Friday, 11 September 2009

Flushing Meadows: 'TomTom' navigates past 'The Wrist'

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

del Potro d. Cilic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1

A lot of commentators had the Cilic del-Potro match chalked up as an evenly matched affair. I sort of agree.

But their style of play is poles apart.

Juan plays what I call 'TomTom' or 'NavMan' tennis: "first this way then that" style big-swinging from the baseline he uses to quickly subdue opponents before they get a foothold into rallies - not that dissimilar to Shaza or Vika.

But however uninspiring del Potro's game might be, not only is it effective, it's also a work in progress, that on the evidence of this year is evolving incrementally in nicely defined chunks.

The most recent addition has been that big serve that caused such an uproar earlier this year when he stretched Federer to five sets at RG.

Cilic, is something quite different. I believe he's the more talented of the two, tending to play flashier and altogether more daring tennis. He's certainly far more adept at slicing and creating angles than Juan, and from what I could see, was experimenting with changes in pace. When on song, like he was in that first set, he's both difficult to stop, and a pleasure to watch.

When he's not, I usually find myself averting my eyes.

But I don't believe it was his gung-ho, risky, wristy self responsible for the outage that began somewhere in the middle of the second set.

del-Potro must have sensed, that should he hang in there, he might be back in the locker room a lot sooner than he might otherwise have been, against an opponent who hadn't any experience at this level.

It seemed to be a mixture of the enormity of the occasion, and being totally out of gas.

Whatever it was, it ensured the last set was barely a contest.

No matter.

It's too early to determine whether Cilic has really announced himself here, he could after all go back to being a Tsonga-like 'nearly-man'.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

But if Cilic takes anything other than positives out of this, he'll have been too hard on himself.

There's plenty to work on (five set match-fitness for one thing), but plenty to get excited about too.

A lot often gets made (sometimes by me) about the amounts of wrist he puts into that forehand. It's certainly not a pure action, but I'm inclined to think of it as an essential quirk without which such explosivity might prove difficult to reproduce.

Though I would prefer him to lash out less often, perhaps cultivating more of a "medium caliber" stroke he can still use to intimidate opponents much in the same way del Potro does, rather than interfering with the action and doing away with the wrist altogether.

Such a change might result in an unfortunate dousing of his natural flair, which we definitely don't want to be doing.


I have a correction to make.

During a copy/paste seizure the day before last, I omitted the following paragraph from my post:

"Woz displayed an emotional maturity beyond her years, remained unperturbed by the All-American crowd, and kept her own UFE count to a minimum."

That was meant to have appeared before the line:

"Absurdly unspectacular, and exactly what was needed. Thank you very much."

I hope you'll now appreciate that it was Woz's unambitious, underwhelming play that I was referring to as being "exactly what was needed" (as in carefully measured) to get the better of Oudin (who rather hit herself out), rather than indicating any need I might have entertained for Oudin to get bundled out of the event. Not guilty.
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