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Mailbag: Did Venus Williams' doubles match affect her singles play?

Lots of questions piling up, so let’s go Mailbag style today:

We’ll start with Venus Williams. Many of you asking about her decision to play doubles on Thursday. The match went three sets and dragged late. When Venus took the court Friday before 1:00 p.m., was she fatigued? Isn’t this precisely why the singles contenders decline to play alongside a partner?

Venus sure looked to be suffering the effects in the first set, falling to Sara Errani 6-0. (Bear in mind, in their three previous meetings, Errani has never won more than three games in a set against Venus.) Venus then woke up, won the second set 6-0. In the third, she couldn’t close a chance to serve out the match and lost by the bizarre score 6-0, 0-6, 7-6.

Daily Data Visualization: Age breakdown of players in U.S. Open

Given that Venus was still moving about the court just fine after two hours, it’s hard to blame her doubles play. The Williams sisters’ decision to play double also says a lot, I think, about how much they value and enjoy playing together. Venus was also quick to defend her decision.

Remember, too, that if doubles can complicate life for singles stars, it can also enhance it. On the other side of net today, Errani couldn’t match Venus in pace or power or athleticism. She is, however, half of the world’s best doubles team and she brought those skills to bear today. She set up match point with a deft bit of handiwork at the net that plenty of other players would have flubbed.

It’s a complex relationship, singles and doubles. We saw a lot of the dynamic today.


How old is Zarina Diyas? Haven't heard a word out about her.
-- @sukhi

• Poor Diyas played the role of the Nevada team against Mo’Ne Davis last week. She is a 20-year-old who was born in Kazakhstan and plays under the Kazakh flag, though she came of age largely in the Czech Republic. Congratulate her on winning that match under challenging circumstances.

CiCi Bellis bursts onto scene at U.S. Open as young American star

Thomaz Bellucci and Sorana Cirstea seemed to experience some kind of revival in pushing Stan Wawrinka and Eugenie Bouchard, respectively, at the Open -- they played brilliant tennis in the final sets before this year's breakout stars took over.  Are we looking at future fan favorites in these tour veterans or just the magic that tennis under the lights brings out in the players? (If not evidence that pro tennis is more about its constellations than its stars?)
-- Andrew Miller, Chevy Chase, Maryland

• Good question. We see this a lot. “Man, if Denis Istomin can play like this, week-in, week-out, he can be a top ten player!” Sadly, this exercise reinforces an organizing principle of tennis. There are tons of extraordinarily talented players, with a vast repertoire of shots who -- for whatever reasons -- are twenty feet from stardom.

As for the specifics of your questions, Bellucci is almost 27-years-old, and a veteran who has been near the top 20 and never quite taken the next step. He played brilliantly, but I’d be wary of looking at this as a potential breakthrough. Cirstea is sort of an off-brand Ana Ivanovic. That match against Bouchard was her career in miniature. The strokes are there. The athleticism is there. The ability to close is not. But she’s 24-years-old, so there’s still time.

What is your take on the continued crazy scheduling of the opening rounds at the US Open?  On Wednesday’s schedule of play, either Sloane Stephens or Johanna Larsson (first up on Ashe) would be into the third round about five hours before Grigor Dimitrov and Ryan Harrison (a first round match at 5 pm) have even officially played one single point during the 2014 tournament?  I get that Dimitrov/Harrison is a fantastic popcorn match, but should they not be playing as early as possible if they get stuck playing their first round match on the 3rd day of the tournament?
-- Corey Huber, Regina, Saskatchewan 

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 • Scheduling is always an issue at the majors, but I never get too worked up. The folks are besieged with requests from all constituents, and they try their best. The bigger issue here: there are tons of grounds passes -- debt service will do that -- and scant few fans on Ashe. If you watched the morning matches today on TV, you’d think this was a sleepy event. If you were here, you’d know you’d have to wait multiple changeovers to use the bathroom.

When matches start at 11 a.m., do you suggest people with grounds tickets get there by 10 a.m.?
-- @morhannah

Definitely. If not 9:30 a.m. I had friends come out the other day and before the first ball was struck, they had walked the ground, eaten an early meal and seen many of their favorite players practice. 

Gael Monfils hits insane jumping forehand shot at the U.S. Open

How about this old school vs. new school matchup? Ilie Nastase against Gael Monfils on the Grandstand? We could only dream, right?
-- @drakeschunck

• Monfils, the ultimate entertainer, was made for the Grandstand. (Jim Courier made the interesting point that the short court restricts his movement.)

Why were there so many empty seats for the Bouchard-Cirstea night match?
-- @mpwillis

People have to go to work! And that match was still being played after 11 p.m. A lot of this is the function of the massive stadium. A crowd of 5,000 people watching a match between Bouchard and Cirstea (neither of them household names, neither of them Slam winners) is more than respectable. But in a stadium with 22,000 seats, it looks like the crowd at a Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz game.

I don't know who's responsible for it, but whoever it is they deserve a resounding thank you for the extraordinary video streaming at the US Open website.
-- Roger Jones, Waterbury Center, VT

• I credit Phil Green.

Shots, miscellany

• Read this. Just read this. Trust me.

• The WTA launched a new 10-episode video series, “Road to Singapore: The Series, presented by Xerox,” which will take fans behind-the-scenes leading up to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore.

 • Bryan Park from Philadelphia, Penn. has Friday’s Long Lost Silblings, CiCi Bellis and actress Shailene Woodley

CiCi Bellis and Shailene Woodley

CiCi Bellis and Shailene Woodley