Amazing how the USTA stretches a tournament that used to take 10 days in a time before floodlights and tie-breakers. Obviously more days mean more money, but slimmer second week programs. Yet Wimbledon gets it all done in 13 days, without lights and with the middle Sunday off. Moreover the men are properly given a day off between semifinal and final – as at the other three majors. Will the U.S. ever get that right?
OH, SISTER, THAT NAUGHTY LEFT FOOT
Too bad that Serena was too bad. I was saddened to see such a great player disgrace herself.
Even the greatest do dumb things. Had Serena forgotten the warning received when
she fractured her racket after losing the first set to Mighty Mama, Kim Clijsters? The second infraction, drawing a point penalty, happened to be match point. Th-th-th-that’s all, folks.
Had she not tiraded, Serena might have retained her title. Protesting the foot fault was silly. How would she know? You don’t look at your feet when you serve. Then the semi got ugly, and a bewildered Clijsters didn’t have to take another swing. She may have thought it was Christmas. Nobody in the women’s game has earned a defeat so flagrantly.
The $ 10,500 fine is a pittance to a millionaire. A meaningful suspension is more in order, and may yet be given. I was surprised that Serena was permitted to play the doubles final (won by her and Venus) the following day. In 1995 Jeff Tarango’s acting up at Wimbledon resulted in his being barred the following year from the Big W. Might that happen to Serena in 2010 at Flushing? Unlikely that the USTA would value sportsmanship that highly – and, of course, Tarango was expendable with no marquee value.
Now here’s the kicker: Serena’s just-out memoir is called ”On the Line.”
DELPO – NEW PARAGON OF THE PAMPAS
Anyway the fallen (at least for a day) nonpareil, Roger Federer, also didn’t keep his lip buttoned. Hardly noticed was his $ 1500 fine for rotten language during the loss of his championship to the new Paragon of the Pampas, Juan Martin Del Potro.
THE OLD PARAGON VILAS CELEBRATES
The old Paragon, Guillermo Vilas, 57, was on hand to celebrate, recalling his 1977 upset of defender Jimmy Connors, the last championship match in the Forest Hills Stadium before the move to the Meadow. It was wild. Jubilant Latinos invaded the court to carry Guillermo about the arena like a triumphant matador while Jimmy sulked, running into the night and avoiding the presentation ceremony.
Even though Juan Martin was woozily nervous in the first set – it took him 11 minutes to blow the second game, 4 deuces, of the match, clunking 10 first serves – he overcame the jitters and remembered Paris. There he nearly beat Federer in the semis (6-4 in the 5th), and the memory warmed him, blocking out his 0-6 record against Roger. Although the substantial number of Latinos in the full-house of 24,821 didn’t rush the court as in Vilas’s day, their singing of soccer fight songs, and loud urging encouraged him. He fed off them, and by the 4th set the big Argentine with a big, big forehand was feeling bigger than his 6-feet-7 inches while the champ was feeling the heat, and wilting. The outcome: 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 in 4:06.
Federer entered in his championship black outfit, which made him seem Death-on-the-hoof to the last roundup victims of 2004-05-06-07-08. However, so did Del Potro, the first of them to look down on favored Roger.
“Delpo,” as his amigos call him, is the third of his land to conquer the U.S. We must not – how could we? – forget the Divine Argentine, Gabriela Sabatini, who lifted the title from Steffi Graf in 1990.
FOR BUENO A GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY
From neighboring Brazil, slim, effortless Maria Bueno, the Sao Paulo Swallow, was saluted on the 50th anniversary of her U.S. championship. You don’t see her like in this era of baseline-bang-bang-bangers. Maria seemed to float across the court, but delivered winning serve-and-volley punch.
BIG BILL TILDEN’S GHOST GLOATS
Was Big Bill Tilden smiling in his Philadelphia grave or wherever his ghost hangs out? Maybe the ghost muttered, “Muy bien jugado, gracias!” in Del Potro’s direction. Delpo had protected Tilden’s 84-year-old record: 6 straight U.S. championships (1920 – 25) as well as 42 consecutive match wins up to a quarter-final loss in 1926 to Frenchman Henri Cochet. Roger came close to catching up, folding by a set, settling for 5 straight, which seems almost ghostly in itself. Like Tilden, Roger has all the shots – and the shorts, surely more comfortable than Big Bill’s white flannel trousers of that day.
HIGH FIVES FOR DENT IN TERRIFIC WIN
Taylor, ducking a couple of match points in the hairy concluding tie-breaker, finished it with a brilliant winner, a backhand return down the line. He was so excited that he grabbed the umpire’s microphone to thank the onlookers, then made 2 victory laps, high-fiving just about everybody. Hadn’t seen anything that feel-good since Vilas’s 1977 coronation.
CAN I PICK ‘EM OR WHAT?
So much for prognostication. My picks, Andy Murray and Elena Dementieva, were gone not long after they arrived. Andy was a bust, seemingly wandering in a trance, so bad that he even startled foe Marin Cilic. Maybe last year’s finalist succumbed after all to the pressure of the United Kingdom on his shoulders. But he has time.
ELENA: FALLS IN OUDIN’S RUSSIAN WAR
Elena was a victim of the war on Russia waged by Melanie the Menacing Maid of Marietta (Georgia). She was the first week’s pheenom heroine, 17-year-old Melanie Oudin. A mere teeny of 5-feet-5 and ranked No. 70, she brought down four higher-ranked Russians – Nos. 26-4-29-13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, Nadia Petrova – wowing the fans by rebounding from a set behind in the last three. There she was in the quarters, which lacked an American man for the first time in tourney history, and pushing Sharapova to a female tournament record. It was one you wouldn’t want: 21 double faults.
Eventually the aged (19) Caroline Wozniacki sent Oudin back to Georgia, and became a tough final round adversary for Mighty Mom, 7-5, 6-3, who trailed 2-4 and 5-4 in the first set, but broke to 5-5, held through 2 break points to 6-5, and broke again to keep a lead never relinquished.
What’s going on? Kim, away from the game for over 2 years, producing an heir, plays a couple of tournaments – then beats both Sisters and claims a second title four years after her first, on the loss of 2 sets! How do you figure that? Sneaking in the back door as a wild card, unranked, the lone unseeded
woman to wear the U.S. crown, she was only sensational. Is she a miracle worker or has the female opposition declined?
I go for the former. It was as though Kim had never left the office. Her Meadows winning streak is 14. A wrist injury prevented her from defending in 2006, whereupon love and marriage took over. Thus charming little Jada’s old lady, 26, became the 7th mother to win a major singles after childbirth.
Most recent had been Aussie Evonne Goolagong, Wimbledon, 1980. The list: Englishwoman Dolly Chambers, 7 time Wimbledon champ between 1903 and 1914; American Hazel Wightman, U.S., 1919; American Sarah Palfrey Cooke, U.S., 1945; American Margaret duPont, U.S., 1950; Aussie Margaret Court, U.S., 1973.
Nice to have Mighty Mom back.
Wozniacki has become a genuine contender, the only Dane to go so far in the U.S. since Jan Leschly lost a men’s semi to Clark Graener in 1967. (Incidentally, Graebner, losing a 1966 quarter-final, saved American men from being shut out of the last 8 for the first time, a fate avoided until this year’s embarrassing Zero).
Does any gal hit balls harder than the other Belgian in the semis, 19-year-old 6-footer Yanina Wickmayer? She was another surprise, ranked No. 50. A bit of a screamer, too, but it’s soft and amusing, coming out “Whoopee!”
A ROOF, A ROOF, MY KINGDOM…
What to do? Do as the Romans did when they built the Colosseum a few centuries ago. They beat the rain with a canvas lid that opened and closed with a system of ropes and pulleys. (Slaves, perhaps difficult to find these days, pulled the ropes.)
Forget Wimbledon and Australia. Look to Rome for an inexpensive solution, and here’s hoping that the 2010 Open will be as eventful as this one.
September 18 2009 05:19 pm | US Open