Monday, 5 September 2011

USO: Week one Round Up

1) “The match that must not be named”

This one was so bad I still have hangover as I write this.

Quite baffling to realise that up until this match I hadn’t seen very much of Robin Haase. I knew he was an edgy, flamboyant talent who’d been sidelined rather a lot by injury. Beyond that I had heard murmurings of his being a head case.

I now want to “unsee” him.

Not that Murray has anything to be proud of. Nothing these two can do will ever live this down.

We don’t need to analyse  sh*t like this unless we’re interested in what happens when the laws of nature and the moral fabric of the universe break down.

What happened in Ashe stays in Ashe.

2) “Donald not-so-Young”

I suspect my perspective on Donald Young’s journey (there’s a euphemism)  is somewhat different to most Americans. I’ve heard of the brattiness, the run-ins with the USTA, the complexities arising from his parental coaching relationship, of course, but it seems the impression left by this simply hasn’t been as affecting as it has for many on the other side of the pond. Only natural.

Most of the time I simply couldn’t care less, figuring he’s either not worth bothering with or will come of age in his own time.

Amongst other things, this meant I was prepared to vouch for his game without having to disentangle myself from the politics and the snark that I guess is part and parcel of following (and being let down by)  a home grown talent – especially one that makes life so difficult for himself. What I don’t understand is snark for the sake of snark, particularly when it comes from those without any such domestic ties.

When he beat Murray earlier this year, he was mostly derided as ‘Donald Duck’. And Murray was ripped on for losing to ‘Donald Duck’. Few seemed to think it might have had anything to do with his game. 

He didn’t follow up. Very few expected him to. Heavens knows if he’ll do it this time  – I’m not completely sold on the “kid grew up” narrative, he may simply have had another good week. Besides, a 32-year old grinder isn’t the strongest competition.

But that defeat of Murray wasn’t a fluke. And neither is what we’ve seen this past week. And if (heaven forbid) he goes on to beat Murray again in R4, that won’t have been a fluke either.

3) “Dearth, not Death”

If you’ve been paying attention recently, you’ll have heard rather a lot on how tennis is supposed to be “dead” in all of the Grand Slam hosting nations, with the exception, I guess, of France. 


I’m not gonna argue with that. That GB, Aus and the US are going through something of a dry spell talent-wise is common knowledge. Most of what you hear about it, however, is little more than blather. The kind of lazy, cliched blather that more usually goes along with talk of grunting, fist-pumping, and the rankings system.

A dearth is not the quite the same as death: of the 4 American WTA teenyboppers making noise this week, only one, Madison Keys, is ranked outside of the top 400 – two  others are ranked in the top 100 (McHale at #55) with Sloane Stephens hovering just outside at #106.

Were they not to have made a splash this week, were you not nerdy enough to know their rankings and were you to have gone on headlines alone, you simply wouldn’t have known that.

4) Venus Williams

By now we will all have heard that Sjogrens Syndrome is a chronic auto-immune disorder in which the white cells attack the body’s own moisture producing glands. Symptoms include debilitating fatigue and joint pain.

We also know that there is no cure.


With a diagnosis as sobering as that, “Get Well Soon” well-wishes can seem woefully inadequate. A quick Wikipedia search will tell you that you don’t always “get well” from something like this – “symptom management” sometimes being the only option.

Venus has been an iconic feature of the tennis landscape for over a decade.

There’ll be hordes of melancholic fans whenever her career comes to end, whether that’s through ill health or it simply running its course.

Worth remembering, however, that we know next to nothing on how acutely she’s affected. Auto immune illnesses usually have a wide range of severity. Let us hope her case is moderate.

The other thing is that “symptom management” is not always as dreadful as it sounds.  True that this can entail coping with, rather than freeing oneself of, a chronic illness – but it’s also true that the effects of that illness may be mitigated by lifestyle adjustment in less severe cases.

The real question is whether that’s sufficient to compete as an elite athlete in the sport she loves. Doubtless many will desire precisely that. But like a certain 22-time Slam Champion says, her first priority must be to regain her health – with or without tennis. No true fan should wish for anything less.

5) Li No and Petra KvitOver

Never have I felt so wrong about being right :(

Anyone that had been following both players this past year knew there would be a certain amount of “decompression” following their respective Slam epiphanies. My own view was that they were unlikely to reach the quarters and would probably end up going out in an unspectacular tussle in some forgotten corner of week one.

Yes they're both hit and miss. Yes they're both still reeling from the after effects of winning a Slam. Still, a first round exit for two top 10 Grand Slam Champs is unacceptable.

6) Serena v Vika – Match of the tournament.

The first set of this was Serena at her uber-intimidating best. As always, she was out to make a statement – Vika was mere collateral damage and barely managed one game.

The second set was likely the best you’ll see over the entire fortnight.

Some of Vika’s returns of serve may well go on to be remembered as the best tennis of her career. As always her fans are left to rue the fact that where others get serendipity, Vika gets…Serena Williams.

Try and think of the first player that came to mind as drawing the short straw when Serena’s #28 seeding was announced…..YEAH.

No, it doesn’t even surprise me anymore.
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