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PostTennis: US Open 2017 (David Duggan, USA, 09/12/17 4:53 am)
Reflections on 2017 US Open.
The 2017 US [tennis] Open is in the books, and before I'm asked for my observations, I'll offer the following to my fellow WAISers, from the perspective of one who didn't watch a point in real time. I've refused to succumb to the cable (or dish) TV monster, and damn-you USTA for not having the finals of the tournament on network, so I've had to catch the highlights on-line after the fact.
The most significant outcome of the tournament undoubtedly was that four US women were in the semi-finals, the first time that had happened since 1981, which I frankly cannot remember (I looked it up and they were Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Barbara Potter; Austin beat Navratilova in the finals). For nearly a generation, people have been lamenting that American tennis had gone the way of the Edsel, flashy but with no staying power: the flash of the Williams sisters had not been replicated in the lower ranks. With Serena giving birth to her (as yet unnamed) daughter on August 31, it appeared up to Venus to carry the American mantle. She was the only American (either gender) seeded in the top 9 (John Isner was seeded 10th which, after 2d-seed Andy Murray's last-minute withdrawal from the tournament, made him arguably of equal rank), normally a requirement to advance to the later rounds. This last of the annual grand slams features most of the competitors at the top of their games. Plus, the DecoTurf (asphalt covered with a sanded acrylic paint) at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center is considered the fairest of all Slams' surfaces: not too fast, not too slow, not too bouncy, not too skiddy).
The four American women semi-finalists were Venus, 15th seed Madison Keys, 20th seed Coco Vandeweghe, and unseeded Sloane Stephens, who beat Ms. Keys handily in the finals, 6-3, 6-0. Sloane had returned from foot surgery in 2016, but hadn't accumulated enough computer points to get a seeding. Instead she was the sleeper through the tournament, beating 2015 champion Roberta Vinci in the first round, some no-names in rounds 2 through the quarters, then Venus in a 3-setter in the semis. In a sense, she vindicated the early promise she had shown as a teenager (she had beaten Serena at the 2013 Aussi Open to reach the semis). Sports and beauty-pageant nuts will recognize the Vandeweghe name: her uncle Kiki played for the Denver Nuggets, and grandfather Ernie for the Knicks; his wife was Miss America 1952 (the pageant which Donald has not purchased). So far as I can tell Ms. Keys claims no famous relatives: no wonder, since her parents are both lawyers.
Rafael Nadal also handily won his third US Open and 16th grand slam, three short of Roger Federer (and there's a five year age difference). He and Roger split the four slams this year, alternating, but Rafa wins the fashion award: his neon pink t-shirt, replaced by a shimmery-black one for the semis and finals give ample display to his developed physique. South African Kevin Anderson, the pride of the University of Illinois, was no match in the finals, and Rafa ended the straight-set blow-out with an improbable serve-and-volley, artfully carving a backhand volley into the open court after pulling Anderson way wide with his can-opener lefty-serve into the corner of the ad court. His arched-back, raised-arm, clenched fist celebratory stance after clinching the match was absolutely Russell-Crowe gladiator-worthy. As he has done in the past, he remembered the victims of 9/11 and this year offered encouragement to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Third-seeded Federer had departed to semi-finalist and 2009 winner Argentine Juan Martín del Potro; the other semifinalist, Spaniard Pablo Carreno-Busta, is a right-handed clone of Nadal, complete with 2-handed backhand and heavy-topspin groundstrokes. The 28th seeded and 6'8" Anderson had been on the U of I's NCAA runner-up team in 2007. He is the first South African grand-slam finalist since Kevin Curren lost to 17-year old Boris Becker in 1985.
The American men did not replicate their countrywomen's success: only one, Sam Querrey, got to the second week, losing to Anderson in the quarters. The 39-year old twin-brother team of Mike and Bob Bryan lost in 3-sets in the semis. No all-American women's doubles team got beyond the 2d round. Only time will tell whether American tennis is back, but with the globalization of the game, despite our president's vow to make America great again, I'm not holding my breath.
JE comments: David Duggan once again demonstrates his analytical acumen with sports. Bravo! Perhaps soon, David, you'll give us a reprise of the Chicago Clubs in the playoffs...
Tennis indeed has become international, crossing nationality, gender, and race. The final frontier for the game: social class. With few exceptions (David Duggan can correct me), poor kids need not apply.