01 September, 2011

US Open Day 3 - 3 Thoughts

Today, lots of thoughts about American players and how they fared today.

First off, Big John Isner should send all sorts of autographed college football paraphernalia or other gifts to Robin Soderling.  The 6th ranked Swede's withdrawal today (with the same illness that derailed his summer), gave the American 28th seed a much friendlier path to the 4th round; one that now goes through Robby Ginepri and the winner between Alex Bogomolov Jr. and a Brazilian lucky loser, Rogerio Dutra da Silva who only played 3 ATP level matches this year coming into the US Open. 

That's not exactly a gimme draw, Ginepri was a semifinalist here once upon a time and Bogomolov has had a late career resurrection that rivals that of compatriot Mardy Fish, but the Swede is a major obstacle that has been removed, or removed himself as it were.  Isner will now be the heavy favorite to face either Juan Martin del Potro or Gilles Simon for a spot in the quarterfinals.  While the Isman will definitely be back to underdog status against either of those guys, never say never, stranger things have happened.  John Isner is only 18 tiebreak wins away from a US Open title.

There's also 555th ranked American Jack Sock, and while we're not predicting second week-level success for the 18 year old just yet, we want to acknowledge his win over solid top 100 Frenchman Marc Gicquel
out on Court 17 today as a positive sign.  Sock won the Junior title a year ago, sometimes that portends big things in a career (see: Murray, Tsonga, Rios) and sometimes that is the big thing in a career (see: Gaudenzi, Elsner, Lojda).  Sock's next opponent is a man who knows the former path well, fellow Nebraska-native, 2000 boys and 2003 men's champion Andy Roddick.  Sock will almost certainly prove to be too inexperienced to send the long-time top American crying home to Brooklyn (Decker), but there is a lot to like in the long run.  

Sock's not just a big serve, he's not undersized (or oversized), most importantly, the kid doesn't seem mentally soft.  When Gicquel mounted a major charge, taking the 3rd set 6-1 after dropping the first two, the American just got down to the business of winning the match.  Not venting, not waiting for a collapse, winning.  While I refuse to give him the full Melanie Oudin treatment and call him the savior/future of American tennis until he implodes; I, for one, will happily throw a little support his way.

Venus Williams.  Any tennis fan worth his or her salt has learned never to count out a Williams sister.  There was probably only one man in the world who thought TWO sisters from the cracked courts of
Compton could reach World No. 1 and dominate Wimbledon.  Luckily, that man was their father and coach, Richard.  Lost somewhat among the actual tennis played today was the withdrawal of Venus Williams with an autoimmune disorder.  

Soderling, the unseeded Williams didn't leave behind a major hole in the draw.  Also, unlike Soderling she does leave behind a ton of questions.  Williams has only played five events all year, she's defending semifinal points here and will leave the Open ranked outside the top 100.  Unlike sister Serena with whom she's regularly conflated, the elder Williams has rarely been a factor off of grasscourts for a couple of years.  She's as big a star, personality and ambassador of the game as ever, but her tennis has seems to have peaked and long ago.The lingering question for me, will Venus be back?

Often the best quote in the locker room, Andy Roddick said it perfectly, "A lot of times, they've drawn a lot of criticism, but trust me, (in) five years, when they're gone, everyone is going to miss them...Venus is just the epitome of class, the way she's gone about it.  I don't think she's ever had a sniff of controversy around her."

We won't write a eulogy on her career until the time comes and we won't push her out the door.  Everyone deserves to go out on their own terms, but as her body seems increasingly held together by duct tape and determination, it's increasingly obvious that Venus won't be here forever.  Hell, she might not even be here next Open.

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