Sep/19

7

Serena Stumbles; Bianca Leaps

Serena Williams, the 23-slam champion, started the US Open finals against Bianca Andreescu, the ultra-confident 19-year-old Canadian, by hitting an ace out wide. She then proceeded to get broken by Andreescu when she served her second double fault of the game.

Andreescu has matched Serena’s power and pace and added a little more spin. Her forehand has continually hurt Serena particularly when Andreescu goes out wide to Serena’s forehand side. On a number of Andreescu’s cross-court forehands, the 37-year-old American with a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium of supporters including her friend, Meghan Markle, has not even given chase or gotten a racquet on the ball.

Chrissie Evert commentating for ESPN on the match, loves to talk about how well Serena is or isn’t getting out of the corners. In this match, Serena is often not getting into the corner, her forehand corner, against Andreescu’s power and angle. Nothing seemed to be going right for Serena as Andreescu captured the first set 6-3 and quickly went up a break in the second.

Serena’s vaunted serve is way off as she misses again and again on first serves. At one point early in the second set, Serena missed nine first serves in a row. At 2-0 Andreescu hit a long ground stroke that Serena felt was out and she challenged it only to see it called in on the Challenge. Serena did get the break two points later on a ball she hit that hit the net and trickled over on Andreescu’s side.

The Canadian quickly broke back for 3-1 and Serena super-fan, Spike Lee, looked sick in the stands. Serena continued to unravel in the set’s fifth game hitting one forehand return of serve 20 feet long at 30-love Andreescu. With Andreescu going up 4-1, Serena mis-tracked a backhand on a high ball by Andreescu and then proceeded to stand flat-footed as the 19-year-old pffted it back into the open court.

Maybe, looking back, Serena will rue her flawed serving or the fact that she wore a purple dress instead of the black cat-suit she was 3-0 with in this tournament. Two years ago, Evert pointed out, Andreescu just worried about making enough money on tour so she could afford to have her parents travel with her.

Today she beat Williams in similar fashion to her idol and fellow Romanian, Simona Halep, did in winning Wimbledon this year only ceding four games to Williams. Serena went down swinging, but she shot her box a telling glare right before returning serve at 1-5. Her sister, Venus, looked back at her in seeming disbelief. But as much as Serena tried to hit harder and harder, her shots were mostly long or returned with better accuracy by the fleet-footed Andreescu.

Serena with all her slam doubles titles has never been called a “complete player,” but her vanquisher today, Andreescu, the super-confident and super-competitive Canadian, is. She almost matched Serena today in the power department while clearly out-doing her in the serving, moving and touch departments. In fact, in chasing down Williams’ blasts in all the corners of the court, Andreescu might be dubbed the first women’s gymnast-tennis player; an uncanny combination of Nadia Comaneci and Halep with a little Mike Tyson throw in.

Just as it seemed a fait accompli that Andreescu would match Halep in defeating Williams in a slam finals by only dropping four games, Williams rallied with a raucous AA crowd behind her every point of the way, to break Andreescu at love to get back on serve at 4-5. Although, she double-faulted twice, Serena pulled even when Andreescu suddenly continued her nerves-filled tennis by mishitting two backhand returns.

When Serena couldn’t find her best tennis, she cried out to her box, but Andreescu never showed much or any frustration when her play went south. Andreescu steadied herself after Serena won four games straight by hitting a second serve in the corner of the box (after she had to catch her own toss twice) that Serena tattooed into the net with her forehand. While Serena’s backhand is mostly mint, her forehand shows that it can go astray at times.

And then it was over at 5-6 Serena could not get a racquet on two of Andreescu’s returns, one to her backhand side (which was not even in the corner of the court, more to the left quadrant of the court) and at 30-40 on a Serena second serve, to Serena’s forehand side that Serena feebly waved at. Andreescu wins her first slam in straight sets, but my guess is she will surely not be a one-slam wonder. Starting the year ranked No. 152, the athletically zoftig brunette just had too much game for the women’s GOAT, who fell short once again and now is 0-4 in slam finals since returning from giving birth to her first child two years ago and amazingly has not captured a single set in those four finals.

In all four slams finals matches where there’s been a 15-year age-gap between the two finalists (male or female), they younger play has won. An underdog coming into this match, Andreescu shows that youth can prevail and that she might become the next player for the ages! Serena has to be crushed by this resounding defeat and one wonders how she can rebound again and resurrect her slam title hopes.

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173 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 9, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    To hit with Federer is plus for himself and the player, who gets the rare opportunity to hit with one of the best players ever. They get to experience his different shots and his methods in practice. Can’t hurt. Fed also gets to experience different new balls from a young player and he can gauge their mind, attitude, seriousness, potential and he can deduct of they are a future threat or if they are not. It’s a win for everyone, depending on how they manage the experience. Larry Holmes was a sparring partner of Ali. Anthony Joshua was a sparring partner of Klitschko. They became future champions. Lendl used young Sampras to train. Young rejected Rafa’s invite to train in Mallorca. Roddick said in my book Facing Andy Murray, that young Andy practiced with him and asked a lot of questions which Roddick answered, then they played soon after and Murray beat him! So the benefit can go either way or both ways, in favor of the younger or older player or both.

  • Andrew Miller · September 9, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Wouldn’t do it. DY fine, wouldn’t help or hurt. Spend some time in Spain and lose every match ever after, DY was going to lose anyways, he’s never gotten a toehold in his Nadal matches.

    Shapo…don’t do it! Maybe practicing with Nadal is ok. But not Fed Express.

  • Hartt · September 9, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    Andrew, it is too late for Shapo! He practiced with Fed at the Rogers Cup in 2014, when Denis was all of 15. Fed needed a lefty to practice with, and Denis had to pass muster with Edberg first. he said he was very nervous, what if he couldn’t hit the ball? But he was fine.

    Since Roger remembers everything to do with tennis he probably remembers Denis well from that session. I think Denis’ biggest problem was being too much in awe of Fed when they finally did meet in a match. And he would have been in awe whether he’d practiced with Roger or not.

  • jackson · September 9, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Scoop at 8:30 am – “Jackson, I don’t fully believe Rafa, I think he secretly wants that all time major record more than anything, he wants to be the GOAT. He will never say it though, he has to maintain his humble image. Rafa believes he is the greatest and he wants to prove it, mostly to himself. It’s the last challenge he has left in his career. To beat out Roger and Novak.”

    Scoop – you do hyperbole very well but you struggle with nuance. Of course Rafa wants the all time major record – he has said so himself many times and he’s a very very competitive guy in everything he does. BUT, he doesn’t want it at all costs. As he often says, you can’t live your life fretting that your neighbour has a bigger house than you.

    He lives his life to be happy. Playing tennis well makes him happy and all he asks is that he has a chance to compete and if he has his health and his body cooperates, he will usually have that chance and be able to play in matches like yesterday. He’s lost enough close matches in his career to know how devastating that can be but as he always says – the losses make the victories sweeter, and you could see yesterday that he was savouring that sweetness. You can be a good guy and still compete fiercely.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 9, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Jackson, of course he is a nice guy, I have written a book about him and interviewed over 50 people for their Rafa memories and anecdotes and not one single negative story was told. And I have never witnessed one single negative anecdote either. All positive, some astoundingly positive. I respect Rafa as much as anyone. But on the court I think he’s a murderer, a career killer, an assassin. In tennis to be the best you have to be a ruthless vicious killer. No mercy. But the moment it’s over Rafa can revert to his normal non competitive nature, the boy next door good guy. It’s an intriguing balance of how Rafa is such a killer on the court in battle but the total opposite off court.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 9, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Hartt, there is definitely a subconscious element to facing Federer that you are not supposed to beat “the God of tennis” as one player aptly phrased it. Roger’s mystique intimidates a lot of players. But some players like Rafa, Djokovic, Thiem, are not overly in awe.

  • Andrew Miller · September 9, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Agree with Scoop. Nadal as he hits the ball past players is not niece. He may not even be Rafa. No one will convince me otherwise and Nadal wouldn’t refute how competitive he is – he says so in his book that he doesn’t even talk to friends when he played golf with them so they don’t play with him because he’s not the same guy.

    Go ahead. Tell me that’s normal. Tell me that’s everyday just someone wanting to win and all’s fair. No way!

    Tennis is the world’s greatest case study in psychology. Kyrgios nice guy vs Kyrgios…right there. How different are these two guys really as competitors other than one of them fears players when they are winning and the other simply self destructs.

    Sorry to bust bubbles here. Nadal is a great champion perhaps tennis greatest champion TBD. But in terms of a sweet person on the court I don’t trust any of these guys. As a commentator said Nadal beats players as if they stole something from him. He was frightened of losing the other day…facing that down he feels great and pure joy.

    It’s uncanny. I’m sorry no one has gotten to the bottom of that. But it’s pretty plain. Nadal, wonderful man. Nadal the player, just no one anyone wants to play. Which he likes by the way.

  • Andrew Miller · September 9, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Or CocoG description of Osaka, that on the court she expects a battle Royale and a competitor that gives no quarter. But once the match is over a delightful person.

    I’ve seen soccer games where players are nicer at the highest level than the Roman forum that is tennis. And tennis is great. I think there are a lot of other aspects that are healthy and fun whether audience or player

    But at the all time greatness level…yeah they are totally nuts. Like Tom Brady nuts. As in you can’t be that much more ruthless within the regular, adhere to the rules of the sport. Agassi even said his game was designed to make players fall over

    Designed that way. To make players fall over.

    Not nice.

  • Harold · September 9, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    What was more important to Agassi, winning the match, or making the guy die? Sometimes, late in his career, think he lost his way, and tried to make the guy run side to side until he fell over, and the script flipped

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 9, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    They called Agassi, “The Punisher.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 9, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    Just read a wisdom quote last week about how there is a pleasure in causing pain in others. Yes I think agassi somewhat relished inflicting punishment on his opponents as does Rafa.

  • Jeff · September 9, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Yes, Rafa is ruthless on the court. Look at the way he moves, the way he behaves before a match. He is out to intimidate you from the start.

    I honestly think Djokovic is a little lacking in this department. I think some of this is stylistic; you often hear players say how with him they can engage in rallies and feel like they are in the match while the other guys can simply blow you off the court.

    I do think in the head to head matchups with Rafa and Fed, Djokovic found that inner beast mode to match and surpass their intensity. But it is not always there in other matches, certainly in his Slam finals vs. Wawrinka come to mind, some of his Roland Garros losses.

    Djokovic is not nearly as ruthless as Nadal and Federer, bottom line.

  • Jeff · September 9, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    I gotta side with Andrew on the Federer practice. Why do it? To post on social media? You are playing into his hands. And yes, practicing with Federer doesn’t mean you will improve your game necessarily. I just don’t see the benefit.

    This is why I refuse to practice with Roger. 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · September 9, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Ok, Dimitrov practiced with Federer. So it’s not all bad – Dimitrov best Federer in part because no one beats Dimitrov so many times in a row (the Vitas G. rule!) Just know if he’s never played you or if you’re doing well Federer might schedule a practice session just to see what you’re doing! I’d imagine Federer wished he practiced briefly with Nagal and Albot 🙂 Comes in handy – he knows what to expect and how to handle your shots.

    The Nadal high jumps before matches…can’t make this stuff up. If a player isn’t intimidated by that routine, which isn’t normal, then they’ve got something missing!

  • catherine · September 10, 2019 at 12:48 am

    Scoop – I meant Serena hitting with a younger woman player, like Federer as cited above. I’ve never heard about it or seen it happening. Maybe she depends on Patrick’s scouting.

  • Harold · September 10, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Look at it from the young players outlook. He gets to go to Dubai for a week or two. Im sure hes staying in a nice place, taken care of financially, and he probably gets to hit with a hero.

    Fed probably took young Nike guys when he was a Nike shill, now he involved a management company, maybe hes scouting too.

    Golfers practice together Mon. Tues., and Wed before tournaments, old and young ..Young boxers spar with older boxers. In an individual sport, you need to practice with people your level and above

  • Hartt · September 10, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Bianca already has made an impact on tennis’ popularity in Canada. A huge number of Canadians watched the final.

    “Across the border, Andreescu’s win also made history in her home country of Canada. An average audience of 3.4 million watched her match on TSN and RDS with a peak of 5.3 million. Making in the networks most watched tennis match in history. It is also the most-watched broadcast since the Toronto Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championships.” (ubitennis.net)

    In another article it was reported that the viewership was higher than for the Stanley Cup final. That never happens in this hockey-mad country.

    In the US. the figures for ESPN were an overnight rating of 2.7 million and a peak of 3.9 million. Considering that Canada has 10% of the USA population, you can see what a huge deal the match was in Canada.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Tennis is taking over Canada, take a back seat hockey. Not surprised, as hockey is hard to watch now, every game is the same, the eliminated the element of enforcing and fighting and brawls and physical intimidation which was a part of the sport since the beginning, now speed and skill with very little enforcing, protecting and intimidation. Every team used to have two or three or four fighters or “goons” but now there are none. Tennis replaced hockey for me in the 90s, maybe it’s really happening in Canada too.

  • Jeff · September 10, 2019 at 9:46 am

    It’s so true that hockey is in the pits now. Not physical and all about speed and skill and less thuggish behavior. That was an important element. I can’t remember the last time I watched hockey. No surprise that even Canadians are getting sick of it.

    Canada deserves all of this success. It is time for the U.S. to try to emulate the success of Bianca and the Raptors.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 10, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Jeff, I say USTA offers a trade of Martin Blackman, a $5m buyout and quadruple Tennis Canada’s Louis Borfiga’s salary and move him down to Orlando. Canada’s Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington once sold off Wayne Gretzky to the LA Kings, maybe we can outsmart Canada again and get them to sell Borfiga. 🙂

  • Hartt · September 10, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Bianca is certainly getting a baptism of fire in terms of doing American TV shows. She was on the View, the Today Show, Good Morning America, Jimmy Fallon, and Live With Kelly and Ryan. Coco was at the studio for the last one listed, but they did not show her – big mistake!

    She seemed at ease in all of them, quite impressive for a 19-year-old.

    When she gets back to Canada there will be all the Canadian programs to do. Then I hope the youngster gets a nice, long break so she has a chance to let what she has accomplished so far this season truly sink in.

  • catherine · September 10, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Hartt – let Coco do the shows and give Bianca time to meditate. Her manager should start saying No. She’s got a few matches to play before the year’s over.

  • Hartt · September 10, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    According to her coach she will skip Wuhan and her next tourney will be Beijing, which starts Sept. 28. So she can finish the media stuff and still have a good break. But yes, Coco should share the load!

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