Post-U.S. Open Mailbag: Closing thoughts on the final Slam of 2015
Some quick chatter as we delete the U.S. Open app, one sentence answer variety….
Thanks again for another great two weeks of insight and commentary. Quick question/comment: What are your thoughts about Federer using short slices to bring opponents to the net? I seem to remember that being a strategy he used to use quite often and it seemed relatively effective the few times that he used it against Djokovic in the final. Why do you think he doesn't try it more often? Are his opponents better able to handle those shots than they used to?
—Troy, Wesley Chapel, Fla.
• Depends on the opponent, but feed Djokovic short balls at your peril. My take on Federer-Djokovic: for six rounds Federer was so relaxed and free and, trite as it sounds, played his game. Against Djokovic he felt so much pressure that he change his risk-reward ratio and gave himself little margin. When you approach a match essentially telling yourself “I have to play damn near perfect to win,” you set yourself up for trouble.
I would like to add to your 50 parting thoughts by saying that we definitely need to give kudos to Eva Asderaki-Moore. Her performance and overrules in the final were scintillating and flawless. Also, from the stat-geek town: At the end of the third set when Djokovic had all the momentum, each player had won exactly 112 points. At that time during the changeover, having won equal points would be of little significance/solace to Federer, don't you think? This was a classic case of not "how many” but "which ones.” I remember, in last year's semis against Nishikori, Djokovic actually won more points in the end. Thoughts?
• Amen on Eva Asderaki-Moore. She really distinguished herself. At one point Sunday night it was as if there was virtuoso performance playing out—with a tennis match tacked on for good measure. And double amen for the stat geekery. “Total points won” is a neato stat but it’s of little value. Serena won 93 points to Roberta Vinci’s 85. Enough said.
I always enjoy your writing and would appreciate your thoughts on this. For all of Serena's stellar career and accomplishments, do you think anyone will ever write about her career without commenting on the loss to Robert Vinci? I am not naive, but sport does seem to be cruel when one defeat takes on a life of its own.
—Sharon Newell, Houston
• It’s part of the story, the way, say, Kathleen Horvath is part of Martin Navratilova’s. But when we take inventory of the entire breadth of Serena’s career, this will be but a footnote.
All players could take a lesson from post match behavior by Vinci and Pennetta.
• Yes and no. This was a delightful scene, two thirty something Italians—friends since childhood—playing for an unexpected title. Icing on the cannoli, as it were. But sports needs tension and rivalry, too. Saturday was lovely. But sometimes you also need Serena-Sharapova where is there personal animus and neither player satisfied with the runner-up trophy.
I don't want to fault you, as I'm a big fan, but your quick thoughts on the women's final left me confused. Sure all the media was suffering from a Serena hangover, but that was one of the most inspiring tennis finals I've ever seen in my 40-plus years of watching tennis. Hollywood could not have created a better story. But your column on the final was like, meh. As a big fan of tennis, I'm not so surprised by the outcome of the women's event.
So my question is, why are you and the rest of the media so surprised? Serena always has trouble with lack of pace. The bigger upset was Pennetta over Kvitova and then Halep (though not as much). Kudos to Chris Evert and Pam Shriver during their post match interview with Flavia to make sure the amazing context of the final was understood. Panetta will not get into the Hall of Fame, but she is an amazing inspiration. And one other point, which came to me in a Facebook discussion. You and all of the media wanted the big bestseller (Serena winning the slam) instead you got a mid-list literature story. And no one could handle it, though Chris Evert did a great job. This is another corporate media fail.
• I’m not sure we need to indict corporate media here. The women’s final had a lot to recommend. There was net play and slicing and one-handed backhanding and joy and amity and two veterans happy to be in this position. In a vacuum it was a lovely occasion. But a lot of us came to the 2015 U.S Open with designs of witnessing and chronicling history. I speak only for myself here—when it didn't happen, yes, there was also a sense of disappointment. For all sorts of reasons (a shot in the arm for a sport that could use it; a deserving crowing achievement for an all-time great; a rich storyline; strong TV ratings so ESPN would be incentivized to put more matches on television and fewer on streaming platforms) it would have been nice if Serena had won. But this, of course, is what makes sports so compelling. Dance is choreographed. Movies are scripted. Pro wrestling comes with pre-determined outcomes. Sports = reality.
Earlier this year I asked you opinion on whether you thought either Nadal or Djokovic would eclipse Federer’s Grand Slam titles. You suggested I ask the question again after the U.S. Open. So, per your direction, I'm asking again. Enjoy watching you on the broadcasts.
• Well….put it this way: Djokovic is now into the double figures. Federer is 34, Nadal is fading and you look at players under 25 and come up empty when looking for an obvious candidate to emerge and challenge Djokovic. It’s hard to keep a straight face and predict anyone will win eight Slams. But say this about Djokovic: the guy is 28 and staring at a whole lot of open road.
If I were not boycotting the women's tour because of the screeching, I suspect I would know this. Was Roberta Vinci's game trouble for Serena because that's just the way Vinci plays, or did Vinci come in with a game plan for beating Serena? (You wrote something about the slicing gave Serena trouble.) Based on the post-match interview it seems that Vinci did zero pre-match game planning, but I find that hard to believe. Will Vinci's game (or game plan) now be a playbook for other players to overcome Serena?
—Jim Yrkoski, Silver Creek, Neb.
• I don’t want to shortchange Vinci, but this match was really about Serena having the equivalent of a panic attack on the court. I watched the replay of the match on Sunday and was struck by Serena’s sluggish movement. She looked nothing like the player who had beaten Madison Keys just a few days earlier. These things happen. Even the most accomplished players are not immune to nerves (especially as they get on in year, especially as the burden of history is thrust on them.) But—and I feel lousy saying this—this was much more about Serena’s paralysis than Vinci’s superior play.
• ICYMI: Our 50 parting thoughts U.S. Open wrap-up.
• Sung Woo is on tour for his tennis book. Visit him and here is the link to the book, Love Love.
• Speaking of books, my friend Elisha Cooper has a new one, this one is for kids titled, An Animal Alphabet.
• Wilson is launching the #MyWilson brand campaign to acknowledge an athlete’s equipment, which connects youth athletes and their “heroes.” At the heart of the campaign is a video that features amateur athletes alongside some of the world’s best professional athletes recounting the ups and downs they go through, including Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Dustin Pedroia, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brendan Steele and Grigor Dimitrov.
• Full disclosure: in exchange for the aforementioned mention, Wilson will be making an in-kind donation to a tennis charity of the Mailbag’s choosing.
Amazing that three different U.S. boys won consecutive junior Slam titles this summer. And that the Fritz vs. Paul U.S. Open final was a third place match this year in Kalamazoo.
• While Djokovic and Pennetta won $3.3 million in Queens, there was another money tournament.
• Think Serena Williams drives ratings? ESPN rating for the 2015 U.S. Open women's final was 1.5. Last year’s Williams-Wozniacki final on CBS drew a 4.0.
• The ITA Achievement Award will now be officially recognized as the ITA David A Benjamin Achievement Award, as made possible by Margie and Stan Smith.
• Reader Stewbop:
1) What do you call a professional tennis match with a conflict of interest in the broadcast booth?
A: A professional tennis match.
2) It's like tennis is in the thrall of a bad Harry Potter spell: "Conflicto Interrestum!"
3) The sport needs to borrow Tom Ridge's old color-coded chart. "Today's conflict of interest level is.... Orange."
• The inaugural Oracle/ITA Masters, the first national collegiate championship of the 2015-16 season, will be played from Sept. 18-20 at the Malibu Racquet Club.
• More on Matt Seeberger here.
• Shlomo Kreitman has LLS: If Nik DeNiro looks like Marin Cilic, does that mean Robert DeNiro is Marin Cilic's father?