Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Be more constructive with your feedback!"

2008 U.S. Open Recap: Standard structure. Six up and ten down, eh?...I appear to be growing more curmudgeonly in my golden years...

Thumbs Up: to Roger Federer. Funny how his slump now looks like a very impressive year, isn't it? Three Grand Slam finals (and, in the fourth, he lost to the eventual champ in the semis), one major win, a gold medal (ok, fine, in doubles. Still...), three overall titles, 54-12 record, $4.4 million in earnings. Talk about a bar being set impossibly high.

Yeah, it would've been better had he beaten Nadal in the final on Monday and, yeah, he's looked positively ordinary at times this year, but I think this tournament proved what he's really made of. When all is said and done, he's going to be remembered as the greatest ever. (Suck it, Rob. Does the Andreev win qualify a gritty five-setter?)

Thumbs Down: to this horrible, horrible TSN and TSN2 boondoggle. That's right: boondoggle. I type words I would never say so as to appear more important.

I'll elaborate: in recent years, we were lucky enough to have the TSN Alternate Feed, which would pick up the slack and show tennis in its entirety when the main feed was showing some lousy CFL game...or NASCAR. But starting a couple of weeks ago, TSN launched TSN2, so that people can tune in to the second station if they don't like the programming on the first...except Rogers--a not unpopular cable provider--and Bell don't have a deal in place for the new station (there are rumblings that TSN's asking price is way too high...not that that really matters to Rogers, since they invariably pass on price increases directly to their loyal customers), so now we have regular TSN (channel 30) and, on Channel 407 (previously the alternate feed) we have...the exact same TSN again. Great.

I think you can see where this is going. Two Fridays ago, I'm at my parents' place and want to watch Roddick's Round 2 match against upstart Ernest Gulbis, but TSN was showing CFL...shuffling the tennis to TSN2 (which--again--we don't get). Awesome. Now that was annoying enough, but it was compounded by the fact that the guide said they were going to air tennis on tape delay at midnight, but when 12 rolled around, they aired--without explanation--shitty, shitty Friday Night Fights. Way to alienate your viewers for absolutely no reason, TSN!

Thumbs Down: to TSN proper, for just being plain stupid. When I was back in Toronto during the week, I wanted to tune in the Djokovic-Roddick quarterfinal on Thursday night, except this was the same night of the NFL kickoff game, so, instead of being able to watch the match (which, you guessed it, was on TSN2, aka the station no one has), I was stuck watching a choppy feed online (in Spanish!), while trying not to fall asleep watching Redskins-Giants (which, I might add, was also available on NBC). Yes, they did cut to the tennis once the football game--mercifully--ended, but they were already in the third set...and that's not really the point now, is it? I know that TSN has a deal in place for NFL games televised on NBC and I'm sure the game got a pretty big number, but it still infuriates me. Yet--somewhat amazingly--TSN wasn't even the most incompetent network covering tennis. That distinction belongs to...

(Major) Thumbs Down: to CBS Channel 4 Buffalo. So I'm home Monday afternoon, eager to watch the men's final at 5 p.m. Upon tuning in, I see...the 5 o'clock news. OK. Quickly jumping online, I discover that CBS 4 has elected not to air the tennis. Final. Of. A. FUCKING. MAJOR (which was originally supposed to air Sunday afternoon), instead fobbing it off on sister station CW23, except we DON'T FUCKING GET CW23 IN TORONTO!! Morons!! By the time tried to log on the to watch it online (knowing full well that it wouldn't work, since I'm not a U.S. resident), I'd worked myself into an especially frothy rage lather. At this point Carrie (God bless her) called and suggested that I try Hoops, our local sports bar. And, sure enough, they had it (using a Seattle CBS feed). I'm so disgusted that I can barely even talk about this except to say: Congratulations, CBS 4, you've won the coveted "Worst Station in the History of the Fucking Universe."

Thumbs Down: to Canadian tennis players who flamed out ever so swiftly in this year's draw. This includes Frank Dancevic (straight set loser in the first round), Caroline Wozniak (lost in the first round in singles...and doubles!), Stephanie Dubois (who didn't even qualify, but at least won her first qualifying match). Even Daniel Nestor, seeded #1 in the men's doubles draw, crapped out in the Round of 16. Yikes! And on the "it's actually way worse than you think" front, please note that there were zero Canadians in the Boys Singles 64-player draw (Under 18s, basically) and only two girls in the Girls Singles draw (and they both lost in the first round). So...yeah. Prop bet: The Lions will win the Super Bowl before a Canadian (male or female) wins a singles Slam title. Any takers? (If you exclude Wonziak, who has shown glimpses of Top 20 talent, I'd probably be willing to make it "Slam semi-final").

Thumbs Up: to Andy Roddick. OK, I did claim that he was done after Wimbledon this year, and I still kinda stand behind that, but the Roddick we saw during this fortnight was much more the Andy of 2003 (i.e. confident, dominant, electric) than the Andy of 2006-08 (i.e. shaken, stubborn, infuriating). Fabrice Santoro (who, disappointingly, acted like a big fucking baby during his first round match against A-Rod) looked legitimately terrified at times.

Thumbs Up still more: to Andy's press conference, which remain wildly entertaining. Click here for a great Q&A session after his beatdown of Gonzalez in the Round of 16.

Thumbs Down: also to Roddick, who after dumping the first two sets played himself--somewhat improbably--back into his QF match against Djokovic, winning the third and up a break in the fourth and two points away from pushing it to five, only to totally gag it away by way of back to back double faults (allowing Djokovic to break him) and then--and this one is potentially unforgivable--playing a ridiculously stupid drop shot during a long rally at 5-5 in the tiebreak. I'm still not sure how Taylor's head didn't explode.

(a rare) Thumbs Way Down + a Wag of the Finger to: Novak Djokovic, who, at the ripe old age of, what, 20?, has become almost pathologically obsessed with the crowd. Upon beating Roddick, Djokovic let loose with the following, as boos cascaded down on him.

For the record, here's what he's objecting to:

Q. With the way he plays and his style, does it almost mandate that it's going to be a grind? Because it's not easy to knock Djokovic out of points early, even if you're playing well.

ANDY RODDICK: Oh, sure. You're going to have to go to work. He goes to work pretty much every point, and, my service game, he's going to put returns in, he puts guys in pressure. It seems like a lot of times there'd be breaks back and forth with him. You know going in that you're going to have to go to work.

Q. When asked about his injuries today, mentioning the right ankle as opposed to the left ankle, the other day ‑‑

ANDY RODDICK: Isn't it both of them? And a back and a hip?

Q. And when he said there are too many to count.

ANDY RODDICK: And a cramp.

Q. Do you get the sense right now that he is...

ANDY RODDICK: Bird flu. [Kyle here: lol--great timing]

Q. Lot of things. Beijing hangover.


Q. He's got pretty long list of illness.

ANDY RODDICK: Anthrax. SARS. Common cough and cold.

Q. Got a lot of things going on with him.


Q. Do you think he's bluffing?

ANDY RODDICK: No, I mean, I'm sure ‑‑

Q. The way you're saying it, almost means you feel like...

ANDY RODDICK: No, if it's there, it's there. There's just a lot. You know, he's either quick to call a trainer or he's the most courageous guy of all time. I think it's up for you guys to decide.

Listen closely, Novak, because I'm going to drop some knowledge on your head:

1. I know you loved it when everyone loved you (see: last year). Those impressions were classic. But: get over it. In everyone's defense, they didn't quite realize what a dick you (and especially) your parents are.

2. You're. From. Serbia. It's called the U.S. Open. It's not reasonable for you to think that the crowd is going to be behind you. Why this fact eludes you and you felt the need to go into full-blown Ivan Drago mode, I'll never know.

3. Roddick was kidding! Are you so hyper-sensitive that you can't realize that Roddick is being facetious roughly 90% of the time?

4. Even if he were being serious (and, in fairness, he may have been for the section where he references "couragenousness"), you yourself said the exact same thing in your post-match on-court interview with Michael Bartan after your 4th round match. I heard you! When asked, "what do you think about your next round opponent [still undetermined at the time]?" you answered: "I dunno. Whoever it is, I know he's going to be healthier than me."

5. I could almost (almost) understand this if you lost. It'd total be sour grapes, but, when you're dejected, sometimes that stuff just pops out. But: you WON--so why be such a little bitch about it?

Thumbs Down: to James Blake.
I don't know if there's ever been a world-class player who has been so thoroughly lacking in ingenuity. Watching [him] play used to be loads of fun, since he has that monster serve and plays with such enthusiasm. Now? It's an exercise in frustration, as he simply refuses to change or, worse (but, to my mind, increasingly likely) it never even occurs to him to change up his game.
OK, technically that's just a cut and paste from my Wimbledon post and (again: technically) it's referring to Andy Roddick, but all of it holds true. Blake has Top 5 talent, yet--and this gets more and more amazing major by major--has never made it to the quarterfinals of a slam. I like Blake a lot and he's by all accounts a great guy (though his on-court demeanour still leaves a great deal to be desired), but that's inexcusable. A guy that beats Federer at the Olympics less than a month ago simply should not be struggling against the likes of Donald Young (Blake beat him in five tough sets in the first round). We saw Young (8-18 on the year) play in the Saturday Qualies for the Rogers Cup and, frankly, while he may grow into a competent pro (at the moment, I'm unconvinced), at the moment the professional game seems completely baffling to him and he doesn't even deserve to be on the same court as Blake.

Thumbs Up: to Mardy Fish. Nice August run, McFly: semis in LA, finals in D.C., quarters at the Open. (and put up a good fight against Nadal for two sets--not bad for someone who lost five consecutive matches in June and July.) All the while rocking K-Swiss gear (that wine coloured shirt? Loved it.). I'll be honest, I have a soft spot for Fish, who, so far as I know, is the only guy on tour who wears ankle socks (like me!). But...

Thumbs Down:
to the Mardy Fish that played sets three and four against Nadal. I know you're a big hitter (48 winners) and that that leads to more unforced errors, but, my word, I've never seen someone miss shots by five or six feet as routinely as Fish did that night. It says that he had 53 errors for the match, but given that he played a perfect first set, that's pretty terrible. He had Nadal on the ropes...and then totally threw it away. Dial it back a bit.

Thumbs Up: to Jon Wertheim (for continuing to write about tennis) and to Bill Simmons (for abstaining). If you're even a casual fan, JW's page needs to be among your bookmarks.

Thumbs Down: to Ana Ivanovic, who flamed out in the second round to French qualifier (and world number 188) Julie Coin. Please, please, please stop referring to this as "one of the greatest upsets of all-time" MSM. Longtime readers will know that I'm totally in the tank for her, but, looking at this objectively, she's 4-3 since she won the French Open (which, btw, was in June). Her thumb is hurt, she's not terribly mentally tough, everyone lets down a bit after winning a major: pick your excuse. Any way you cut it, something is wrong with her. (Also, bring back the one-piece dress, Ana. I'm convinced this wardrobe change is at least 35% to blame--ok, that part's not so objective...)

Thumbs Up: to Ser--xdhiwfdsqydrrrrk. (Sorry, fingers rejecting request.) To Serena Williams. Win tournament without dropping a set? Check. Play an actual quality match against your sister? Check. Regain the #1 ranking? Check.

While I found the media's griping about Venus and Serena (ranked 7th and 3rd, respectively) playing each other in the quarters to be totally ill-informed (look it up, people: they put the 1 seed in the top half and the 2 seed in the bottom half. After that, they draw for placement. I've watched them do this in Toronto (though I have no idea why, since it's dreadfully dull). There's no conspiracy here. In fact, the only conspiracy would be if they decided the sisters had to be on the opposite side of the draw. If you don't want them to play each other for the finals, I would suggest that you kindly ask them to play in more tournaments--like, say, Indian Wells--so that their rankings don't artificially drop and throw off the seeding. Let me know how this goes...), you have to hand it to Serena. When's she's on her game (and in some semblance of shape) she appears to be virtually unstoppable.

Thumbs Down: to yet another straight set women's final. Yes, it was mildly entertaining, but did anyone really think Jankovic was going to pull it off (and, by "it," I don't mean "her underpants during a changeover"). Obviously not. This now makes nine straight grand slam women's finals decided in straight sets (Mauresmo-Bartoli in the '06 Wimbledon final was the last to go three) and sixteen of the last twenty (in particular, you have to go back to 1995, when Graf knocked off Seles in three, for the last U.S. Open to go the distance. Wow.)

Criticisms aside: I thought this was a very good tournament...and while I'm pretty sure I say this after every major, I think the game of tennis is in great shape. Now, let's all go to sleep until the end of January.


Question Mark said...

No thumbs anywhere for Nadal?

And, c'mon, Federer (or Sampras, for that matter) can't be considered the best ever without a French Open title. I know, I know, Nadal might well be the best clay player of all time, but's a glaring hole in the resume.

Taylor said...

Well, question mark, you're forgetting that Sampras actually sucked balls at the French Open, consistently losing in the first or second round, while Federer has only lost to Nadal at the French in the past 4 years, whom you just suggested is the best clay-courter of all time.

Nice post, Kyle. Sleeping till January, eh? So I guess, like everybody else in the world, you don't care about the year-end Masters Cup.

While I love Roddick, and a big part of me might only be saying this to play devil's advocate, he was kind of dick with his comments. Andy is loved by the media because he's blunt, funny, and typically self-depricating. And to make comments like that about Djokovic in practically his own back yard is inconsiderate. The crowd was already going to be behind Roddick, but he made it worse for Novak. Fans were yelling and whistling and talking louldy during Djokovic's service games, but they were completely quiet for Roddick's. To summarize: Novak's a dick, but Roddick certainly didn't make it easy for him.

Thumbs down: Seriously, no thumbs up for Andy Murray? He just made his contention as one of the top 4 in the world. And he's a good #4, not like those other losers Ferrer and Davydenko, who never had a chance at beating Fed, Rafa, or Novak. He's beaten Djokovic the last 2 times they played (and the most recent time being at the Cincinatti Masters finals), Nadal in the semis, and is lifetime 2-2 against Federer (but he didn't really show this in the final). He's a great player with an exciting and aggressive game.

The R.O.B. said...

Agreed Murray needs to be given some serious props.

And, while the Australian Open is always kind of a crap shoot because of the RIDICULOUS timing - I think Murray is one of the favourites to win. The match he played against Nadal, in my opinion, might have been one of the best executed matches I have ever seen...