USO Day 9: Time to “bring it”.
Time flies when you’re having fun. We’re past the two thirds mark of a slam, well and truly into the make-or-break end of things. The round of 16 is always a round of carnage where the dark horses of the tournament rear their shiny heads to make a statement.
This means only one thing: it’s time to bring it.
The bummer about living in Australia during the US Open is that often you wake up to a radical change in dynamics, as I did this morning – spluttering coffee everywhere when I brought up the scoreboard for the day.
Andy Murray, out of the US Open at the hands of Cilic, with two pretzels to boot.
Don’t lie – who saw this comin’? And don’t give me that “Marin Cilic is always a dangerous player” crap. The guy was losing to Somdev Devvarman a few weeks ago, and has posted horrendous US Open Series results. Cilic was only ever ‘dangerous’ in the sense that he may take a set from Murray, or perhaps fall with a bundle of nerves in an epic 5 setter. But 7-5 6-2 6-2?
MARIN CILIC: I’m feeling tremendously happy. Of course it’s biggest result for me so far. And after reaching this four times last 16, was a little bit relief after I won it.
Now that I don’t have this blockade in my head, I can look forward, and, of course, focus on the next matches.
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Because it’s too easy to gloat when someone’s down, or to cry crocodile tears in hindsight, I’ll try my best to avoid either.
To put it simply – Marin brought it today. He played the sort of risky, lights-out tennis that at least one player is destined to play each slam, be it Verdasco in Melbourne, the Sod at Roland Garros, or ARod at Wimbledon. Somewhere in the top 20, a player is waiting for a miracle wave to carry them to a grand slam breakthrough. And it is up to the top seeds of a slam to stem the tide.
Murray’s passive, counterpunching style of play may work well in the uninspired grind of non-slam tennis, as his way of putting the ball back in play with varying pace and spin takes most of his opponents out of their comfort zone.
But at a slam, when players simply “up the ante” for the big stage, Murray appears almost vulnerable. His passiveness cannot hold up when – against all odds – the opponent with the riskier game starts painting the lines and finding his confidence.
There’s no question that this was just a shockingly bad day for Muzz. The World No 2 had 13 winners for the entire match. Take away the 5 aces, that’s 8 winners off the ground over 3 sets. Hardly shiny stats by anyone’s standards.
Even so, I expected a Plan B, I expected more tenacity, more fire in the belly, I …
Okay, I’ll play nice, especially since it’s conceivable that the Sod might do for Rafa at the US Open what he did for Roger at Roland Garros this year.
I still expect Murray to win his first slam in the not-too-distant future, but he needs to change it up for once, and play with the sort of conviction and authority that some (quite frankly) lesser players come into the slams with. Until then, we haven’t seen the last of these 4th round exits.
Being nice to Murray doesn’t mean tolerating delusion, so I’m bringing this up again, you bet I am: clickey.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola
In other matches, Gonzo and Jojo put on a spectacular display of hard hitting power tennis, which ended with Gonzo’s 3-6 6-3 7-6 6-4 victory.
This is what men’s tennis is all about – charismatic players charming the crowd, striking furious winners. Tsonga had chances throughout the match, but braincramped a little on his shot selection, particularly in coming to the net. I thought he could’ve served harder in the third set tiebreak, but when Gonzo’s forehand is firing, there’s not a lot that you can do.
The match also featured Gonzo with his usual adorable bad-boy antics, which involved smashing a racquet, then offering it to the woman in the front row.
One of the few assholes out there who makes it so easy to love him. Can’t believe this is his first quarterfinal at the US Open since 2002.
And guess who’s back?
As I said, stirred but not shaken – Rafa and Monfils put on a highly entertaining match, with Rafa prevailing 6-7 6-3 6-1 6-3. Typically streaky, Monfils took the first set with some pure entertainment, and spent the next 3 sets fizzing out physically, and acting like the mental midget that he is. 63 unforced errors to 33 winners for Monfils. 24 a piece for Rafa. Again, not the shiniest of stats, but a more entertaining match than the numbers would suggest.
A big “naw-naw” for those who didn’t think Rafa was going to make it past R16 coming into the US Open.
Back to No 2, order restored in our Fedal universe.
On the girl’s side of things, the two big names left in the game, Clijsters and Serena, both progressed with straight sets victories to set up a semifinal showdown.
AWE to the SOME.
Now bring it!