nodot nodot
Between The Lines
September 14, 2009 Article

Contact Ray Bowers

Latest Between The Lines Article

Between The Lines Archives:
2003 - 2015
August 1998 - 2003
1995 - May 1998

Tennis Server

Do You Want To Be A Better Tennis Player?

Then Sign Up For A Free Subscription to the Tennis Server INTERACTIVE
E-mail Newsletter!

Tom Veneziano You will join 13,000 other subscribers in receiving news of updates to the Tennis Server along with monthly tennis tips from tennis pro Tom Veneziano.
Best of all, it is free!

Tennis Features Icon TENNIS FEATURES:

TENNIS ANYONE? - USPTA Pro John Mills' quick player tip.
TENNIS WARRIOR - Tom Veneziano's Tennis Warrior archive.
TURBO TENNIS - Ron Waite turbocharges your tennis game with tennis tips, strategic considerations, training and practice regimens, and mental mindsets and exercises.
WILD CARDS - Each month a guest column by a new writer.
BETWEEN THE LINES - Ray Bowers takes an analytical and sometimes controversial look at the ATP/WTA professional tour.
PRO TENNIS SHOWCASE - Tennis match reports and photography from around the world.
TENNIS SET - Jani Macari Pallis, Ph.D. looks at tennis science, engineering and technology.
MORTAL TENNIS - Greg Moran's tennis archive on how regular humans can play better tennis.
HARDSCRABBLE SCRAMBLE - USPTA pro Mike Whittington's player tip archive.

Tennis Community Icon TENNIS COMMUNITY:

Tennis Book, DVD, and Video Index
Tennis Server Match Reports
Editor's Letter
Become a Tennis Server Sponsor

Explore The Tennis Net Icon EXPLORE THE TENNIS NET:

Tennis News and Live Tennis Scores
Tennis Links on the Web
Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
Green Dot
Tennis Warehouse Logo
Green Dot

U.S. Open 09 -- An Instant History
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

Year 2009 has been the 42nd year of the Open Era in tennis. In that time only two male players -- McEnroe and Lendl -- have won the U.S. Open crown in three consecutive years. Several others have won twice consecutively -- Rafter, Sampras, Edberg, Connors. But neither these nor any other great superstar have equaled the achievements at Flushing Meadows of the prevailing champion, Roger Federer, who prior to 2009 had captured all five of the preceding U.S. Opens. Just as Rafael Nadal's great run at Garros ended earlier in the year, Sir Roger's sequence ended on a splendid evening in Queen's, September 14, 2009.
Federer had been predicted to win U.S. Open 09 by our prediction scheme here, largely based on (1) weighted results in past tournaments and (2) recent head-to-head meetings among the prime stars. Meanwhile for the women's singles, the predicted winner in our analysis was Serena Williams, joined by Safina, Dementieva, and Clijsters as the predicted semi-finalists. Clijsters was returning from a two-year retirement from pro tennis which included giving childbirth.
For the first ten days of main-draw play the weather was good -- dry and without extreme temperatures, with several periods of gusty winds. Rain intervened on Second Thursday evening, wrecking the planned schedule for the late rounds and lengthening the tournament by one day, though it was hard to see that any outcomes were altered by the rescheduling. The courts and playing conditions favored first-strike, attacking tennis, and the courts appeared generally on the fast side. Data from the last five rounds showed that servers had slightly greater advantage than in any of the last three U.S. Opens. As usual, server's edge was intermediate among the Slams -- greater than at Garros or Australian Open, less than at Wimbledon.
As the tournament unfolded the favorites prevailed far more often among the men than among the women. While the Big Six males provided all four of the men's semi-finalists, the already amorphous state of women's pro tennis became even murkier amid a run of unexpected women's outcomes. The high point in drama came in the five-set triumph of Juan Martin del Potro, the 20-year-old Argentine, over Federer. But there was plenty of fascinating theater among the women, where Kim Clijsters reclaimed the crown she first won in 2005, and where Serena Williams stormed from the singles amid her own gutter behavior. She later won the doubles final with Venus, thereby starting to rebuild her reputation for class. There were also interesting plots within the several quarters of the singles draws, especially on the women's side where the emerging protagonists were (1) rising teenaged stars on the one hand, and (2) the most-distinguished veterans on the other.
Surprise outcomes ruled in the top quarter of the women's draw, where the eight seeded stars all lost to unseeded players during the first three rounds. Superstars departing were Safina and Jankovic.
Most shocking was the poor play of Dinara Safina, who had been the world's #1 as the tournament began. Dinara was far below her best on First Tuesday against Australian-born teenager Rogowska. Both players contributed excessive double-faults and other unforced errors throughout amid Dinara's growing mental distresss. Dinara survived in three sets, but she again struggled in her second outing, her confidence broken, coming from behind to win in three over Barrois. Then in the third round, Petra Kvitova, 19, a lefty, who had faltered in the rankings of late, stayed even with a still-unsteady Dinara most of the way and closed out in a third-set tiebreaker. Kvitova d. Safina, 64 26 76.
Jelena Jankovic, fifth in the world rankings, down from #1 at the end of 2008, departed even sooner. Neither Jelena nor her second-round opponent, Yaroslav Svedova, could grasp multiple opportunities to take command amid a high number of unforced errors. Svedova, 21, born in and now a resident of Moscow but showing Kazakhstan as her tennis nationality, was the freer stroker generally, inclined to hit out more forcefully than the favorite. Fear of losing seemed to occupy Jankovic, and in the third-set tiebreaker Svedova survived two match points and then froze a tight Jelena with a less-than-potent but well-placed service ace. Svedova d. Jankovic, 63 67 76.
Also surprising was the second-round loss by Sabine Lisicki to Anastasia Rodionova, now representing Australia. Lisicki, 19, who had been closing on the game's high echelon, hurt her ankle badly on the last point of the third set and was removed by wheelchair. The departure of Ana Ivanovic was equally unexpected, as she had improved recently after her steep slide from world #1 ranking 14 months earlier. Ana lost in three sets to Ukrainian-born Kateryna Bondarenko, 23, the younger of the Bondarenko sisters.
But the eventual champion of the top quarter would be Yanina Wickmayer, 19. Wickmayer lost her mother at age nine, came to America from Belgium with her father to train in Florida, and now faced Bondarenko for a place in the tournament semis. Tall at just under six feet, rangy with tall shoulders, Yanina showed an attacking game with plenty of variety. It became clear that her strengths lay in a power forehand, an accurate and firm backhand, and a very good serve including an excellent, kicking second serve. The backhand was especially versatile, capable alike of sustained heavy artillery to the deep cross-court corner, a severely angled rip, and even a well-disguised drop shot. Adequate defensively, and able to raise herself emotionally to recover from stretches of poor play, Wickmayer d. K. Bondarenko, 75 64.
Teenagers also dominated the draw's second quarter, accounting for the departures of Russian superstars Dementieva, Sharapova, and Kuznetsova and providing the quarter's last-standing two. Commanding strong attention in host-nation U.S.A. was the incredible run of a confident and energetic American 17-year-old, height just 5-6, Melanie Oudin.
Oudin's three victories over seeded players all followed the same pattern -- a first-set win by the favorite followed by the teenager's close wins in the second and third sets. Throughout, Melanie brimmed with mental strength, consistency and firepower in stroking, and good mobility, all mixed with good patience plus occasional winners to the sides and corners. It began on First Thursday against fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva. Melanie played with excellent confidence and concentration, and toward the end it was the veteran who retreated into defensive play. Next, Maria Sharapova started off well but then faltered after the first set before Oudin's solid ground game and Maria's own serving difficulties, seen in a total of 21 double-faults by the Russian player. There were seven service breaks in the twelve games of the final set. Oudin d. Dementieva, 57 64 63. Oudin d. Sharapova, 36 64 75. Oudin d. Petrova, 16 76 63.
Meanwhile both Caroline Wozniacki, 19, seeded ninth, and experienced Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded sixth, began the tournament with three straight-set victories. In their fourth-round meeting, Kuznetsova led early, outhitting Wozniacki with very good avoidance of error throughout the first set. But Caroline, much in the pattern of Oudin, maintained her determination and gradually stepped up her own firmness in hitting. Svetlana remained the dictating player, however, often stretching her opponent wide. Indeed, for the match Kuznetsova led in aces 9-1 and in other winners 50-15. But errors by Kuznetsova crept in at those times when she seemed most ready to take command. Svetlana fended off two match-points with bold strikes, but Caroline's perseverance eventually produced the verdict. Wozniacki d. Kuznetsova, 26 76 76.
Wozniacki then defeated Oudin in the final match of the quarter, on Wednesday night. Caroline at 5-10 was four inches the taller and two years the older, while both listed at weight approximately 130 pounds. For most of the going, Melanie was the harder, flatter hitter, especially off the forehand side, and she exploited this edge well. forcing play. But Wozniacki's movement, consistency, and mental stability were excellent -- more than adequate to Melanie's pressure, so that matters were essentially decided by Oudin's unforced errors, which were more than twice as frequent as Wozniacki's. It was the first pro meeting of the two, but many more can be expected. Wozniacki d. Oudin, 62 62.
This was the quarter of Kim Clijsters, 26, whose last Slam competition had been at Australian Open in January 2007. She was now unseeded, though she had played well in Cincinnati and Canada in August -- well enough to justify invoking the Overrule Proviso in our pre-tournament prediction scheme, thereby making Kim our choice to win this quarter. As expected, Kim advanced through her first three matches, showing her familiar mobility and backhand strengths. Her most dangerous early opponent was Marion Bartoli, whom she had beaten in Cincinnati. Now, Bartoli contended well, winning the first set, but Clijsters commanded thereafter. Ahead loomed a delicious confrontation between Clijsters and Venus Williams.
Venus, seeded #3, had trouble on Opening Night against Moscow-born Vera Dushevina, 22. The Russian player showed good athleticism, an excellent backhand, and a wholly unemotional manner in keeping matters even for over two hours. Venus's left knee was lightly wrapped, but as the match went on any discomfort or weakness seemed to go away as her play gradually firmed. Dushevina's performance was stronger than her ranking in the forties would have suggested. Two days later, Venus's knee was more heavily protected, when Venus prevailed over Mattek-Sands in straight sets. V. Williams d. Dushevina 67 75 63. V. Williams d. Mattek-Sands 64 62.
Venus and Kim Clijsters then provided an inexplicably up-and-down fourth-rounder. Venus played horribly in the first set, while Kim did everything perfectly. Venus then abruptly found her best power game, sweeping the second set. Venus then faltered briefly in set three, losing a serving game early. That lapse proved decisive, as Kim thereafter managed to hold off strong pressure from Venus. Kim then completed her conquest of the quarter by beating Li Na. Clijsters d. V. Williams, 60 06 64; Clijsters d. Li, 62 64.
Showing no sign of her past knee trouble and playing with well-controlled power superior to her opponents, Serena Williams moved through her first four matches without loss of a set. Only Spanish player Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez, who had taken a set from Serena at Garros 09, was able to win as many as five games in any set.
Events elsewhere in the quarter were more interesting. Eliminated in the first round were Mauresmo and Chakvetadze, both former first-tenners. The two favorites, Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta, met on Sunday evening in what became a fascinating test of skills and wills. Vera dominated narrowly most of the way, showing the heavier strokes along with good mobility and aggressiveness. But Flavia maintained her concentration and will, managing to fight off six match points late in set two mainly by refusing to contribute errors. Troubled by a tweaked knee and a long-injured ankle along with her own inability to close out matters, Zvonareva's mental stability began to erode. It seemed as if the familiar tears were close, while Flavia showed no mercy in closing out her victory. Pennetta d. Zvonareva, 36 76 60.
Pennetta's reward was a date with Serena Williams on Tuesday Evening. Flavia played as well as she had against Zvonareva -- moving beautifully, stroking with precision and firmness, taking the initiative often. But Serena's superior court movement and athleticism sapped the vigor from Flavia's thrusts, so that the only hope for the Italian star became to outlast Serena in long exchanges. The hope was forlorn as long as Serena kept up the pressure while holding her own errors to minimum. There was one break of serve in each set in an impressive performance by the defending champion, who concentrated well. S. Williams d. Pennetta, 64 63.
It is unfortunate that Clijsters's semi-final victory over Serena shall be most remembered for its unsatisfying conclusion. The affair ended in a tirade by Serena Williams directed against a linesperson who had just called a foot-fault against Serena. The ruling made the score 15-40, match-point against Williams. As it was Serena's second code violation of the match, the penalty point -- in this case match point -- was awarded to her opponent, Kim Clijsters. The contest was over, though the critiques would long linger. In actuality, Kim's superiority had been evident throughout the evening, and although Serena has earned a reputation for turning near-defeats into victories, on this occasion the likelihood of another escape was remote. Throughout, Kim had been the better mover to, and the cleaner striker of, the ball, the player abler in moving her opponent to the sides and corners, the one more confident in sustaining forceful play over a sequence of shots without fear of error. Any chance that she might suddenly falter seemed faint, as against Venus earlier in the week, she had been strong in withstanding late-match pressure.
Serena lost the first set to Clijsters mainly because of her own unforced errors. The set ended in an outburst of rage that produced a smashed tennis racket and Serena's first code violation. The proper medicine for Serena was probably better footwork along with more-determined attacking including coming to net more often. These remedies could be observed as the second set unfolded. But, as earlier, Kim's excellent mobility and ever-aggressive shot placement defused Serena's efforts. Serena was now playing better, sustaining rallies longer, but there were still too many errors and, with them, an occasional tentativeness in hitting out for more than one shot in succession. Serena lost three serving games during the set, a reflection of her winning only 32% of second-serve points and her surprisingly slow 82-mph average in second-serve velocity. (Kim's average was 91 mph.) Clijsters d. S. Williams, 64 75.
The Wickmayer-Wozniacki semi-final was played simultaneously before a small crowd. Watching it later via Tennis Channel seemed anti-climactic. As expected Wickmayer was the harder hitter, especially in those stretches where Wozniacki accepted the full defensive mode. Wozniacki showed ability to attack by means of placement using only moderate power, remindful of the great Martina Hingis, but was mostly content to let Wickmayer self-destruct. The Belgian 17-year-old made a good run in the second set, narrowly failing to take the lead at score 4-2, but her own errors again became excessive. Wozniacki d. Wickmayer, 63 63.
Caroline showed just enough counter-punching and attacking to go with her matchless defensive play to make big trouble for Kim Clijsters in their Sunday-evening final. Wozniacki's ability to extend points and often re-claim the initiative from her opponent brought matters to four games all in the first set (following a stretch of erratic hitting by the favorite). The evening was windy, further complicating Kim's problems. But Clijsters stabilized at five games all and rode out the first set with some excellent forceful play. The second-set story was similar, Kim finding ever-greater command as she gained familiarity with her opponent and learned that she could use her power to attack Caroline's backhand. Clijsters d. Wozniack, 75 63.
The triumph of Kim Clijsters warms prospects for the immediate future of women's pro tennis. There was talk that Justine Henin too may return from retirement. A triumvirate of Clijsters, Henin, and Wickmayer would give Belgium high standing among the nations. At U.S. Open 09, Belgium scored third-best among the females in the tally of matches won by nation. (Flipkens won two early-round singles matches to go with the successes of Clijsters and Wickmayer.) Russia, whose women led in the year's other three Slams, was second. U.S.A., led by the Williams sisters in singles and doubles, Huber and Gullickson in doubles and mixed, and Oudin, finished in first place. Oudin's contribution in knocking out several Russians was large.
The many successes at Flushing Meadows of young, lesser-known female stars, many of them teenagers, suggests that the women's sport is in a period of transition, where the new generation is poised to penetrate upward.
In the top quarter of the men's draw, Roger Federer moved through his early matches successfully, though he lost a set in a strained victory over Lleyton Hewitt, who won the first set and contested well thereafter. Robin Soderling also advanced early, defeating American Sam Querrey, who had been the winner of the summer's U.S. Open Series. Robin next defeated higher-seeded Nicolay Davydenko, who retired after winning one of three sets. Soderling and Federer met in the final match of the quarter on a very windy Wednesday evening.
For two sets, Soderling was powerless to find much success, as his best forehand thrusts came back with even greater velocity and perfection in placement. Roger attacked regularly and with little hesitation, and his volleying seemed at its very best. The wind gradually declined in the third set, and Roger's game likewise slowed as the defending champion settled into the patient mode sometimes seen. It gave Robin a chance to find his own aggressive game, featuring blistering rockets to the corners, remindful of his splendid play at Garros and Wimbledon 09. The third-set tiebreaker went to Robin by the narrowest of possible margins, who lost the first four tiebreak points but then recovered amid some fine serving and forehand work.
Serves became increasingly dominant as the fourth set unfolded. Roger's uninspired play persisted as he alternated between forcing and neutral shots. The trouble was that a single forcing blow was insufficient to create much of an advantage, while any soft one could be pounced on by Soderling to initiate his own rocketry. Late in the tiebreak the two opponents exchanged four consecutive aces. Soderling held a set point, receiving, but Federer claimed that point and the next two to capture the set and match. For the full match, Roger led in aces by 28-11 although his average serving velocities were lower than Robin's. Federer d. Soderling 60 63 67 76.
The daytime third-round match-up between Andy Roddick and John Isner on Saturday ended under the lights in a fifth-set tiebreaker. Isner, age 24 at height 6-9, had taken the first two sets behind his magnificent serve. (He scored a total of 38 aces for the entire match; Roddick had 20.) But besides his fine serve, Isner also brought a sizzling forehand and a willingness to use it in first-strike attack, along with excellent volleying skills and surprisingly good agility for a player of his height.
The momentum shifted slightly in the third set as Roddick tightened up his own play and as the precision declined in Isner's forehand. Concentrating well, Andy took sets three and four, his own serving games now almost impenetrable. But the final tiebreaker went to Isner as John stepped up his net-attacking with good success. The victory of the tall North Carolinean, by the narrowest of margins, reflected his intelligent use of all his weaponry along with his excellent mental stability throughout, especially in the deciding tiebreaker. Isner d. Roddick, 76 63 36 57 76.
On Labor Day Monday the potent John Isner serve was again on hand, facing opponent Fernando Verdasco. But the rest of the Isner magic that had stymied Andy Roddick was absent -- the blistering forehands to the corners, his fine volleying work, his largely error-free rallying in extended points. Probably explaining matters was Verdasco's own skills: he was quicker than Roddick had been in reacting to John's forcing blows, cleverer in placing his serves and strokes, less often vulnerable at net or mid-court. The American won the first set, but after that the Spanish star took command. Verdasco d. Isner, 46 64 64 64.
Meanwhile Novak Djokovic moved comfortably through the other half of the quarter, seriously tested only by unseeded American Jesse Witten, 26 -- a husky, hard-hitting former University of Kentucky star. Witten showed excellent power and surprisingly quick feet for a player of his physique, winning the first set and keeping the next three close.
Verdasco and Djokovic met to decide the quarter's representative in the tournament's Final Four. The two seemed closely matched at the outset, neither player at his best. Novak's excessive forehand errors helped out the Spanish player and led to two set points for Verdasco. But it was Novak who eventually captured the first set in a close tiebreaker. Verdasco, now playing his best attacking game behind his strong, lefty forehand, took the second set comfortably. The third set was close, as Djokovic's forehand was now in synch, where the deciding serving break came soon after a bad line call not challenged by Verdasco. (The episode was followed by two angry errors by Fernando.) With Verdasco now walking stiffly between points (i.e., perhaps bothered by injury), the fourth set went to Djokovic fairly quickly. Djokovic d. Verdasco, 76 16 75 62.
The fourth-round match-up between Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils quickly assumed almost herculean dimensions. Rafa could barely answer Gael's blistering quickness afoot and potent right arm, while Rafa's own once-invincible ground game produced too many short deliveries of only moderate weight -- invitations to Gael's artillery, which seldom missed . Monfils broke early, saw Rafa answer, and then quickly ran out the first-set tiebreaker. It looked as if Gael was in control of events.
Two happenings reversed the flow. Rafa went to the sidelines to choose a different racket, one with apparently tighter stringing. Almost instantaneously, the unforced errors that had spoiled his own forcing bids vanished. Meanwhile as Rafa's play firmed, Gael began showing signs of tiredness from the ferocious exchanges, and soon he could be seen with hands on knees, reaching for breath. The scores suggest, though they probably exaggerate the suddenness of, the change in momentum. Nadal d. Monfils, 67 63 61 63.
Rafa's final opponent in the quarter was Fernando Gonzalez, the hard-hitting Chilean who had knocked out Berdych and Tsonga. Nadal was clearly bothered by an abdominal strain, and his serving velocities seemed well below his usual. Nadal survived two adverse set points prior to the first-set tiebreaker, which he then won. Gonzalez survived three prior to the second-set tiebreaker, which was stopped mid-way by rainshowers. Upon the resumption 36 hours later, Gonzo immediately contributed four errors thereby falling behind by two sets. Upset at his sudden misfortune, Gonzalez tried to blast his way through the brief third set without success. Nadal d. Gonzalez, 76 76 60.
This quarter featured Big Six members Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, along with rising newcomer Marin Cilic. The quarter's outcome rested on Cilic's win over Murray and loss to del Potro.
For most of the first set, things went about as expected. Andy Murray played his usual defense-oriented game while Marin Cilic played the more forcefully as both managed to hold serving games. In game ten Cilic, serving, overcame two adverse set points, and in the next game Murray played uncharacteristically loosely, forfeiting the set's only break of serve. Murray seemed bothered by his left wrist, but there was little indication of the forthcoming collapse and departure of the Scottish player.
Little by little, the tall Croatian, 20, now stepped up his play. When his first serve could not find the box during most of the second set, Cilic's second serve, bouncing high to Murray's backhand (where a left-wrist injury would be most exposed), produced softish returns which Cilic then plastered to the opposite corners. The steadiness and the forcefulness of Cilic's ground strokes steadily improved, even as his court movement now rivaled Murray's, whether attacking or defending. Murray never mounted a strong threat, and Andy's horror ended mercifully quickly. Cilic d. Murray, 75 62 62.
Of the several shifts in momentum in matches during the men's event, none seemed more sudden than the one Thursday afternoon when Juan Martin del Potro faced Cilic, both men 6-6 in height. Playing with power and conviction, Cilic played a nearly perfect first hour, in utter command of his opponent to lead by a set and break. It now seemed easier to understand how Murray had failed to dent the young Croatian. But matters turned abruptly, almost instantaneously, in the fifth game of set two. All the magnificent rockets from all parts of the court by Cilic now began finding the net or landing outside the lines. And as del Potro's status on the scoreboard brightened, so too did the accuracy and velocity of Juan Martin's serving and stroking. Stepping up his own game as Cilic's collapsed, the Argentine star would win 17 of the remaining 20 games. Although there were a few momentary derailments, the final verdict could scarcely have come more rapidly. Del Potro d. Cilic, 46 63 62 61.
The strengths of Juan Martin del Potro call to mind those of an earlier champion -- a player whose greatness lay in his blistering serve, forehand, and backhand, all delivered with relentless persistence, battering down nearly all opponents. That player was taller than most others of his time, and like del Potro played with quiet determination, showing relatively little emotion during matches. His strokes, like Juan Martin's, carried relatively little topspin, and his mobility and variety were, while more than adequate, hardly the reasons for his success. That player's career spanned the end of the Cold War and included his winning of eight Slams, including three U.S. Opens. Czech-born, he is now a U.S. citizen and made several tv appearances during the Open as interviewee. His name is Ivan Lendl.
Lendl began reaching the final rounds of Slams at age 21, and he was runner-up in four of them before breaking through at Garros 1983, then runner-up at two more before winning his second, at U.S. Open 1985. By these yardsticks, del Potro, 20, is ahead of Ivan's timetable.
Juan Martin's demolition of Rafael Nadal in the first of the Sunday semi-finals was utterly complete. Rafa was probably at disadvantage from his abdominal injury and from the mental strain of the Gonzalez match, which had carried into Saturday, while del Potro's schedule had been clear since Thursday. The relentless firepower of del Potro pinned Rafa deep and kept him moving to the sides, seldom able to impose his own preferred playing style. It was the Lendl formula at its extreme best. Del Potro d. Nadal, 62 62 62.
Later, in the second semi-final, Federer defeated Djokovic in three well-contested sets. Djokovic's potent artillery in stroking was roughly balanced by Federer's shot-making variety, which included many severely sliced backhands. These offerings, which stayed low and short, sometimes led to errors or put his opponent in difficult circumstances. Federer was the more aggressive in coming to net, winning 29 points in 36 net approaches, roughly double Novak's totals. A reflection of Roger's overall edge was his 10-3 lead in obtaining break-point opportunities, and his 3-1 lead in breaking serve. Federer d. Djokovic, 76 75 75.
It began in the afternoon, the rains of the weekend now forgotten amid clear skies, the temperature in the seventies. It ended in darkness after five sets of the most grueling tennis conceivable, both men close to fatigue, yet both utterly giving their full remaining strengths. The difference in the outcome was clear -- the power of the del Potro forehand, applied relentlessly over the full struggle of nearly five hours. Only in the last few moments, however, did it become clear that all the champion's experience, talent, and magic would not be enough. And as Sir Roger faded slightly, the magnificent weaponry of the young Argentine star stayed brilliant to the finish.
Federer took the first set, playing aggressively, and he continued his successful net forays into the second. The tide turned only narrowly, del Potro recovering from an early service break in the second set, but then yielding the hard-fought third set with two double-faults at set's end. Roger thus led, two sets to one, but thereafter the superior del Potro power began to take even fuller effect. The blistering forehand was assuredly the margin of superiority, but the other assets of del Potro were needed too--his excellent consistency in the always-heavy rallies and especially in returning serve, the potent backhand, the high-bounding second serve. Roger had opportunities to take command in the fourth set, but they all disappeared mainly in his own errors. Probably the critical moment came with Roger's double-fault to start the fourth-set tiebreaker -- a mistake from which he never recovered. Del Potro d. Federer, 63 67 64 67 62.
The Big Six in men's singles emerged intact from the Open. Del Potro has clearly surpassed Roddick within the group and perhaps others as well, soon to be seen. The future looks brilliant for the new champion, though there will be many severe tests ahead. Americans can take heart from the performances of Isner and Oudin. (The U.S. males scored more match wins than those of any other nation.) For Federer, his place in tennis history was only lightly scarred by his defeat, and surely there will be more triumphs yet ahead. But it seems probable that a page is being turned, and that the road forward will be fascinating.
--Ray Bowers
Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.

Green DotGreen DotGreen Dot

Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2015

If you have not already signed up to receive our free e-mail newsletter Tennis Server INTERACTIVE, you can sign up here. You will receive notification each month of changes at the Tennis Server and news of new columns posted on our site.

This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.


Web tennisserver.com
nodot nodot
The Tennis Server
Ticket Exchange

Your Source for tickets to professional tennis & golf events.
Australian Open Tickets
Dallas Open Tickets
Delray Beach Open Tickets
ATX Open Tickets
Mexican Open Tickets
BNP Paribas Open Tickets
Miami Open Tickets
Credit One Charleston Open Tickets
US Men's Clay Court Championships Tickets
Wimbledon Tickets
Citi Open Tennis Tournament Tickets
Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Tickets
National Bank Open Womens Tennis Canada Tickets
Odlum Brown Van Open r Tickets
Tennis In The Land Tickets
US Open Tennis Championship Tickets
Laver Cup Vancouver Tickets


Popular Tennis books:
Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis-Lessons from a Master by Brad Gilbert, Steve Jamison
The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald
The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey
Most Recent Articles:
October 2022 Tennis Anyone: Patterns in Doubles by John Mills.
September 2022 Tennis Anyone: Short Court by John Mills.




"Tennis Server" is a registered trademark and "Tennis Server INTERACTIVE" is a trademark of Tennis Server. All original material and graphics on the Tennis Server are copyrighted 1994 - by Tennis Server and its sponsors and contributors. Please do not reproduce without permission.

The Tennis Server receives a commission on all items sold through links to Amazon.com.


Tennis Server
Cliff Kurtzman
791 Price Street #144
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Phone: (281) 480-6300
Online Contact Form
How to support Tennis Server as a Sponsor/Advertiser
Tennis Server Privacy Policy