Justine Henin visited the tennis center today and, for someone who got almost no sleep in the last two days with all the nervous energy of a Grand Slam quest, she looked perfectly rested and content.
I have covered her for years now, and she was always cautious and guarded. It was difficult to read her, and anything about her personally was totoally off limits. Now, henin explains that she wasn’t really happy, and if you’re not happy it’s hard to want to let people in and see that.
Things have changed. A divorce and reconciliation with her family, along with some dark nights of the soul, have given her a lot to be proud of. Sometimes a player can open up and it seems scripted, but with Henin it feels totally genuine. It makes it easier to appreciate the player, not just the game.
Roger the Great comes through against Nikolay Davydenko, 7-5, 6-1, 7-5. It means he’ll play one of the four players on the tour who has beaten him this year, meaning this can potentially be a real match rather than a walkover.
Novak Djokovic is up two sets over No. 15 David Ferrer, but not the easy way. The third seed has called for a trainer, added and then discarded a white baseball cap, asked the chair umpire to hush the crowd, and at one point moved so poorly he looked ready to retire.
However you look at it, the Serbian is not doing a happy moonwalk into tomorrow’s final. During the hottest part of one of warmest days of the U.S. Open this year, whoever wins this match may be at a disadvantage when it comes to the main event.
Yesterday, Oracene Price and boyfriend Hank Kuehne said they were worried about Venus Williams, who has been experiencing dizzyness and a lack of energy intermittantly in the last few months. She was diagnosed with anemia after Wimbledon and has been taking medication, but this seems to be something different. Price said she would encourage her daughter to go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for a full workup.
Injuries are a fact of life on the tour, and losses are often followed by a discussion of aches and pains that are real. It’s easy to see them as excuses from the couch at home, but it’s rare to see a player really milk it as a reason for a loss.
Serena Williams has her thumb (and according to her dad a swollen knee and torn hamstring), Maria Sharapova has a sore shoulder and you could point to similar examples on the men’s tour.
But it’s troubling to see that two players — Tomas Berdych and Venus, have come out with dizziness and nausea.
The stands were pretty full, but the atmosphere in Ashe was nothing short of flat for the semifinal featuring No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze. In a sport filled with boxing analogies, this match really was the undercard to No. 12 Venus Williams and top-seeded Justine Henin.
And if the Belgian gets through right now, I would unfortunately expect similar apathy for the women’s final. Or it sets up Justine Henin as a prohibitive favorite. (In the competitive sense, not as in the line on the match. Tennis has enough betting troubles now, yeesh.) But I would hope for more intensity on the court either way.
Well, if you missed the third set between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze, don’t worry. It was the exact same as the second set (if you missed both sets, don’t worry about that either, it wasn’t very exciting. Just get to a TV now for Venus and Justine).
Again, Chakvetadze won the first game, and then lost the next six, thanks to 21 unforced errors. It’s also hard to win a match when you win 42 percent of points on your first serve and 39 percent on your second serve.
Kuznetsova said she didn’t care who won the Venus-Henin match (obviously). Fine, but she’s 2-14 against Henin, so good luck with that one. She’s 3-3 against Venus. Something tells me she cares a little (although, to be fair, playing Venus at the U.S. Open isn’t easy either).
Incidentally, tennis fans may not think she’s better than Venus, Serena, Sharapova, Jankovic, and possibly even others, but Kuznetsova will be No. 2 in the world after this tournament. She may have had an easier draw, but she’s certainly no fluke.
I’m covering high school football this weekend, so this will be my last post, but I leave this blog in Jane’s extremely capable hands.
I thought I was watching a women’s semifinal, but apparently they’re playing under high school tennis rules. The players are currently in the midst of a 10-minute “heat break” before starting the third set. They have only been on the court for an hour, but whatever. It does give me a chance to blog.
This match was always going to be the undercard to Venus-Henin, and Kuznetsova and Chakvetadze are playing their roles perfectly. Twenty winners and 50 unforced errors so far, plus four breaks of serve each. Kuznetsova ended the first set with a double-fault, while Kuznetsova somehow whiffed completely on an overhead in the second set.
Chakvetadze also won the first game of the second set and was up 0-40 in the second game, but Kuznetsova woke up and not only held her serve, but won the next six games. By the end, Chakvetadze was clearly waiting for the third set. Conserving energy, but it really gave Kuznetsova some big momentum. Of course, who knows what momentum is left after a 10-minute heat break, which is exactly what the high school players get.
OK, OK, OK…so we can give the guy a pass tonight.
Not only did *Novak Djokovic* start to play much better in beating *Carlos Moya,* he also became everyone’s new favorite tennis player by doing tremendous impressions at the behest of USA in front of 20,000 or so strangers. Good for him.
And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you immediately pop his name into You Tube. It’ll be well worth it.
I’m not here to throw water on the whole tournament. If anything, I’d love to do anything but. I WANT to believe *Novak Djokovic (right)* has a chance to beat *Roger Federer* on Sunday afternoon. I WANT to be curious enough to forget it’s the opening week of the NFL season.
Want to…but can’t.
I’ve been outside for my first look at The Djoker in person. The Serb â€” who beat Federer on a hard court for the Montreal title earlier this year, probably entered this tournament with the best chance to beat The Fed. *Rafa’s* no good on hard courts â€” and worse when you add in the knee tendonitis. But sitting here watching Djokovic’s uninspiring performance inside a chilly and windy Arthur Ashe, I can’t see any possible way he beats The Fed.
Don’t get me wrong. Djokovic has tremendous talent and will win Slams (multiple) some day. But I find myself growing frustrated just watching him. He doesn’t seem to have developed a killer instinct and doesn’t strike the ball pure enough, and The Fed will absolutely destroy him for both deficiencies.
If Djokovic does get through *Carlos Moya,* I think it’ll be new blog favorite *David Ferrer* who meets The Fed in the final. Djokovic just isn’t ready…certainly not for Federer.
I just returned from a very entertaining press conference with *Spaniard David Ferrer (above),* who beat *Juan Ignacio Chela* in straight sets today at Arthur Ashe Stadium in another impressive U.S. Open performance. Ferrer, the clay-court specialist, is now in the first Grand Slam semifinal of his career, and will face the winner of tonight’s match between *Novak Djokovic* and countryman *Carlos Moya.*
Of course, the fact that Ferrer won was not the entertaining part. We found out a few more post-victory details from his early-morning finish against *Rafa.*
Ferrer said he didn’t get back to his hotel until 4 or 4:30 in the morning, and that he stopped to eat in McDonalds because it was the only place open. I asked him what he had to eat and he smiled. “A Big Mac, of course.”
Ferrer’s match with Rafa ended at 1:50 a.m. on Wednesday. He took the court today around 1:30 p.m., meaning it was less than 36 hours after the Rafa match ended.
I also asked Ferrer what time he woke up yesterday. A little sheepishly, he admitted it was around 1:30 p.m.
Trust me, David…I can relate. After all, I went to college once.