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TALKING BALLS 003 Ė TUESDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER 2009
By Stuart Fraser
A fantastic fortnight in NY
Well, the last slam of the year is over and what stories it provided! Del Potro winning his first major, Clijsters completing a remarkable comeback helped along the way by Serena losing her temper big time. Could a slam really get much better than that?
Juan Martin Del Potro had been tipped by some as a possible future World No.1 and who can argue now after his display in the final last night. The Argentinian demolished Rafael Nadal in the semis (granted Nadal wasnít exactly fully fit but a great achievement nonetheless) and defied his critics to beat Roger Federer, THE greatest player of all time, in a five set final. Incredible!
Federer had astounded once again with his amazing wonder Ďhot dogí shot in his semi final against Novak Djokovic. OK, the shot has been done before but I have never seen it hit so hard, flat and low from just a couple inches off the ground. Considering it was done in the semi final of a slam and it is no wonder that people are viewing it in their thousands on YouTube.
The Swiss continued his quality form into the final and when he was a set and 5-3 up, he was looking good for his 16th major title. Although his level dipped as the match went on, Federer still looked the favourite when he took the third set.
Del Potro however showed tremendous courage and belief and this showed in some of the forehands he was hitting. Critics have doubted the Argentinianís fitness and mental strength in the past but to beat Federer in five sets in your first major final at Flushing Meadows takes some doing. A superb performance!
Two weeks ago, I stated in Talking Balls 001 that I thought it was too soon to expect Kim Clijsters to win the title in New York. To be fair, it seemed to be a view shared by many within the game. How wrong were we?
Iíve never followed womenís tennis as closely as the menís game but I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed this yearís womenís event at Flushing Meadows. From the shocks and surprises to the tantrums and of course, the fairytale ending, it really had it all.
Serena Williamsí outburst was regrettable and itís good to see that she has finally said sorry although that apology seemed to be a bit slow in coming. You canít act like that towards officials. It looks as if weíll never know what was exactly said but her body language as she gestured towards the line judge was terrible and having already received a warning for racket abuse, no one can deny the point penalty was the right decision even at that crucial moment in the match.
It took the shine of Kim Clijstersí performance and usually, if you beat Venus and Serena Williams in the same event, the title would be yours. However, Caroline Wozniacki stood in Clijstersí way and what a fight the young Dane provided.
Wozniacki missed a big chance when serving for the first set at 5-4 but to be fair, this was her first major final and the experience gained from this will bode her well for the future. She is an incredible retriever and seems to have a great future in the game.
Despite being away from the game for several years, Clijsters showed her big match experience to take the first set and also hold her nerve in the second to close out the victory and complete a remarkable comeback. The scenes at the end when Clijstersí daughter Jada joined her on court were memorable and provided many newspapers with their back page photographs the day after.
Itís a shame we have to wait four months for the next slam but to be honest, I think New York provided enough drama and entertainment to last us a lifetime.
Del Potro almost denied a moment he deserved
If ever there was a particular incident that summed up the scheduling fiasco at the US Open, it was Dick Enberg refusing the newly crowned US Open Menís champion the chance to speak in his native language. Granted, Enberg eventually let him have his moment but only after the Argentinian had almost been forced to get down on both knees.
Yes, Iíve just praised the US Open for the entertainment it has provided over the past fortnight but if the scheduling was done properly, then the event could even be a whole lot better. And fairer too!
When Del Potro asked MC Enberg if he could say a few words in Spanish, the American refused giving the lack of time available as the reason. OK, perhaps it wasnít Enbergís decision. It may well have been a producer shouting through his earpiece. But once again, Television dictated and fairness was thrown out the window.
After the Lexus presentation was made (which funnily enough, they had time to show), Del Potro asked again, his request was granted and just as well. The new champion had just produced a stunning performance captivating millions of viewers watching at home and had every right to speak in his native tongue. As far as Iím concerned, he could have ran naked round the court if he wanted. Not that I wanted him to but rightfully, the champion deserves his moment of glory.
Is the future bright for British womenís tennis?
Congratulations to 17-year-old Heather Watson who won the US Open girlsí singles last week. A tremendous performance from someone who has lived in the shadow of her younger but better known compatriot, Laura Robson. Heather has certainly made us stand up and take notice after her efforts in New York.
It led the LTA Chief Executive Roger Draper to say: ďThe future is looking bright for British TennisĒ. Well, thereís a long way to go yet but at this moment in time, I would have to agree.
Womenís tennis in particular is showing signs of improvement all the time in the UK. Despite no high performers at the top of the game like Andy Murray, there are currently five British women in the top 200. In the menís game, we have two.
Also, Robson is climbing up the rankings all the time (currently, she sits at No.330) and Watson is now expected to push on from her current ranking of No.741. OK, Britain doesnít compare to Russia with 14 players in the top 100 alone but the futureís bright, the futureísÖÖÖ..
Davis Cup tie approaches
Back to the menís game and itís a huge weekend for British menís tennis with Great Britain taking on Poland in a crucial Europe-Africa zone Group 1 relegation play-off. Win this and we at least give ourselves a chance of getting back into the World Group in 2011.
Great to see Andy Murray in Liverpool training with the team. There were worries that his wrist injury may rule him out of yet another Davis Cup tie but all seems to be well. In fact, the team took some time out today to visit Everton FCís training complex where they even played some tennis-football.
Murray should get us two singles rubbers in the bag. However, even if heís paired with Ross Hutchins in the doubles on Saturday, that rubber is not guaranteed as the Poles have a truly world class pairing in Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski who are currently ranked tenth in the ATP doubles team rankings.
That means we have to hope that one of the other singles rubbers goes our way. It appears that the Brit given that task will be 19-year-old Dan Evans. Currently ranked at No.302, he has a good chance considering his opponents are likely to be Jerzy Janowicz at No.261 and Michal Przysiezny at No.678. But as we have became accustomed to in British Tennis, you just never know!
Good to see fellow Scot Colin Fleming rewarded with a late call-up to the squad. Fleming replaced Joshua Goodall who according to John Lloyd, was unable to shake a persistent virus. As suggested in an article by Neil Harman in the Times last week though, there is a lot more to this than meets the eye.
This claim is backed up by Goodallís appearance in a futures event in Nottingham this week. Eyebrows were raised even further after a Twitter message from Josh stating: ďis playing Nottingham Futures this week. I feel ready to playĒ. Interesting indeed!
Anyway, all the best to the British team this weekend. Letís hope for a comfortable win wrapped up by Saturday evening.
Jamie Murray back in form
Jamie Murray was once a Davis Cup regular. With four doubles appearances, he picked up two crucial wins partnering Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman. Sadly now though, the older Murray brother wasnít even considered by captain John Lloyd for the Poland tie after his poor form this year.
Itís been a tough time for Murray in 2009. Having reached a career high of 27 in the doubles rankings in February, he dropped to No.135 at the start of August which meant a drop in level to the challenger tour.
Itís tough for players to drop to challengers after playing in the glitz and glamour of the main ATP tour events and slams but Murray has shown resolve and some good form recently with two challenger titles within the past month in Italy with Jamie Delgado and in the Netherlands with Jonathan Marray.
Murrayís ranking has now climbed back up to No.107 and hopefully another good run with Delgado in a Bosnian challenger this week will propel him back into the top 100.