Means to an end.

The US Open Series, a summer-long game of “what’s the pattern?

We keep an eye on the early winners, the premier tournament titlists. It’s easy to spot the hot players, the ones that go on a streak and head off to New York with a trail of tennis carcasses behind them and new trophies to be used as flower vases back home.

It’s a little difficult to analyse that success rate of the US Open series winners. The “Roger Federer Years” – may there be more to come – tend to skew our sense of just how much momentum carries over to the US Open from the lead up tournaments, particularly the early ones.

The tendency has been that we phrase every victory as a warning shot ahead of the Open. We build every champion up to be a contender for the Crown. Yet with Querrey and Vika taking home the Stanford and LA trophies on the weekend, I wonder just how much of a contender either really is.

Will Sam Querrey clean up the minor tournaments of the US Open Series and take home the cash, Davydenko-styled? Will Victoria Azarenka be the Caroline Wozniacki of 2009? And does she have the Carpe Diem instincts of  Serena, Masha, Rafa, Fed or even del Potro, and seize any slight chance she gets for her maiden slam?


I’m staying off those bandwagons for now.

“I’ve got to be happy getting to the final and having chances to win. I didn’t play my best tennis. Just tired.” – Andy Murray, after losing the final in Los Angeles.

Poor Ahndee. It’s so tiring firing coaches and taking a month off from playing tournaments.

Not much to say on Ahndee and Maria’s losses: can’t be too down on a run to the final, but the truth is, both have been playing uninspired tennis all week, and both looked like they’ve got nothing left to give, or rather, they’ve got nothing left that they’d want to give, by the end of the tournament. It’s too early in the hard court season to succumb to this shit, perk up folks.

If the US Open series is merely means to an end for the ambitious, the spattering of tournaments left in Europe are means to nothing but a fruitful trip to Louis Vuitton. Congratulations to our winners – JCF (def Potato Star Ace 6-4 6-4 in Umag) and Nastya Pavs (def Vesnina 5-7 7-5 6-4 in Istanbul); Nicolas Almago, who defeated an ailing Gasquet 7-5 6-1 in Gstaad and got his genuine Swiss alpine rock.

“My goal for the rest of the season is to reach the Top 10 and stay there.” – Nicolas Almagro.

Lofty goals for a minion. Looks like the US Open series ain’t the only place to be for the ambitious.

xx doots

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12 responses to “Means to an end.”

  1. marcoiac says :

    the remarkable thing about querrey’s run to the defense of his title is that he was on the verge of losing three times. he was in serious trouble with schuttler, he was multiple times in serious trouble with janko (i am still amazed janko lost that one), and faced match point with andy. he seemed quite relaxed in all those situations. a real so-cal boy. it’s a good thing not to tense up much, but i wonder if it’s also a limitation when it comes to the big trophies. you wanna feel some urgency.

    • TennisAce says :

      I used to agree with that premise that he needs to show some urgency and some fight, but I tend to look at Querrey as a duck swimming. You know, everything looks calm up top but underneath the water, the feet are moving like crazy. Querrey may seem very laconic on the surface, but I think deep down his heart is racing, the tennis brain inside his skull is spinning. He is trying out there, he just does not emote.

      It is the same thing with Fed. People said he made it look so easy because he was not fist pumping or jonesing himself up or even sweating. However, deep down inside you knew, if you were a fan, that he wanted this and that he was fighting with everything he had. I think the same thing is happening with Querrey.

      Coming back from losing a tournament on 3 different ocassions says a lot about what is going on deep inside.

      • marcoiac says :

        i hadn’t thought about that, your analysis rings true to me. and sam’s game is getting more and more solid, and he can really hurt his opponents with the FH.

      • dootsiez says :

        Good point re Querrey, TennisAce. When it comes to fight and “urgency”, as Marco put it, we shouldn’t judge a player by their grunt, or fistpump or just outside appearance, or declarations of ambition.

        But there’s something else involved as well – a killer instinct. Be it Fed or Rafa, or any other player, you know it when they go in for the kill. Even Francesca Schiavone at the French for example, that was essentially the difference between her and Stosur in the final. I’m not sure that I’ve seen it in either Querrey or Azarenka. That said, I never saw it in Schiavone until that day.

  2. Jack says :

    I’m not really sure what to expect from Maria at the moment. As a fan, I obviously want her to win every tournament she enters….but I do try to be realistic sometimes. 😀

    It’s just that I’m still not sure whether she can beat a Serena or a Kim, those type of players, at this moment in time. I mean, I know the media says she’s back but I still don’t think she’s 100% there yet. She has improved as the year progressed but I actually think it may not be until later in the year, or even the AO next year, until she’s truly back.

    So that’s why I don’t know whether to think she can win the US Open this year, or whether to just take each match as it comes.

    • dootsiez says :

      Only one way for Sharapova to win the US Open – pull a hot streak out of her arse.

      Otherwise, I think she’ll need to keep herself injury free til next year to make any impact. Focus on squeezing into the top 8 at this point.

      • TennisAce says :

        Doots, I think this is just about as good as Sharapova is going to get. Reason: After 3 rounds of play at Stanford she started flexing her shoulders and looking droopy. She told Joyce on the changeovers that she was tired. Her serve is constantly under attack and she just does not have the mental wherewithal to dig deep in those moments against a Serena to really pull it out. She tries, but that will to win is just not there.

        Movement. OMG her movement is just awful. I spent most of Stanford watching the feet of players and I started watching the feet of players because I wanted to see for myself just how prepared Azarenka was when she receives serve. You all should really watch her feet and Sharapova’s feet. Azarenka’s feet are 1/2 split step, hit. Every single time, even when she is playing defence.

        Sharapova on the other hand was just run and hit. The only time a split step was done was on the return shot. She was totally out of position for most of her matches and constantly going for the left hand forehand shot just because she is out of position.

        The players that you have named up top are the elite, especially Serena. She may be able to take out Clijsters, but that is only if Clijsters is having a very bad day at the office. Sharapova has to work on her fitness, movement,start doing more foot drills and start engaging more in matches. This wide eye tired look and droopy shoulders just does not become her.

        • dootsiez says :

          I think that’s a little unfair TennisAce. Let’s face it – Sharapova never won her 3 slams because of footwork. In fact, during her hot streaks that led to her winning 3 slams by the age of 21, what she did so well was precisely the opposite – dictate play without being forced to run all the time. That’s always going to be her weakness, she just has to live with it. Can she improve? Of course she can. I’ve been watching the gal since she was 16. I know what she’s capable of, and at the age of 23, it’s too harsh to say “this is as good as she’s going to get”. She’s got a lot more to offer, I hope so – for the sake of the WTA.

          As for the “wide eye tired look” and droopy shoulders, I certainly didn’t see a lot of that in Stanford, except for during the final. Give the gal a break, she played marathon 3 setters consecutively for the QF and the SF. I’ve seen the Williams sisters a lot less interested than that in their first rounds. I’m not saying that Sharapova will necessarily get on a slam-winning trajectory, but she’ll be a major contender again. I don’t doubt that.

  3. TennisAce says :

    Doots, I have been following Sharapova for about the same time as you. One thing you have to remember is that tennis is an ever changing sport. Players figure out your game and then they devise ways to beat you. We see it happening to Federer, Venus, Serena, Nadal etc. Sharapova’s weapon that allowed her to dictate from the get go was her serve. That is no longer there. The return of serve has become the most lethal weapon in tennis over the past few years.

    We see players like Jankovic, Azarenka and others who themselves do not have big serves, able to blunt the return of the big servers and then get them moving. That is what is happening out there. In order for Sharapova to become relevant once again she has to fix her serve. Her return of serve is still good, but players are also able to get it back deep and get her out of position and get her moving. Once that starts, the moving part, Sharapova either goes for too much thereby making an error or she is run ragged and loses the point. There are occasions when she will win the point, but these are growing few and far between.

    I hope for her fan’s sake that she will become healthy but torn rotator cuff injuries are never easy to get over. Just ask the hundreds of pitchers and pro players who rely on that part of their anatomy to do well.

    If you notice she has been playing with a racquet that has no sponsor logo on it. That racquet is a prototype which is lighter than her usual Prince racquet and is supposed to aid her in serving. In the early part of tournaments it works, but in the latter stages when you have to be using that shoulder all day to hit serves, forehands, backhands, volleys etc it is not easy. The strings that Sharapova’s opponents are using these days put so much spin on the ball that it will also affect her shoulder, coupled that with the slowing down of courts worldwide and the heavier balls now being used, and she is going to have a tough time of it out there.

  4. BS says :

    I do think that Sharapova can be a major contender again. I didn’t see the final but I agree with doots, I’d imagine that she was fatigued having played 2 hours plus in her two matches leading up to the final and they were played on consecutive days too. She’s improving all the time. If she could win either Cincinnati or Montreal I’d be happy because she needs to win a big title. Vika is very talented and I think (and hope) she can win Slams in the future.

    As for Querrey, he played really well for periods during the final. It always brings me joy to watch Muzz lose, so I was happy with this result 😛 I read that Darren Cahill has ruled himself out of coaching him too. If Fed can’t have him, neither can you Andy!

  5. dootsiez says :

    Well you’re entitled to your opinions. I’m determined to be proven right though 😛

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