NEW YORK – Five thoughts from Day 3 at the 2016 U.S. Open, through the day session.
• Caroline Wozniacki, a U.S. Open finalist in 2014, is not merely unseeded; she is ranked No. 74, midway though a dismal year. She’s a terrific athlete, a savvy tactician and way too defensive for a player who’s nearly six feet tall. Today she slugged the ball and played strikingly, uncharacteristically aggressive tennis and notched her best win of the year, taking out No. 9-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4, 6-4. Wozniacki knows that upsets come with this additional bonus. “If I beat a top player early,” she says, “it will open up the draw for me.” Indeed. She gets Monica Niculescu next.
• We come to praise Gael Monfils. The man has kept his artistic integrity, hitting a half dozen you-have-to-be-kidding-us shots each match. But this summer, he has also played with a level of maturity not previously in evidence. The results speak for themselves. Seeded 10th, he won again in straight sets, beating Jan Satral 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. You’re inclined to say “keep an eye out for him,” but that’s redundant with this guy.
• Two days ago, Frances Tiafoe was serving for the match against John Isner. Defeat would have punctuated a dismal 2016 for Isner, made worse by losing to a young American. Isner prevailed, though, won the match in a fifth-set tiebreaker and played decidedly better today, dispatching Steve Darcis of Belgium. Suddenly, Isner looks like a good bet to reach the middle weekend.
• Isner is residing in the draw near Novak Djokovic, who advanced today without hitting a ball, when his opponent, Jiri Vesely, withdrew on account of a left arm injury. If anyone could have used the walkover—and extra 48 hours for bodily repair—it’s the defending champ.
• After his straight set demolition job last night, Andy Murray—winner of Wimbledon and Rio gold—may well have eclipsed Djokovic as the player to beat here. His counterpart seed on the women’s side, Angelique Kerber, has gotten far less attention. But, with a possible No. 1 ranking attending success in this event, she cruised into round three with a buttoned-up 6-2, 7-6(7) win over veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Next up, the winner of Shelby Rogers vs. Cici Bellis.
Big fan of the Mailbag. I have what I think is a simple question: How does the women's No. 1 seed face the women's No. 29-ranked player in the first round of a 128-person tournament? I understand a random draw in a random tournament to set up some fun matchups, but this is a major. There is too much money and more importantly, too many points for a random draw. If I worked my tail off all year to make the men's draw as the No. 60 seed and had to play a Top 10-seed in the first round, while two players ranked over 150 face in the first round, I would be livid. This is not fair to the higher ranked players and even worse on the lower ranked players. Why not rank all players 1-128 and play a legitimate bracketed tournament?
• Simple answer: the cutoff date—when players are entered and seeds are made—precedes the start of the tournament by a few weeks. So rankings and seedings don't align perfectly. It’s the same reason why Steve Johnson is the highest seeded American (No. 19) while John Isner is the highest ranked American.
Your larger point is well taken. A pot among the top 32 seeds is a huge deal. You’re guaranteed not to face a higher-ranked opponent until the third round. By then, you have likely won $77,000. A few slots down and you end up like Makarova—former top 10 player and former U.S. Open semifinalist who drew the No. 1-ranked player in the first round.
With Roger Federer not in the draw, what is your favorite memory of his at the U.S. Open?
• This has the ring of an obituary and I would stress that Federer is likely to be back in 2017. But good question. Lots of memories, from staving off match points to beat Gael Monfils in 2014 quarters, to getting this business end of the great return ever, to winning five straight titles. I’m inclined to go with the 2008 event. Federer had lost in each of the first three majors that year, most recently at Wimbledon in that classic against Nadal. Federer lost in singles at the Olympics as well, as you thought the vectors were pointing downward.
In New York, though, Federer reverted to form. He played terrifically—later claiming to be buoyed by his Olympic gold in doubles, won with Wawrinka. Andy Murray knocked off Nadal in the semis. In the final, Federer was at his Federerian best. He salvaged his year, put another major on the board, plumped his confidence, rekindled his rivalry with Nadal and, not surprisingly, he cried afterward.
So I'm just following live scores from the U.S. Open on my phone, via the official website's Matches In Progress page. I did a double take when I looked at the picture being used for Kyrgios. Surely it's at least five years old! Which makes me wonder, do players give the tournament a picture to use for official purposes on the page? Or was that the most recent picture the U.S. Open could find of the tennis bad boy?!
• Many of us—fans, players, media—have been having a laugh at this. We suspect that was Kyrgios’ seventh grade class photo when Mrs. McCorkindale made him comb his hair. Lots of you also pointed to Coric photo—presumably taken at the Sears studio after his parents presented a Groupon.
More galling/serious: in the age of Google image, how could there not be a photo for players such as Dominic Thiem and Juan Martin del Potro, the No. 8 seed and former champ, respectively?
99% of gay men loved Serena's #USOpen dress. Give away the fashion award now.
• An unofficial poll, but duly noted. Know what Serena calls the outfit? The “Cold shoulder,” Nice touch, especially given her malady in Rio.
Snapshots from Day 3
• For fans John Mellencamp and the Lonesome Jubilee, reader James has this re Stevie Johnson:
Johnson Johnson was a good kid
He had 4 years of college
And 2 NCAA's
• Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli to run 2016 TCS New York City Marathon.