Another busy day, with keeping track of all the junior and college players on the courts of the U.S. Open. First up I watched Kalamazoo champion Chase Buchanan get "taken to the woodshed" as Brad Gilbert put it, by No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, losing 6-0, 6-2, 6-1. The rock solid backhand that has won Buchanan many a junior match wasn't in evidence today, and although he showed some nice touch when he came forward, he was always struggling to hold serve, while the Frenchman served at least 15 mph faster, and kept his unforced errors to a minimum.
The next match I watched on the free live streaming on usopen.org was another on the Grandstand, with Melanie Oudin taking on 2006 US Open junior champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Oudin took control early and the breezy conditions seems to bother the 18-year-old Russian, who shanked balls often and made nearly three times as many unforced errors as Oudin, who won the first 11 points of the match to set the tone. After finishing off her first US Open victory 6-1, 6-2, with an ace no less, Oudin did an interview on ESPN2, saying she was going to watch her next opponent, most likely Elena Dementieva. The fourth-seeded Russian was as impressive as Oudin, eliminating Camille Pin of France by the same score as Oudin's win, so the 17-year-old will have her work cut out for her. But she has to be happy to have navigated the first obstacle in a tough draw.
NCAA champion Mallory Cecil's Grand Slam debut was brief--she won only one game from Italian veteran Tathiana Garbin--but that match wasn't streamed so I can't really comment on her performance.
Girls junior champion Christina McHale was fourth to go on another court not on the streaming menu, with her match starting around dinner time. But she probably didn't work up much of an appetite in her quick 6-3, 6-1 win over Slovenian Polona Hercog. McHale, ranked exactly 300 places below the 81st ranked Hercog, broke her opponent four times in the final set, making her second Grand Slam match a direct contrast to her first. In Australia this year, a cramping McHale, who had won the USTA wild card tournament to get in the main draw, lost a long struggle with Jessica Moore 9-7 in the third, so this routine win must be especially satisfying. She'll step up in class however in the second round, when she will face former champion Maria Sharapova.
Over at tennis.com, their terrific group of writers has done some fantastic work already at the Open. Last night, Peter Bodo wrote this thoughtful and balanced view of the game of two-time NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman. Bodo spoke with the former Virginia Cavalier after his win over Portugal's Federico Gil, and didn't avoid any of the tough questions. He asked about the Open wild cards that were not offered to Devvarman after he won the NCAAs, and he asked about the naysayers, who regularly join the no-weapon chorus directed at his game style. But Bodo has been watching tennis too long and too well to overlook the more subtle parts of a player's game. I thought he got to the heart of Devvarman's style when he wrote:
Devvarman played with a less aggressive sensibility and preferred to lurk further behind the baseline - let Gil take the chances, and goad him into going for too much, too soon. This Gil did not do; he demonstrated excellent self-control, but over time even the most disciplined of aggressive players can be lured into throwing caution to the wind. As the match progressed, Devvarman kept tightening the mental screws. If Gil's forehand was the most dangerous stroke, Devvarman's stamina was the more lethal tool.
Today, TennisWorld contributor Andrew Friedman wrote about Jesse Witten, the former Kentucky Wildcat who won his first tour level match today when he defeated No. 29 seed Igor Andreev of Russia. It's an interesting exploration of how a qualifier, ranked 276, can beat a top player easily, and what that kind of performance does, and does not, mean.
Steve Tignor addresses the question he hears all the time, and which is familiar to us on this site, "What's wrong with American tennis?" In trying to find out, he watches four Americans in action Monday, including Donald Young, Devin Britton, Robert Kendrick and Gail Brodsky. Tignor ingeniously puts them into the Andre Agassi perspective, which is never a bad place to be, and comes to the same conclusion I have copped to:
Like Agassi said tonight, there are 300 million people in this country; there’s no excuse for us not to have our share of top tennis players at all times. Then again, his unique life journey only proves the real truth about raising tennis players, a truth proven again by both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: Every champion is an aberration. U.S. tennis fans should have known it all along—there’s only one Andre Agassi.
And finally, yesterday I neglected to link to an important story by my colleague David Johnson, who investigated the idea of home schooling in tennis this piece for the New York Times.
For more US Open coverage, see Marcia Frost's entries at College Tennis Examiner.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009