(September 1, 2012)-- As I get started on the intro to “New York Minutes: Best of week one,” I suddenly realize: no way in hell can I ever do it justice. You just had to be there for week one of the 2012 US Open. That's the long and that's the short of it. Two legends retire and the normally ridiculously reticent Sam Stosur does a shuffle after consecutive matches, all in the same week? Are you kidding me?
Also see: NY Minutes Day 2 | NY Minutes Day 3 | NY Minutes Day 4 | NY Minutes Day 5 | NY Minutes Day 6
Without any further ado, here are the top ten stories of week one:
1. The Departures (Roddick, Clijsters)
We knew we were going to say farewell to Kim Clijsters. But when Andy Roddick threw his tired bones into the retirement mix on Thursday, the US Open fell off its axis a bit. A Grand Slam, gravitationally speaking, is only prepared for one legend's retirement per annum. When there's a second, as there was when Andy Roddick proved that 30 is the new 40 by saying no mas to tennis, the physics go out of whack.
That is our lot as tennis fans--we are forced to endure a numbing amount of crazy, weird and chaotic storylines--as we head into week two. We now watch players like Federer, Williams, Hewitt and Petrova with intensified appreciation, wondering if it might not be one of them that will next cave to the pull of a broadcasting career alongside John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova.
As far as what we'll be losing, well, we'll be losing immense character and grit in Roddick, and free-flowing warmth and intensity in Clijsters.
Thankfully, for now, we can still set our clocks for Andy Roddick's fourth-round match with Juan Martin del Potro, as the memories of Clijsters' last stand are still fresh in our minds.
2. The Arrivals (Robson, Klizan, Hlavackova, Stephens)
The extra log on the US Open fire was Laura Robson, and man was she burning. The 18-year-old, who is now officially on everybody's radar after a sparkling US Open campaign, was turning heads this week with clutch performances, much-improved movement, and a level of aggression that was downright scary. Robson, who admittted early in the week to singing along with Taylor Swift during changeovers, became the yin to Kim Clijsters' Yang on Arthur Ashe on Wednesday; just as Clijsters was being moved to the dusty closet of tennis heroes of yesteryear, Robson was rising up, all shiny and new.
We've seen Robson cause a stir before in Grand Slams. As a 15-year-old she won a set off of Daniela Hantuchova, and that was just a year after Robson became the first British female to win Junior Wimbledon since 1984.
But the Robson we saw this week in consecutive eye-opening victories over Clijsters and Li Na was nothing like what we've seen before. A confluence of factors—from working with Andy Murray's fitness trainer Jez Green to hiring Zeljko Krajan as her coach to winning the silver in mixed doubles at the 2012 Olympic Games—all have played a part in stoking Robson's confidence.
(One could even make the argument that Robson gained confidence from being chosen over Heather Watson to be part of the Olympic mixed team with Andy Murray.)
Robson wasn't the only player that emerged this week in New York. People may have expected a deeper run from Sloane Stephens, but in the end the fact that she displayed some very mature, evolved tennis in her very complicated second-round match with Tatjana Malek was enough to consider her campaign in New York a success. There was also Andrea Hlavackova, who has come from out of nowhere to reach the fourth round (after failing to qualify in New York for five straight years), and Martin Klizan, who took out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round two, then backed it up by schooling Jeremy Chardy in round three.
3. Best Match, First Place: Venus Williams-Angelique Kerber, Round Two
Hands down the best match of the tourney. Two things stand out to me: 1. How close Venus is to being top-flight right now? and 2. How easy it is to picture Kerber being in the top 1-5 for a long time to come?
4. Best Matches, Second through Fifth Place:
2nd place: Makarova and Soares d. Bryan and Clijsters 6-2, 3-6, 12-10. If you saw the match tiebreak you know what I mean.
3rd place: Robson d. Clijsters 7-6(4), 7-6(5). See items 1 and 2.
4th place: Gulbis d. Haas, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 – This was classic because of the characters – both loved, albeit for different reasons. We love Haas because he's beautiful; We love Gulbis because he's beautiful. Hmm...maybe the reasons aren't so different after all.
5th place: Roddick d. Fognini This one fizzles but for two sets we thought it could be a classic.
5. The Milestones
The first week was full of Milestones, so I'll just list them as I think of them: Azarenka reaches first US Open quarterfinal. It was Vika's seventh attempt... Marion Bartoli also reached her first US Open quarterfinal in her eleventh appearance in NY... Milos Raonic is just the third Canadian man in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam round of 16, and he can become the first to reach the quarterfinals with a win over Andy Murray on Monday... Andrea Hlavackova reached her first Grand Slam round of 16 in her first US Open main draw... Martin Klizan reached his first GS round of 16 in only his fourth Grand Slam appearance... Laura Robson reached her first Grand Slam round of 16...Kohlschreiber reaches the round of 16 at US Open for the first time in 10 tries.
6. The Sam Shuffle
For those who had thought they'd seen everything—think Marat Safin mooning or Grigor Dimitrov puking after a rally with Richard Gasquet—we had Samantha Stosur striking up a relationship with Redfoo of LMFAO. The fact that I just wrote that last sentence and was not joking tells you all you need to know. Here's a video for those that are still confused.
7. World, Meet the Brothers Harrison
On Sunday Ryan and Christian Harrison took out the fourteenth-seeded pairing of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins to reach the quarterfinals of their first US Open as a team. The Harrisons started the tournament by defeating the fourth-seeded pairing of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski. In other words, they are seriously good.
Ryan was a French Open quarterfinalist with Matthew Ebden earlier in the year, but something about seeing him take the court with his younger brother does more to capture the imagination. Ryan is the leader, while Christian is the scrappy wildcard who deflects screaming passing shots with scissor-handed volleys. Watching them lock up and scratch and claw for points is really something, and talk is rampant that the U.S. might have found its next world-class doubles team.
8. Best Improv: Clijsters-Bryan Chest Bump
Here's what Bob had to say about chest-bumping with Kim Clijsters:
"I thought she executed it great. The form in the air was spot on. Its all downhill from there."
Click here for a classic photo of the last chest bump of Clijsters' career. The look on Clijsters face has to be the goofy look of this year's US Open.
9. Best Tweet
To those who thought Tomic didn't tank against Andy Roddick in his lackluster straight-set loss, you can take up the matter with four-time Grand Slam doubles champion Rennae Stubbs.
10. Best Quote
“You know I shuffle too.” -- Victoria Azarenka, while trying to get Sam Stosur's buddy Redfoo to cross over to her side during an interview with Ted Robinson and Tracy Austin on the Tennis Channel set.
|(Photo Credit: Andy Kentla)