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Saturday, September 6, 2014
It's amazing to note that since the Australian Open 2005, each of the succeeding grand slam finals had either Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the final. That's an incredible nine long years of consistency from the three guys - who have really dominated men's tennis for a decade or so.
I am actually surprised myself that it happened in this particular US Open, long a bastion of these three guys, that finally, their combined stronghold is broken.
Well, it has happened several times in the women's game, when the two finalists aren't any of the top four seeds. I think the last time it happened was when Marion Bartoli lifted the Wimbledon crown last year, after demolishing Sabine Lisicki. Once in a while, in the women's game, some of the lower seeds just assert themselves and play their best tennis on the big stage of a grand slam.
It has finally, it happened in the men's game - and I am quite excited!
That it is Marin Cilic who is the other participant is also another big surprise! Marin has been the bridesmaid of so many quarterfinal matches, so for him to finally break it through the final, in a breathtaking three set demolition of Roger Federer was spectacular to see.
It was thrilling to see Kei Nishikori win over Novak Djokovic today! It was great that Kei immediately took the reins in the first set because we know that Novak would respond immediately, giving Kei only one game in the second set.
However, the third set tiebreak was very crucial since I felt that if Kei loses here, the momentum might shift to Novak. Interestingly, Kei immediately established a 3-0 lead and went on to win the third set.
He then consolidated everything in the fourth set, which was still full of drama and tight games. I was just happy to see Kei holding it together and playing at his best and not be overwhelmed by the occasion!
Finally, an Asian male player in a final of a grand slam. It's about time!
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Without any warning, our favorite Swiss miss, Martina Hingis, finds herself in the finals of the women's doubles in the 2014 US Open, along with partner Flavia Pennetta. She won the women's doubles here way back in 1998 along with her singles trophy in 1997.
Doesn't really matter. For us, who are big fans of hers in the late 90s and early 00s, just seeing her play again, and achieving a certain level of success is enough to get us excited!
She and Flavia have a tough Russian doubles opponent though in Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. Makarova is riding on a wave of success as she reached her first grand slam semi-final.
Well, that promises to be a tough match and that's what we want! A deserving winner!
Although Novak Djokovic just recently said that there's more to life than tennis, alluding to the fact that he and his wife are expecting their first baby, when you watch him play, you wouldn't think he just relegated tennis to the backburner!
In fact, I think he's really playing well, and that intensity to do well in this US Open is just there - especially now that there's more at stake - like adding another mouth to feed!
He has been runner up here four times already so he really loves this tournament and wants to perform well here. With the way he's playing now, he may not need be a runner up anymore this year.
Marin Cilic is a very competent and well-regarded player in the ATP circuit and everytime I watch him during the slams, he would usually reach the 4th round or the quarters. This US Open was actually the 11th time he reached the 4th round or better in a slam, but this is more special because it marks the first time that he finally reaches a semi-final.
Watching him at Wimbledon, I knew something was already brewing in his game and that he had finally taken that step to push even deeper into the slam, so watching him early morning today, I was not surprised that he completely dominated Tomas Berdych from the outset. Although Berdych tried to stage a late third set surge, Cilic continued to press on his game and defeated the Czech in an emphatic three-setter.
He will either meet Roger Federer or Gael Monfils in the next round and hopefully, he brings his A game as well to that match!
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Talk about being so close and really getting it, even if it took four hours, more or less, for each match to finish. Kei Nishikori of Japan did just that, by defeating Milos Raonic in the fourth round and Stan Wawrinka in the quarters, to finally book his slot as the first guy into the 2014 US Open men's semi's.
Nishikori has been tipped to be one of the younger set of players waiting to dominate tennis soon as Federer and his contemporaries retire. Well, Roger, Novak and Andy are still in the draw so there's a good mix of the veterans and the newbies. Milos Raonic, Jerzy Janowicz and Grigor Dimitrov have already reached a grand slam semifinal, it's great that Kei finally gets his chance this time.
Well, I just hope he gets enough rest after two grueling matches. His potential opponents in the semi's and finals are all very tough and very experienced so he really has to play his best if he wants to perform well.
I knew it was only a matter of time before Ekaterina Makarova moved away from the shadows and into the limelight. A very competent player, Makarova has been in the quarters of a major four times before this US Open. However, this time, she has been playing very well and it was evident during her quarterfinal match today against Victoria Azarenka.
I was actually surprised that Makarova defeated current tennis 'it' girl, Eugenie Bouchard in the fourth round. I wasn't able to see the match, but when I learned of the result, I knew Makarova was doing something right - and it showed in her match today.
She looked very confident and her groundstrokes were phenomenal. She was also serving well. Just like Peng Shuai, she played good, clean tennis, with minimal unforced errors and powerful and accurate groundstrokes.
Interestingly, she has defeated Serena in a grand slam before so whether she meets Flavia or Serena in the semi's, she has a fighting chance of making it through her first grand slam final.
With the clinical disposal of Italian Sara Errani, 61 60, Caroline Wozniacki looked set to win her first grand slam title. She has a very good chance of getting into the final, as her opponent in the semi-final is China's Peng Shuai where she has a 5-1 head-to-head. Their last meeting was last year, where Caroline defeated Peng in both Cincinnati and New Haven.
When I heard the news that Caro and Rory split up, a few months ago, I felt sorry for Caro and at that time, she was not playing very well. However, surprisingly, these past few months, a new Caroline Wozniacki is coming out of the woodwork. Someone who is more patient, and has provided more variety in her game. When before she was predictable, now she can surprise opponents with her method of play.
This change in her game and demeanor is important since Serena and Vika loom large to win their quarterfinal matches on the other side of the draw and Caroline's playing right now makes it seem that she's ready to take on any of the two - and possibly win as well. She's playing with more confidence right now and she has varied her game plan, using wisely the power of the players, especially those of Maria Sharapova's style of playing.
Anyway, the challenge is there and I'm sure Caro is now, more than ever, ready to mount her biggest challenge yet!
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Sometimes, the veteran wins. Against teenager Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who has suddenly become a new star of women's tennis, Peng Shuai of China, currently ranked #40, finally reaches her first ever grand slam semi-final in 37 grand slam appearances. It's never too late!
Peng has always been under the shadow of her more illustrious colleagues, Li Na and Zheng Jie. The former has two grand slam titles on her belt while the latter has been to the semi's of several grand slams as well.
Finally, in this year's US Open, Peng Shuai takes her place among those two.
Peng Shuai has reached as high as #14 in 2011, and has reached the 4th round of the grand slams 5 times before, so she is a consistent and competent player. However, this is actually her first quarters and semi's in a grand slam ever. Her best performance here in Flushing Meadows was a 4th round appearance in 2011.
I believe that with the way she is playing now, which is good, clean tennis - Peng has a very good chance of reaching the finals of the US Open, mainly because I am expecting the Caroline Wozniacki and the Sara Errani quarterfinal match to last long into the night and would most likely tax whoever wins the match, physically and mentally. Peng would be the fresher of the two, once semi's day comes.
Anyway, that's me getting ahead of everything. For now, Peng Shuai's win should be broadcast all over China tomorrow with a lot of funfare and inspire hordes of Chinese girls to do as well as today's current batch of players.
This website awards the Male Breakthrough Player of the 2014 US Open to Germany's Matthias Bachinger. This award is given to the lowest ranked male and female player who goes deep into the tournament. The allowable rank is from #101 lower.
German Matthias Bachinger, currently ranked #235, reached the second round of the 2014 US Open by beating veteran Czech player Radek Stepanek, currently ranked #39, 63 62 62. Bachinger was formerly ranked within the top 100, at #85, in 2011.
This second round appearance is his best effort ever in any grand slam. He lost to Andy Murray of Great Britain, currently ranked #9 in the second round.
France snags the last Elite Men's Team Award this year in the 2014 US Open. Their fiercest rival, Spain, has swept the other three grand slams. The team of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils ensured that the award went to France this time.
This website awards the Elite Men's Team Award to the country that puts the most number of players into the fourth round of each of the grand slams. In case of a tie, the current week seedings of the players into the fourth round will be added up, and the country with the smallest sum wins the award.
Monday, September 1, 2014
Another tennis sensation is coming out of Switzerland, this time, it's the junior player, Belinda Bencic, currently ranked #58, who has now reached the quarterfinal of a grand slam for the first time! By defeating Jelena Jankovic last night, ranked #10 in the world, Belinda Bencic only has Chinese player Peng Shuai, ranked #40, who is between her and that grand slam semifinal slot for the 2014 US Open!
I am rooting though for Belinda to get that slot, since she looks very crafty and relaxed. Peng Shuai is more experienced than her but I think it's also the first time for Peng to reach this deep in a grand slam - that's why I believe, it's the player who can hold her nerves together can reach that grand slam semifinal slot!
Bencic defeated two top 10 players to get this deep - (Jankovic and Kerber) while Peng took care of three top 20 players (including #5 Agnieszka Radwanska, Roberta Vinci and Lucie Safarova).