It’s difficult not to write about tennis after having lost many nights of sleep over rain delays and upset schedules. Frustrating times at the Flushing Meadows for the second consecutive year. But there’s another reason why it’s difficult to give in to my tired eyes and, sleep: the US Open just got headier.
The women’s line-up continues to remain as chaotic as ever with one of the favourites, Maria Sharapova, making an early exit, thanks to Flavia Pennetta. But the Italian later fell to 92-seeded little-known Angelique Kerber of Germany in the quarters. Caroline Wozniacki came back from a set down and in fact, was down 1-4 in the second set in Round 4. But she regrouped herself and won 12 of the last 14 games in a three-hour marathon against GS champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. This No.1 no-Slam wonder, who faces flak quite often for failing to raise her game and win a grand slam, seems to be setting the right notes at the US Open.
But, watch out for Serena Williams. She is back with a bang after a long injury break and is that lone senior player battling 20-somethings, serving super-human, and erupting in joy as if it’s her first GS win.
And then comes the men’s line-up. Nadal survived the fury of David Nalbandian in Round 3 and was down 0-3 in against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in Round 4. The rain break snapped the momentum and Nadal came back with such force that Muller went clueless. Nadal won 7-6, 6-1, 6-2, and entered the quarters against Andy Roddick. This time, for a change, Roddick has John Isner to keep the American hopes alive. Pitted against Andy Murray, Isner the giant server is in his first ever GS quarters. Murray has had his wobbles in earlier rounds, but seems to be anchoring his dream of first GS steadily now.
Well, here comes the crux of the matter: A dream semi match-up between the reigning supreme Novak Djokovic and No.3 Roger Federer. The tournament organisers couldn’t have asked for anything better. They have all the fabulous four and two Americans to keep the local crowd jostling for tickets. Although Roddick’s win against Nadal and Isner’s against Murray seem a bit far-fetched, the crowd may quickly put these two episodes behind to brace up for the scintillating semis.
The way Federer avenged his previous two losses against J W Tsonga in three straight sets in the quarters, has set some ominous tones for Djokovic. Flashes of his heart-breaking loss to the former world No.1 in this year’s French Open semis may haunt Djokovic. But he is a champion, and knows how to battle such blues and move on.
If Djokovic wins, he can easily say he has found ways to beat Roger. But if Roger wins, a blockbuster finale is well on its way.
Either way, it’s a treat no tennis lover will give a miss.
(A version of this article first appeared in Unboxed Writers on Sept 10, 2011)