Tenaciously Tennis

US Open Qualifying: Day Three

The skies opened up, and a beautiful day of tennis ensued at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. On my second visit to the home of the year’s final major, I made my way through throngs of fans to find some of the most promising American talent.

After arriving in the early afternoon — missing Jesse Levine’s heartbreaking loss to Brazil’s Caio Zampieri due to retirement — I arrived at Court 7. The match featured the 21st seed Maria Elena Camerin of Italy against the 15-year old Madison Keys of Florida. Keys began her Grand Slam debut firing away to capture an early break against Camerin. Nerves, however, set in with the players trading breaks until Keys pulled away to take the first set 6-3.

The young American, who trains at the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, hit crisp backhands, while sporting a powerful serve and a strong mental game. Errors started to creep in Keys’ game as Camerin found her form — although never her serve. While the young American lost in the next two sets, bowing out against her 28-year old opponent3-6, 6-3, 6-4, expect success from her in the future once she finds increased consistency.

Also noteworthy about the match and the US Open atmosphere in general: after the first couple games finished, I looked up to see Keys’ mother enter the stands. Another arrival: Tom Gullikson, the brother of Tim Gullikson, who was Pete Sampras’ former coach. I suspect Tom works with Keys in Florida, the state in which he resides. Sightings like this happened for most of the day, once again highlighting the wonderful atmosphere for which the qualifying tournament shines.

With that match over, I went to Louis Armstrong stadium, catching Gael Monfils hitting. In the nearby court, the Australian Open finalist and world number four Andy Murray was practicing with the 25th-ranked Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Talk about a fan-friendly experience — for free!

On the way to see the men practicing, I ran into Melanie Oudin — my second sighting of the Georgia teenager at the qualifying event. In fact, over the course of the day, I saw Oudin a number of times, supporting her compatriot Sloane Stephens and other Americans, among others.

I caught most of the 17-year old Stephens’ match, and I can safely say that she’s another one to watch. Currently ranked inside the top 300 in the world, Stephens enjoyed a good run at the BNP Paribas Open during which she advanced to the second round after qualifying. Although she fell  in the second round the US Open Qualifying for the second straight year — this time to veteran Zuzana Ondraskova 6-3, 7-5 — Stephens hits hard and with passion. She’s still streaky, especially on the forehand side, but with Venus and Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters as self-proclaimed idols, a good volleying technique and a powerful backhand, the Florida-native looks poised to one day get into the top 100.

Once finished, I went to Court Four, which is notable for its easy-viewing access to the practice courts. There, I yet again saw Oudin along with Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova, Donald Young, and personal favorite Patty Schnyder.

I next scanned the courts for another match to view, making it in time to see Serbia’s Ilija Bozoljac close out the first set against Guillermo Alcaide. Bozoljac, known for taking a set from Roger Federer in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon, is an exciting player to watch. He hits a big serve, rips backhand winners, and surprises with his tricky slice and two-handed forehand. After winning 6-3 6-2, a person in the audience — presumably a friend — mentioned his match against Federer to which he replied, “One set and one point.” Meaning: he only needed to win one more set and one more point against the greatest of all time to win the match and move on to the third round. Bozoljac will remember that fact for the rest of his life.

I ended the day by watching parts of Sania Mirza’s match against Elena Bovina. The former top 30 Mirza looked sharp, hitting winners and powerful groundstrokes to win 6-3, 6-3. I also caught Wimbledon junior winner Kristyna Pliskova — identical sister to this year’s Australian Open junior winner Karolina Pliskova and — beat the 18th seed Aranxta Rus. Are the Pliskova sisters the next Williams sisters? It’s too soon to say, but it will be interesting to see how the sisters’ games develop in the coming years.

My second trip to the qualifying tournament ended by viewing Ryan Harrison versus 10th-seeded Rui Machado. The young American advanced in a riveting 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 match filled with heavy support from the home crowd under the blazing lights of the US Open.


Federer Defeats Murray, Acquires Sweet 16 in Three Sets

Roger Federer has done it again: persevering through two intense weeks for the sixteenth time to take home the trophy, and this time as a father. This Aussie Open win, his fourth title, pitted the Swiss champion against Britain’s Andy Murray, who is his country’s only hope to finally securing a Grand Slam trophy after decades of loss.

The match itself was pretty routine for Federer. He showed off his beautiful footwork, his sensational forehand, and the mental game that proved too much to handle for the fiery Murray. Despite the three-set score, there were many chances for Murray to take it to a fourth, including five in the tiebreak. However, he failed to capitalize, proving that, while Murray has the game to win a Slam at some point in the future, he isn’t quite there yet.

Federer’s impressive win announces that the father of two is not going anywhere any time soon. All around him, the top men are battling through injuries, such as Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who will now drop to number four in the world, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Roddick, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and numerous others. At the same time, even if the aforementioned individuals were completely healthy, they could do little to hurt Federer in a Grand Slam, except, of course, Nadal, who still holds the edge in major finals.

With that said, what is there to keep Federer from winning the Grand Slam this year? If he can take the French Open, assuming Nadal is still fighting off injury and the two don’t meet early given Nadal’s compromised ranking, I foresee Federer having an extremely successful year. After breaking Pete Sampras’ record, being married, having two children, and with little more to improve to the tennis world, Federer has absolutely no pressure, and is simply playing for the passion he has for the sport.

Book Recommendation: A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher

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Hello all!

So, I’ve reading a lot lately since being on break from college, and I must say that I realized something this past decade in tennis: there have been numerous high quality tennis biographies, memoirs, non-fictions published. Titles that come to mind instantly include:
* Open by Andre Agassi
* On the Line by Serena Williams
* A Champion’s Mind by Pete Sampras
* Break Point by Vince Spadea
* A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher

As I continue this blog, I will share my recommendations. Feel free to add your two cents!

A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher is the latest tennis-related book I could get my hands on, and I must say it was an excellent read.

The book title states, “Three Extraordinary Men, A World Poised For War, And The Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played,” and although that last phrase may be up for debate (think Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final), I wholeheartedly agree with the other statements.

Fisher does well in capturing the personalities of American tennis great, Don Budge, the German star athlete, Baron Gottfried von Cramm, and the man that was considered one of the first champions of the sport, “Big” Bill Tilden. An excerpt from the novel’s jacket reads, “This deciding 1937 Davis Cup match, played on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, was a battle of titans: the world’s number one tennis player against the number two; America against Germany; democracy against fascism. For five superhuman sets, the duo’s brilliant shotmaking kept the Centre Court crowd – and the world – spellbound.”

I must say, it did particularly well in keeping my interest piqued as well. Through a riveting account of the match itself, with each set marked as a separate section quite creatively, Fisher brings to life the aforementioned individuals that greatly altered tennis for years to come. By reading A Terrible Splendor, I fond myself immersed in the compelling history of the time, the personalities of the players, and the enormity of such an epic match.

My opinion: This is certainly a must-read for sports historians, and tennis fans alike.

A Terrible Splendor’s Official Website

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