2010 U.S. OPEN BRACKETS
Sunday saw the men whittle down their field to the last sixteen standing, while the women had their quarterfinal spots determined by the end of Monday. We saw a doubles team — and one who was once so golden that you could write out your pre-tournament bracket prediction for them all the way to the final in Sharpie — drop out of a second consecutive Grand Slam draw before the first weekend was over. And the juniors tournaments finished up qualifying and started their main draw in earnest.
So in this special issue, we’re going to take a deeper look at a few of the biggest stories that unfolded on Sunday and Monday during the last Grand Slam of the 2010 season. It’s been a weird weekend, both from where this Non-Traditional Sports Fan in America sits on the west coast watching (or not watching, as sadly the case has far too often been) as well as a continent’s distance away in New York City. While the fans in Flushing Meadows were treated to some stirring tennis action, I was engrossed in the vagaries of a weekend lost to housework — yard care and painting and repair projects and fall preparations for the rainy season to come in the Willamette Valley.
But the sun was still beating down on Arthur Ashe Stadium and the rest of the National Tennis Center grounds, and it was a fine time to hit the stands (or kick back anywhere around the world with a few colds ones in a comfortable chair and a good live feed) when the time presented itself to do so. Here are two of the biggest stories I saw as the draws tightened up and the elite of the elite emerged on the DecoTurf of Queens…
UNLIKELY UNION TRUMPS TITLE CONTENDERS…
In 1947 the British abdicated their centuries-long hold on Mother India. The result was one of the largest, least-acknowledged massacres and mass relocations of populaces in history as the nations of India and Pakistan were borne from the debris of the empire’s decaying public works structures. The fault line ran deep throughout the society, as families scrambled to hopefully find themselves on the right side of the fault line when the final transfer of power took place. State assets were carved up, from the land to the municipal works to the railways. To this day enmities are harbored, lands are disputed, and both nations are amongst the world’s nuclear powers thanks to the work of such men as Abdel Qadeer Khan and Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
Tennis can provide us with the opportunity to see how brotherhood survives even the most painful of partitions...
But tennis might just be the one place — aside from the mercenary world of professional cricket, where the highest bidder usually gets the best players (and the best are often Indian and Pakistani) — where people of the two nations unite without reservation to take on all comers as partners in the truest sense of the word. On Sunday we were witness to the power of that reality when Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi pulled off the ouster of the highest seed yet to fall in the U.S. Open in any of the brackets. The two 30-year-olds, born 13 days and 1300 miles apart in March 1980 on opposite ends of the subcontinent, showed the strength in partnership that is possible between these two great and complimentary cultures.
Is that too much hyperbole? Is it too crass? Does it assume too great a role for sport in the grand scheme of some heavy history? Honestly, I don’t think so. Were Bopanna and Qureshi, who first teamed up three years ago, to advance all the way to the final and take their first Grand Slam doubles title together, it would be a breakthrough moment in the history of both nations. A team comprised of an Indian and a Pakistani has never won a Grand Slam tournament before, and what a way to stake their passage to both players’ second consecutive Slam quarterfinal after reaching the same point in England.
The #16 seed took out the #2 seed with nary a fight, a clean 6-3 6-4 scoreline sending the underdogs through and my favorite for the final on this half of the draw back to the drawing board for the end of the season and beyond. It’s funny to think that we might really be at the point where it is time to write off the Serbian-born partnership of Daniel Nestor (a Canadian citizen after immigrating there as a 3-year-old in 1976) and Nenad Zimonjic. But the pair fell in the second round at Wimbledon this year, failing to defend their grass-court Grand Slam in ugly fashion. And then there was this weekend stunner against Bopanna and Qureshi.
Nestor had these same lulls with former partner Mark Knowles. When you get down to it, though, he’s captured the same number of Grand Slam titles (three) with Zimonjic as he did with the Australian in twice the amount of time. And Zimonjic, for his part, has merely found his own game lacking when it comes to the hard courts. Nestor needed Zimonjic to crack that long-elusive nut that was Wimbledon for him, and Zimonjic was always a good clay-to-grass player that was a threat at Roland Garros and the All-England Club. If anything we’re finding their finals appearance in Melbourne this past January might’ve been their ceiling for hard-court Slams. Or perhaps they return to Australia rejuvenated and resurgent. I’ve swallowed my words before, but something is amiss in this partnership after two straight early ousters at Slams…
2010 U.S. OPEN MEN’S DOUBLES – ELITE EIGHT DRAW
COMING INTO QUEENS HOT APPARENTLY DOESN’T COUNT FOR EVERYTHING…
The men’s bracket, set to finish up fourth-round play tomorrow and settle its final eight contestants for the U.S. Open title, has seen some big upsets take out pre-tournament contenders left and right. In the case of Sunday and Monday, the three showcase courts each were witness to the ouster of big names who entered the draw as hopefuls and exit without any hardware. Whether a higher seed or lower seed in the battle, momentum usually counts for something — but apparently it only counts for so much in the end.
The biggest name to fall was Andy Murray. The #4 seed, Murray entered the U.S. Open on a tear. After a semifinal appearance on home soil at Wimbledon, the British star embarked on a summer campaign that saw him go the distance in the Los Angeles final before losing to Sam Querrey 5-7 7-6(2) 6-3, win in Toronto against Roger Federer after ousting Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, and making it to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati just before the start of the last Slam of the year. As on fire as Murray was coming into the draw, though, he had no answer for Stanislas Wawrinka.
The Swissman whose career has played out in the shadow of his far more famous compatriot Federer, Wawrinka was in the top ten as recently as two summers ago and has what John McEnroe has called “the best one-handed backhand in the game today”. Putting it all together has been difficult lately for Wawrinka, but yet he still entered the U.S. Open draw as the #25 player in the field. Apparently the disparity between #4 and #25 is far thinner than one might’ve imagined originally… though in reality Wawrinka has top-ten talent with top-25 consistency.
On his better days — and Sunday was certainly a better day, as the man from Lausanne played a strong game at the net, served fairly well and varied things up enough to keep Murray reeling. The Scotsman took the first set in a tiebreak, but after Wawrinka leveled things with payback in the second-set tiebreak all hell broke loose for Murray. His game deteriorated as the match crept through its third and fourth hours. Wawrinka took five breaks out of Murray’s service in the final two sets, the difference in the end between victory and defeat.
Andy Murray toed the razor's edge and slipped off the precipice once again, unable to keep pace with Wawrinka this time around...
That line can be razor-thin sometimes or it can be a chasm of discrepancies. In the same way upset can be a matter of semantics and definitional debate. #31 David Nalbandian was rated 23 spots lower than #8 Fernando Verdasco, but just like the Murray/Wawrinka match there were some matters of calculation that were bandied about as proof of this or that — mostly talking about how much he has dominated the recent discussion as to darkhorse candidates for a title shot. But Verdasco set up a fourth-round date with fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in hopes of staring down Rafael Nadal (or, possibly, a third compatriot in Feliciano Lopez) in the quarterfinals. The man from Madrid managed to solve the case on the Argentinian, winning his first set before making it a best-two-of three by handing back the second to tie things right back up. In the end Nalbandian could do nothing, and Verdasco was through 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-2.
And the hopes of American fans for their own countrymen took a serious blow when Mardy Fish fell out of the touranment on Labor Day to a resurgent Novak Djokovic. While Fish had been seeded sixteen spaces lower than the Serbian, he had won back-to-back post-Wimbledon tournaments in Newport (on grass) and Atlanta (hard court). He reached the finals of the ATP Masters event in Cincinnati and won doubles in Washington with partner Mark Knowles. Djokovic, though, manhandled the Minnesotan, a straight-sets 6-3 6-4 6-1 defeat (coupled with his later doubles loss with Knowles against the #1 Bryan brothers 7-5 6-3) finally cooling the Mardy groundswell. Now Fish heads back to his adulthood residence in Tampa to regroup before end-of-year play this fall. It’s all a vanquished hot-streaker can do — hope to rebound and catch lightning in a bottle once more…