Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday at the US Open: We are Back!


It was a quiet day yesterday here on "The Outer Courts" and for good reason. Your favorite tennis bloggers had to focus on our regular gigs and cover the college football game that everyone in America was talking about, Kentucky vs Western Kentucky. If you missed that action (and I am sure you didn't since it was on ESPN News and America is always tuned into ESPN News on a Saturday night), then you might want me to write a long wrap-up of the game and the implications of the somewhat embarrassing UK loss. But alas, that is not out mission on this blog, as we instead focus on tennis and the majesty of this US Open. So with that in mind, a quick catch up on what we missed yesterday and getting ready for a Sunday here at the Open.

---  The middle Saturday of the US Open is generally considered what of the signature days within the event and a showcase time for the sport. CBS takes over coverage for an entire afternoon and it is the day that tennis gets its most prolonged look on a major network at any point in the year. Thus it is unfortunate that yesterday might have been the worst schedule for the middle Saturday that I can remember. The matches were all, once again, without flair or drama and the beatdowns that occurred surely made the television viewing audience slip throughout the afternoon. Part of this is because of the general overall problem with men's tennis right now...specifically that people care almost none about anyone outside of the Big Four. The middle Saturday used to have the best stars in the game, playing second tier players that viewers still knew, as they attempted to pull the upset and get into the Round of 16. Not anymore. The second tier guys now are either boring or not covered, and thus we get what we had on Saturday...a snooze fest. But part of the problem is due to the way the USTA schedules this tournament as well. They spread out the first week so slowly that the weekend, which could potentially have Round of 16 matchups under a different format, is instead bogged down with Round of 32 blowouts. Its unfortunate, as today's schedule is much better and Monday could set up to be a day to remember. But luckily for "The Outer Courts" (but not so much the television viewers), the day we missed gave us very little to regret.

---  We did lose two of the final three remaining Americans in the men's draw yesterday as John Isner and Jack Sock both fell to defeat. It was Isner's second straight departure from the tournament at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber, who not only has the big man's number but clearly took advantage of Isner's fatigue after a long summer series. For Isner, it is quickly becoming apparent that his success is opponent-specific...the players whose strength lies with a great return game (think Djokovic) are vulnerable to Isner, whose serve can be so dominant that it is hard to get into any rhythm. But for consistent players whose style is "backboard" tennis, mixed with an occasional winner spliced in (think Nadal or Kohlschreiber), their consistency ultimately wears down the tall American. As for Sock, "The Outer Courts"' player nemesis had a good run, reaching the third round and playing great tennis for all five days. Still this is a bit of a missed opportunity, as Janko Tipsarevic was ripe for the taking and a potential career-making Round of 16 match with David Ferrer awaited. Sock won the first set and was in good position in a tiebreak in the second, when he missed on two crucial points back to back, lot his composure, the tiebreak and then the next two sets in a flurry. It illustrated the major issue with Sock, which his inability at crucial times to maintain his composure when any degree of adversity strikes. Until he fixes that glaring weakness, his play (which was close to the best of his career this week), will always come up short in big matches.

--- I have been in this US Open cafeteria for a long time and it has begun to feel like home. But there are some signs that maybe I need to broaden my reach a bit and move about the premises more. Case in point today when I went to get a refill of my Diet Coke (they have an "all you can drink" Diet Coke fountain drink for $1 a day...something that would make Mayor Bloomberg's head explode but is wonderful for folks like me), I tasted the delicious concoction and thought it seemed slightly flat. Others came after me and I asked them if they agreed and they all said it tasted fine to them. But I knew there was a problem. I consulted with the manager, mentioned my concern and he inspected, finding that they were adding 15% too little carbonation on each mixture. He then said to me, "it takes an amazing soda palate to be able to taste such small differences." And that my friends is what I have...an amazing soda palate. It is the little victories in life that we savor the most.

---  It is early here on Sunday, but we already have a victory for the best set of twins since the Doublemint commercials, the Bryan Brothers. The Brothers Bryan are of course going for a calendar year Grand Slam, and they won a tight one today in three sets, a match that included wild swings of momentum and a crucial save of a match point. The Brothers have done what was thought near impossible, they have made doubles tennis sexy and relevant in today's modern world. As a matter of fact, their match led off on Ashe Stadium and was given primetime coverage on CBS. Doubles as a draw has been dead for years, which is sad to people like me who used the unique parts of doubles play (specifically not having to move nearly as much on each point), to make it my speciality during my playing days. But now thanks to their game, and more importantly, their similar faces, the Bryan Brothers may be the 5th and 6th most popular male tennis players in the game. It is actually quite a remarkable accomplishment and proof of my long time adage...when in doubt, it is always better if you have two of everything. That is true for hamburgers, pets, girlfriends, children and yes, tennis players as well.

That is all for now...Serena and Sloane play today, followed by Djokovic tonight. Much more to come here on "The Outer Courts"