Number one Simona Halep vs Number 2 Caroline Wozniacki. Not only is the top ranking on the line; whoever wins will have scored her First Slam Win ever. This a critical match not only for the players but for the Women’s Tennis Association. It’s bad enough that women’s tennis is treated like a red headed step child. Its history of crowning Slamless number one players, combined with athletes who played their way into the top spot (remember the jokes about Jelena Jankovic playing $25k events in Nigeria?) the credibility of women’s tennis is at stake here as well.
Both women are known qualities to serious tennis fans so there’s not much left to say about either. Woz has worked hard to up both her physical and mental game. She’s embracing aggression a bit more and it worked for her this tournament. A lot of that improvement took place last year and she’s learned her lessons well.
As for Simona Halep she had no where to go but up at this event after her dismal French Open performance and quick exit thanks to unfortunate scheduling at the US Open. She has far exceeded what was thought of her ability to play Grand Slam level tennis. And yet…
If you watched the match she was constantly looking at her box, specifically her lead coach Darren Cahill, for reassurance, to bitch at, for coaching tips. Her reliance on her team reminded me of Justine Henin’s reliance on Carlos Rodriguez. After every point Halep’s eyes went right to her coaches. She also kept up a running dialogue with her team. To my knowledge Cahill doesn’t speak Romanian and Halep isn’t that fluent in English so I’m guessing a relay system of some kind was being used in addition to the usual hand signals. The chair didn’t have a problem with what was going on so I guess everything was on the up and up. Maria Cicak can’t chair every match.
Despite all of the excitement of last nights match between Halep and Angelique Kerber I saw a Halep unable to close out a visibly fatigued opponent. Kerber had nothing, no legs, and her arms were heavy but it took a third set going to 9-7 for Halep to finally prevail.
Before I go further it’s interesting that Kerber collapsed physically. I wonder what would’ve happened if Madison Keys knew how to play something other than grip and rip tennis? Giving Kerber exactly what she needed – a 51 minute match after her grueling match against Hsieh Su-Wei it looked as if everything caught up with Kerber last night.
But that, as they say, is water under the bridge. For the WTA it’s the top two seeds are facing each other and on paper that is a good thing. Woz leads the Head to head 4-2. From what I’ve seen this tournament she’s the tougher mentally. That could count for something.
The USTA has really handled the Tennys Sandgren situation well hasn’t it? They’ve had his friends on tour come out in support. He’s read a prepared statement and apologized to anyone he may have offended. All standard PR moves. Except that his apologies were not really apologies and the support he got from his friends dug the hole deeper.
As for how ESPN and Tennis Channel have handled things I can only rely on what I’ve seen on tennis twitter. Long story short: they had no idea what to say. I’ll try and do some listening on my own so I can speak with more credibility.
Naomi Osaka proved that she is no Madison Keys. During her on court interview after her third round win the comm went on and on about her Japanese heritage. Osaka’s personality is a joy to behold. You could see that she didn’t hear the rest of the question after he mentioned, incorrectly, that she was living in New York, and focused on the Japanese part of her heritage. She waited until he was done, told him that she lives in Florida and that her father is Haitian making it clear she is not pushing one part of her heritage over another. Then she said she forgot the rest of his question. Good for her.
And shame on the on air talent for not having done their homework.
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