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Closing the book on the Open


So the last major of 2004 is in the books. Herewith 50 random ruminations on the U.S. Open that was. ...

1. Imagine how good Roger Federer will be once he learns to move around the court a little. Much as we all would like to have seen a more competitive final, it's nice that 23,000 fans in Queens (and sports fans flipping between NFL games) got to see that display Sunday. Statistics don't do Federer's game justice, but we'll offer one anyway. Against Lleyton Hewitt, arguably the best passer in the game, Federer won 31 of 35 approaches to the net.

2. Svetlana Kuznetsova may be the most surprising women's winner in the Open era. But we're guessing that distinction doesn't hold. It's been obvious for years that she has considerable game and on power alone, it's easy to see her as a top five player for years to come. That said, at the beginning of the year whodda thunk the Williams sisters, the Belgians, Amelie Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati would combine to win one Slam?

3. We all had a good laugh at the expense of Elena Dementieva's dying seagull of a serve. But once she is in the rally, she can hang with anyone. And, yes, she lost another Grand Slam final. But if there has been a more poignant and thoughtful consolation speech, we haven't heard it.

4. Hewitt turned in a Grand Slam of sorts, losing to the eventual champion at each of the four majors.

5. If you don't feel for Davenport, consult your cardiologist immediately. In what is likely her final Open, Davenport carved up Kuznetsova for a set, suddenly pulled up lame, and lost in three sets.

6. Remember when the men's game was mired in parity and players unknown to the casual fan crashed Grand Slams, while one dominant force patrolled the women's game?

7. Credit Anand Ramaswamy of Brooklyn with this line: "The 'Russian Revolution' has evolved into more of a 'Russian Occupation.'"

8. If Andy Roddick loses to a heavy-hitting kid who's nailing the lines, that's fine. But his jousting with the chair at 4-4 in the fifth set was inexplicable.

9. A few riffs on Serenagate. Next time you rip Serena for being brash and crass, consider her exchange with the umpire. Over the course of two weeks, numerous players (including Capriati) were fined for "audible obscenities" and others -- Roddick among them -- cursed at the chair without consequence. Serena gets completely jobbed and the worst thing to come out of her mouth is, "What the heck is going on here?"

10. Speaking of taking the high road, Oracene Williams was quick to applaud both players after the Capriati match. And though he was given ample chance to comment by reporters, Richard Williams refused to opine about the officiating. Not a lot of other tennis parents would be that big under the circumstances.

11. Anyone else find it dispiriting that the notion of Capriati conceding the point to help to clarify the confusion wasn't even in the realm of possibility? The party line is that "it's not up to the players to call lines." But when your opponent hits a ball that is good by nearly a foot, shouldn't there be a moral obligation to concede the point?

12. Many of you asked why the U.S. Open doesn't take the lead and institute some replay technology, be it Hawkeye or SpotShot. Ted McCarthy of Baltimore wrote: "Even if it costs $20,000 per court, I'm sure the U.S. Open can find that money between prize-money reduction and the $8 hot dogs in order to become the world's greatest, most accurate tournament. Would Serena really care if the prize was $800,000 vs. $1 million if there was a guarantee that she wouldn't be shafted when it counts most?" I tend to agree. One reservation: I'd need a little more reassurance that this technology captures reality. We're guessing there will be some form of replay by next year's Open.

13. Despite yet another Grand Slam flameout, Mauresmo took over the top WTA ranking.

14. Who says the Americans had a lousy tournament? Bob Bryan teamed with lachrymose Vera Zvonareva to win the mixed doubles title.

15. Anyone else wonder if grass isn't Tim Henman's worst surface?

16. Michaella Krajicek won the girls' title beating Ohio's Jessica Kirkland in the final. Krajicek was a multiple winner, teaming with Marina Erakovic to win the doubles.

17. Andrew Murray of Britain won the boys' title, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine. (Murray-mania, we see it already.) Donald Young, the hyped American, had a match point against Stakhovsky in the first round but couldn't seal the deal. In the doubles, Americans Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema took the title.

18. Hampered by a knee injury, France's Gael Monfils failed in his effort to win the junior Grand Slam. He lost in the third round to Viktor Troicki of Serbia-Montenegro 6-4, 6-2.

19. From Angela Haynes to Scoville Jenkins to Amber Liu to Rajeev Ram to Shikha Uberoi to Phillip the risk of sounding like a political speech writer, it's nice to see the future of American tennis reflect America.

20. What if every player in, say, the top 50 donated 1 percent of their prize money to the ATP and WTA trainers? Those folks are the unsung heroes of tennis.

21. Tony Trabert, chairman of the Enshrinee Nominating Committee and president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, announced the 2005 nominees: Jim Courier, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Owen Davidson, Christine Truman Janes, Patricia Canning Todd, Earl "Butch" Buchholz Jr. and Eiichi Kawatei.

22. Best news conference exchange:

Reporter: What's your favorite movie about outer space, and why is it your favorite?

Hewitt: What do you write about? I think you're at the wrong press conference (smiling). I thought we were playing tennis here.

Reporter: Pardon?

Hewitt: We're playing tennis here, aren't we? I don't know. Sorry. I don't know.

Reporter: It's for Nickelodeon magazine. It's for their celebrity page. They want to know what you and other celebrities, it's the space issue for February.

Hewitt: I don't watch too many space movies.

Reporter: You ever think about being an astronaut?

23. Snake-bitten in so many other finals, Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor took the doubles title, beating Leander Paes and David Rikl.

24. Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual won their third straight U.S. Open women's doubles title beating an exhausted Kuznetsova and Elena Likhovtseva in the final.

25. Ivan Ljubicic is the leading vote-getter for the "Most Bizarre Injury" award. The Croatian veteran was hugged so enthusiastically that he broke a rib. He was forced to retire from his first-round match in New York.

26. Mark Miles, the CEO of the ATP, announced that he will step down at the end of 2005.

27. Anna Kournikova -- perhaps the name rings a bell -- will make her second appearance at the 12th annual WTT All-Star Smash Hits, presented by ADT Security Services, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 11, at the Bren Events Center on the University of California, Irvine campus. Hosted by (Sir) Elton John and tennis legend Billie Jean King, this evening of tennis will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The event is expected to raise more than $1 million for the organization. Tickets for the event range from $40 to $105 and are available at all Ticketmaster ticket outlets and the Bren Events Center box office. For more information, call Ticketmaster at 714/740-2000 or the Bren Events Center box office at 949/824-5000.

28. Pat McEnroe announced the U.S.' Davis Cup squad for the semifinal tie against Belarus. Roddick and Mardy Fish will play singles while the Bryans will get the nod in doubles. The tie is Sept. 24-26 at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C. A limited number of tickets for the event are available by calling (888) 484-USTA.

29. If the U.S. wins and France beats Spain, the final will be in the U.S., perhaps in Philadelphia. If the U.S. wins and Spain beats France the final will be in Spain, perhaps in Barcelona.

30. Thomas Berdych is destined for the top 10.

31. Five players, apart from Berdych, worth keeping on your radar: Marcos Baghdatis, Nicole Vaidisova, Amer Delic, Tatiana Golovina and Haynes.

32. It's no Anna Smashnova (or even Sabine Hack) but Thailand's Danai Udomchoke is blessed with one of the better tennis names we've heard in a while.

33. This strike anyone else as absurd? You couldn't bring a tote bag into the U.S. Open but you could buy one at the concession stand for $140.

34. Award for Objective Journalism goes to the reporter who "asked" Serena after an early-round win: "I was getting concerned. The other player was getting too close!"

35. Award for tackiest question goes to the reporter who asked Davenport how she kept so trim given that she "used to be kind of roly-poly."

36. Tracy Austin may have taken heat for it, but she certainly raised a valid point when she suggested that Venus Williams retain a forehand coach.

37. Sad as it is to see Venus so removed from her glory years, she's well within her rights to leave New York feeling somewhat encouraged. She beat three players, including Chanda Rubin, and then played the hottest player (Davenport) on tour 7-5, 6-4.

38. Boris Becker remind anyone else of Ali G's "Funkyzeit" character?

39. The U.S. Open Series is a hit, and it played no small role in the heightened attendance and -- at least until the final -- TV ratings. But here's another plea to end the "Series Standings," an utterly meaningless set of numbers that serves no apparent purpose other than to keep logo-makers employed and exaggerate the USTA's sense of importance. The ceremony honoring the "Series Winners" played out like a middle manager awkwardly awarding Russell the short-order cook an "Employee of the Month" certificate.

40. Can anyone explain why the French Federation doesn't create a comparable "French Open Series" leveraging Monte Carlo, Hamburg, etc.?

41. One final shout-out to our man Olivier Rochus, who was a few points from reaching the quarterfinals before he succumbed to cramps and fell to Dominik Hrbaty in five sets. Sadly, Rochus without wheels is like Roddick without power. Two points: First, credit the guy for finishing out the match even though he was bageled in the final set. Second, Rochus was down to game point in the fourth set on his match against Carlos Moya. After a nice rally, Moya hit a ball on the line that was called "out." Rochus smiled and without hesitating, walked to his chair, conceding the point. It would be nice if more players did that.

42. Can we eliminate the "tradition" of running into the stands to hug your posse after winning a title?

43. Last weekend marked the 20th anniversary of Super Saturday. Compare Cash vs. Lendl, Martina vs. Chrissy, and McEnroe vs. Connors to Hewitt vs. Johansson, Henman vs Federer and Kuznetsova vs. Dementieva.

44. Wayne Odesnik beat Joachim Johansson earlier this year. Odesnik entered the U.S. Open ranked No.480.

45. The WTA released its 2005 calendar and announced some structural changes. The upshot: a) in something of an upset, the 2005 championships will remain in L.A., which is odd given that the WTA burned more bridges at the Staples Center than Gary Payton. b) the Fed Cup finals will be played after the U.S. Open, shortening the season by two weeks. c) age eligibility works swell.

46. Good news: Kim Clijsters, seen practicing on the U.S. Open courts, is due back in action later this month.

47. Good news: The men's and women's Beijing events held this week and next, are expected to be huge draws.

48. Bad news: It's looking like Mike Bryan's bad hips will require surgery.

49. Bad news: Word is that the Kirsten Dunst movie, Wimbledon, is watchable, the same way Serena's attire is modest.

50. Bad news: Four months until the next major shindig.

Have a great week everyone.