Sunday, 6 September 2009

Flushing Meadows: On Depth and Despair...

"It's tough. I don't know if I've come to a tournament, a Slam, with as much confidence as I did with this tournament and leaving earlier than I want to.

"The fact that I was able to make the quarter-finals last year and I was playing just terrible, and didn't make it past the third round this year, that's just the way it is sometimes.

"That's the thing with sports - there's not always a good reason for it."

Andy Roddick's summation of a day in which he was eventually downed in a 5th set breaker after coming back from two sets down against John Isner.

The funny thing was it seemed a strangely appropriate result in a day that saw both Federer and Djokovic drop sets en route to unconvincing wins, and a day of utter carnage over on the women's side.

But it's also ironic, is it not, that Roddick ended up a casualty having been one of the only seeds managing to play to form.

I've never been hugely thrilled with the tennis the Isners and Ivos bring to bear, having previously termed them the 'wandering monsters' of tennis; but I think that John, on this occasion, deserves his dues.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Visibly fatigued in set four, he could quite reasonably have thrown in the towel, and that's what I thought I was seeing as he squandered point after point off of what should have been meat and veg forehands.

But he quickly composed himself and stuck in there with his uncomplicated blend of big serving and aggressive net play, and in the end was fully deserving of his win. He even whipped off his cap at the end to reveal the look of that likeable lad you went to school with, that your mum insisted you spend more time with, after spending over four hours wandering around looking like an uninvested, and uninvestable cyborg.

"Looking at that match, I don't know who was number four in the world," said Djokovic said. "It was a tough win. For either one it would have been well deserved."

A month or so ago I dismissed the assertion made by a commentator that Djoko was adopting the look and feel of a 'grinder' in this second phase of his career. Now I'm not so sure.

As great a game as Witten played (and yes this is more evidence of the depth in men's tennis), Djoko no longer plays with the same care-free, free-swinging attitude, at the peak of which he was able to hit the lines without so much as an afterthought. It's all a little too measured, which is goes against the grain of his natural flair.

When he does manage to hit a winner these days, it's played with such a large margin for error, that you needn't be a top ten or even a
top one hundred player in order to bring about turmoil.

Shame, really. With his supposedly more aggressive style of play, I still find myself preferring to watch him over Murray or even Nadal when he's in his element. But he's not going to win a Masters event, let alone a Slam, playing like this.

And so we come to Safina.

After the totalling of top seeds we've witnessed over the past few days, there were those that thought this might be the event that finally saw Safina buck the trend.

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It seems cheap and kind of desperate to say I told you so. But I did tellyaso.

That she perhaps had the easiest section of the draw somehow appropriately adds to the tragedy of it all.

Whatever gameplan Zeljko and Safina have forged is in urgent need of reexamination. It may have been, and probably was completely appropriate for her route to world #1. But as we are all now painfully aware, staying there is another proposition altogther. And on the evidence of the last few weeks things have all but run their course.

That said, Safina's still a very talented player fully capable of flourishing in a pestelential field of ne'er-do-wells.

Yeah I said it.

She's also an extremely hard worker, and it would be unfair to suggest that she can't work her way out of this. If this week has taught us anything, it's that Williamses aside, there's not a whole lot of depth to contend with, over which it won't take much for her to resurface.

Though I'll make no attempts to conceal that after spending the best part of this year trying to prop up the remaining dregs of talent in the womens game, a small part of me now wants to return to the B & B of derision and hostility.

I may as well also say that I was almost wishing for a non-Williams victory at this last remaining Slam of the year. Such a result would demonstrate that there's some life, however microbial, beyond the Williamses and bring about a curbing, if not an end, to certain rankings-related discussions and all derivations thereof.

There seemed to be a certain something in the air with the KimPova comeback, and the electricity of some of Elena and Vika's performances this year, that convinced me I wasn't being unrealistic.

Now I'm thinking that that 'something in the air' is a stench emerging from that cesspit of despair they used to call womens tennis. The depth of which some folk strangely continue to believe is what lies behind all the carnage.

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