Previous posts in this discussion:
PostUS Open 2019: Andreescu, Nadal Victorious (David Duggan, USA, 09/14/19 3:44 am)
Tennis fans the world over are marveling at the US Open finals, and I thought I would tell my fellow WAISers my impressions, five days in the books. The big stories are of course Rafa Nadal's thrilling five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev, the first five-set US Open final since Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic in 2012, and Serena Williams' close-but-no-cigar loss to Bianca Andreescu, the pride of Canada. Who could have predicted that in 2019, Canada would have a world championship basketball team and a Grand Slam tennis champion, but nary a hockey team or skier, downhill or Nordic, in sight.
Serena failed in her 4th straight attempt to equal Margaret Smith Court's record of 24 grand slam tournament victories (Australian, French and US Open, and Wimbledon, known simply as the "Championships"), and join Court, Yvonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters as the only mothers to have won a two-week-long GS tournament. Although she cruised through her first six matches, dropping only a set, she was not prepared for the final, dropping her serve in the first game, and double-faulting the first set away. A late charge in the second, after saving one match point down 1-5, came up short, and she lost to a teenager for the first time since losing to Maria Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon finals.
The question going forward is whether Serena will get to the promised land. Turning 38 in two weeks, she has age working against her, but the women's game is in such flux these days that it's not outside the realm of reality. The problem is that she has never developed a plan B, and if her serve isn't working (as it wasn't Saturday), she's toast. With rare exceptions, she's not willing to gut out points, hit endless cross-court forehands, or (horrors) hit a slice backhand to stay in a point. Then there's the question of her conditioning, her weight, her nerves and her coach. The endless supply of Europeans haven't been able to crack her over the long haul, but they have worn her down, and in the finals Andreescu was there to pick up the pieces. I could offer my services to improve her conditioning, but as golf great Ben Hogan said, the hardest distance to overcome is the six inches between the ears. With 2009 US Open champion Clijsters and mother of three promising a 2020 comeback, the women's field will grow deeper, and with Serena's other activities (movie voiceovers), I wonder whether her heart is in it as it was earlier this decade.
Rafa renewed his claim as the Greatest of All Time, with 19 GS victories against 8 defeats. His .70 GS win percentage is the best in the game now (barely over Serena's), but still below Pete Sampras' .78. The match was probably the best GS final since Rafa beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2008, with more winners than unforced errors, a true hallmark of excellence. Rafa's four US Open crowns ties him with McEnroe, but is one behind Sampras, Jimmy Connors and Federer. And Medvedev nearly became the first player in 70 years to come back from a two-set deficit to win one of the most grueling athletic contests out there. In 1949, defending US Amateur champion Richard (Pancho) Gonzalez rallied to beat Ted Schroeder (1942 champion) by never letting up his serve and volley game.
The back story is whether the Medvedevs and Grigor Dimitrovs (semi-final loser to Medvedev) will be the next generation of tennis excellence. I've been predicting Dimitrov's ascendance for several years, but I guess his now over relationship with Maria Sharapova was a career killer (for both). Medvedev has the most fluid serve I've seen since Sampras, and at 6'6" (the tallest GS finalist ever), he has the leverage to put it at the corners and out wide with incredible velocity. Having won two slams this year, Nadal has likely cemented his claim to No. 1 in the world at year's end, and the question will be, after his marriage later this month, whether he can equal then surpass Federer's 20 victories (against 11 defeats). Ironically, Djokovic, 3rd in the GS hit parade at 16 but with an injured left shoulder that caused him to withdraw in the 4th round at Flushing Meadows, is Nadal's likely foil at next year's Australian Open. Each stalemates the other in seeking a "double career grand slam," something only Rod Laver accomplished (and he did it twice in the same calendar year). Djokovic beat Nadal in last January's Australian (and also in 2012, the longest GS final in history), while Nadal has beaten Djokovic twice in the French Open finals, and that is the tournament the Joker needs to win to get his "double career grand slam." It was 50 years ago that Laver earned his second Grand Slam, and he never won another GS tournament.
JE comments: Nice analysis, David. Bianca Andreescu was born (gulp) in this millennium (her birth year 2000 technically belongs to the last millennium, but bear with me). Her ascendancy sounds like the passing of the generational torch.
One embarrassing question: what's a double career Grand Slam? I found several on-line discussions on this achievement, but not one of them provided a simple explanation for us tennis naïfs.
Tennis, Golf, and the "Double Career Grand Slam"
(David Duggan, USA
09/15/19 7:09 AM)
John E asked about the double career grand slam. It refers to winning all 4 tournaments two times during the course of your career.
In the annals of sport, there have been only three winners of the Grand Slam in either men's tennis and golf, that is winning all 4 majors in one year: Bobby Jones (1930, US Open, US Amateur, British Open, British Amateur: this was before the Masters began and as an amateur, Jones did not play in the PGA championship); Don Budge 1938 (as an amateur); Rod Laver 1962 (as an amateur) and 1969, as a professional in the first full year of "open tennis" when both pros and amateurs competed against each other.
Triple career grand slam winners in golf: Tiger Woods (3 British, 5 Masters, 4 PGAs and 3 US Opens) and Jack Nicklaus (3 British, 6 Masters, 5 PGAs and 4 US Opens). Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player won all four at one time in their careers but not the double career grand slam. Walter Hagen's career was before the Masters, and as a pro, he was ineligible for the British and US Amateurs. So far as I can tell, no other golfer has a career slam (Palmer and Tom Watson never won the PGA, Trevino never won the Masters).
In tennis, career grand slam winners are Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, and Agassi in the Open era, and Roy Emerson in the amateur era (he's actually a double career grand slam winner, 6 Australians, 2 French, 2 US, and 2 Wimbledons), but some think he accomplished that because he stayed amateur longer than others, soaking up the titles during that era of "shamateur" tennis, with lots of money under the table. Three of Laver's four 1962 GS victories were against Emerson, but he beat quality opponents in finals later on (Fred Stolle, Tony Roche, Arthur Ashe).
Maybe I'll save for later discussion of the women's slam winners, the "Serena Slam," and the "Golden Slam."
JE comments: Lots of slams! Thank you, David. My confusion stemmed perhaps from your mention of Laver winning the Grand Slam twice in one calendar year. How is this possible?