By Maud Watson
Back from the Brink
Last week marked the start of what should be an entertaining US Open Series, and the ATP final in Atlanta got things started with a bang in what could prove a turning point in the season of both finalists. Mardy Fish, the defending champion, found his back against the wall while playing his compatriot, John Isner. Down a set and 5-1 in the tiebreak, he appeared all but ready to relinquish his crown. But then the unthinkable happened (especially against a big server like Isner). Fish found a way to turn the match around and ultimately pull out a victory, winning the third set decisively at 6-2. A come-from-behind win often instills confidence in a player, and starting off his 2011 campaign in much the same manner as 2010 should only add to Fish’s belief that he’s poised for a great summer. For Isner, he’s going to have to find a way to bounce back from a loss that essentially slipped through his fingers. He has struggled this year, so he’ll be looking to take positives from putting together a fine week of tennis instead of lamenting those missed opportunities. Isner will need a short-term memory and hopefully be better prepped to find a way to cross the finish line at the next time of asking.
Making a Move
Last week also saw two other players start finding their form as they aim to sharpen their games going into the final major of the year. Vera Zvonareva, who hadn’t won a title since February, emerged the victor in Baku. By her own admission, it wasn’t a pretty week of tennis, but finding ways to grind out matches when not at your best is just as rewarding and important as winning with ease. And with a head case like Zvonareva, this was a much-needed title win. On the men’s side, Gilles Simon, whose title drought dates back to January, became the first Frenchman to win in Hamburg in 25 years. In the final, he defeated clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro. What made Simon’s win so impressive, however, was his ability to mentally recover after blowing a set and break lead to ultimately secure a victory in the third. Keep an eye on both of these two this summer. They’ve proven in the past their ability to string together strong runs and defeat some of the biggest names in the sport.
Bump in the Road
David Ferrer announced on his website that he has suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand that will keep him out of the game for the next 2-3 weeks. The Spaniard sustained the injury during training, and though he hasn’t yet officially ruled himself out of the Roger’s Cup later in August, he has termed himself “very doubtful” to compete there. The injury is a definite setback to his US Open preparation, but assuming the injury heals as planned, look for a workhorse and ultimate competitor like Ferrer to have a successful summer and earn more than a few huge match wins.
For Michael Chang, the comments in Agassi’s book were literally a head scratcher, but he couldn’t have crafted a more dignified response. While he stated that he didn’t really understand Agassi’s comments about him or agree with them, there was no anger behind his rebuttal. In fact, outside of suggesting some of what Agassi wrote might have been said strictly to sell books (which isn’t far-fetched), there was no negativity to Chang’s response. He merely recognized that Andre is going to do and say what he wants simply because he’s Andre. But that shouldn’t be a legitimate justification for Andre’s words. Maybe Andre should take a hard look at Chang’s response and choose his words and actions more carefully in the future when it comes to topics of that nature.
The start of the US Open is just a month away, and along with it the now-traditional Arthur Ashe Kids Day celebration. In keeping with the spirit of previous years, there is going to be some crossover within the worlds of sports and entertainment, with one of the headliners set to compete being Carmelo Anthony. Basketball fans may even tune in to see how the NBA star fairs on a tennis court, racquet in hand. And on the plus side for Anthony, he’s at least finding something to do while the NBA lockout continues.