Aug/18

27

No One Says John Isner Is Their Favorite Player

“No one says John Isner is their favorite player,” my son said to me today as we watched the first set between Izzie and Bradley Klahn. I had to agree with him. It’s kind of like saying Milos Raonic is your favorite player. There is a grandeur to Izzie, how he can implode the serve time and time again deep into the corner of each service box at 130+ mph. The giant North Carolinian has even added some quick attack off the ground, pummeling his inside-out-forehand and down-the-line backhand, but there’s still something mind-numbingly boring watching the top American go through his work day.

The former top American, Jack Sock, was in action today, directly across the grounds from Izzie at the USTA National Tennis Center, pummeling the Argentinian, Guido (the first pro tennis player ever to have a first name of “Guido”) Andreozzi in straight sets. It broke a string of four first-round losses for the Nebraskan and Sock looked stylish in his new Nike outfit of a white and butterscotch color top with blue shorts and the butterscotch Nike slash on them to go along with sneakers with same color scheme (these new outfits always look very chic to you see the next Nike player in the same get-up).

I feel like Sock has almost become a sideshow on the men’s tour. You go to watch him hit his ultra-spin forehand and his touch shots (I’ve never seen a top player–I know Sock no longer qualifies as a top player even though he’s still seeded No. 18 at the Open–hit as many drop shots, all backhands, as Sock drops) and just feel good about his Midwestern good looks, but he’s almost become the American version of Nick Kyrgios, lovable, ridiculously talented, but deeply flawed in a tennis champion total package kind of way. Even Bob Bryan limped in on a cane to catch Sock’s act.

When I asked Jeff Salzenstein, the former top 100 player (actually exactly No. 100 for about a week) about Sock, Salzy said that Sock has the skills to be “The Man,” but it’s almost like he doesn’t want to be the man. He’d rather showcase his skills in lesser matches or playing doubles.

The grounds seemed overly-crowded today and I didn’t step foot in either Ashe or Armstrong the whole day. You wonder to yourself as you try to get through the entrance gates enduring long lines, “How can so many people either not have a conventional work day, 9 to 5, or can get off work?” Once finally in, when I stood alongside Court 11 catching some of the Verdasco v Feli Lopez (is there a player since Guillermo Vilas who wears tighter shorts than Feli Lopez?) I was four rows deep. I wondered if I’d somehow been kidnapped and placed in a tennis tournament Madrid so many people were watching this match. Verdasco and Lopez are both supremely talented, but they’re also so manly and good-looking you feel like you’ve wandered into a Marlboro commercial watching these two Spaniards play.

I enjoyed taking respite from the crowds when watching Adrian Mannarino practice on a side court doing five-ball drills with his coach that either led to a short ball he had to put away or change direction and finish the sequence with a down the line winner. At one point, Manny came to the sidelines to wipe off and I said friendly enough to him I thought (because I’ve always been a big Manny fan, but when addressing a player, especially without a press pass hanging from your neck, you don’t want to appear either too crazy or too bothersome), “Adrian, you can win this tournament.” The Frenchman didn’t even acknowledge me and I was actually kind of glad he didn’t because we both know he can’t, of course.

I did watch a couple of women’s matches, one I don’t remember the names of either player and the other was for a few games in the third set between Donna Vekic and Anastasia Sevastova at Court 17. Vekic fascinates me because she’s beautiful in a vixen-ish type of way, sexy and she either broke up Stan Wawrinka’s marriage or Stan broke it up to be with Vekic. Stan wasn’t at Court 17 to root Donna on after his straight set win over Grigor (I coulda been a contender) Dimitrov, but Stan is at 33 more than a decade older than his girlfriend and it’s all pretty salacious in a sport that used to be real salacious (remember when Johnny Mac married Tatum O’Neal or Jimmy Connors married a Playboy coversheet model or Bjorn Borg married an Italian stripper?). Vekic is actually a pretty fine player, but Sevastova is the Jack Sock of women’s tennis; she’s seemingly never met a drop shot she didn’t like, and she drove poor Vekic nutty chasing her little fluttery deliveries inside the service boxes.

Finally, there was the 5 pm Denis Shapovalov v Felix Augur-Allissime match at the Grandstand. I actually wanted to go see the Kevin Anderson v Ryan Harrison match on Court 17 (all day long, I felt I was being pulled between the Grandstand and Court 17. I like the latter better because the Grandstand sells reserved tickets and if you don’t have one, you sit up higher than you do on Court 17 that doesn’t sell reserved seats) because Harry has that gravitas I always liked in players of my era, McEnroe, Connors, Nastase, Brad Gilbert etc. But my son and his friend wanted to see the two young’uns. I thought the match would be mobbed, but actually at least when it started, there were plenty of seats. The blond Canadian got off to a bad start, spraying balls and making copious challenges. The black Canadian showed off some powerful groundies and some serious wheels, but at 5-3 serving for the first set, he faltered badly and was broken twice by the blond Canadian.

I love watching Shapovalov after he hits his groove; his backhand is quick as a whip and once he started measuring his reverse angle inside-out forehands, Felix really didn’t have much of a chance. I was not really impressed by Felix. I know he’s only 18, but his game, particularly his backhand, needs work and he has to stop looking at his impassive father who sat the whole match trying to avoid eye contact with Felix with his arms crossed over his chest. There wasn’t much life to this match either. Maybe the two best friends didn’t want to act like they were lording it over the other, but boys, the quicker you learn this, the better. Tennis is not only tennis, it’s theater too, and isn’t Michael J. Fox Canadian? I mean there’s an acting background to Canadians, and you boys have to learn emote a bit more or at least have better, more competitive matches.

It’s an interesting experience this tennis attending/watching/walking/searching for a good meal, a water fountain and always people watching, there’s Tom Gullikson, there’s Mats Wilander, there’s Leander Paes. It’s also an exhausting one as you tread from match to match in the oven-like heat, upset somebody cut you off, trying to be polite, but to move as smoothly through the masses as possible while always having to turn your head to answer your son as he implores you with another “Dad” question. I’m amazed by the athleticism, the fitness, the professionalism of these pros, but in a day where there were only four five-set matches, and two of them were fought for by players I don’t much care for, Muller, Sonego and Bedene, Basilashvili, you have to be lucky enough to stumble on the real compelling matches, the best of which, I didn’t see a single point of, between Mischa Zverev and Taylor Fritz, which the American came from two sets to one down to win going away, 6-2.

Otherwise, you just go home and turn on the telly and watch from your couch, Serena beat poor Magda Linette while Serena’s husband, Alexis Ohanian looks so pleased as punch in the stands and Chrissie Evert and Chris Fowler talked in amazed wonder how Serena does it, balancing her roles as mother to Alexis and legend. “Why did they name their baby girl the same name as the father?” my son asked me. I think they call her by her middle name, Olympia, I told him, but I was really thinking, “Now there’s a guy who knows how to emote!”

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25 comments

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 28, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Great report, Scoop.

    You are absolutely right on the money about Donna Vekic. She is one of the sexiest gals on the tour. I really feel bad for Wawrinka to meet someone like her when he was already married because seeing someone like that can end anyone’s marriage. Anyway who am I to judge? Nobody should fault Stan for upgrading to a younger woman, particularly someone as fetching as Vekic.

    The David Ferrer ending was really sad. He was causing some problems and I think he would have won a set. Most people know that the great Fed was 17-0 against Ferrer. But here are some interesting players Ferrer dominated.

    11-0 vs. Fognini
    10-3 vs. Gasquet
    7-2 vs. Isner
    10 for his last 10 vs. Verdasco and 14-7 overall
    4-2 vs. Cilic
    4-0 vs. Raonic
    4-0 vs. Haas
    9-5 vs. Nalbandian
    8-2 vs. Simon
    6-1 vs. Tipsarevic
    7-4 vs. Roddick

    Amazing career for the Spaniard!

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 28, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Scoop how about that point in which Sock did a complete spin for no reason?

    Why does Nike need champions like Fed, Nadal or Serena when it can sponsor a clown show like Sock?

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 28, 2018 at 1:49 am

    I believe Guido Pella, who conquered Cilic at SW19, turned pro before this other Guido so he is the first one.

  • catherine · August 28, 2018 at 2:10 am

    Duke – Stan was already separated from his wife when he hooked up with Donna. His marriage had been in trouble for a while – big age gap between them I think – she was nearly 10 years older.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 28, 2018 at 4:28 am

    Duke,

    Didn’t catch Scoop at the matches yesterday as he said he’d been at the Open for the previous four days and needed a break.

    That is an amazing record against top players that Ferrer–the little engine that could–compiled. He will be dearly missed.

    You’re right, Guido Pella also an Argentine is the first Guido. Still, it’s a name you don’t hear often with a tennis player.

    Sam is another name you don’t hear often enough and you wonder if he’s going through the Sampras/Roddick marriage rut, having just gotten married this year and having a terrible campaign. He retired against Seppi down two sets to one. I don’t know what was wrong with him.

    Delpo rocked DY as was expected. Harry was up two sets to one versus Anderson, but couldn’t finish the deal. I imagine there’s going to be more retirements as it was real hot today and supposed to be hotter over next couple of days.

  • Jg · August 28, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Nice pic of Cal with Paes, who won the doubles last week at Winston Salem, is that the oldest ATP win? Who is he playing with this week, it must be brutal to go 5 sets on these hot humid days, say what you want Fritz must be in incredible shape, Misha Z, who they say is a fitness beast looked beat at the end, but Fritz seemed to up his game. Fritz does have the Sampras mannerisms though, the shrugged shoulders between points and that hand dog look, but then he steps up and hits an ace.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 28, 2018 at 7:01 am

    jg, Paes lost the final with Cerretani his new partner this summer, they also got to a final earlier this year in Doha or Dubai.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 28, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Harry Cicma is a big Isner fan and so is another guy named Pete who frequents here but refuses to comment 🙂 How about F Lo vs Verdasco, one year ago F Lo ripped his old friend 61 in the fourth set to close him out. F Lo made an arrogant comment to his box in the last game, which I was curious to know what he said so I asked a Spanish guy near me and he said F Lo just said to his box that Verdasco “is the worst player in the draw.” Now a year later Verdasco beats F Lo in straight sets. Poetic justice. They used to be pretty friendly but their handshake last year was ice cold and curt. F Lo is tumbling down the rankings and this could be his final US Open direct entry. He will fall to around 80-90-100 range with this loss.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 28, 2018 at 7:07 am

    Duke, the highlights I saw of Sock he looked sharp and hitting the ball cleanly. He looks very good. Didnt’ see the showboat shot. Hey, even Muhammad Ali couldn’t resist adding in the Ali Shuffle now and then. Gotta taunt the opponent and thrill the peanut gallery any chance you can.

  • Hartt · August 28, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Dan, the Felix vs Shapo match had more than enough drama when Felix, in tears, had to retire from the match because of a rapid heart rate. He has been diagnosed with tachycardia, so hopefully they can treat this condition so it doesn’t affect his career.

    I think it is important to judge a player based on several matches. The Felix who defeated Pouille at the Rogers Cup looked like a very different player – all his shots were working, he had terrific foot speed, and he was very impressive. Like many young players he is not super consistent, but at his best you can see the budding superstar.

    In this match nerves got the best of both youngsters, and playing a best friend certainly had an impact on their performance and behaviour. But I never expected to hear someone say that Denis did not emote enough!

  • Hartt · August 28, 2018 at 7:49 am

    I want to say – Milos Raonic IS my favourite player, and, hard though it may be to believe, I don’t think I am the only one!

    But I am not an Isner fan. 🙂

  • Chazz · August 28, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Agree on Vekic, she’s definitely top 5.

  • Chazz · August 28, 2018 at 8:41 am

    It’s hard to like Isner’s game, but it’s easy to like his personality. He’s always giving great, thoughtful interviews. So I’m kind of neutral on John.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 28, 2018 at 8:50 am

    Yes, I was talking to Mats Wilander by the media entrance (not inside the media room alas as Scoop and I were denied at both the Open and now Laver Cup even with the many kind and thoughtful email praises we received that I forwarded to the Usta) and Leander walked by and I asked if he’d take a photo w Cal.

    I don’t know about “budding superstar,” for Felix. He’s certainly very good, but he’s only one year younger than Tatsipsas and Shapo and he’s not nearly as complete a players as those two elders. I watched papa Greek freak drill Tstsi hard yesterday at the net and the kid has great hands and with his wingspan gets everything at the net.

    Felix looks like he’s allergic to the net. The one time he came up that I recall he muffed a volley and another time a drop shot of his didn’t even reach the net. My son said then, “I guess that’s why he doesn’t come up to the net.” Seriously Hartt, Miles is your favorite player? What is it about him? It’s the hair right?

  • Hartt · August 28, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Actually, Felix can play well at the net. You can’t judge his net play on that match. And he just turned 18, he is a full 2 years younger than Tsitsipas and 16 months younger than Denis.

    Felix has a well-rounded game, and he is generally composed on the court. He is tough mentally and has come back to win many matches when he was down. Give him some more time to develop and we will see what he is capable of.

    As far as Milos goes, I have been posting here about Milos for a couple years now. I started following him when he had his big breakout year in 2011, and for several years he was THE guy in Canadian tennis. (Because, as we know, doubles great Daniel Nestor was largely ignored.) Milos was an inspiration for youngsters like Denis and Felix to pursue tennis – he showed that a Canadian player could be successful.

    Beyond that, I like big servers, and Milos, unlike Isner, has other strengths to his game. I think his net play is way underrated – he comes to the net often and has a success rate of about 66%. How many other pros can make that claim?

    Because I see interviews with him on Canadian TV, I get to see a side of Milos that many don’t. The way he talks about basketball like a wide-eyed kid. The way he handles 3 women hosts teasing him. The fact that he started his foundation to help disadvantaged kids when he was just 21, after seeing children in hospital during his recovery from hip surgery. The way he got in some good jabs at Nestor during Danny’s roast. The fact that he is very bright, finishing high school at 16 with top marks, and the guy actually reads books. And his passion for tennis, his father and he working in an unheated tennis facility at 6:00 am during the Canadian winter when he was a kid. Now that is real dedication!

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 28, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Correction, Great report Dan.

    Also record attendance on Day 1 which explains the crowds.

  • catherine · August 28, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Hartt – I think you’re lucky being in Canada and having, as you say, the opportunity to see interviews etc with Milos that others don’t and getting an all-round view of his personality.

    I suppose Milos doesn’t exude ‘charisma’ but he can’t help that and anyway, he sounds pretty bright, probably one of the brightest pro players in the game. I’m sure he’ll use that when he retires.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 28, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Dan,

    One complaint is no pictures of Ms. Vekic?

  • catherine · August 28, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Duke – you can find pictures of Donna Vekic anywhere on the internet if you look.

  • Duke Carnoustie · August 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Catherine, just trying to help the site get clicks and traffic!

  • Dan Markowitz · August 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Talking to top teaching pro about Felix, he said he thought quality of play in match was not real good and Felix plays too defensively. He’s a gifted athlete so he can play so far behind the baseline now, but to take it to next level, this pro says he’s got to play more like Shapo and get right up on baseline.

  • catherine · August 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Petko/Penko 3 setter ends with Penko winning – 60 UEs and 11 dfs. A match between her and Kasatkina would be a sight to see.

    Kerber taken to a t/b first set by Gasparyan, ranked 300 and something. Which Angie wins. Visions of 2017 flashing past.

  • catherine · August 28, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Duke – let’s just call the site Luscious Tennis Babes – plenty of clicks 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 28, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Hsieh wins 63 in the third vs Alexandrova. She lost last year in qualies to Kanepi in close match so her ranking is going up. Hsieh is playing doubles with Sabalenka. They will be a dangerous team.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 28, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    Sandgren cruises to a SS win vs Troicki, his first US Open main draw win. Djokovic down a break now in third, looks tired and like he did for most of 2017. Flat and off. Dan I will take Felix playing mostly defense over Shap’s spraying errors. Most top players like Rafa, Djok and Murray are primarily defensive players.

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