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Sports Then and Now




U.S. Open Gets A Sunday Re-Write

Posted on September 13, 2009 by JA Allen
Kim Clijsters has made a surprising run to the U.S. Open Finals.

Kim Clijsters has made a surprising run to the U.S. Open Finals.

Start spreading the news.  For the second year in a row the script for the finals at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York has to be re-written.  Oh, for the money to put a roof over our heads…it would seem reasonable insurance against pesky and obstinate mother nature.

Think of all the confusion and lost revenue caused by this year’s two-day rain delay.  It must drive the tournament organizers to abstraction.

Regardless – Sunday in New York promises to present some eye-popping, riveting men’s semifinal contests with number one Roger Federer vs. number four Novak Djokovic in one and Rafael, soon to be number 2 again, Nadal vs. number 5 Juan Martin del Potro in the other.

Add to that the final between surprising finalist Kim Clijsters and number nine seed Caroline Wozniacki and you have a smorgasbord of potential tennis classics ready for the big stage.

Semifinal one – Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic

With all the words that have been written about this upcoming match, you could surpass Moby Dick in the number of words expended as well as equate the great quest of Captain Ahab to destroy the great white whale to Novak Djokovic’s quest to wrestle this trophy out of Federer’s hands.

We have read the scenarios as to how Djokovic might accomplish this impossible feat like serving perfectly, returning perfectly, lobbing, volleying and slicing perfectly.  In other words, if Djokovic plays a perfect game, he will win this match and advance into the finals.

That means that he must not doubt himself or allow errant hits off his racket.  He must play aggressive but self-contained tennis on Sunday afternoon.  He must not allow unforced errors to creep into his rallies or allow the crowd to influence his sometimes fragile psyche.

Then, too, Federer, must be consistent.  He must serve well and play aggressively as he moves from defense to offense smoothly.  Federer has not lost a match at the U.S. Open since 2004.  This would mark his sixth consecutive championship should he win on Sunday and then win in the finals on Monday.

The Serbian has played his way into the semifinals of this tournament, struggling at times.  But he is not winning convincingly enough to be considered a favorite in this match.  It will be Federer in four sets.

Semifinal two – Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Martin del Potro

In the second semifinal we have tennis’ version of the Spanish flamenco meeting the Argentine tango – ole!   Foot movement or the ability to get in position to hit the ball to the best advantage will be the deciding factor in this match.  Being set, being ready to move forward and go for broke may make the critical difference between winning and losing.

Rafael Nadal has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open, but he will have a tough challenge to reach the finals.

Rafael Nadal has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open, but he will have a tough challenge to reach the finals.

For Nadal, the prospect of meeting the 6’6” del Potro is nothing to look forward to since he has lost their last two meetings on hard courts this year in Miami and in Montreal.  Overall, Nadal wins their head to head 2-4.  But the latest matches have gone del Potro’s way.

Del Potro’s height negates Nadal’s lefty high bouncing serves and ground strokes to his right-handed opponent’s weaker side.  Plus the 20 year old Argentine’s maturation in 2009 has added to his potential danger to the injured but determined Spaniard.  Currently Nadal must contend with a stomach muscle strain that hinders his serving motion as well as potential knee problems.  At age 23, the young Spaniard seems injury-prone of late.

With the issue of Nadal’s less-than-100% physical status, we have to pick Juan Martin del Potro to take this one in four.

Women’s final – Kim Clijsters vs Caroline Wozniacki

Both of these young women have fought hard to make their way into the U.S. Open final in 2009.  In a year many will call atypical, they survived what none other could and will meet each other on Sunday night in a final under the lights at Arthur Ashe.

It would be impossible not to pick Belgian Kim Clijsters to win this contest because of her extensive experience on the big stage.  For this reason alone, we select her to take this trophy.  For the sake of the youngster Caroline Wozniacki who has survived her first semifinal to arrive at the stage door, we hope that she plays well and does herself and her country proud.

It is impossible to predict which player the crowd will choose to back in this final.  Let us hope it is a close contest that goes down to the wire.  It is what the final deserves to be.  Such a contest would go a long way to erase all the other unpleasantness that occurred with American Serena Williams which will, no doubt, become the media focus the rest of the way on the women’s side of the draw.

For this final, we pick Kim Clijsters in three.

Regardless of the outcome, the U.S. Open is special to all tennis fans.  It is the last major of the year and marks the end of outdoor tennis and the start of indoor which will take most of us all the way to the first of the year and the Australian Open.  We suspect the USTA will begin the process of reevaluating the necessity for construction a roof for Arthur Ashe Stadium.

JA Allen is a regular contributor to Sports Then and Now.

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