With the US Open over some closing thoughts on the final Grand Slam of the tennis season….
1. Stan Is The Man
When the given the chance on the biggest stages, Stan Wawrinka will take it. Don’t believe it? He’s won Slams beating THREE No. 1s (three of the Big 3!). That in itself is hard to do; how many Slams has Andy Murray won beating the Big 3 Yeah, not that many.
And when he gets to these big finals he wins. He’s now 3-0 in finals – remember Murray who started 0-3 or 0-4!
And he’s now just one Wimbledon away from completing the career Slam. I don’t think he’ll get it – his game just isn’t suited for grass – but with Roger Federer out and Rafael Nadal no longer the star he was, Stan could actually win a few more these. And why not?
2. The Match
The match was kind of a microcosm of what we had seen all summer, and I’m talking Djokovic here with the Serb c struggling with his serve, failing to hold. The difference was in Canada we saw Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils and others unable to take advantage of that.
Stan did take advantage. And he overpowered Djokovic keeping Novak on the defense and well well behind the baseline at times. Stan attacked, went for broke and more often than not he connected.
And most of all, unlike just about everyone else in the locker room, Stan wasn’t afraid. He’s won these titles before and he’s beaten Djokovic in big-time matches. And when it came to crunch time he played like a guy who had been there before.
3. Novak’s Niggles?
The last week we saw Djokovic deal with te shoulder(s), the elbow, the wrist, the toenail and in final cramping. Did I leave anything out?
On top of that, he has the personal issues with his wife. To me, that’s the real problem here because I didn’t see any wrist problem in New York and honestly I didn’t see much of anything that was limiting him physically during the the few matches he did play except at the end of the final when he was hobbling about.
Tennis is a mental game. And when you are not right in your head (read: personal issues), guess what happens? Your serve goes to crap and your game falls apart. In my mind, that’s the Novak’s real problem.
4. Djokovic’s Also Facing Father Time
Djokovic’s has played a lot of tennis. He first played the US Open at age 18 in 2005, the same year Stan did. But Stan at 31 is younger than Novak on the tennis court having played more than 200 fewer matches than the No. 1.
And Murray, who’s the same age as Novak, has played more than 100 few matches tan Djokovic.
So for Novak’s age he’s an old 29 and the style he plays is more physical, a grinding baseline type of player than maybe a Federer.
But he’s still got some tread left in those tires. So he’ll win some more Slams. Djokovic will probably rack up another Australian next year but that’s his last Slam before he turns 30.
How many did Federer win after 30? Nadal after 29?
I do think it’s too early to signal a decline (because I think a lot of this sub-par summer is due to the issues at home), but it can’t be dismissed.
5. What Happened To Murray?
Watching that final, Murray must have been kicking himself because I think he too would have beaten Novak. But he was gonged-out by Nishikori in the quarters, and after that maybe he doesn’t beat Stan in the semifinals (though I think he would have).
I know Andy played a lot of tennis, but let’s call it what it is, he played TWO events this summer – Rio and Cincinnati. Is that too much these days?
Since when did winning the Olympics give you automatic pass? If it is that exhausting, then don’t play Cincinnati.
During the summer of 2008, both Federer and Nadal made the Wimbledon final (greatest match ever?) then played Canada, Cincinnati, then flew to Beijing to win gold medals and returned to the U.S. and Federer went on to win the US Open.
Didn’t Kerber play more (also played Canada), yet she was able to win the US Open?
But Andy is a special flower I guess. I wonder what Mr. Lendl thinks.
6. Kerber’s Claim To No. 1
Speaking of Angelique Kerber, good on her for reaching No. 1. Someone had to finally dethrone Serena.
The WTA has been a wasteland the last 2-3 years with no one stepping up to challenge Serena until Kerber this season. Kerber’s isn’t a true great – she doesn’t have a game that makes you go “wow!” and I don’t think she stacks up well against the better players of say 10-15 years ago, but to her credit she’s taken advantage of a pretty think WTA field.
Will she be No. 1 a year from now? I don’t think so. Maybe Simona Halep makes a push or Madison Keys realizes her potential or…
7. Karolina’s Climb
This year it’s Kerber, might next year be the season for Karolina Pliskova? Kerber’s 28, but Pliskova is only 24 and she has a big serve and now she has confidence off the ground. That makes her an instant threat at just about every hardcourt and grass event.
If she can add some better movement to her game – a very big ask – she could be a multiple Slam winner down the road.
And to mentally pull off that win over Serena says a whole lot. Many of the other top names on the WTA would have crumbled, she didn’t.
8. Serena Sayonara
Serena Williams is about to be 35. Talk about miles on your feet, she’s been playing for 19 years! And I think next year is her last.
She won one Slam this year, reached two finals, a very good season, especially for someone her age. But I just don’t think she’ll want to stick around being second or third or even fourth best, because that’s what I think is going to happen.
She’ll still have highs but there will be more lows and more injuries and niggles. And as we are starting to see the younger players like Garbine Muguruza, Pliskova and Svitolina are piling up the wins on her.
And heck, she might never win another Slam. And as the fear factor wears off and as she continues to age, it’s going to be that much tougher.
9. Juan Martin Del Potro Is Back!
So happy to have him back. He was hitting the ball well, got some good wins and best of all it looks like he’ll be part of tennis going forward.
10. The State Of Men’s Tennis
Right now, I have to say it’s pretty weak. Even Del Potro couldn’t believe that he could come back to the tour and do this well so quickly. But when the tour is weak – a lot of guys are hurt or no longer at their best – this is what happens.
As I’ve said before, 4-5 years ago there is absolutely no chance Wawrinka would have been able to win a Slam. He’s not beating Federer or Nadal. Of course, he might beat Djokovic and maybe Murray, but he’s not winning any Slam titles.
But this summer confirms the transition from the Big 4 to the whatever is next underway.
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