After a great Australian Championships, where across the board the very best seem to have won things that would rightfully be theirs, America does not go away poorly represented. Americans won majors in Mixed Doubles and the Juniors with some very worthy play, and very nearly saw the Bryans set the record for most career majors together, further cementing them as an all-time best doubles team. The win would have given Bob and Mike their twelfth major together, 2 more than the all-time team of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming. Unfortunately for the Bryan brother’s, who came up with a clutch tie-breaker and fought off a match point in the Semi’s, they did not make the shots and hit far too many second serves in a match that saw Radek Stepanek and Lenader Paes, who we met at the US Open and who was very cool, the career doubles slam.
The Paes team dominated on points and on serve, holding the Bryans to 0-2 on their only break chances. But the Bryans didn’t play badly, and made only 3 errors in the match. But they didn’t play well enough Saturday, and that is going to happen sometimes in doubles, because the game is moving so quick that you are not going to see a lot of chances to break, and poor serving better right itself quickly or else you are going to get blown out. Make no mistake, the Bryans are an elite doubles team. They have had sustained success, and have been essentially the best team for 6-7 years. They are no doubt going to go on and get their twelfth major soon enough, and then beyond.
Paes and Stepanek were the better team on Saturday, by a little, but by enough, and by and by, had the better tournament on the whole as well. Worthy Champions indeed. And many would say Paes is getting all the credit due to the career slam, but Stepanek was a huge part of this team, coming up with at times brilliant tennis. Here is a very smart player with a great deal of flair. This may be a very good team going forward.
The Bryans get this criticism sometimes that they dropped 2 Wimbledon and French Open finals, and that they maybe should have seized those titles, but it would be crazy to doubt the Bryans well earned status as an elite team. Everyone loses a few finals. Sure we are disappointed whenever they lose, but in total, they have won 11 majors and been to five other major finals. Very rarely does a team give us so much great doubles. That is why real fans of the game have to be satisfied by all the tremendous doubles that we have been treated to by the Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters. Truly phenomenal. The Bryans have also been the absolute lynch pin in Davis Cup, making the US squad a virtual contender every year, and playing and winning on the winning American team in 2007, also secures them as an all-time team, that may well be, at the end of the day, equal or better to McEnroe/Fleming, who played phenomenal tennis on their way to dominating the early eighties.
Taylor Townsend, the Girl’s Champion, the 14th seeded exciting American lefty, played very collected tennis when she needed to, and dominated at net, which she got to 23 times more than the 4th seeded Putintseva. Aside from a period where she seemed to zone out, early in the second set, Townsend thoroughly outplayed the the very ill tempered Putintseva, who would not speak to reporters after the match. Townsend is very athletic, and she plays the right way, which is refreshing. Hopefully she is now considered a top prospect by the powers that be, i.e. Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez, because she soon needs to be on a very professional training regimen, with a top coach. Might be fun, considering her style, that she get Tim Gullickson, who would encourage her to use the approach, which she does so well. As for Putintseva, she has to grow up a bit. She seemed to develop some kind of beef with Townsend, and the behavior was completely unbecoming on this stage. The kid simply can not behave that way at a major final. Good for Townsend, who we want to see more of. She showed great poise, guts, and touch, and the USTA should now fast track her.
Then there’s Bethanie Mattek Sands, who we’ve, let’s say, assessed rather bluntly at times, but who we have also given her due, seeing her play some very brave tennis over the years, and making the utmost out of the talent she has by playing the angles, playing creative, and playing at net, the most exciting ways to play. Sands became a major champion Friday, as she and the excellent Roumanian player, Tecau prevailed, with her doing more than her fair share, denying the very solid team of Paes and Vesnina in straight sets. Sands played sick tennis, making several big crosses, on Paes’s serve, which many men failed to do throughout the fortnight. This is very nice due for Sands, who has truly maximized her tennis, and who does her best to play an interesting, exciting match every time out, and who always maximizes her talent. As we said earlier in the week, if you could put her brain into one of the younger, taller up and coming American females, then we might as a nation be taking the right to steps to get some resemblance of respectibility as singles nation. We are especially referring to Coco Vandeweghe and Melanie Oudin (though she isn’t very tall), though we must note that we also give due to Oudin for winning the mixed at the US Open. She’s another one we’ve killed, but frankly, she plays tiny tennis. She doesn’t try to win, and so, unless she is getting gifted 20 doubles by Sharapova or error upon error by Petrova, she’s not going to win.
Good job by this group to see that the nation had some noteworthy success at this major. We enjoyed it.