NEW YORK – Five thoughts from Day Two on Tuesday at the 2015 U.S. Open.
• Order! After a wacky Day One—that saw a raft of upsets and a boatload of retirements and Josh Groban spend more time on court than Serena Williams—we got some normal today. The seeds won, most of them anyway. The top women looked like top women. Last year’s runner up, Caroline Wozniacki, dropped two games. Second seed Simona Halep dropped just three. Garbine Muguruza won her first match since the Wimbledon semis—though it came garnished with this cryptic tweet. Tomas Berdych hit big forehands. John Isner hit big forehands. Roger Federer looked downright Federian, waxing a quality opponent in Leo Mayer.
• Medic! As I write this, four players have retired midway through their matches. Most recently, Thanasi Kokkinakis, whose incapacitating cramps caused him to stop playing against Richard Gasquet—in what, to that point, had been thoroughly entertaining. It’s hot out there; but not hotter than prior years. Something is wrong, when so many players are physically unable to, well, play. It will be rejected as a bit of heresy but is it time to rethink the best-of-five format? We all know that fitness is part of tennis. But at what point have we transformed a ball-and-stick sport to a physical sport? And at what point are players endangering themselves?
• We should all underachieve like Donald Young. He may never have won a major but Young, now 26, has turned in a more-than-respectable career. Today he added to his bona fides with a dauntless five-set win over Gilles Simon. He has a very winnable second rounder against Aljaz Bedene.
• Ring in the new—and old. It’s become axiomatic that thirty-is-the-new-twenty. We think nothing of a second round match between Mardy Fish and Feliciano Lopez, both born in 1981. But today was about youth, too. It may have started last night with Borna Coric, the Croatian teenager who gave Rafael Nadal a fine match. On Tuesday, Andrey Rublev may have lost to Kevin Anderson but put on a dazzling display of hitting. Yoshihito Nishioka may only stand 5’7” and weight 140 pounds, but is into round two. And 19-year-old Hyeon Chung of Korea beat James Duckworth. On the women’s side, 18-year-old Belinda Bencic is one of the top favorites. Anna Schmiedlova (20) is on the ascent. And remember the name of 18-year-old Oceane Dodin.
• SABR-metrics. Once again, Roger Federer shows off his SABR, Sneak Attack Behind Return. In truth, this “weapon” is minor. Again, it’s not like he’s adding an octave to his range here. But there’s something allegorical. It sends such a strong message to the field: I’m not done with innovation; I’m still looking for edges. Here’s Federer: “I used to chip and charge some, you know, back in the day, last few years. Against certain players I did it more than others. So I have done it, but not in the way that I do it right now. So, yeah, sometimes, you know, I stand there and I'm like, Should I or shouldn't I? And then it's like, Okay, whatever, I'm going…You feel like they drop it shorter in the box so you can even step it up a bit closer and you can even generate some pace sometimes. But so far I have really been enjoying it, and I hope I can keep it up against all these players.”
Just curious.. has the construction for the roof negated the wind at Ashe Stadium? Makes @rogerfederer more of a threat?
• Yes, though you could argue just as easily that it benefits Djokovic, who struggles with wind.
Will all these retirements and injuries finally push the ATP/WTA to address the untenable tennis calendar? Open is feeling it.
• We say it once, we say it again (and again and again): We need to rethink best-of-five sets in the first week of majors. There are no longer 15 round fights in boxing. Why not? Because it was hazardous to the combatants’ health and it was determined that we could get just as much value with shorter competitions.
1st Round always seems like a boneyard of retirements. Why is that?
• Some of it owes to exertion. Some of it is players who are physically compromised but do not want to part with the $39,500 to which they're entitled.
• Joe Starnes will be signing his tennis novel, Red Dirt, from 3-4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2, in the U.S. Open bookstore.
• Randy Walker writes: It is the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Nationals/U.S. Open first being played in New York City. In fact, Monday marked 100 years to the day when this tournament was first contested in NYC as the first day of play at the 1915 U.S. Championships at Forest Hills was on August 31, 1915. Read more about how it came about here.
• Brad Biggerstaff of Fort Collins, Colorado: I just read an interesting obituary for Howard Brody, called there the "physicist of tennis," in the current issue of The Economist.
• If you missed it, here’s Victoria Azarenka in the Big House.