Google Down the Line!: 2008-09-07

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2008 US OPEN WRAP-UP: The Ladies

(Hey people - after a seriously long spring and summer full of the highest quality tennis and drama, I'll be taking the rest of the week and weekend off to recharge the batteries but will return on Monday. I hope you've enjoyed
DtL's coverage of all the Grand Slams this year - my first year covering all the majors.

I'll leave you guys with contributor
Cristina's ladies' US Open wrap-up. And as always, if you're interested in taking a crack at writing, drop me a line at Take it away Cristina!)

The WTA Tour’s new marketing campaign boldly asks if fans are “Looking for a Hero?” Of course they are - duh! With a gaping hole left by Justine Henin’s retirement earlier this year and a revolving front door installed in the WTA Penthouse, tennis fans are hungry for a new dominating lady baller.

As they took the stage for the 2008 US Open, everyone was eager to see which woman would ascend to the top position. Would tour veterans Venus and Serena Williams capture more US Open glory? Would either one of the sensational Serbs, Ana Ivanovic or Jelena Jankovic, continue their country's ascendency to the top? Or would the raging Russians, including Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva, have enough will to win a maiden Grand Slam? As the lights shined brightly on the biggest stage in tennis, these questions met their answers.


Serena Williams looked sharp from the start. The 2-time champ was moving well, crushing opponents at will, and keeping her attitude upbeat leading many to believe this tourney was hers for the taking. In what many consider the de facto final, ReRe met sister Venus in the quarterfinal Marquee Matchup, a rematch of their high-quality Wimbledon battle won by V. Little 'sis, though, had revenge on the mind and out-ran V for a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) victory. The thrilling Sunday prime time final saw Serena Williams' powerfully aggressive game defeat Jelena Jankovic's speedy movment and defensive tactics for her third US Open crown, ninth major overall, and the top ranking to boot. And she accomplished all of this without dropping a single set - a spectacular effort.

Jelena Jankovic will no longer have the distinction of being the only lady baller ranked number one to have never reached a Grand Slam final. The Serb escaped an early exit in the second round by scraping past Sofia Arvidsson and was pushed by rising Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round. After defeating gold medalist Elena Dementieva in the semifinals, JJ entered her first major final and handled the occasion in style, well mostly. In true JJ form she performed slides, hit the splits, watched herself on the jumbo screen, wore head-to-toe glitter, and had chances to take the second set but her lack of experience (and soft serve) told the tale of defeat. However, with her focus firmly on fitness (she's now working with Pat Etcheberry), she'll afford herself plenty of chances to earn a major.

The hottest lady baller coming into the US Open was Dinara Safina who reached the French Open final, won the US Open Series by capturing LA and Montreal, and earned the silver medal in Beijing. The emotional rollercoaster she'd been experiencing, though, may have been too much for the young Russian (something about not being a machine, right?) but she still managed to reach the semifinals, her best result at the US Open, where she lost to eventual champ ReRe.

Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva was looking to repeat her 2004 run when she made the finals but was beaten by Svetlana Kuznetsova. Many believed her revamped serve, including a relatively low number of doubles, and newfound confidence would be enough to earn Elena her maiden Grand Slam. Although she looked sharp early on and didn't lose a set before the semifinals, the long summer seemed to have caught up with the Russian and she lost two in her defeat to JJ.

Top seeded Ana Ivanovic had a horrendous summer to say the least. After capturing her first major title at Roland Garros, Ana hit the skids hard. She lost early at Wimbledon and Montreal, skipped the Olympics as a result of a nagging thumb injury, and entered the US Open cold. After barely passing the first round, the 20-year old succumbed to 188th ranked Frenchie Julie Coin in the second round. Ana has yet to find the game that has eluded her since Paris, citing lack of practice and match play as the culprits for her recent losses.

Kudos go out to Lindsay Davenport whose time in the tourney was cut short in the third round by Marion Bartoli. Who knows if the 3-time Grand Slammer will return next season but if not, it's been a pleasure watching you Linds - thanks for all the great tennis memories!

(image via Getty)

2008 US OPEN WRAP-UP: The Boys

For the first time since 2004 when The Age of Federer began in earnest, there was no clear-cut favorite for this year's US Open men's championship: Four-time defending champion Fed was mired in a season-long drought of major titles, world no. 1 Rafael Nadal was unproven in New York having never passed the quarterfinals, last year's finalist Novak Djokovic was playing sub-par ball and lacking confidence, and Andy Murray announced his arrival by winning Cincinnati but crashed out of Beijing in the first round.

So leave it to one of the game's greatest champions (if not the greatest) to give a master class in desire, self-belief, and perseverance on the biggest stage in tennis.


We're all well-versed at this point on the stories claiming the demise of Roger Federer - he's toast, he'll never win a major title again, he should be retired by now! But the 27-year old continues to defy the doubters, penning his own version of the story no one else could, or should, write. Fed brought the shine of his Olympic doubles gold medal with him to New York where he started off relatively well, struggled mightily in the middle, but finished in a flourish to capture a historic fifth consecutive US Open championship - the first baller in the Open Era to accomplish the feat and the first baller in history to win five consecutive titles at two different majors. Impressive, but par for the course with this supreme champion.

Andy Murray
achieved a few career breakthroughs this fortnight reaching his first Grand Slam final, the first Brit baller since Greg Rusedski finished runner-up to Patrick Rafter in 1997 to reach a major final, and also securing a spot at the year-end Masters Cup for the first time. But, without a doubt, his best moment was in the semifinals when, for the first time in five career meetings, he completely outclassed top baller Rafael Nadal over two days showcasing an impressive arsenal of spins, slices, and lobs. Andy's first Grand Slam title is right around the bend, and it wouldn't surprise if it came as early as the Aussie Open.

The Spanish steamroller, Rafael Nadal, was running on fumes throughout the tourney but, in classic Rafa style (read: not his controversial new style), he continued to push his opponents to their limits. The world no. 1 reached a personal best in New York making it to the semifinals for the first time but the toll of his dream season was apparent in his two-day loss to Andy. He'll need to time to recover but he won't get much with the Davis Cup semifinal versus the US taking place in Spain on slow red clay next week. No worries for Rafa though - a moment this important won't pass him by and he'll surely be fit for the fight.

And what of Novak Djokovic? He simply had a disastrous US Open, and not for his play. The brash Serb was beset by numerous, niggling injuries and ailments but it was his public lashing of Andy Roddick and the fans after defeating the American in the quarterfinals that hurt the most. Nole turned an admiring New York crowd into an insulted one who showered the bitter baller with boos. Clearly the 21-year old was never the same as he struggled with his motivation in the semifinal Marquee Matchup and loss easily to a streaking Fed. Let's hope he can learn to keep his emotions and mouth in check or the ATP Tour won't be a pleasant place to live for Nole.

Speaking of Andy Roddick, the American is surely sliding down the backside of a fine career. A-Rod's mental demons wreaked havoc on his best hopes for a second major title: he hit consecutive double-faults while serving for the fourth set in his contentious quarterfinal meetup with Nole. And, in retrospect, his decision to skip Beijing to be rested and ready for a surge towards a second US Open title really had no bearing on the truth: his mental approach to the game is busted and he should get help, plain and simple.

Huge props to Juan Martin del Potro for wearing his heart on his missing Nike sleeves and showing the tennis world he's the real deal. Also, congrats to qualifier Gilles Muller for a tremendous effort reaching the quarterfinals and defeating Nikolay Davydenko along the way, and Kei Nishikori who took out last year's semifinalist David Ferrer en route to the fourth round.

(image via Getty)

(UPDATED) PHOTO OP: Preppy Fed hits the media merry-go-round, TODAY show and all

Following Serena Williams' lead, a super-preppy Roger Federer took his own ride on the media merry-go-round a day after capturing his 13th Grand Slam title.

The 5-time US Open champion took a trip to the top of The Empire State Building for a photo op on the viewing deck with the silver trophy.

Fed then proceeded to meet with members of the media (sadly I wasn't invited - drats!) to discuss the big win.

Next stop for the Swiss maestro and his precious was CBS' The Early show for a visit with Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez. Is it me or does it look like they're treating Fed like a pregnant lady? Keep your hands off Harry!

Of course a merry-go-round ride is never complete without a stop over with the fun friends at the TODAY show, including Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera, and Al Roker.

Hey, since I'm not getting invites to these intimate media moments, can I have one of their TODAY show jobs at least? Seriously, who can't call the weather??

Oh life is cruel.

Anyway, check it:

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Fed bowled over by historic win, defeats Murray for fifth consecutive US Open title

Roger Federer surged to his 13th major title when he outplayed Brit baller Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 for his fifth consecutive US Open championship. He becomes the first baller in the Open Era to grab five consecutive wins in New York and the first in history to capture five consecutive wins at two different majors (Wimbledon, US Open) - wow.

The Swiss stylist was at his aggressive best hitting his trademark forehand into the corners, coming in behind second serve deliveries, and serving solidly as he did throughout the fortnight.

This championship run, in particular, was a sweet one for Fed after all the talk of his imminent demise. But the former no. 1 never got down despite all the questions:

I was always positive, you know. I knew that if things go my way, and this year hasn't always been the case. You know, I lost quite a few matches I should have never lost, and they hurt. Now, getting the fifth US Open, it really means a lot to me. I really thank the fans, as well, the crowds. They were great.

I mean, from the beginning, that's really what I was hoping for. And losing my No. 1 ranking, that's also what meant a lot to me this season. So to bounce back straightaway after losing the No. 1 ranking, this is the best scenario ever.

(images via Getty)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quotes of the Day: Serena

Did anyone else catch the juicy bits from Serena Williams' post-match presser after winning last night's US Open women's final? Let's take a look-see:

I don't really talk about that. I mean, if anything, my mom and my dad have been so supportive. I mean, so supportive day in and day out.

- on the positive influence boyfriend Common has had on her


Oh. So much has been going on for me on and off the court, I really have been just focusing on the court. I have to get and talk about what's going on about off the court. I just know about forehands right now, and designs.

- on a potential match next March against Venus at the Billie Jean Cup in Madison Square Garden


I don't really focus on what people say about me. I just have to focus on what I can do, and I still do a lot of things.

You know, I'm on the phone at night talking to different people about designs within ANERAS, and then I wake up and I have a match. It can be done. You just have to be able to do it. Not everyone can do it.

- on Chris Evert's infamous open letter to Serena Williams in TENNIS magazine.

Let's start from the bottom and work our way up:

Apparently the tennis legend was looking to make amends this weekend after witnessing, like the rest of us, the Williams sisters continue to be the best ballers (still) around.

She told The New York Times,
Let’s put it this way. It’s opened my eyes not to be judgmental and to each his own. Whatever makes you happy. By having other interests, maybe you won’t get burned out as quickly.
Open mouth, insert foot - but good for you Chrissy for owning up to it.

Now, if there's a Venus-Serena match in New York next March, I'll be there - live blogging my arse off like I did for the Federer Sampras NetJets Showdown. Let's hope this becomes an annual tennis tradition at MSG!

And if ReRe has found someone who will follow her around the world supporting her career, will be her stand-in ballboy when she needs one, and will excitedly tell her "This is your moment" I have one thing to say: you better cancel that boyfriend insurance.

(image via Getty)

FASHION FIX: Top ballers take in Spring 2009 New York Fashion Week

With all the hooplah surrounding the US Open the last two weeks, one could forget New York Fashion Week is happening right under our noses. Some of our fave ballers made their way to Bryant Park in Manhattan to check out some of the latest trends and styles for Spring 2009.

Newly crowned US Open champion Serena Williams continued to smile uncontrollably a day after earning her ninth major as she joined Ivana Trump backstage at the Luca Luca show.

Sister Venus, a fashionista in her own right, grabbed a photo op with suspiciously smooth-faced Oscar winner Renee Zellweger backstage at the Carolina Herrera runway show.

Injured Maria Sharapova, who also took in some Paris haute couture fashion after her early Wimbledon loss this summer, spent more of her off-time at a few shows recently.

The Russian was spotted in the front row of the Herve Leger show working the navy Bandage Dress featuring crystal accents from his Fall 2008 collection.

Shrieka also made an appearance at the Peter Som show, one of her fave designers, wearing a dress from his 2009 Resort Collection.

But don't be fooled - she wasn't on babysitting duty here people. The Russian was joined in the front row by diminutive Olympic champion Nastia Luikin. Can she be any smaller?

But the ladies weren't the only ones feeling Fashion Week in New York. Manhattan couple Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker were joined backstage at the Lacoste show by golfer Cristie Kerr.

Is it me or is that over-sized alligator on A-Rod's shirt about to take nibble of Cristie? Buyers beware!

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Serena hits media merry-go-round after US Open win

Serena Williams took a ride on the media merry-go-round today after capturing the US Open women's championship, her third title in New York and ninth major overall.

The top lady baller stopped in Times Square to pose with the silver trophy while leaning on an NYPD cruiser (strange) and also to pose with the world no. 1 trophy (not so strange.)

Then, ReRe made a quick wardrobe change and stopped by NBC's the TODAY show to speak with Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera about the stellar win. Okay - either Matt & Meredith are really tiny or ReRe's just larger-than-life. You decide.

Check it:

(images via Getty)

PREVIEW: US Open Men's Final

Roger Federer (2) vs. Andy Murray (6)
Head-to-head: Fed 1, Andy 2
Last meeting: Dubai '08 (hard), Andy 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4

The semifinals have been decided and the final is all set but it isn't the meeting most would have imagined. Four-time defending champion and second seed Roger Federer will be going for his 13th Grand Slam trophy, putting him one behind Pete Sampras' record 14 majors, when he takes on first time finalist, sixth seeded Andy Murray, for the US Open championship.

How they got here: Fed seems to have finally found his stellar form just in time. The Swiss avenged his semifinal Aussie Open loss to Novak Djokovic when he outplayed the sluggish Serb 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. Andy Murray looked brilliant during his clinical dissection of top seed Rafael Nadal. The Brit baller sliced, diced, and lobbed his way into his first Grand Slam final with a rousing 6-2, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 two day defeat of the Spanish steamroller.

The last time these two met was earlier this season in Dubai, when the 21-year old shocked Fed in the first round with a 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4 win. It was Andy's second straight defeat of the 12-time Grand Slammer after having won against the Swiss in Cincinnati '06.

Here's what Fed had to say about the possibility of facing Andy:
It will be interesting to see how [Andy] handles [his first major final], but I have a feeling he's a guy who plays well on the big occasions. That's why I need to be very, very careful how I play tomorrow if it is Andy.
Andy has this to say about battling Fed for the first time in a major:
I've played well against him in the past. I think a Slam final is different to the match that I played against him before. You know, he's obviously won, you know, over 30 matches in a row here, you know, so he's obviously going to be feeling confident going in.
He's got loads of experience in these situations and it's something new for me. I know I'm going to have to play great to have a chance of winning, but I've played well the last couple of weeks.
Outlook: No longer "Mopey Murray", the Brit baller has shown supreme confidence throughout the fortnight. After his narrow escape from a 5-set defeat against Jurgen Melzer in the third round, Andy crushed Stanislas Wawrinka, outlasted Juan Martin del Potro, and outplayed Rafael Nadal. He has every trick up his Fred Perry sleeves and could win this match if he can utilize his full arsenal of shots.

But Roger Federer has some tricks of his own, finding some of his best stuff (read: serve) when he needed it most. He possesses so much experience at this stage of a major which will give him a decided edge over his British foe.

But most importantly Fed has learned, as Brad Gilbert would say, to win UGLY. The Swiss got gritty when the going got tough, has been outwardly expressive when urging himself on, found ways to win when his game was lacking, and even sweated profusely!

Andy may have a winning record over Fed but they've never played in a major and defeating the Swiss stylist in a best three-out-of-five format is a completely different challenge. Fed wants to make a good year great and he will when he wins his fifth straight US Open championship.

(images via Getty)

PHOTO OP: Serena leaps to victory, defeats JJ for third US Open championship

Serena Williams leapt over all pretenders this fortnight earning her ninth major championship, tying the beloved Monica Seles, and the keys to the WTA Penthouse when she defeated Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 7-5 in a thrilling final for her third US Open title. The new top lady baller also blew through the draw without dropping a set - nice.

ReRe was down a break in each set and faced sets points in the second. But as she did against sister Venus in their dynamic quarterfinal duel, the 26-year old refused to budge and sealed the deal with a angled backhand crosscourt winner on match point.

ReRe knew her time would come after preparing all season for this moment:

I've been working so hard all year. Sometimes I wake up at 6am to go and practice and it's too dark, and I wait until it gets light. No one really, really knows the work an athlete puts in. But it's all worth it. It's all paying off. I'd feel like gosh, I've been working the hardest, so I should win.

(images via Getty)

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