Thursday, January 26, 2017

AO Day 11: The War of the Swiss

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

We finally had a good match. When all is said and done, this semi-final is likely to be one of the top three men’s matches of the tournament. And what a tournament it has been. One of the best in recent memory. High quality matches, plenty of upsets, great attendance and no quibbles except about certain small weather issues.

We’ll do things a bit differently today. We’ll focus on one semi-final then look at the doubles results of the day.

We’re through most of the doubles and the junior tournaments are getting to the point. In the mixed doubles, Australia has a great chance for a home-grown champion. Sam Stosur (with another Aussie Sam, Groth) could win mixed doubles slam number four. Have you ever looked at her career? It is really quite incredible. She is the only active singles player (not counting Hingis) outside the Williams sisters to have won a slam title in mixed, singles and doubles. Somehow, despite her well-documented mental struggles, she is 3-0 in mixed doubles finals. She has two at Wimbledon and one here, which she won in 2005.

In fact, here is a picture of that occurrence. That’s Scott Draper.

Here she is winning with Lisa Raymond at Flushing Meadows in ‘05.

And again at Roland Garros the next year.

In 2008 she won Wimbledon with Bob [but it could easily be Mike] Bryan

And, finally, with Zimonjic in 2014 at Wimbledon. She helped him win a slam he had not before. He is a U.S. Open away from getting the Mixed Career Slam.

Now for the killer. What if she had not had Lyme borreliosis? What if Lyme disease had passed her by? How good could she have been? How many slams could she have won? We’ll never know.

On Rod Laver Arena, Federer settled in. It was a scrappy first set, with neither man finding their groove immediately. However, when Federer survived several tricky service games, denying Wawrinka on three break points and then taking the set on his fourth break point, things changed. Wawrinka, who looked good to take a set lead, lost it when he netted a routine groundstroke. Federer had the first set, winning it 7-5, and the momentum. But he was minus two in the winners ratio. He had used his experience to dig out the set.

In the second set, Federer flew and Wawrinka just couldn’t live with it. Roger just kept playing tennis not of this world. He mixed it up, defended and attacked well. Wawrinka could muster little, hitting only six winners in total. Vavsy folded into himself. He just didn’t click. And it would have been over in straights. Then, with Federer up 7-5, 6-3, something funny happened. Wawrinka injured himself. Federer had the two sets to love lead and his opponent was hurt, with a questionable knee.

Wawrinka quite literally said, "Screw this." Much like we all have when facing tough circumstances. But rather than run from our problems, swear at them or ask someone else to do it, Wawrinka decided to hit out. And he dominated. For three sets. He ripped Federer apart, taking the next two sets 6-1, 6-4. It was an inspired performance. Wawrinka just put the balls in places Roger couldn’t reach and he was doing it with a smashed up knee. This was not just against the script; the Swiss had burned the script.

The stats lie. It wasn’t close. Wawrinka took away Federer’s serve-volley tactic. He took away the baseline. In the fourth set, Federer looked like he may be able to steal it and get away with the match without going the distance. But once more Stan stood up. He broke, took it to five and looked the winner.

Fed was out of ideas and looked to be panicking when he shanked a forehand. It’s a sign of nerves with Fed, if he suffers from those at all. That fact has yet to be conclusively proven. They used to say he Federer never sweated -- that moisture is just condensation. Anyway, in the fifth, Federer held on for dear life. He clung to his serve by smoke, mirrors and witchcraft. He clung like Kate Winslet in "Titanic." But Wawrinka was surely destined for another final. Well, until the fifth game. He threw down three errors. And one loose, sloppy game was the difference maker in a three-hour, five-set war.

It was a gritty match for parts, breathtaking in others, and intense for most of it. Both men came and went like the tide. If you want to watch a tennis match that sums up our sport, this is it. No, this was not perfect. No, it was not the 2008 Wimbledon Final. But it is a snapshot of how our sport is these days. So, if you haven’t already, go watch it. You won’t be sorry.

Now, for some dessert, in the form of doubles.

...The first set was a high quality, tight affair with both sides holding comfortably. However, as the match wore on the Bryans took control. They won the first set 7-6[1]. In that breaker, their defence was fantastic. They played one of the best breakers you could ever see, making barely a single mistake. It took everything the Spaniards had just to win that one point. They won it after a lengthy rally. Once they had a set in their pocket the Bryans were never going to lose and soon put the underdogs to the sword, winning the second set 6-3. After exactly 90 minutes on court, they were through with minimal fuss. 31 winners and seven errors. The Bryans are taking a leaf out of the book of another pair of elderly siblings. The Americans, who have withdrawn from Davis Cup for this year, have a golden shot at another major. But who will stand in their way?
MCA: KONTINEN/PEERS D. POLMANS/WHITTINGTON ...The young Australians have had one of those tournaments you dream of. They beat eighth seeds Nestor/Roger-Vasselin 0-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the very next round they did away with eleventh seeds Rojer/Tecau in a pair of breakers. In the quarters, they edged past the top seeds in three close sets. That’s an amazing string of results. Polmans is just 19, his partner 23. That’s the kind of experience that will help them go that far in singles, too. But it had to end at some point. And the fourth seeds handled them 6-4, 6-4. The young Aussies never even had a break point. 29 winners and 77 minutes later and John Peers is into his third career slam final. Can he finally win one? It would be even more special if he could do it in front of a home crowd. He and Kontinen beat the Bryans twice late last year to give them a 2-0 advantage in the head to head. They’ve never dropped a set to them. So surely, they can crack that grand slam nut, tough as it may appear.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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