere near his best tennis. The disappointment of the match with the Japanese – a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 loss – was that after winning a third set he probably should have lost (Nishikori had eight break points and Raonic had none) was that he was not able to close out the fourth set when Nishikori was clearly downcast and also had a leg/foot issue of some sort.
Instead of imposing himself, Raonic faded and allowed a reinvigorated Nishikori to take over the match.
Now, he has a chance to bounce back in the fall at mostly indoor events, where he should be at his deadliest.
DAVIS CUP: CANADA vs. COLOMBIA
The Davis Cup World Group Play–off in Halifax next weekend (Sept. 12-14) between Canada and Colombia might appear like a fairly straightforward match-up for the host nation.
But Colombia, while not as impressive rankings-wise as Canada, has a top-to-bottom solid roster.
They are led by No. 32-ranked Santiago Giraldo, 26, and No. 71-ranked Alejando Falla, 30. The left-handed Falla famously led Roger Federer two sets to love, and served for the match in the fourth set, in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010 before losing in five sets.
The Colombians also have a credible doubles team featuring Juan Sebastian Cabal, No. 24 in the ATP doubles rankings, and Montreal-born Robert Farah, who is No. 32.
Canada is led by No. 6-ranked Milos Raonic and No. 46 Vasek Pospisil in singles and No. 5 Daniel Nestor, who will likely team with No. 19 Pospisil in doubles.
Frank Dancevic, ranked No. 135, is the fourth member of the Canadian squad.
“They are playing great and that is going to make the tie interesting,” said the 42-year-old Nestor, who first played against Colombia 20 years ago! “Doubles is a 50/50 match, you know I think we are favourites in singles but when people represent their countries they play their best tennis so it is going to be tough. It will be a very close tie.”
NOTE: We will have blogs here from Halifax for seven days next week, beginning on Monday.
US OPEN FLASHBACKS
This picture was taken long range from the top of Arthur Ashe Stadium before the Roger Federer – Sam Groth second–round encounter. The players, as well as umpire Eva Asderaki, are looking up at the coin toss before the match.
LOOK WHAT I FOUND
This was just supposed to be a shot of Simone Bolelli, as he played in his first–round match against Vasek Pospisil, hitting his serve. But a closer examination reveals a tattoo on the 28-year-old Italian’s lower back. By the way, Bolelli came out on top in a tough five-setter with Pospisil.
ALL IN A ROW
This picture was taken right after a point finished – lined up are Vasek Pospisil at top, and the Finnish doubles pairing of Henri Kontinen and Jarkko Nieminen in the foreground. Jack Sock, at the upper right, is the only one who appears to be out of step.
A GREEN OASIS
There are few areas for relaxing on grass at the US Open, but this one exists a little bit out of the way between Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums.
LOOK UP, LOOK WAY UP
Last Friday for the evening match between Roger Federer and Sam Groth, a husband, wife and two children were entering Arthur Ashe Stadium to be seated in the very top section with a view like the one shown above.
There was no usher or anyone else to check them as they walked in, prompting the wife to say to the husband, “we’re in a spot where they don’t check our tickets.”
Arthur Stadium seats 23,771 while the centre courts at Wimbledon, the Australian Open and Roland Garros seat approximately 15,000 each. By way of comparison, if you put the entire STADE IGA in Montreal or the entire Rexall Centre in Toronto, both with a capacity of about 10,000, on top of the Wimbledon, Australian Open or Roland Garros centre courts, you would have only about 1,000 seats more than in Ashe Stadium.
COUPE BANQUE NATIONALE
Qualifying for the $250,000 (US) Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City will begin on Saturday.
The picture here shows the change in colour scheme for the tournament as it transitions from the Bell Challenge to the National Bank Cup presented by Bell.
The top two players entered this year are No. 20-ranked Venus Williams, who has never been to Quebec City although her sister Serena played her first professional match there in 1995, and talented 19-year-old American Madison Keys.
The tournament may be an opportunity for Francoise Abanda, the promising 17-year-old from Montreal, to earn some valuable WTA ranking points. After winning three one-sided qualifying matches, Abanda played commendably in a 6-3, 7-5 loss to No. 26 seed Sabine Lisicki in the US Open first round.
She will be ranked about No. 180 in next week’s new WTA rankings. Three years ago, at the same age, Eugenie Bouchard was ranked No. 350.
WOZNIAK: SHOULDER SURGERY
Aleksandra Wozniak will undergo shoulder next week and will be out of action for the rest of 2014.
It has been difficult for her for several years, having struggled with shoulder and forearm issues.
Wozniak currently ranks No. 97 but has been as high as No. 21 in 2009. She turns 27 on Sunday.
Daniel Nestor had shoulder surgery in early 2000 and is still going strong 14 years later – hopefully the personable Wozniak will have similar good fortune.