Speeding through the Open; Fed shines, Henin dominates, Djokopova
by Abe Kuijl | September 11th, 2007, 12:45 pm

Trying to keep up with all the important matches and everything that’s being said and done during a Grand Slam event is a full time job for two weeks in itself. It gets harder when following the US Open from back home in Europe. It’s possible to catch some of the day games, but eventually the hard-disk recorder has to come in place. The next day it’s playing catch-up before the players awake in New York and start their new day of tennis.

Although it is an annoying way of keeping up with an event, this isn’t so much of a problem if you can sit in front of your TV for two weeks straight. However, when you have a ton of other things to take care of and relatives whom you only see once per year come over for the entire second week of the event, life can be tough for a freelance tennis writer.

I managed to watch everything that mattered over the course of the Open, but nothing is as draining for the mind as trying to take in a handful of tennis matches in fast forward mode, day after day.

So, to end the event in style, here are some quick notes on the precedings of the past fortnight.

King Fed rules again

Despite reaching the Montreal final and winning Cincinnati, Federer was far from playing his best tennis during the US Open Series. Especially in Cincinnati, judging from Federer’s standards, his form was shocking. Not only was his forehand erratic, the Swiss was slow off his feet and escaped in his matches against Baghdatis and Hewitt, but still managed to win the title.

From his first match in New York, it was clear that Federer had refound his form. But even though the three-time defending champion at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was back in his routine of hitting forehand winners from every position on the court and producing the most incredible passing shots, John Isner and Feliciano Lopez managed to claw a set from the No.1 in the early rounds.

In the quarters, Federer did not create a single break point in his first two sets against Andy Roddick, who I’ve never seen play better, but he bested the Rod for the 14th consecutive time, not losing a set in the process.

Next up was Nikolay Davydenko, who continued his routine of going up an early break in a set against Federer, only to lose it 5-7 or 6-7. In the third set, Davydenko broke Federer’s serve three consecutive times, but still managed to drop it. Federer – Davydenko: 10-0.

Sunday’s final was of course a rematch of the recent Montreal encounter between Federer and Djokovic, where the Serb notched his career first win over Fed. Oh, and the Swiss lost the first set in that match after failing to close out a 6-5, 40-0 lead on his own serve.

So, what happened on Sunday? Both players cruised in their servicegames up until 5-all, when a couple of bad misses from Federer handed Djokovic the break. The Djoker took a 40-0 lead, Federer hit a forehand cross court winner on the line, and the Serb was done. Djokovic squandered a total of five set points that game, double faulting and erring his way to a tiebreak. Federer obviously sensed the tightness from his opponent, and coolly kept the ball in play, waiting for Djokovic to make the mistake. It was enough to win the opening set.

When Djokovic challenged a call on his second set point in the second set and saw his forehand was just a fraction long, you just knew where the night was heading. Federer took a two set lead by clinching another tiebreaker, and finished his opponent off in the third set, to become the first player to win the US Open four consecutive times.

Looking back to Montreal, it was Djokovic who kept his cool in the two tiebreakers that match had to offer, but the Serb experienced that staying calm at a Masters Series event is still a whole lot easier than finishing off in a Grand Slam final.

Rafa needs to watch his back

For the past two years the only way was up for Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard was locked in safely at No.2 and was becoming more and more of a challenger for Federer. Even though the No.1 spot has never been within immediate reach, Nadal was starting to look like a sureshot to become the game’s next best player. After another mediocre run on the summer hard courts, partly due to physical problems, and losing to Djokovic in Montreal, Nadal has to start worrying for his No.2 position. Rafa is 2300 points behind Federer in the rankings, whilst Djokovic is only 1100 short of the Spaniard.

Nole getting friendly with Maria

Was it a token of friendship, or was Sharapova’s support in Djokovic’s player’s box on Sunday more than just a thank you for the hilariously matching impersonation from the Djoker? I guess we can get forget about Roddapova now.

Djokovic certainly couldn’t complain about his entourage. There was some guy called Robert de Niro in his box, too.

Justine confirms No.1 position with outstanding run

She was already the world’s highest ranked player before the US Open, but after consecutively beating Serena and Venus Williams in straight sets en route to the title, and not dropping a single set in the entire event, the Belgian showed she is a class above the rest of the field. In the final, Henin outplayed ’04 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who scraped four games together in the entire match. It was the second US Open title for Henin, after winning the event for the first time in 2003.

Henin became just the second player, after Martina Hingis, to beat both Williamses in one event. For Henin, it was the first time she beat Serena on a hard court, whilst she notched only her second career win over Venus in the semis, having taken seven losses out of the eight times they played before. Even though the previous encounter against Venus dates back to the 2003 Australian Open, it’s still a remarkable achievement for Henin to overcome both sisters back-to-back on their home turf.

Kuzzie rises to No.2

Kuznetsova moves up to the No.2 position with her run to the final for the first time in her career. With all the talk about Henin, the Williamses and Serbian sensations Ivanovic and Jankovic throughout the course of the season, that is a pretty remarkable news fact. Saying Sveta will have a hard time holding on to her position would be the understatement of the year.

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13 Comments for Speeding through the Open; Fed shines, Henin dominates, Djokopova

jane Says:

It’s true that -for a while at least- the race to watch will be for the number 2 spot, not the number 1 spot. Federer is so many points ahead of other players that it’ll be hard for anyone to reach that in the near future. Rafa and Djok have separated themselves from the pack below for now.

What may be a factor to the contrary (i.e., that Fed’s spot at the top is in jeopardy) is if Fed loses at any of the 2008 slams – or before the final of the French- and thus loses points while others gain them. Then the number one spot would be up for grabs next year.

Most definitely, to prove himself truly worthy of number 2, Djok will have to win a slam. His strong-point is that he seems to be great on all surfaces (2006 semis at French and Wimbie; finals of US Open and lost to Federer at Australian). How Djok and Rafa match up will be interesting to follow. I think they’re both great players and personalities.

jane Says:

Justine is definitely the undisputed number one on the women’s side – she seems a lot happier/relaxed since she dropped that nasty husband of hers, and her name is much tidier too!

But Janovic will be one to follow next year; in Canada she came awfully close to upsetting Henin, and Henin was playing well.

The Williams sisters remain a factor, but eventually their lack of tour play will hurt not only their rankings but their games too.

Who knows what’s up with Sharapova – I mean her game, not possible romances or fashion choices (although a Djokopova romance would certainly bring reams of publicity to the game). I hope her shoulder is better as I’d like to see how she measures up (to all the newer players), injuries aside.

jane Says:

s/b 2007 re: Djok’s wins

Tejuz Says:

well Jane.. true that Fed will have to defend lot of points at the Slams. But for No 1 race to come alive.. Djok or Nadal has to win those slams. Also Fed has everything to earn at Indian wells and Miami where Djok probabaly has lots to defend. So.. it is not as easy or simple as it seems to better Fed for No 1 ranking. I guess, this year was/is the closest race.

Dancevic FAN! Says:

The U.S. Open has come and gone – Fed still rules the perch, but next year I have a feeling there’ll be a couple more young contenders that start to step up to the plate to challenge more and get in the picture – Murray, Gasquet, Monfils, lots of kids that just need to get their games together a little more.

I was blown away by Fed saving those set points in the final – very impressive indeed. Of course, Djokovic didn’t play at his best – but neither did Federer. A rematch would be great to see.

Justine was incredible. It must have felt great to win in the manner that she did.

Patrick Coony Says:

After the US Open overdose, there is now nothing to really care about until the Australian. Tennis needs to wake up and abandon local tournaments in favor of a league format where meaningful, promotable matches are played throughout the year.

jane Says:

Tejuz –

One thing I hope doesn’t happen – I hope Nadal takes care not to injure his knees further by being too worried about “watching his back” or protecting his ranking or race points.

Djokovic is not far behind, but what matters more is Nadal’s longterm career; I’d hate to see that jeopardized as he’s one of my faves.

Youre right though – next year the issue of defending points will be a big one for the top three. It’ll be interesting to see if Djok continues or even improves his form.

Maverick Says:


On June 16th 2007, I wrote and quote, “Nadal will not be able to keep his fitness at peak performance level, always. As he grows older, Nadal’s fitness level will drop, this is human physiology, in fact, I noticed at the recent French Open, that Nadal was not as fit as he was in 2005 and 2006.
If Nadal pushes to be at peak fitness level at all times than this would be a disaster in making. He will develop injuries and if these injuries become chronic than Nadal’s career will more or less come to an end. Nobody who loves tennis would like to see this happen”, unquote.

This is exactly what has happened. When I wrote what is above, Nadal’s fan slammed me. I was not negatively writing about Nadal, I was merely providing fact based information. I am once again correct.

Nadal has pushed and pushed himself, whatever maybe his motive’s and what has happened now, Nadal has got injured. Nadal has tendonitis, an injury which can become chronic. As many of us know and had seen Nadal got his injury at Wimbledon 2007. I am appalled at the people who advice Nadal, that they did not take Nadal’s injury seriously or maybe it is Nadal who did not take there advice.
While I understand that there maybe peer pressure, pressure of maintaining ranking, financial considerations etc., whatever maybe the situation, it is Nadal’s decision to continue to play with injury. Not a wise decision. It was short-sighted of Nadal and/or his advisors.

A professional player must have the foresight, as to where his or her long term benefit lies. Immaturity on Nadal’s part and/or his advisors has jeopardized Nadal’s position in US Open. This injury may last longer than we may want it to last.

Nadal must take care of his knee tendonitis even if it means staying out of few tournaments or even Australian Open. He should not have continued in US Open and must have taken care of his injury rather than his motive’s.

It is important to have a fit Nadal, than an unfit Nadal. Nadal is lucky that there are no more slam titles til next year, as Nadal will need that much time and maybe more to return to top level fitness. Nadal also needs to think seriously as to the cause of his injury, and the cause, as I dare say again, is the physical game he plays.

Nadal must not continue the physical form of game, otherwise and I hate to say, we will no longer see a good champion like Nadal in slam semi finals and finals, as it happened in the recently concluded US Open, and in two to three years he would hold a ranking below 10 or 20. This would be sad, as Nadal is a champion. He must not risk of jeopardizing his tennis career.

Nadal, your tennis career is your decision. Make the right decision. Listen to your body. If your body says no more, than please stop and take care of it. Few tournaments and even a slam or two is not worth the risk.
I hope and pray, that you listen and take care of yourself. Good Luck

On a separate note I was happy to hear John McEnroe’s comments, when he was asked during Federer vs Djokovic’s game, about Andy Roddick’s tennis. John McEnroe on more than one occasion replied and I quote McEnroe, “Roddick has one dimensional game”, unquote. Finally, some one in the media has listened to all what I have been saying for so many months, of players with service only game. Thank you Mr McEnroe

It would be nice, if people like you, in the media, promote all around game, as our young and upcoming players and USTA, would hear your comments and understand that US tennis needs all around players and not one dimensional players. I know for sure that USA has no dearth of tennis talent. Their talent needs to be harnessed and carefully guided towards all around tennis, rather than the short sighted, media promoted and media hyped version of one dimensional service only game. Thank you all who find time to read my blogs. Have a nice day

Maverick Says:


Women in tennis

When I think of Justin Henin, words that come to my mind are, smooth operator, cool, calm, collected, devoted, super talented, emotionally mature, will power, determination

When I think of Maria Sharapova, words that come to my mind are, will power, determined, talented, inconsistent tennis player and the jealous tennis sister, who cannot but be envious of Sharapova’s very, very good fashion sense and ability to acquire million dollar sponsorships. Hoping there is more to her tennis than what we have seen.

When I think of Jelena Jankovic, words that come to my mind are, smiling red hot fiery hardworking talented player and suave. Good future in tennis
When I think of Ana Ivanovic, words that come to my mind are, suave, sophisticated, talented, strong minded, polite mature Serbian. Good future in tennis

When I think of Anna Chakvetadze, words that come to my mind are, quietly talented, mature, determined, strong minded, polite and ability to hold her ground. Future holds good for her.

When I think of Svetlana Kuznetsova, words that come to my mind are, powerful, hardworking player. Could use some more maturity at crucial times in a match. Will stay in top good ranking for the next two years or so

When I think of Elena Demientieva, words that come to my mind are, talented hardworking. If only her service, not fall apart as the match progresses. Has the talent to do much more

When I think of Serena Williams, words that come to my mind are, had talent, is immature, cannot keep track of her opponent’s, so needs to refer to notebook (poor short term memory, I guess or is there is some other reason), media seeking, blurts out without thinking, emotionally charged, time is up, no more slams. Good add, Aneres. Advice, time to change profession, maybe take up acting or she is a goner.

When I think of Venus Williams, words that come to my mind are, still talented, much better tennis player than her sibling, mature, media seeking (I guess, cannot help it, it is in the genes), still has some tennis left. Good luck

grendel Says:

Serena Williams has said that she uses the notebook to remind herself that she is the best – i.e. it’s a way of gee-ing herself up.

Aabye Says:

See, Maverick, the problem with judging Nadal based on his performance at the end of the year, is that he does this every year: has a ridiculously great first half, lousy (for him)second half. Everyone and their mother has noted that he needs to change his schedule, and I agree. I think that with Nole coming up, that is his best option of maintaining the number 2, and of keeping his hopes alive of winning another slam. It is funny to me, the approach that will allow Rafa to both win on hardcourts and also take less stress on his body, is the attacking game. People say he is a claycourter who is a defender, which does not translate to a hardcourt’s smooth surface. But it, is not like the guy is incapable of playing that style of game. While his serve is lacking, his volleys are decent enough, and his forehand is top three on any surface, yes even hard. When he steps up to the baseline, he plays like he did at Indian Wells against Roddick. When he is behind the baseline, he struggles with his compatriots (Ferrero ’06, Ferrer ’07). He might have been injured against Ferrer, but it was Ferrer who was up at net attacking.

Tejuz Says:

Nadal certainly can play an attacking game … as he displayed in both his wimbledon finals. But then he then becomes more prone to making errors, which he normally does less.. as copared to fed. But i certainly feel he could step up a bit with his attacking game and also revise his schedule.. and he shouldnt have much problems retaining his No 2. Its not a crisis yet for him.. and Djoker has defeated him in montreal after 3 or 4 consecutive losses(clay n grass) and has also beaten him convincingly at Indian Wells. Its still early time for their rivalry and Nadal has his nose firmly in the front.

jane Says:

Tejuz – yep, Rafa’s firmly in front, except I believe Djok has him on hard, in terms of their budding rivalry.

Top story: Rafael Nadal Not Sure About Playing The US Open