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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

McHale Posts First Round US Open Win; Witten, Devvarman Get Features; Home Schooling Examined

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.


witennis said...

I was wondering how the crow is tasting for the people that bashed Oudin. Windy or not. Pavlychenkova is ranked about 36 in the WTA.

bullfrog said...

I didn't bash Oudin (like her) but did watch the match. It was atrocrious -- Pavlyunchenkove was spraying balls everywhere. I think my grandmother could have beat her today!!

J said...

I saw the match and there was nothing great to talk about. We are not bashing Oudin, all we are saying is she has no weapons and like Jankovic said, she cannot hurt you. Pavly. was off today, that's how Oudin wins.

Sam said...

so it appears Oudin can only win if the opponent has a bad day. What do all these esteemed bloggers consider weapons. Please inform us, especially Jon King who seems to know it all

The Dude said...

Unlike the men's game, the women's game is physically less demanding. You don't have to be fast, you don't have to have weapons. You have to have a strong will to win and want it. I think Oudin has that. Sanchez-Vicario had that. Jankovic has no weapons either, she grinds all day and is not looking to hit winners and she rose all the way to #1.

The Dude said...

I told you Christina McHale has the goods and can be a pro. Congrats, Christina! Just make Sharpova hit her ugly forehand on the run all day and step inside the baseline on her 2nd serves and I betcha she doubles 10+ times. Good luck.

Eric Amend said...


First Jankovic was "off" against Oudin in Wimbledon and now you say Pavlychenkova was "off" as if to give them both excuses for losing to Oudin. Maybe they were "off" because Melanie's game made them play "off". OR maybe it was the pressure of playing someone they were suppose to beat that made them play poorly against Oudin. And even if they were "off", then Kudos to Melanie for being able to take advantage of those opportunities!!!

You need to lighten up on Melanis Oudin because she has had as good a year as any up and coming player could ever want, AND SHE"S STILL ONLY 17 YEARS OLD. Let's recap her results, shall we?!!!

In January, she won three rounds of qualies in the Australian Open before losing in the first round. In February, she played with the weight of her country on her back but saved the U.S.'s Fed Cup hopes by going out and winning her last singles match with all the pressure of having to win because the U.S. was down 2-1 in matches.

This spring, she won two $50,000 challengers before she qualied for Wimbledon and got to the Round of 16. This summer, she qualied for three Tour events in a row (Stanford, L.A., and Cincy) where she lost to Hantuchova in three sets, Ivanovic in three sets and Bartoli 6-4, 7-5. Those are pretty "good" losses AND the scores were close.

There isn't another young American girl who has even come close to doing what Melanie has done so far this year. STOP HATING ON MELANIE OUDIN and give the girl some credit!!!

And on a side note; Brian de Villiers has done a great job with Oudin AND his quote about American tennis players is right on the money!!!

utahjazzwillwinitsomeday said...

Jankovic has a pretty good backhand, and she can hurt you with it. Disagree that in the women's game, you do not need weapons. Otherwise someone like a Jill Craybass would be winning tournaments.

T said...

Did you watch McHale's match and did you like her playing style? How many winners did she hit? Do you really believe she can take more than 2 games from Sharapova?To me Oudin's tennis is much more attractive.

Jon King said...

Don't take things so personally, these are simply opinions. I have watched Oudin play a few times, I don't think she will be a top 20 tennis player. That is the context, not that she is a bad player, not that she is a bad person.

The discussions that have been on going are about producing the next GREAT American tennis player. The next GRAND SLAM winner. Not a player who wins here or there in early rounds.

Someone alert me when Oudin is in the top 20 or wins a major.

She is 17 and has been playing since age 3. You can tell a lot about female players by age 17. She most likely is what she is, a very, very nice player. Maybe she peaks at a ranking around 30....that would be terrific. She isn't going to get bigger and stronger...she will gain experience and that might allow her to reach #30-40.

But again, the context is the next American after the Williams sisters and Roddick who will be a top player and Grand Slam threat.

J said...

Well said John, this is not about Oudin, this is about the American people wanting a Champion after Venus, Serena and Lindsay. McHale and Oudin will win matches because their opponent goes for their shots and misses. Let's take Robson and Larcher De Brito and watch their strokes and compare them to Melanie and McHale and then you'll see what we are talking about. We are Americans we want the best, not the second best Like Andre said we have 300 million people here, why can't we get another Venus, Serena or Lindsay. They are out there let's go find them. But in the mean time we will cheer for Oudin & McHale.

Amtex said...

Melanie Oudin will be 18 in 2 weeks. That is not a 'kid' in women's tennis terms. She has pretty much had the same body dimensions for the last 2-3 years. She was an early maturer so is right now at her peak which she will maintain for about 5 more years.

Anyone who has watched a lot of tennis can see she is a scrappy player who will have a decent career, bopping around the rankings year after year. She will have her share of nice wins over some ranked opponents.

Like another poster said, that is not what all these articles about American tennis are about. They are about who will be our next champion player. That most certainly will not be Ms. Oudin by any stretch.

My guess is that it will be a tall, athletic African American who is a amazing athlete. A girl who just keeps growing right through age 18 or so and matures rather late. She will have a monster serve and ground strokes that rival some men. She will cover the court like a gazelle. Perhaps she is right around the corner and is 13-14, or perhaps we have a long wait as she is just 8-9.

Austin said...

Geez, so now were bashing our young kids when they WIN???

Also, Jankovic isnt exactly loaded with weapons, shes a pusher.

collegefan said...

On the boys side, how many are really ready to succeed at the pro level like Querrey has. Nearly every one of the current crop could benefit from some college tennis. There's an article on year front page of the US Open site Wed talking about the success of the "college guys" in the first round. Some good quotes by Levine & Blake among others

Colette Lewis said...

@college fan:
it's a great story by Josh Rey, who is working for usopen.org for this tournament. I've provided a link in the Twitter feed at left.

Atlanta Amy said...

A dose of reality here. Oudin and her first round opponent are the same age. They are 2 months apart. Pavlyuchenkova has a much better body of work and is the much better player.

Lets look at the big picture if we are going to talk honestly about the state of American tennis. Lets not look at just a few matches.

We Americans tend not to face facts well. None of these current young players has the goods to be great.

The Dude said...

To T, I did not see that particular match but I have seen her play many times before. She's a hitter not a pusher and comes forward. That's why some of her wins are straight sets with aggressive scores. She very different than most of the highly ranked junior girls who are defensive grinders. She only needs to develop a more consistent forehand and a better 2nd serve. Robson has a better forehand, a much better serve and is physically bigger. She also doesn't come forward although I think she should. It remains to be seen if the pressure is too much for her.

Statistician said...

To Amtex...

Why African-American? African-American girls mature faster.

J said...

Well, we should train the best athlete regardless of race. Look at Henin, she was the best in the world and she was somewhat of a small stature, but they taught her to develop weapons, she had the best back hand, a great serve and defended her big opponents well so we just need to train our girls to hit the ball well and to be more offensive than defensive.

socalgirl said...


T said...

To Dude,
"Congrats, Christina! Just make Sharpova hit her ugly forehand on the run all day and step inside the baseline on her 2nd serves and I betcha she doubles 10+ times."

Christina was pushing and it worked - she did not need to do anything else. But nothing in her game could suggest that she can put Sharapova on the run. I bet that McHale will do all the running tomorrow and Sharapova will be stepping in to kill 2nd serves...

The Dude said...

To T, we'll see. I would think that she will do better than Buchanan did against Tsonga. Maria is a good ball striker and she likes strike zone tennis. Pushing and mixing it up can work against her although I think McHale will hit the ball (to her forehand.) Sharapova also doesn't move all that well so wrong footing works very well against her. I hope it's on TV. McHale has performed much better than the other USTA girls.

bullfrog said...

Vania King just played a stellar match to beat Stosur. High quality play today by Vania...took it to her. Obviously used her net skills to come in and put away volleys about 20 times. Much better match than Oudin vs "I can't hit the court Pavylunchenkova".

tennis said...

mchale will get absolutely killed. if sharapova is playing somewhat well, she will have a chance to hit a winner on every single shot mchale hits, her forehand, backhand, serve, everything. and there is absolutely nothing mchale can do to hurt maria. so unless sharapova comes out missing everything, which is possible with maria, that may be a very very quick match

why said...

You know, there is so much negativity against the american players recently (for a good reason... nobody has been doing much of anything), but here at the open the americans have been doing ok so far. mchale, oudin, king, witten, querrey, etc. why not be positive about this? im sure people will probably say they aren't going to be positive because oudin and mchale won by pushing, etc... but if you're in a match and you're opponent can't find the court then is it not smart to hit the ball in? lets praise the people who have done well and won so far and stop being so negative. sounds like no matter what people want to complain.

support! said...

I don't know about everyone here, but I do think both Oudin and McHale have weapons. It may not be evident at first, but I honestly think that these two have a certain weapon that most women in tennis don't have: discipline. They know that they are physically (most of the time) weaker than everyone else. They understand that if they try to bash balls with their opponents that they will lose. They play within themselves and are disciplined during the point. That's what these two have that maybe a Robson and LdB don't have. Sure, eventually they'll have to step up their games, but where women's tennis stands right now, don't be too sure that something this small could become a big factor. Look at Radwanska. If you can tell me that this girl has more weapons than an Oudin or a McHale, then I'm all ears. And her ranking is top 20 isn't it?
I think one shot of Oudin's that is overlooked is her slice. That thing is nasty. It can neutralize the point, or it can be used as an offensive short chip, especially to the forehand.
Maybe they'll be top 20 players, maybe they won't. But a little support sure as well won't hurt their chances. I really hope these two can shut all of you up tomorrow by being able to compete with the best, not necessarily winning.

Observer said...

I see... Oudin and McHale have weapons if we just redefine what "weapons" means.

Markus said...

To support!: I fully agree. Apparently for others the only weapon is mindless smacking of the ball, as hard as possible, and being physically huge. We seem to forgot Henin who was small, moveed excellent, and could build point (she could smack the ball too). Clisters is not huge either, and is back after 2 years beating the top 10 players.
Mental discipline and toughness is extremely important as well, and is a huge factor in winning and being a top player - see metdowns of Ivanovic, Jankovic, Safina in finals of grand slams.
Oudin, McHale, and others: wish them well and support them.

jmoney said...

hahaha, yes i 100% agree observer.

the definition of a weapon is:
"any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon" these are physical things, so in tennis this would be things such as a forehand, backhand, speed, serve, etc.

discipline is simply skill, not a weapon.

Markus said...

I see we can find word definitions in dictionary, that's is good. Does not matter that the term is used figuratively.
Now for all bashing Oudin: get down on your knees, bow your heads down, and reapeat 3 times "WE ARE NOT WORTHY"

Bij said...

I've been an avid reader of the posts and comments on this site for about 4 years. I've seen many ridiculous remarks made by people who seem to have no knowledge of the game, however I've managed to keep my thoughts to myself. After having a chance to watch Melanie Oudin play Elena Dementieva this morning, I thought I would contribute my two cents.

First off, the knock that she is already 17, and is behind her counterparts is a bit unfair. It is becoming more and more clear that the physical nature of the game is making it increasingly difficult for young players to break through. It is safe to say no one will break Martina Hingis' record of winning a junior slam at age 12, nor will we see any male win a ATP slam under the age of 18.

Second, there is no cookie cutter method of developing players. There are many styles of play that have had success at the highest level, so it is wrong to criticize any player for not playing a certain way, especially given the fact that the player has the right to decide his or her own game style based on their strengths and weaknesses.

From what I saw, Oudin excels in her movement, consistency, and mental toughness. Those are arguably the three most important parts to building a successful pro career, so I think she has a bright future ahead of her.

Jon King said...

Okay, I will eat some crow. Oudin with another nice win. But after watching that match I come to one conclusion....after the Williams sisters, women's tennis is terrible. Melanie is a nice player, but nothing special at all. If thats the next American great, I ain't watching. Its like watching a scrappy little club player for 2 hours, yawn.

Yet she can play with anyone outside the Williams sisters. Thats very, very sad. Women's tennis is 1/10th what it was even a few years ago.

By the way Bij...she is 18 in 2 weeks, a totally mature 18 year old.

Rod said...

Women's tennis needs players like Oudin. The game is being ruined by these hulks who can't move. Don't these other countries have basketball that these women can play?

tennis guy2894 said...

Jon...I have been reading your comments and I don't know if you are just trying to get a little attention here or you just don't know much about the development and skills of a rising tennis player. I would assume it's a little bit of both. This girl will be a top 20 player much sooner then even she probably thought she would be. She has all the talent and athletic ability to compete and beat a lot of the top ten players in the world!

joeshmo said...

womens tennis is terrible. oudin can be number one in the world for all i know

george said...

all i want is an american winning matches and making a push into grand slams consistently, if thats oudin, glatch in the future, or somebody i havent heard of yet, i dont care as long as the USA is doing well. CONGRATS melanie you are doing amazing keep it up against sharapova/mchale.

The Dude said...

Oudin's 2nd serve averaged 77 mph while Chase Buchanan's 2nd serve averaged 81 mph. Chase is a full time at USTA High Performance at Evert. Don't they teach serving there or just baseline grinding?

Cheap Shot said...

The Dude

You said, "Chase is a full time at USTA High Performance at Evert. Don't they teach serving there or just baseline grinding?"

Please get your facts straight.

Chase hasn't been full time at USTA for 15-18 months. Been training at college or at home.

Also FYI--(2009 US Open)
Average 2nd serve speeds

I doubt the difference in Andy Murray and Chase Buchanan is 3 mph on the 2nd serve. So not sure 2nd serve speed is the problem. Maybe try drop shots attempted or just rip the usta more.

The Dude said...

To Cheap Shot, the US Open profile lists Christina McHale at 5'5" and 108 lbs. and she averaged averaged 83 mph 2nd serve, 97 mph 1st serve. Chase is over 6' tall and probably weighs over 160 lbs. and averaged a slower 81 mph 2nd serve and 103 mph first serve? Also, everyone on your comparable list except for Hewitt developed on red clay so it's understandable that their 2nd serve was developed in that manner. However Chase developed on hardcourts and a good amount of indoor play. Grinding works in the junior level very well but if you are devoting your life for the ATP Tour at least bring some guns with you. We all seen that for all of Donald Young's talent, he hasn't been the player that the USTA has expected.

Cheap Shot said...

The Dude

Why are you giving me Chase and Christina's weight? They have very little to do with 2nd serve speed.

Chase hasn't devoted his life to the ATP Tour, which is why he is still in school, probably to continue to improve, ie his serve and the rest of his game.

Donald Young's lack of improvement is about practice habits, not his 2nd serve. (BTW-which is bad). The USTA has never had control over his practices or development. His parents are his coaches and would raise hell if anyone took credit for anything regarding Donald. I'm imagining the USTA knew that Donald would never be a Grand Slam threat after seeing his lack of practice habits or work ethic.

The Dude said...

To Cheap Shot, ouch, you sound so defensive, are you a USTA High Performance coach? My point is, for a guy that big who has been around, Chase has a rather weak serve. In fact the data shows his 2nd being weaker than McHale's. That's an observation, not a cheap shot.

Cheap Shot said...

The Dude

I am not a National Coach (good try) but I do work with some of those coaches often. I may sound defensive because I strongly disagree with your agrument. Also, your first post was a cheap shot at the usta--regarding grinders.

Chase has been around juniors, futures, and college tennis: and that's about it.

Comparing a guys stroke with a female's stroke is comparing apples-n-oranges. There is no point. Completely different genetically. That's all.

You can have to the last word because I am done with this topic.

pretty sure said...

Christina McHale is not 5'5. She's around 5'7, 5'8 I would say.