By Maud Watson
128 women started the tournament, and now only four remain. On the top half, it’s the matchup that many anticipated. Serena Williams, who not surprisingly showed the USTA how absurd it was to seed her at 28, will face Caroline Wozniacki. It’s the official No. 1 vs. the player many consider the unofficial No. 1. Wozniacki showed her grit and ability to absorb power when she faced Kuznetsova in the Round of 16, and if she can bring that game to the table against Serena, it’s going to be a great match. On the other side, you have two surprise semifinalists. Sam Stosur has always had the talent, but after a stellar 2010, she’s struggled to reproduce satisfactory results. A run to the semis will certainly boost her confidence, and she couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to make the final. The reason her opportunity is so good is the woman on the other side of the net is Germany’s Angelique Kerber. Kerber came into the US Open ranked 92 with no titles to her name, and a career high ranking of just 45. To say she’s a longshot to even make the final is an understatement. For sure Serena is now the heavy favorite, but women’s tennis has been so unpredictable, anything could happen.
Burst That Bubble
It was supposed to happen a few days ago. It was supposed to happen under the lights of Ashe Stadium. If nothing else, it should have occurred on Armstrong under much-needed dry conditions. Andy Roddick is probably just glad his Round of 16 match is over and done. Roddick was finally able to notch his place in the quarters with a win over Ferrer, but not before dealing with a bizarre delay of game, as cracks and bubbles had formed on the court of Armstrong Stadium. Unable to fix the problem in a timely manner, the match had to be moved to tiny Court 13, which probably is not the court Roddick had in mind to mark his first occasion in nine years that he hasn’t played on Ashe. Undoubtedly, the former No. 1 will feel much more at home once again on the main show court when he takes on Nadal to try and secure a semifinal berth.
We’ve heard all the arguments, be they architecturally, financially, or weather-researched based. But a soggy week two at the US Open has led to yet another backlog of matches that rightfully has players and fans alike questioning why the USTA still does not show any signs of evening looking to consider investing in a roof. Yes, major changes would have to be made to existing structures, but if it means lopping off some seating in Arthur Ashe Stadium, so be it. Bigger is not always better. And if it’s making other structural changes to a site that is already in bad need of an upgrade, then find a way. This is the fourth consecutive year that rain has been an issue and has forced a Monday final. In the case of the men who play best-of-five instead of best-of-three, the quality of tennis will likely suffer, leading the USTA to offer fans and television partners an inferior product. If the USTA doesn’t want to become the laughing stock of the four majors, then they need to take a harder look at where they’re spending their funding and revenue.
Shot Clock, Please?
The idea of using a shot clock on the tennis court has been gaining some momentum the last few months. Given the various situations and ebbs and flows that occur over the course of a tennis match, something as stringent as a shot clock probably isn’t the solution, but there’s little doubt that something has to be done to keep players within the realms of the time rule. The reason for the increased clamoring seems to come from two of the game’s biggest abusers of the clock, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Whether it’s gamesmanship or merely a nervous tick on their part that leads to excessive time violations on the big points is up for debate, but either way, it should be punished. And punishment should include more than a warning that is tantamount to a slap on the wrist. Unless an umpire is willing to go the next step and assess a point penalty for a second obvious infraction of the rules – a step that is likely only to be assessed at time that would either cost the player a game or put them down break point(s) – this particular rule is a farce. It would be refreshing if the umpires all agreed – and were told they’d receive proper backing – to enforce this rule irrespective of if the player committing the infraction is ranked 1 or 100.
The Nominees Are
The Hall of Fame announced those on the 2012 ballot, and they include Recent Player candidates Capriati, Kuerten, and Kafelnikov, Contributors Bollettieri, Davies, Kawatei, and Snow (for wheelchair tennis), and Master Player nominees Orantes and Coyne-Long. If Michael Chang is the benchmark, then there’s no reason why the three nominees in the Recent Player category shouldn’t make the cut, and since there’s no worry that Bollettieri might butt heads with Agassi, the Hall of Fame can let him in at the second year of asking. Of course, what should happen and what does happen are often two different things. Stay tuned to next March to find out who gets the nod.