Todd’s Tennis Takes: US Open Update, One Week InMonday, September 5, 2011 8:45
Update on the tennis US Open after the first week of play.
Todd’s Tennis Takes – US Open Update, One Week In
One week in and there have been a few interesting developments at Flushing Meadows so far.
Monfils Out – The Dominique Wilkins of the ATP Tour, the 25-year-old Frenchman crashed out in the 2nd round to former US Open finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003, lost to Roddick) in 5 sets. Monfils, who made the Quaterfinals here last year, gave us a world of highlights in only two matches, but his inconsistency and underachievement are maddening for his fans. Three of his highlights were unreal – a jumping, feet touching his butt, behind-the-back shot that went in; a flying, jumping forehand passing shot, and then an improvised, sitting down shot after he fell. Comparing him to Dominique actually doesn’t do him justice, because while the former high-flying, power-dunking Hawk did have a few near equals during his day, there is no one even close to Monfils’s extreme athleticism on the tour, certainly in his gravity-defying leaps. A friend noted he might do better under the tutelage of Brad Gilbert – probably, but I’m not sure Gilbert wants to give up his booth gig.
Juan Carlos Ferrero in 4th Round – As mentioned above, the Spaniard has done surprisingly well here, taking out Granollers after his Monfils take-down, and ready to tackle Janko Tipsarevic in an interesting 4th round encounter Monday. The 2003 French champ has had quite a roller-coaster career since that year. He followed up his US Open Finals appearance with a trip to the semis at the Aussie in early ’04, but then never made it past the 3rd round of a major until Wimbledon in ’05 (4th round). At the French, played on his best surface clay, he has never gone beyond the 3rd round since his title, and here at the US Open, he failed to make it out of the 2nd round for the 5 years following ’03. But then he made the 4th round in ’09 and 3rd round last year. His performance this year comes after playing only 17 matches all year and missing the first three Slams with injuries. Bizarre career, but of those 17 matches this year, 5 were in Stuttgart, Germany, where he won his 16th career title a full 12 years after winning his first at Mallorca in 1999…not too many guys can say they won titles in three different decades.
Donald Young Comes of Age – Young had been tabbed as the next great American star before hitting his teens, and early on he didn’t disappoint, becoming the youngest Junior Grand Slam winner ever when he won the Aussie Open in 2005 (subsequently Bernard Tomic won the Aussie Juniors in 2008 at two months younger). But since then, his career has basically stalled, winning a grand total of 13 career ATP level matches from 2006 thru 2010, finishing last year ranked 128th. But this year, now 22, he seems to be getting it. He beat Andy Murray at Indian Wells in the 2nd round, and has 4 other wins over Top 30 guys as well. Here at the US Open he has two of those wins, over Wawrinka (#14) in the 2nd round, and the veteran Argentine clay-courter Juan Ignacio Chela (#24) in the 3rd. In total, he has now more than doubled his tour win total with 14 match wins in 2011, and next plays Murray again in the 4th round here. Likely to lose, the speedy southpaw will nevertheless jump up from his current ranking of 84 and land well inside the top 70 in the next ATP rankings. Nice to see him start to ‘get it’.
Djokovic and Dolgopolov Finally Meet – As I rank them, the 3 most exciting, interesting, and entertaining players on the tour are Monfils, Djoker, and the 22-year-old Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov. This is his first encounter with the dominant Serbian, but his second matchup against a world #1 (lost to Nadal in Miami this year before Djokovic overtook him in the rankings). Despite his relative inexperience, Dolgopolov is no stranger to high stakes matches at Slams, taking out both Tsonga and Soderling on the way to the Quarterfinals at this year’s Aussie Open before losing to Murray in 4 sets. The diminutive, ponytailed Dolgopolov is a treat to watch flying around the court while hitting stinging groundstrokes mixed in with off-pace backspin and sidespin shots. While he is not likely to take a set off Djokovic, he should make him work harder than he has in his first 3 matches (just 12 total games lost), while also entertaining the crowd at Louis Armstrong stadium.
In other developments, the Big 4 have moved on smoothly, dropping only 3 sets among the four of them (Djoker, Fed, Nadal, Murray) through three rounds. Two of those were Murray dropping the opening sets vs. Robin Haase in the 2nd round before storming back and losing only 6 games over the next three stanzas. Beyond the Big 4, the next biggest names are Tsonga and Fish, and they also play Monday in the late night match on Arthur Ashe – has all the makings of a classic, as both are playing some the best tennis of their lives right now – and the winner likely meets Fed in the quarterfinals next. Things are getting juicy in New York!!
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