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November 20 02:06
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Night Watchman punches out after 82 minutes

Wrong hero chosen for Late Show Drama


September 06, 2011 | 11:56 AM

That's how long it took the night watchman, Roger, to airmail another Argentine (#36 Juan Monaco) back to Buenos Aires in The Late Show live from Arthur Ashe stadium in NY, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. The package was sent courtesy of only 14 aces among 42 winners stamped on the Argentine - Rog didn't have time to face any break point pressure. In his 4 matches, Rog has faced a total of 12 break points and lost 5 -the same as Joker; compare that to Rafa (9 of 22 in 3 matches) and Murray (9 of 30 in 3 matches). Anyway, so much for the longing expressed by Patrick and company for another late, great match lasting past 2am - it may have been balmy, but they picked the wrong night to wax eloquent, and the USTA picked the wrong man to be night watchman if they'd wanted a late night drama.

Perhaps USTA court assignments only appear to be designed to minimize drama in Ashe?

Case in point: the afternoon schedule in Ashe today...

11am: Donald Young v Andy Murray (After the Grandstand and outside assignments like the cozy new court #17 - the side stage sunken 8 feet into the ground out of the wind before 2500 people - where he upset #14 seed Wawrinka, Donald is opening the day in the biggest tennis stadium in the world against a seasoned top 4 seed)

Following: #68 Gilles Muller v Rafa Nadal

And in Armstrong opposite these matches, there will be drama in important contests between seasoned seeds in men's (involving the last American man with a legitimate shot at making the quarters) and the two first quarterfinal matches in the women's draw:

11am: #28 seed John ISNER v #12 seed Gilles Simon

Next: #28 seed Flavia PENNETTA (a Player of the Day) v. Angelique Kerber

Later: #2 Vera ZVONAREVA v #9 seed Sam STOSUR

These women may prefer the conditions in Armstrong to Ashe, but if their sponsors wanted to complain, they could look to this scheduling first: their matches have been replaced in Ashe tonight by a semi-final MIXED DOUBLES match. Never mind that I'd far rather see that mixed as it involves two exciting young Americans, Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin (who may be happy that she can return to Ashe for the first time since she made such a splash two years ago). And never mind that their 7th seeded opponents are doubles legend, Leander Paes, and Elena Vesnina.

For grounds admission spectators, this is great, but not for those lucky enough to be box seat holders in Ashe - they can scramble for precious seats in Armstrong and look forward to the later rounds where drama moves before the luxury seat they overpaid for. As for the only really good seat holders in Ashe - crony capitalists (eg. corporations, in Palinese) - who cares? The enormous USTA box behind Ashe's baseline can entertain celebrities and tennis industry insiders in their luxury bar and restaurant above the seats, where they can concentrate on business. For perspective on this allocation of precious real estate, imagine if Lorne Michaels had moved his back office into the front row seats at the SNL stage...

Returning from this pointless riff to our opening narrative, Juan Monaco (remember him?) had a great Open. Now, thanks to ranking and seeding systems which are blind to players' results on different surfaces, Juan's ranking will shoot up 180 points to 1350, squarely in the top 32 players and ahead of 6 hard court players (#29 Raonic, #30 LLodra, #31 Ljubicic, #32 Granollers, #33 Dodig and #34 Anderson), until the next ATP 1000 tournie in Shanghai where he will now be automatically qualified but has 720 semi-final points to defend. A sweet reward for a good draw: between wins over #51 Seppi and 33 year old Tommy Haas, ranked #475, the only seed Juan beat was #23 Radek Stepanek, 32 years old (the highest seed in his bracket, #15 Viktor Troicki, lost in the 1st round).

When you want to see the latest rankings based on hard courts or clay, go to Jeff Sackmann's heavytopsin.com blog. They may or may not better predict outcomes, but they would be a fairer basis for seeding.

ACTION REPORT FROM DAY 8 ( Labor Day)

Men

So much for Fish (and so much for my prediction this morning). Nerves seemed to catch up with Mardy at 4-4 in the 1st set when he double-faulted twice to cough up a break (his 2nd serve is normally as reliable as clockwork). And by the middle of the 4th set, he completely lost the momentum he'd built up. All the tennis he'd played this summer finally caught up to him, or at least to his foot. Whatever ailed him at 3-3 in the 4th set, after he'd come back from losing the 1st set to take a 2-1 lead, came at the wrong time. Tsonga pounced, took the set, and kept the pressure on. The final score: 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Jo proved that he's still back and a force to reckon with, especially in 5 setters (he's now 6 and 1 in them). Federer will have another chance to revenge his 5 set loss to Jo in the quarters of Wimbledon this year. Whatever happens, you can bet Rog won't let up with a 2 set lead.

The other old guy whose recent tennis caught up with him today, Ferrero, faded after taking the first set from #20 seeded Serb, Janko Tipsarevic. This set up one half of an all-Serbian quarterfinal.

The other half was never really in doubt, although the outcome of the 1st set was in doubt throughout another long tie-breaker, won by Joker on his 7th set point, 16-14, over Dolgopolov, who'd led the breaker 4-0 and earned a couple of set points. Doggie's style and demeanor have been a joy to watch during our year of mourning for Fabrice Santoro. Another small looking man by today's standards, but he shoots winners from his wiggly hips and follows outrageous shots with huge smiles he can't contain. For a set, he stole the show from Joker, dictating the terms of points even after needing to hit too many 2nd serves - he got away with it because his heavy slice serve in the windy conditions gave Joker all he could handle, and he was able to break Joker twice. Doggie sliced backhand after backhand before ripping a flat FH or BH, forcing the showman to become the staid professional set on merely winning with patient drives and percentage tennis. The Joker had the last laugh, winning 7-6, 6-4, 6-2, but there was no rushing through his meticulous pre-serve ball bouncing routine as he'd done in his previous match.

In his quarterfinal with Janko, once again Joker will have to act the senior statesman. But it shouldn't take too much of his time. Now that he's the Busy Balkan of Belgrade and Beyond (someone has to keep Bud's prosy legacy alive), Joker has to manage his time.

Women

Player of the Day honors went to #17 seed A-Pav, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (who needs flowery language to cover tennis when we have names like hers?) for her upset of Schiavone, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. A-Pav wouldn't have had many bets behind her to take the 3rd set, especially considering Schiavo had eked her out 7-5 in the 3rd set of the Roland-Garros quarters this year, coming from behind. But the 20 year old former Open junior champ is making progress, as demonstrated by this. Last year at the Open, Schiavo allowed her only 3 games. How much progress? Not enough to take out Serena in the quarters. The #28 seed won this one in 3rd gear over former #1 Ana Ivanovic. Playing aggressively, Ana made it a respectable score, on the edge of the definition of competitiveness (, 6-3, 6-4), winning about 40% of the points by firing more winners than Serena. Serena only needed to make 5 trips to the net and hit 9 aces.

The other quarter in Serena's half will be #1 seed Wozniacki, who had to come back from down a set to a hot Russian, former Open champ Kuznetsova. Woz was fitter than Kuz, whose ill-timed crash started as she was two games from winning, up 4-1 in the 2nd set. The winners stopped flowing to offset her 80 errors (4 times as many as the stingy Dane), and even though she managed to finally hit a couple of half decent overhead smashes into the court, it wasn't enough. Caroline's energy soared during her come-back and after -- it looked like she couldn't wait to begin the next point against an opponent whose body language between points resembled Del Potro's (why am I out here?). Those who didn't snooze during the 3 hours plus of Woz v Kuz, or who woke up at 11:30 when it ended, got a 1:30am lights out after Federer's brisk blow-out.

The German boogie queen, #10 seed Andrea Petkovic, did her dance in the Grandstand after beating an unseeded but stubborn, Carla Suarez-Navarro, whose topspin groundies almost forced the 2nd set into overtime. The 5'4" Spaniard, ranked #76, looked tougher than lanky Ana, frankly. Look for better results from this 22 year old, who resembles the former Bumble-Bee of Barcelona, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (nod to Bud Collins).

Doubles

With #3 seeds Llodra and Zimonjic losing, the quarters are bereft of the top 3 seeds. The Bryans, who had started out in the hunt for their 4th Open title in 17 attempts, must be singing a sad song.

Three US women remain in the doubles quarters: 3rd seeded Vania King with partner Yaroslav Shevedova (sheve ova - I got it!) and 4th seeded 30-somethings Liezel Huber (34) and Lisa Raymond (38). The two pairs are in different halves, giving potential to an almost all-american final.

Newsworthy

At least in Boston, this is front page news: The Hall of Fame formed a committee to review doubles legend Bob Hewitt's election to the Hall, considering the allegations of sexual abuse which have surfaced here locally and abroad in his home country, S. Africa.

Rick

Open Day 8


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