Ms. Big Shot and The Master (above).
2012 US Open — Men’s Semi-finals
11:10 AM (CBS)
Tomas Berdych: + 170
Andy Murray: – 220
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David Ferrer: + 900
Novak Djokovic: – 1500
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2012 US Open — Ladies’ Final
7:10 PM (CBS)
Victoria Azarenka: + 375
Serena Williams: – 550
All the matches on the slate are of course weather permitting, and right now, with steady rain in the city, it would appear that in the very least, that the start of play will need to be pushed back. Not as far back perhaps if the USTA acceded to the very sensible suggestions this week, championed especially by Novak Djokovic, that the US Open should cover its courts during rain delays. In fact, during an angry quarter-final day of waiting to get on, having spent some 10 hours in the players lounge, a frustrated Djokovic asked why no outdoor hardcourt event anywhere in America has the sense to cover courts during rain, saving what he said would be at least 30 minutes at every delay, as is done at Wimbledon.
Perhaps Master Djokovic has not considered the economic impact of allowing wet fans to find cover and comfort for as long as possible near uber expensive bars and concession stands. We were at The Open during a long rain delay on day one, and we did not see the grounds crew particularly in any rush to get the courts dried once the rain had stopped. By the way, he is Master Djokovic once again, especially on hardcourts, where he has now a 26 match win streak accumulated, and where, in our minds, he picks up his 2nd consecutive US Open title this weekend, and successfully defends his 2011 hard won crown. And the win would cement The Djoker as the best player in tennis two years going, with 5 major titles, 8 semis, and 6 finals in the last 8 majors.
Djokovic often is drawn into matches by the pesky Ferrer, who notably beat Djokovic on a fast indoor surface at the YEC in 2011. But aside from that, Djokovic has dominated this matchup on hards, and he comes in the fresher guy, having seen Ferrer pull out his QF versus Tipsarevic in a 5th set tie-breaker. We like Djokovic to win fairly easily today. It has seemed impossible to get a winner by him, and his defense to offense and transition game are both tops in the sport. All the more impressive are his accomplishments at this Open when considered that he does not get many free points off his serve. Djokovic is by far the best player in the world, shot to shot, and Ferrer can not dictate enough points and will not be able to take enough risks to keep him at bay.
In the first semi, we’d have to like Murray, despite his 2-4 lifetime mark with Berdy in the head to head. Berdych had too much for Federer the other night. It was an ominous development for Roger when Mardy Fish, forever a bastion of disappointment and weakness in our eyes, defaulted his round of 16 with Federer. While Federer could overcome having a 4-5 day sabbatical in a fast court major during his mid to high prime (Haas, Wimbledon), he can not endure a disruption to his rhythm at this point in his career. Are we blaming Fish for Fed’s loss? No. Federer got dictated to by Berdy’s huge forehand, and Federer always loses when he doesn’t dictate points. But Federer uncharacteristically spraying forehands out by 25-40′? Let’s face up to the fact that Federer came out flat and dull.
As far as Fish goes, who else is defaulting in the sweet 16 of the US Open? Fish destroyed Monday’s schedule at The Open by defaulting that match, and we feel the default played some role in Federer’s outcome. Fish is now obviously out of Davis Cup for next week, which is a good thing for the US probably because frankly, we feel both Querrey and Isner are bigger threats on clay, and less likely to implode, quit, or fade away than Fish. So much was made of Fish’s new coach, the whole Mark Knowles dynamic, and really, that dynamic for us is just this: Knowles coddles Fish because Fish is just the sort of milquetoast in need of a super soft touch, showing over the years some of the least resolve we’ve seen on any pro, including Gael Monfils, and perhaps only excepting a Bernard Tomic for his nearly criminally poor effort here versus Roddick.
We don’t care how well Fish can hit a golf ball or a baseball. We are sick of hearing it. Tennis players play TENNIS. Skipping the Olympics because you have bad memories from blowing a gold medal when up 2 sets to one on Nicolas Massu? Even James Blake could potentially offer Fish some tips on grit and on the magnitude of showing up to and at majors and events of Olympic proportion. Disgraceful.
Then on to the female Djokovic, our lady Azarenka. On the women’s side, her shot to shot tennis is by far the best in the game. She painted lines yesterday, used her feet, and out-willed Maria Sharapova, as we expected but no small feat on a surface where Sharapova won her a US Open by flat over powering another much much better player in Justine Henin (2006) once upon a time. The Open is one of the few places where Sharapova can overpower Azarenka, but since Azarenka’s defense and D to O and transition games are so flawless, and her conditioning as well, she takes her rightful place in the final tonight. Where she will probably fall to Serena’s power game, a bitter irony.
Serena at -550 is eerily similar to Serena’s line last year against Stosur, but Serena was just back from injury last year, and so Stosur pulled the unlikely upset. Azarenka is a phenomenal player who is extremely mentally tough now, obliterating the knock on her psyche that persisted until she put Kim Clijsters out of her misery down under and went on to destroy Masha at Melbourne in taking the crown. But the last time Azarenka played Serena, and most of those times in fact, it has been all Serena. There will come a day when Serena hands the mantel over to Vica, but we doubt it’s today. Still, Azarenka is a worthy champ who has had an incredible tournament. Hitting a drop shot at 5 all in the tie-breaker versus Stosur to set up match point? Brilliant and gutsy, and the perfect call, since Stosur had practically sequestered herself 5′ back of the doubles alley in the ad court, where she sets up camp to avoid hitting that ragged, weak 2-handed backhand of her’s.
We’d be least surprised to see an upset in the Murray match, though we think Murray’s defensive ability will negate Berdych’s power. The Murrays, Djokers, and Nadals of the world do not have as much trouble with power and big serving as Roger does, who is almost certain to lose now when overpowered, as he has been at majors in the last few years by Berdych (twice), Tsonga, and Soderling. While power often wins out on a fast hard, Murray obviously countered power very effectively in the Raonic and Cilic matches.
And Murray-Djokovic would be an excellent end to The Open for the men, as Azarenka-Serena will no doubt be for the women, provided that Azarenka can get her hooks into a couple of points here and there, and get to a neutral position somehow after receiving the huge Williams first serve. Just a quick mention of USOPEN.org radio and how fantastic their coverage has been once again here, as it also was in Melbourne and at RG. And we especially like Matt Cronin on that coverage, who provided us more new information about Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in one set than we have gotten all week from ESPN. Cronin’s account of the icy Sharapova-Azarenka was especially candid, humorous, and compelling. It’s not too late to get two decent days out of that app, so download away.
Enjoy the tennis.