Aug/10

28

U.S. Open Scoops & Observations: Friday

Meet with Peter Lundgren to talk about his former charge Marcelo Rios for my next book about the former world #1. Lundgren, now working with Wawrinka, shares some interesting insights and an incredible anecdote about their last meeting in Miami just a few years ago and years after their Lundgren-initiated parting of ways. Sorry to tease but I have to save it for the book which I might even use it as the last paragraph, closing-lasting thought. Thank you very much Peter!

Also when we finish Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei is just getting done with a sit-down TV interview and we set up to do a Biofile after his practice at 3:15 which he is later right on time and we do a wonderful Biofile which I know every tennis fan will love. Mr. Lu is one of those guys that once you meet him you instantly become a fan. Such a good, likeable kid, humble, sincere and genuine. I guarantee you will be a fan of Lu after reading his Biofile which will appear next week on tennis-prose.com.

Roger Federer is on Armstrong with Monfils and coach Paul Annacone. When I get there, Severin Luthi is calling out to Roger from up on the walkway and Roger replies from the court. Can’t exactly make out what the English not Swiss conversation was, but it really seemed like Luthi was asking Roger how to get down to the court level from where he was. But it couldn’t be that could it? I was with two Jersey tennis friends at the time, and we were trying to find seats, so full attention was not on this curious exchange between Roger and Severin. Not long after, the French soccer hero Thierry Henry came out on court and walked across by the net from the tunnel to greet and handshake with his old Gilette TV commercial pal Federer and countryman Monfils. Eventually Henry sits down with Roger on changeovers and the two buddies talk. The big burly guy with Henry must be a bodyguard.

Federer and Monfils play before a large crowd which is really into the action, applauding after some nice points as if it’s a real match. Another friend later tells me Monfils won the set from Federer, which reminded him of the year Nadal lost to Youzhny on the same court. He said he saw Youzhny also beat Nadal that same year in a practice set on the same court. Who says practice sets mean nothing?

But Nadal, for one, is a different player in practice sets. Tennis-prose.com reader Sakhi asked if Nadal tugs on his shorts in practice as he does during matches and on Tuesday I observed (but forgot to report) that Nadal in practice actually bypasses all his rituals of pulling on shorts, fingering hair behind each ear, touching nose, etc. You have to think that those rituals, in some inexplicable way, help Nadal to play better. Maybe playing at your tempo or pace really does make that much of a difference. Maybe someday, like in his autobiography in about 10 or 20 years, Rafa will tell us some of his secrets [smile].

When I pass through the player lounge outside area, Mirjana Lucic is waiting to play her second round qualifying match, with two male members of her team by the bar and Lucic is looking and sounding still ecstatic after her amazing comeback win from 1-5 down in the third set and four MPs down in the tiebreak. Today she plays China’s Shuai Zhang. An animated Lucic is happily telling stories about coaching kids in Florida and then runs inside to see the status of the court she will play on – 5. She comes back outside, almost singing “Match point, match point,” and doing like a dance with her arms at the same time. She is so happy and eager to play, like it’s a party.

The match turns out to be anything but a party though. Lucic breaks to go up 4-3 but then blows the next game to level it at 4-4. After the miss to make it 15-40, Lucic is irate with herself and yells out a blatant four letter word, but does not get a warning. She eventually wins the set 7-6 and cruises easy in the second over the talented but erratic Zhang.

Another headline story of the qualies so far this year is Laura Robson who won again 63 62 over Vesna Manasieva. Robson is looking like a future champ to my eyes. The critics can question her serve and her movement and lack of weapons, but I see something. One more win and Robson is in the main draw.

Fan favorite Nicolas Mahut was at it again with another marathon, this time edging Uladzimir Ignatik, 67 76 62. Mahut attracted a huge crowd at Court 13, which resembled a first week match of the main draw.

Here’s a name I like: Mandy Minella of Luxembourg. Double M won again, 75 76. She’s tall, leggy and cuts an interesting figure on the court.

Out on grandstand, Melanie Oudin was hammering Na Li and looking like the Melanie Oudin of one year ago. Well not exactly. Today she was wearing pink adidas and blue and yellow Barricades (see photo).

Andy Roddick looked sharp on Armstrong with Ginepri who was frustrated enough to toss his Babolat at one point. Roddick loves these New York courts, his game is looking solid at the moment, except for a few volley misses. I like Roddick over Davydenko, Monfils, Djokovic and Baghdatis who are in his quarter. But A-Rod has to worry about Mardy Fish, who has beaten him twice in a row (Atlanta and Cincy).

I didn’t see any of it but Bernard Tomic got KOed by the savvy veteran Noam Okun, 61 36 62. This was hard to believe after how impressive Tomic looked in round one. Tomic is talented but the questions remain. Does he have the head to be a top notch professional?

Ricardas Berankis won again in straights over an interesting German named Bastian Knittel who wore an orange shirt and sported a very nice flowing elongated top spin backhand. Berankis may not be tall or a physical specimen but he is a very, very good player to watch. There are so many superb players out there these days.

Passing through the player lounge outside area for a TV interview with Tennis Channel, I see Federer and Henry sitting and chatting together with two other unrecognized people at a little patio table. It would have made a nice photo but I’m in a hurry to be on time for producer Brad Falkner. I answered some quick questions like Best to never win a slam, Why do you think players come so close and lose the big ones, Did Agassi’s legacy take a hit from his book admissions? It was fun but hard to give sharp answers on the spot, especially as I’m so conditioned to 99% of the time being the one asking the questions. Hope they got some good answers out of it.

After that, Frank “The Tank” (he told me that’s his nickname) Dancevic outlasted Stephane Bohli in a 7-0 third set tiebreak. Frank won the second set 7-5 and I was told was down 4-5 in the third with Bohli serving. Bohli then suffered leg cramps in the tiebreak and had nothing left to battle Dancevic with. Tough loss for Mr. Bohli but a huge win for the talented Canadian lefty.

All right, we saved the best for last. Ryan Harrison did it again with another dramatic, dynamic three set win on Court 11. Harrison defeated Ricardo Hocevar 6-4 in the third. At 4-4, Hocevar was serving at 30-all and missed a very makeable forehand volley into the net, with a big opening cross court. Hocevar was up 30-love in the game too. You knew right then Harrison was going to seize on the opportunity and exactly that he did. Harrison then served it out without any trouble and after match point, dropped his racquet and gave a massive fist pump to the jam packed half-stadium. This guy is a star in the making, ready for his national breakout moment, a natural big match, big court player who thrives in the drama and excitement.

After the match, Harrison signed for kids, took photos, answered questions, replied to positive comments with the politeness and class of a veteran champion. I’ve seen a lot of ‘em and have no doubt Ryan Harrison is a future champion. After about twenty minutes of taking care of obligations with his fast-growing fanbase, Ryan hugged younger brother Christian and they exited the still excited scene. Harrison is in the main draw of the 2010 U.S. Open.

PS: James Blake took Court 7 at six p.m. to hit with the NCAA champ Bradley Klahn who got a wildcard and will play Sam Querrey in the first round. Blake is also a wildcard and will meet Kristof Vliegen. Blake is still working with Kelly Jones while Klahn was accompanied by USTA coach Jay Berger. Word is that Blake will take the rest of the season off after the U.S. Open and will give it another final run in 2011.

19 comments

  • Andrew Miller · August 28, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Laura Robson is awesome! I think she’s an ultra-talented player who is capable of big things. If Aravane Rezai had Laura Robson’s serve, she’d be a Slam champ. If Laura Robson had some of Rezai’s mean-ness and movement and agression, I think Robson would be the Slam champ. In any event, I think if Robson does big things, the LTA will feel vindicated for all the investments in tennis.

  • Twitted by Federer_Blog · August 28, 2010 at 3:30 am

    [...] This post was Twitted by Federer_Blog [...]

  • Sakhi · August 28, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Terrific coverage as usual. F.Y.I.–I seem to recall reading somewhere that Youzhny routinely beats top players in practice–apparently, it’s just that he’s a nut case and can’t hold his head together during a match (clearly runs in the water in Russia, if you recall his earlier head bleeding episode!). Also, great to see coverage of Asian men’s tennis–usually a lost landscape beyond coverage of the doubles Indian population. Wondering if I could get you chaps to write something about the OLDER men’s players on the circuit. So much has been written about Kimiko Date Krumm et al on the women’s circuit, but less about the recent rise of the older lads in tennis (albeit in more discreet fashion–pace here Ivan L’s masters’ win last year, Llodra winning a couple tournaments, and of course the 28+ brigade –Hewitt, Roddick, Federer–that appear to be making some noise again). With all the focus on physicality and ball bludgeoning, would like to hear more about how the different players approach the role of practice sessions etc. given their age, skill-set and such. We know Fed practices low-key, Nadal practices like he’s possessed, but what about the other boys?
    Ta again.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · August 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    We like Robson a lot too. Supposed to do a Biofile with her today after practice. Llodra is definitely a target to Biofile during the tournament also. Got Ljubicic several years ago – he is one of the best and smartest interviews of ALL sports.

  • Andrew Miller · August 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Any word on Bradley Klahn? He has the U.S. wildcard after winning the NCAA’s, he’s lefty and from Stanford (a while back, another Stanford lefty did some damage on tour – Johnny Mac!). Anyone scouting him? He seems to hit a huge ball.

  • Laia · August 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Djokovic as usual trains outside the courts in New Jersey, so i guess we’ll see little of him. Damn it. Apparently he has a wealthy friend who lives there and welcomes his stay. You can read all in his diary entry (finally Novak!):
    http://www.novakdjokovic.rs/diary.php?jezik=2

  • NAME · August 29, 2010 at 3:39 am

    “Robson is looking like a future champ to my eyes.”

    You may want to make an appointment with your optometrist.

    Same awful loss as last year. Up a set and a break in the third set of the third round and then just goes away. Her movement is BAD. And she just doesn’t seem to be tough when it counts. Her opponent (too lazy to spell that name) did nothing but out push her and wait for her to miss on key points. I realize she’s only, what, 16 ? But these are not good loses. There is nothing to learn from them other than to question whether she has what it takes upstairs.

    “I didn’t see any of it but Bernard Tomic got KOed by the savvy veteran Noam Okun, 61 36 62.”

    Another kid with huge question marks. Another bad mover.

    I was watching Djokovic play Murray in a practice set today (Armstrong). Forget the shot making. It’s the movement that is just so impressive. Murray, in particular. He is so fast and seems to know where to be heading at all times (contrast to Roddick).

    Incidentally, put me with the practice means nothing crowd. They played to a tiebreaker (sorry, I don’t know who won it because I was talking too much.) Djokovic, as usual, played a bit to the crowd.

    Finally, Kei N. killed Dancevic (though some of the folks at Tennis Canada told me Dancevic has been injured). I was watching Dancevic and thinking what a beautiful, Fed like backhand. I was also thinking another example of why the one-handed backhand is dead and may never be resurrected. You see these guys like Dancevic (and Dimitrov) and the backhand looks so nice but the two-handed is just a far more consistent shot. I think it’s just inherently harder to time a high one-handed backhand topspin return then it is a two-hander.

    One other. Nice to see Larcher De Brito qualify. She seemed so happy to come through. (And she really doesn’t scream like she used to.)

  • NAME · August 29, 2010 at 3:49 am

    “Djokovic as usual trains outside the courts in New Jersey, so i guess we’ll see little of him. ”

    If you’re talking about practicing for the USO you would be wrong. He’s practiced in Armstrong every year since 2007, which isn’t surprising as he knows he will likely be playing at least a match or two on Armstrong (and none in N.J.). And he practiced on Armstrong today with Murray.

    That makes three years in a row (I can’t vouch for 2006 or 2005 (his first year in the main draw). I was more into the matches then the practice. Now I like the practice. Especially Nadal who, as noted above, only has one speed. Full out.

  • Andrew Miller · August 29, 2010 at 4:22 am

    Oh man. Bradley Klahn will be out the tournament in no time flat with a match-up against Querrey.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · August 29, 2010 at 4:46 am

    * Djokovic stays in Alpine/Cresskill NJ with a really wealthy family that has like a compound of homes for all the families. They have an indoor court at the house. Sampras and other top players used to hit there too. Players practice at the US Open site and even more on top of that. It’s not like they roll out of bed, drive to Flushing, warm up and start playing.I reckon there’s a lot more hitting and preparation than most imagine. Remember one of the old era greats said he would play five practice sets BEFORE playing his grand slam best of five match – which could total ten sets in one day. These players are so sharp, with pinpoint timing.

    * Klahn looked steady with a two hander and could drive the flat shots too. He looked a bit like Melzer, if I would name one player he resembled.

    * We’ll see about Robson. My gut feelings are pretty accurate in boxing and tennis. We should know in about 3 years what she has.

  • NAME · August 29, 2010 at 5:07 am

    I wasn’t suggesting they don’t play elsewhere. Borg used to stay on LI (I think somewhere in Kings Point).

    The point was a response to the poster suggesting you won’t see him around FM. Djokovic spends a decent amount of time practicing at Flushing Meadows. Which isn’t surprising. It’s not the same practicing on an indoor court in NJ. To say the least.

    Yes, time will tell for Robson but I’m with Pam Shriver. That is, I too will be surprised if she cracks the top ten. Problem being movement and mental toughness, not the serve.

    What about an interview with Monfils ?

  • Andrew Miller · August 29, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I watched Dancevic beat Soderling to qualify for DC’s legg mason tourney in 2001 – at the time I thought sheesh these kids are pretty good and they play like pros at 15-16 years old! But I wasn’t sure of either of them making it. For a while it looked like both may make it, but clearly Soderling, who’s made it and made it big with regards to a junior breaking through at the pro level eventually, is superior. Dancevic I just do not understand (or the Canadians for that matter – is this the post depression from Rusedski’s defection or just standard Canadian tennis?) The Canadians seem to do awful well in juniors, but at the pro level absolutely not meeting expectations. Polansky seems like a clever player without stamina; Dancevic seems to have all the shots but no backbone (meaning he’s injured constantly!).

  • Dan Markowitz · August 29, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    The Canadians are disappointing. Dancevic I think is a bit of a flake, and I mean that in a good way, but bad for his tennis game. He doesn’t have a real solid baseline game and in today’s game that spells doom. He’s kind of like a poor man’s Taylor Dent with better movement, backhand, but less power.

    I saw Polansky beat Michael Russell in the qualis last year and thought the guy was damn good, but he’s clearly only Challenger-fare. If Hollywood were casting a tennis pro, Polansky’s their guy.

  • NAME · August 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    FYI, joker practiced on Armstrong again today, with Ferrer. I bumped into Polansky on his way for a hit on a field court. He looked good yesterday in the
    last set against some Australian kid. Some Tennis Canada reps told me Dancevic has been injured so that may explain losing easy to KN.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · August 30, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Dancevic also survived an over 3 hr, 7-6 in third match in Q 2nd match. Who else was there today Name? How were the crowds?

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · August 30, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Name, A Biofile with Monfils was posted at this site earlier:
    http://tennis-prose.com/articles/scoop/biofile-with-gael-monfils/

  • NAME · August 30, 2010 at 4:43 am

    It was a very light crowd today. Like night and day after the madness of Kids Day/3rd round qualies. The calm before the first day storm.

    Players I saw (players listed on the same line were playing together)

    – Kei N.
    – Nalbandian, Hewett, I think Pless
    – Youhzny (with his coach, of course)
    – Djokovic, Ferrer (on armstrong)
    – The guy that almost beat Monfils in that crazy match at the French where they played in darkness but whose name I can’t remember.
    – Gonzo (two days in a row hiding way out on court 18)
    – safina
    – szavay
    - Ivanovic, Safarova (on armstrong)
    – Berdych, after Safarova (on armstrong)
    – Fish (grandstand)
    – Cilic (grandstand)
    – Almagro (grandstand)
    – One of the women that won the Wimby doubles this year (can’t place the name)
    – Marta Domanchowska
    – Lu
    – Larcher de Brito
    – Ryler DeHeart

    [De Brito and DeHeart where the last two practicing unless you count Nestor and his partner playing doubles. You don't watch doubles do you ?]

    Other players I didn’t see but people told me they were there. Cistea. Chakvedatze. Radwanska sisters. James Blake (grandstand).

    I spent a fair amount of time watching Cilic practice today. He’s got to break out at a GS sometime, right. Last year I spent a lot of time watching Delpo practice and he did OK. So it’s a good sign if I watch you practice a lot. I also saw a lot of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. No Fed and No Roddick. So I give them both zero chance to win. That reminds me. Soderling was practicing in Armstrong today and I didn’t watch him at all. So don’t bet on Soderling winning.

  • NAME · August 30, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Cistea – Cirstea. Please excuse my other typos. It was a long day with a lot of sun.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · August 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for that Name, sounds like Sunday before day one is a must day to go. I thought for some reason it was mostly empty with few players practicing, most deciding to take the day off, but clearly that’s not the case. Fed probably had most of his practice hours in Ashe. Interesting about Gonzo, he was a fixture on Armstrong and grandstand in recent years passed, wonder why he decided to go out there. Cilic really does look strong and dangerous on hard court, he’s won several HC titles, one or maybe two this year off the top of my head, big win over MUrray a year ago here. He could be a factor in this tournament. The name of the Italian you are thinking who eliminated Monfils at French Open is Fabio Fognini. F-Fo has not followed up that fantastic win with much success since though. What a win it was though.

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