bracketology: the men of flushing (and how they’ll fare)



By Christopher Phillips


Cool and calm: Novak is the US Open’s top seed for the first time ever. (Getty Images photo)

More: See Christopher’s breakdown of the women’s side of things here.

Djokovic — Winner | Shoulder injury aside, you’d be hard pressed to not pick Novak. He opens with a qualifier then would play either Pere Riba or Carlos Berlocq, two dirtballers, in the 2nd round. His first challenge could be in the third round against Nikolay Davydenko. 13th seed Richard Gasquet, 22nd seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Kei Nishikori, Ivo Karlovic, and Fernando Gonzalez could all be waiting Novak in the 4th round.

Rafael Nadal –- Semifinals | Nadal’s road is quite a bit trickier than that of Djokovic. He opens against Andrey Golubev. The Kazakh is currently ranked no. 97, but the ATP’s Most Improved Player of the year for 2010 was as high as no. 33 in October of last year. Nadal should get through that match without too much difficulty, but could face former Top 5 players David Nalbandian or Ivan Ljubicic in the 3rd Round, then two-time Open Semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny or 17th seed Jurgen Melzer in the 4th round.

Roger Federer –- Semifinals | Federer opens against Santiago Giraldo, who hasn’t played a match on hard courts since Miami, and then could play the Brazilian lefty Thomaz Bellucci, who just missed being seeded, in the second round. Ryan Harrison or 27th seed Marin Cilic should lie head in the 3rd Round with 23rd seed Radek Stepanek, 15th seed Viktor Troicki or Philipp Kohlschreiber potentially waiting in the 4th round.

Andy Murray –- Finals | This summer’s Cincinnati champion comes into New York in fine form. He’ll open against Somdev Devvarman in round one. Big-serving Robin Haase could challenge Murray in the second round and 25th seed Feliciano Lopez in the 3rd round could pose problems for Murray, but his solid return game should counter any danger there. | TSF Vault: Murray

David Ferrer — Quarterfinals | Ferrer reached the semis in New York back in 2007 and lost a thrilling fifth-set tiebreak to countryman Fernando Verdasco here last year in the 4th round. He also tasted a Major semifinal earlier this year in Australia. The only thing that brings about concern about Ferrer living up to his seeding is his lack of hard court match play this summer: an injury sat him out for every event save Cincy. To his credit, however, he beat Roddick and Fish in Davis Cup in early July — two giant wins on American fast courst. His biggest challenge to the quarterfinals will be 10th seed Nicolas Almagro or 21st seed (how strange is that number?!) Andy Roddick.

Robin Soderling –- Second Round | The Swede hasn’t played a hard court match since early losses to Juan Martin del Potro and Kohlschreiber in Miami and Indian Wells, respectively, but follows Djokovic with the second-most hard court championships this year (three). Soderling’s lack of play this summer could send him out early to rising American veteran Alex Bogomolov Jr.. Bogomolov beat Soderling 2 and 2 in Indianapolis in 2004, so there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again.

Gael Monfils –- Quarterfinals | Of the top eight, Monfils has the toughest draw into the quarterfinals. He’ll open against potential future star and current heartbreaker Grigor Dimitrov, before possibly meeting former USO finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero in the 2nd round. 31st seed Marcel Granollers, Albert Montanes or Xavier Malisse could wait in the 3rd round before a potential match-up with 9th seed Tomas Berdych — who’s never made it past the 4th round here — or Montreal semifinalist 20th Janko Tipsarevic in the 4th round.

Not filleted: Fish is riding a strong summer coming into the USO. (Getty)

Mardy Fish –- Round of 16 | Opening against German Tobias Kamke, Fish should have pretty smooth sailing to the 4th round where he’s likely to meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga could come through in that match-up, but potential matches against big servers Thiemo De Bakker in the second round and Kevin Anderson or 29th seed Michael Llodra in the third round could give Fish the extra batting practice he needs to beat the Frenchman. | TSF Vault: Fish

Dark Horses | Potential winners? Probably not. But these boys could pull a few upsets and find themselves in week two at Flushing.

11th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga | Tsonga’s play has been one of the most exciting to watch this year. Assuming he’s regrouped and healed since his retirement against Novak in the Montreal semifinals, he’d meet slumping 19th Fernando Verdasco in the third round followed by “your country’s eyes are on you for a change” 8th seed Fish in the R16. Should Tsonga make it through both of those, he’ll face 3rd Federer for the 5th time this year and will be going into that match with some serious momentum beating the Swiss in their last two meetings.

16th seed Mikhail Youzhny | Youzhny has twice been a semifinalist in New York before: last year and in 2006. Despite a relatively easy loss to Nadal here last year, he did get the better of the Spaniard in 2006. He’s set to meet Nadal in the 4th round this year and — given the Spaniard’s unimpressive summer — it’s highly possible that Youzhny could find himself in the semifinals for a third time in six years.

18th seed Juan Martin del Potro | Well… in as much as a former champion can be considered a “dark horse.” JMdP has underperformed this summer, with second round losses to Federer and Cilic in Cincinnati and Montreal, respectively. Perhaps he’s just saving himself for the big show? The Argentine’s first challenge would be against 12th seed Gilles Simon in the 3rd round (Simon has never been past the round of 32). A potential 4th rounder versus 28th seed and Winston-Salem champ John Isner or Soderling would come next.

20th seed Janko Tipsarevic | The Serb loves the big stages and they don’t get bigger than Arthur Ashe Stadium. Janko opens against a qualifier and would face 9th seed Berdych in the 3rd round. Tomas’ track record in New York isn’t very good, so Janko could see himself in the 4th round against Monfils. And depending on the Frenchman’s form that day, perhaps even into the QFs to take on countryman Djokovic.

TSF Vault: US Open | Bracketology

First-Round Matches to Watch:

Youzhny vs. Ernests Gulbis | The Latvian was at his career peak at no. 21 in the world earlier this year, but has done little this summer since upsetting del Potro and Fish on his way to the Los Angeles title. He got the better of Youzhny at the Masters tournaments in Paris and Madrid last year.

23rd seed Radek Stepanek vs. Kohlschreiber | The dancing Czech dropped out of the top 70 earlier this year, but his title in Washington bodes well for him. The German has seen better days — but he’s always capable of an upset.

Harri situation? Ryan’s always an eye-brow raiser. (TSF)

Cilic vs. Harrison | Can the young (hot) American continue his hot summer?

Isner vs. Marcos Baghdatis | Just about anytime the Cypriot is on court, it’s going to be a fun match.

32nd seed Ivan Dodig vs. Davydenko | The Russian and former world no. 3 missed being seeded by a few spots, but twice a semifinalist here, he knows how to get it done.

Fernando Gonzalez vs. Ivo Karlovic | It’s great to see the Chilean back in action. Combined ages? 63.

See the full men’s draw here | Qualies

Predictions | 4th round:
Djokovic d Gasquet
Monfils d Tipsarevic
Federer d Stepanek
Tsonga d Fish
Del Potro d Isner
Murray d Wawrinka
Ferrer d Almagro
Nadal d Youzhny

QFs:
Djokovic d Monfils
Federer d Tsonga
Murray d Del Potro
Nadal d Ferrer

SFs:
Djokovic d Federer
Murray d Nadal

Finals:
Djokovic d Murray – 4 sets

short balls: open coverage explodes, around the parties and irene


Here we go! The all-out media blitz for the 2011 US Open has begun, the New York Times seemingly sounding the starting gun this morning when Novak Djokovic lived on its homepage for much of the morning with a piece written by Greg Bishop about the all-out transformation of Djoko over the last year: the diet, the game, the ranking and the media appeal. It doesn’t stop there with the Times, which has stories about Irene, finding tennis courts in NYC and qualies of course. But those are just the meat-and-potatoes posts. More? Andy Samburg dresses up (and celebrates like) the best champs from tennis’ past, though he didn’t pull a Djoko and sport a Maria-inspired wig. Check out the hilarious video here.

TSF Vault: Short balls | US Open

Time out: But don’t think the Times is the only one who has it going on. New York magazine has an entire US Open guide section while Time took the time to follow Djokovic around, too. Tennis.com is unsurprisingly all blinged-out, currently with a Richard Pagliaro Q&A with Andrea Petkovic. Their USO-specific page is a looking a little bit like it’s stuck in 1999, though we’re positive that Tignor, Bodo and the rest of the crew will be on the grounds and covering as they always do. TennisNow.com is looking more and more like Tennis.com these days, which isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. But we do enjoy their easy-to-read breeze through the fashion of the men and women at Flushin this year, which is heavily linked to outside sources. CNN/SI gives little/no cover play to the Open on this Friday, but we expect them to beef up coverage as the tourney actually gets underway. No doubt they have frontman L. Jon Wertheim‘s piece on the seeds (he’s all Serena on the women’s side) featured on the tennis page. Tennis Channel wants folks to play in its Racquet Bracket challenge – and we would — if only that meant a date with James LaRosa of Sweet Spot fame. His latest Spot? A drinking game, of course! Oh James! You keep us sober (in life)! ESPN.com doesn’t have any USO coverage on its homepage, either, and hasn’t even pulled the “Tennis” section from out underneath the “More Sports” bar. But the .com side always adds to what TV has going on — which is bigger than ever. ESPN3 went as far as sending out a release to tout their individual coverage that supplements TV. What can we say? We sort of love it.

And the little guys? On the blogosphere, it’s business as usual around the horn. The blogging has been slow for C Note, but the tweeting? Outta control. So much so that Merriam-Webster finally appeased and made “tweeting” an actual, real world. Way to go, C! 52,346 tweets and counting. Down the Line has this hilarious cartoon via Women’s Tennis Blog. Tennis Panorama braved the epic crowds at Macy’s yesterday for the Rafa unveiling of a (shirtless) billboard. Did we expect anything else? Number of Rafa billboards? One. Number of words he spoke on stage? One. (“Hel-lo.”) The-Slice has tasty crumbs from Taste of Tennis last night. And Adjusting the Net is all about Winston-Salem. Someone had to be, right?

short(er) balls: The Post calls Serena’s path (she has Vika in the third round) “easy” for title. | TSF contributor Lindsay Sakraida has NYMag.com’s official preview of the men and women. | We didn’t see this coming: the USTA cancelled Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day because of Irene. Won’t reschedule. | Richard Evans writes on FoxSports.com that this is Mardy Fish‘s big opp. | More 3D tennis from Panasonic and CBS. Should we care? | Pete Sampras and other fellas part of an “Old School” tennis event last night in Murray Hill, Manhattan. | New Haven got all shaken up (and evacuated) after Tuesday’s earthquake. | Lleyton Hewitt? Out of the Open. | Tennis Channel is still battling with Cablevision. #overit | But really, NYT? Who is eating around the grounds. People are just eating in the grounds. | The next great gay film? We sort of think this is it. | Shameless plug: Housing Works has plenty of good sales this fall. In the city for the Open? Live there? Have the ability to shop online? Do. It.

(nytimes.com screengrab; hw photo provided)

 

trophy watch: serena's (and nole's) sizzling summer



Streak this: While Novak Djokovic may be 53-1 this year and 29-0 on hardcourts, he doesn’t have as many wins this summer as Serena Williams. Serena hasn’t lost since Wimbledon, winning her second straight US Open Series tournament in Toronto over the weekend, running through the field with a only hiccup here or there — much like she had in Standford at the Bank of the West Classic. Serena’s final triumph was over Sam Stosur, who beat Williams in the French Open quarterfinals last year in a tight affair. Not this time: Serena won the Rogers Cup for the second time, 6-4 6-2.

King Nole: While it is clear that Serena is having a banner summer, so, too, is Nole. You just can’t take it away from him — he’s having a banner year. Prior to his final yesterday against Mardy Fish, Djoko had dropped just 20 games in four straight-set matches. Remember: this dude hadn’t played since Wimbledon! Seriously: undisputed world no. 1 on l-o-c-k. The final was a good one, thanks to a gamely Fish, who we hope will show up in similar form in two week’s time at Flushing Meadows. Nole, as he has 52 other times this year, emerged the winner with a 6-2 3-6 6-4 effort.

Clear as day: As for the trophies, we can’t say we’re the biggest fan of the clear glass look, but if we had to choose, we’ll take Serena’s lighter, thinner option over Nole’s marginally phallic offering. But the real question? Who had the better celebration?!

TSF Vault: Serena Williams | Novak Djokovic | Trophy Watch

(Serena images by the AP; Djoko images by Getty)

summer blockparty: christina mchale in new haven



The future Christina? How cute is this little aspiring tennis-playing gal? She joined some 200 kids from the New Haven area for a USTA 10 & Under tennis clinic, where American Christina McHale helped the youngsters with their form. Swinging Head racquets donated by First Niagra, the kids were treated to an afternoon of tennis and face painting (see below) at the “First Niagra Block Party.” The block party was held to help, in part, promote the New Haven Open at Yale, formerly the Pilot Pen. Set for the week before the U.S. Open, this final lead-up tournament will go from a men’s and women’s event to solely a WTA event as the men’s event has headed south to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The 19-year-old McHale, ranked no. 67, received a wild card into New Haven. The tournament already has commitments from world no. 1 and defending champ Caroline Wozniacki, along with former French Open champs Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Check out the full player list here.

More great images from the New Haven Open’s Block Party after the cut.

[Read more...]

madrid masters master a new domain



By Lindsay Sakraida, on Twitter

Hangin’ above the crowd: This week, the tennis tour hits the Madrid Open, the most controversial stop on the clay-court schedule. And while much focus has been on Rafael Nadal‘s disapproval of playing in the high altitude before Roland Garros, there’s more to the Madrid cache than a public disagreement with its most famous compatriot. At every opportunity, the Madrid Open creatively and strategically aims to differentiate itself in a very modern way — and the tennis tour is all the better for it.

Mastered differences: Madrid has always been unconventional. It changed from hard courts to clay in 2009, at which point the tournament director announced that he was considering forgoing the iconic rust-colored dirt for a thoroughly modern blue. (It never came to fruition, to Nadal and Federer’s approval.) Long before the surface change, the tournament began using models as ball kids during the later stages of the draw, and the fetching — in more ways than one — “kids” continue to raise eyebrows nearly a decade later. (But just to be clear: these are no “kids.”) And just this year, the event was publicized by dangling racket-wielding acrobats off the side of a court-covered building. In all manners, Madrid aims to get people talking with arresting visuals.

But the most telling distinction between Madrid and the rest of the tour lies in its most accessible marketing device: their website. It combines vibrant graphics and Flash-based design to convey a unique energy and atmosphere, and there’s even a custom animation at the top that pays tribute to the distinct form of the Caja Magica. It’s fairly obvious that the site isn’t your typical tournament’s digital home, but the most significant deviation from the norm is quite subtle; Madrid doesn’t use the ATP template (nor the WTA template, for that matter) in its design. Take a look at the Rome, Monte Carlo, or Indian Wells sites. Each uses the same architecture and rotating carousel of top stories and images. Madrid isn’t the only tournament to shun the standard — both Cincinnati and Paris are moderately different, for example — but it’s one of the few locations, especially among the big nine Masters Series, to forgo the status quo in favor of something truly unique. And with continuous debate about what tour stop should be bequeathed the “Fifth Slam”, Madrid’s deliberate branding seems like a move for the title.

TSF Vault: Our love for the webby Madrid

Along with its home page, the tournament also has a vibrant YouTube channel. It’s not unusual for a tournament to post press conferences, daily recaps, and occasional behind-the-scenes content, but — despite YouTube’s history of creating viral phenomenons — few use the video service to genuinely engage the audience. But in the lead up to the main draw, Madrid has done just that. It challenged its Spanish-speaking audience to submit videos proving why they are the ultimate “Super Fan,” which resulted in a plethora of charming tournament tributes. It remains to be seen what sort of content they will provide during the tournament proper, but if this promo video (which features Feliciano Lopez) is any indication, it’ll be just as vibrant and lively as its carefully-cultivated image.

More: Springtime teal in Madrid | Rafa’s distaste for colorful clay

Above all, Madrid serves as an example of what the sport can become in this new age — a Europeanized (and better version) of a US Open Series event. Tennis has always stood on the shoulders of the many cities that host it, but quite often, standardized tournament branding fails to effectively represent each location’s diverse nature. Hopefully, with its constant attempts to break the mold, Madrid will inspire its fellow tournaments to modernize and engage the global audience. After the jump: More high-flying pics from Madrid’s on-the-wall acro-tizing. [Read more...]