Andreescu Fends Off Mertens and Draws One Step Closer to Serena Finals

I tip my hat to both of these young women. Elise Mertens did not just fold in the third set, coming back from 15-40, 2-3 to hold serve and almost climbing back from love-40 at 3-4 only to lose the game on an Andreescu forehand winner. The Belgian, who had not lost more than three games in any of the 8 sets she had won during the first four rounds of the US Open without dropping a set, is also in the women’s doubles semis. But she did not play well at the net in this match.

Andreescu, the 19-year-old Canadian, has had a dream draw rolling into the semis versus Belinda Bencic. But Andreescu had to win third sets in her last two matches. Andreescu looked winded against Mertens who ran down a lot of balls. The Romanian-Canadian best attribute is her ability to go for her shots under pressure. She showed uncanny touch during the Mertens match and a nice lob when the Belgian tracked down Andreescu’s deft drop shots.

The Serena-Svitolina semis is the more appealing match to me over Andreescu-Bencic, but both should be tightly contested lifting the women’s game here when most of the top contenders like Halep, Keys, Stephens and Kerber were all knocked out early in the tournament. The dream finals is the finals the Canadian Open had, but only saw four games of, Serena-Andreescu. The big question in that match would be can the cocky teenager once again unglue the greatest women’s champion the game has ever seen once again seemingly in top form.

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  • Andrew Miller · September 6, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    Medvedev might have the same “tennis algorithm”, shape shifting ways of the big three, who essentially absorb other players’ styles and patterns, reverse engineer them, and pick them apart. This helps the big three to defang any opponent – they study the patterns, determine the opportunities, and execute like there’s no tomorrow.

    Soderling had some of this too, when he took a Nadal beatdown only to then upset Nadal at the French Open. It’s a rare quality and, outside of courage, physical fitness, and quality of game, strategy, is a major competitive advantage for the top guys and the best women.

    Basically: determine pattern, determine opportunities, adjust strategy, change your pattern, upset their pattern.

    I don’t think the players think much about it. It’s like Nadal vs Haase in 2008 I think if I remember correctly – Nadal was down a set to the hard serving Haase. Nadal, noticing his return game failing more than it should, took a step back and then feasted on Haase serves. It was a minor adjustment, but upended the Haase game plan. That can be a shock to players who feel like they have momentum.

    Then again Nadal is a ruthless man as a competitor and Haase shouldn’t have expected his Plan A was going to do the job!

  • Andrew Miller · September 6, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    re: craziness in tennis, wow there’s so much of it. Players are as cordial as they can be because there is a community aspect and it’s important to keep the peace. I don’t think it’s normal at all, this is sanctioned one on one competition! Money on the line. Desire is in full control and there’s no one but two to four players, hitting a ball a hundred mph or hundred plus km per hour past one another for hours. That’s not normal.

    I’ll keep saying it. Part of the reason the big three aren’t interested in retiring because of the thirst for the competition and winning. They would be thrilled – thrilled! to shut out the next next generation and the ones after that. Even the way they talk about things is bizarre, with Djokovic saying he’s motivated by Federer because, with sixteen slams and as a younger man, he sees it’s possible to get more slams than he has.

    In any other venue we’d call that greed. But in tennis we call that a champion.

    Michael Phelps , great champion. But, greedy man. More gold medals. Five isn’t enough. Ten isn’t enough.

    When Nadal lost in the semis of Wimbledon, the first thing he thought probably was oh man, my chance at this Wimbledon title is gone and I won’t get my nineteenth slam here.

    Not I should be proud.

    I didn’t get to the final. If I got to the final, I might have won a nineteenth slam….

    That’s crazy. Crazy! Generous champion. World class diplomat. Great family. Inspiring sportsman.

    But as a competitor? Ha, it’s all on display. Thankfully he fights fair. But he is a vicious competitor.

  • Andrew Miller · September 6, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Kafelnikov was a very intelligent player. Saw his backhand twice in my life. It was beautiful, definitely stood out. Having seen Medvedev, I thought he was very hard to play against, but still beatable. He would lose focus. He also wasn’t a sweet guy on court when I saw him! Complained a lot. I didn’t like that, but his skill was obvious. He was just very, very good.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 6, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Rafa is more than a “vicious competitor.” He’s like an assassin that gets paid by the body. He stole that first set from Berrettini, absolute theft. We saw Moya smiling after, he knew how it would play out from there. Medvedev is like Todd Martin but with Federer’s crisp movement. Lendl and Wilander both agree that of the 3 new young Semfinalists, Medvedev has the best upside and best potential.

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 12:04 am

    Observation: Berretini, Dimitrov lost badly. Great tournaments, but the scorelines for the semifinal suggest they came up very short. However: Dimitrov should push in next slams and Masters. He has work to do in making his backhand more solid – it’s beautiful but not as solid as it needs to be under duress. And Berretini is a fine, fine player. So much variety and power. Berretini coach wants him to push much harder and had thanked Federer for teaching Berretini a lesson at Wimbledon!

    Otherwise, if this kind of semifinal, where we have three players we haven’t seen much of at this stage of the tournament plus one big four member, becomes more common, it’s likely better for the sport. The three way horse race for slams is ongoing, fine. But it’s healthy for the sport to see other players come into their own.

    It comes at the big four expense. But this is tennis – no match is guaranteed. We’ve become too used to predictability on the men’s side. But wasn’t this a great tournament anyways?

  • catherine · September 7, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Thank heavens we’ve got back to tennis. Isn’t it more interesting to discuss than speculation ? And yes, this has been a very good tournament.

    I’ll ignore speculation in future but for anyone who thinks I’m over concerned I might point out that the laws of libel are much stricter in Britain than in many other countries, including the US – so I’m used to that.

    I’m not changing my prediction for today – Serena in two. But Bianca for the future.

    Some older players are beginning to look a little tattered. I’d say the same for both men and women. And I’d guess this USO was the high point for Dimitrov.

  • catherine · September 7, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Better watch out Tennis Canada – Patrick M is on the prowl.He’s full of praise for Bianca and before long we’ll see her hitting in Nice I bet 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Dimitrov…so much flash. He showed again he has a substantial game. Great result for him. But his game broke down, in similar ways as Federer did a few years ago and in predictable ways as well. Messing up on normal points. Goes to show yet again: there’s no substitute for thinking out there – it’s just as important as crushing winners.

    Medvedev isn’t going away any time soon. He’s young and hungry, and he’s motivated by some craziness, for a lack of a better word. Pete Bodo on ESPN had a very good piece on Medvedev. He knows exactly what he’s doing out there. He may not be Kyrgios, but he’s a transgressive and almost regressive character.

    It’s not bad for matches and not bad for tennis. Just that this is what you get with Medvedev – you get the great tennis, and you get a bit of a mean streak, and you get some somewhat uncomfortable situations, you get some entertainment. Call him a watered down Kyrgios, whose play stays very good even as his mouth gets him in and out of trouble.

    I don’t want to tell anyone what to think. I think he’s crazy!!! It’s a different crazy than Nadal, who I agree with Scoop is an assassin as an opponent. Like a super samurai that is also the King, so he steps off the throne, smashes most opponents to smithereens then picks them up, says good job, and keeps going.

    The Tennis Podcast said Medvedev is a disruptor. He is and that’s ok. Just that remember we’ve had a very classy group at the top of the men’s game. It will still be there, but not for all that much longer.

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Just like the USTA can’t have Borfiga, Patrick M can’t have Bianca! 🙂

    She is becoming a national heroine. The Canadian sports channel, TSN, is devoting the entire afternoon to Bianca, replaying her SF match and then having a preview show before the final. A guy on Reddit reported being in a Toronto sports bar where all the TVs had her match on. These things never happen in Canada, where tennis is way down the list of popular sports.

    I agree that Serena likely will win the final, am not sure if in 2 or 3 sets. As Mary Carillo said on the Tennis Podcast, Bianca may be outplayed in that match, but she won’t be overwhelmed. Am looking forward to the match, but will be a nervous wreck.

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Dan wrote something to effect that Medvedev moves well, whether for a big man or anyone. He’s certainly on of the very few very tall and very long players to cover every millimetre of the tennis court. I’m surprised how he is able to do this – when Nadal does it he relies on his speed, anticipation, and athleticism. Medvedev also has that Andy Murray-like quality of fantastic anticipation.

    But he also is able to get there and use those long arms to do something interesting with the racquet and ball.

    I have mentioned before that Rios – Scoop knows this better than I will ever know – in practice would hit the most unbelievable shots. He never played practice points to win them. One was the highest, not kidding, highest lob I’ve ever seen. I think it landed right on the baseline, or not far from it. I’ve never seen another player do that. That’s in the same league as some of the overheads that Medvedev got back the other day from the far reaches of the back of the court.

    If a big player like Zverev showed more variety and defensive skill he’d win slams. But as we all know…there are a lot of ifs out there.

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Progress: Canada may have a second slam champ within a year from today.

    Yep, I’m counting Mary Pierce as Canada’s lone slam champ! Sure she represented France – and before that, the U.S. Well, Seles played for the U.S. and won the Australian in 1996, as a player from the U.S.

    Few mention it. But it’s true.

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Andrew, I wish we could claim Mary Pierce for Canada, but then other countries could claim our best players, so we will have to leave Mary for France.

    During yesterday’s SF Gilbert said that Medvedev knows how to win. I immediately thought, and Dimitrov doesn’t. That proved, once again, to be true.

  • catherine · September 7, 2019 at 8:45 am

    How can Bianca survive that pressure ? I know she seems quite mature but it’s a lot. Maybe she just shuts it out. I hope Coco is there with her today.

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Catherine, yes I hope Coco is there today. With nearly an entire stadium rooting for Serena, Bianca needs all the support she can get.

    I am impressed with how she handles the pressure. She puts a lot of pressure on herself, and now she has the pressure of an entire country wanting her to win. Doubles great, Daniel Nestor, who knows something about big tennis matches, said this final is the biggest match in Canadian tennis history. Talk about pressure!

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Is it me, or Dimitrov lacks the capacity to reflect a little? He was quoted as saying that this was his first time to the semifinals so therefore…I’m always wary of a player that says this. It’s true: best result ever at US Open, great play and even very fine playing for parts of the semifinal.

    Dimitrov doesn’t have the kinstinct in him. Bodo noticed that Medvedev does have it. Nadal after big losses expresses disappointment – he recognizes his excellence but is upset, like Djokovic and Federer. It’s not very blatant, but it’s there.

    Speculation: this is the part of their personality few acknowledge. The desire for more trophies aka toys. Someone won the (trophy, toy, whatever) today. I saw this match as a chance to get the (trophy, toy, applause, win, whatever). I feel awful today to lose but in a few days I will hit the practice court. I have a short memory when it comes to moving on but I keep score. You better believe I am working as we speak to engineer a plan so that the chances of this happening to me next time are far lower. I will get the (trophy, toy, win). I expect to face this player again (soon, in a week, in a month, in two years…whatever it is, I will remember what it felt like to lose to them).

    I think it’s almost always a shot across the bow. As if to say: “congratulations to the victor. Let’s see them do that twice in a row. If they beat me again too good, but I’ll get better again. If they beat me again after that, I’ll get better again. Eventually my day will come, and we’ll see how they feel then. And by that time today will be a distant memory…”

    These guys aren’t normal!!!

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 10:07 am

    By the way, these guys don’t think this way. They are themselves. But it is interesting to me how they write about themselves. Nadal in his book basically says “don’t play golf with me.”

    Their interviews are also revealing. Speech is the index of the mind, so whenever Nadal says after an epic semifinal that he’s disappointed, watch out. We should have seen this coming, he’s in the US open final again and there’s no Djokovic to stop this relentless competitor!!!

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 10:28 am

    I am re-watching parts of the Daniil vs Grigor SF before erasing the recording. Just saw the first set TB, and both players were nervous, making UFEs, DFs, etc., but when it came to the final point, Medvedev was just that little bit better, and Dimitrov made an UFE to lose the TB.

    That is a pattern with Grigor. He can be playing better than his opponent but then lose the big points. Daniil will step up his game on those big points and win them.

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Hartt, I’ve seen matches where one player “outplayed” the other player. But the other player was smarter. Blake vs Agassi. Blake, smart guy. Agassi? Superior strategist. Knew even as he was on the ropes he liked his chances. They had played five times. After losing the second match, Agassi won the next three including their epic at the US Open, which was their last match.

    Agassi wrote in his book that the story was Tennis Won. Agassi said yes, but look at the scoreboard. Says Agassi won. Why? Because he pieced that win together and was proud of his work in putting in a W. If he lost he would have said Tennis Won, which is what Blake said.

    Blake was very good. Sometimes excellent. But in terms of thinking through a match with his go for broke game? Going for winners when he needed a decent approach shot or could have played a little different point, and increased his chances to be up a set rather than down a set and down two breaks?

    The only sentence in which Agassi and Blake belong together is that they played five times and Agassi won four of them, including the last three and the most important match. That match lit a fire in Blake, which is great. And Blake would go on to being top five and the top U.S. player for a stretch, and he racked up two more QFs and a slew of ATP titles. All good stuff.

    But in terms of the greatness factor. No way. Blake tended to show poor strategy. A gifted striker of the forehand and a very serviceable overhead, as well as some nice volleying work. But that was it!

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 11:44 am

    In the ESPN discussion following the match they talked about how well Medvedev thought through the match. McKendry said you can see the wheels turning.

    As you’ve often said, that ability to think through a match is crucial, so that bodes well for Daniil.

    He will be No.4 in the rankings on Monday. That is simply amazing.

  • Andrew Miller · September 7, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Reminds of Federer, who practices with players that are up and coming to get a read on their games before they play! Works pretty well! Federer admitted it in Australia in 2007, how he was frightened by Roddick’s growing SV abilities and losing their exhibition match. He lined up a practice session with Roddick during the Australian open to get a better read and may have lost that practice Tiebreak or set. Then promptly delivered the worst loss of the tournament for Roddick, where Federer seemed to know every move Roddick had. It’s no secret!

    Medvedev has no idea that Nadal watches tape after tape after tape of players to figure out their games. He also played Medvedev already in Montreal, whose surface is similar to the US open. Hope Medvedev is looking forward to facing a guy that does the same thing! And who’s well aware Medvedev is a little tired coming into the match.

    Medvedev probably doesn’t get that Nadal isn’t just going for the win here. He’s avenging his semi loss at Wimbledon, even if Medvedev had nothing to do with it. Nadal was upset because he thought and his team thought the match was on his racquet, given how well he was playing. Nadal won’t make that mistake twice.

    Hope it’s a good match. Medvedev will have to towel off every point to tag Nadal.

  • catherine · September 7, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    ‘How I can beat Serena Williams in US Open final’ by Bianca Andreescu via Tennis Tonic.

    Well that’s that then. Bianca’s price just took a tumble.

    And Duchess Meghan turns up to watch great buddy Serena cruise to her 24th. What a swell party…..

    Meanwhile Coco’s become a star too. Not to mention mother. Luckily Coco’s knowledge of tennis is nil and she will be there for her mistress, win or lose. (I assume Coco is a she)

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    I had seen that interview with Bianca. She has to think she can win the match or there is no point in playing. But I hope she isn’t setting herself up for a fall. I expect Serena will be at her best in the match, and that means she will be very dangerous.

    Yes, Coco is a she.

  • catherine · September 7, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    The ‘interview’ was cobbled together from press conference quotes so it came out sounding a little more confident than I suspect Bianca feels. She knows how well Serena is playing, comparatively, and I imagine she also has absorbed the general feeling that Serena will win. Even Martina thinks it’s going to be a cakewalk. However, after the first couple of games she’ll get a sense of how things are and she’ll concentrate on the match. As I mentioned before, it’ll be a learning experience. They may never play each other again.

    The worst moment will be when she walks out there….

  • Hartt · September 7, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    I was thinking of the video, which was shown on TSN earlier.

    But I think the biggest thing for Bianca is the chance to play Serena.

    “I’ve wanted to play her,” she said. “I remember always telling my team I would have always wanted to play her right before she retires.

    “I’m really looking forward to it. She’s an amazing champion on and off the court. It’s going to be fun.”
    (Tennis Canada site)

  • jg · September 7, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    I hope Serena doesn’t whine about how bad she played, she is getting out hit, she isn’t playing badly just getting outplayed by a player who is in much better shape

  • jg · September 7, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Maybe spoke too soon!

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 7, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Catherine, Andreescu is not bothered by pressure, she thrives on it, it brings out her best tennis. Like I said earlier, NATURAL BORN CHAMPION. It’s all a breeze for her, she loves the process, the battle, the media questions, it’s all comfortable for her. She rolled Serena in Toronto and magically made her laugh after a second earlier Serena was crying. This girl is special not just as a player but her personality, charisma, is inspiring. She has proved all year she is the best. She did it again today.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 7, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Hartt, translation of Bibi saying she always wanted to play Serena…”I always wanted to beat her and I believe I can.” Nobody wants to play to lose. Bibi’s confidence in interviews yesterday was very strong, she knew she could beat her. Her smile and ease expressed that.

  • catherine · September 8, 2019 at 1:50 am

    Scoop – you’ve said what needed to be said about Bianca.

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