Friday, September 07, 2018

US Open Day 10/11: Osaka's Sling-shot

Hi All. Galileo here.

Serena Williams is the overwhelming favourite to take the ladies title. Depressingly my prediction was correct. Or are we premature?

As a fun exercise I will build the case for a Naomi Osaka victory and Todd, if he is game, will blow holes in it or pronounce that it holds water.

Williams is 23-7 in slam finals. She and Steffi Graf have both been to 31 slam finals now. Graf could only manage a pitiful 22-9. What do Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur, Garbine Muguruza and Angie Kerber have in common? They all have weapons and they have all beaten Serena in a slam final. Her sister and Kerber have done it twice. Stosur is unique in that she literally took the racket out of Serena’s hands in a way I have not seen before. That can’t happen tomorrow. That Stosur performance was probably one of the three or four greatest final performances ever. Kerber’s wins were outliers, too. In Melbourne she unleashed the best passing and counter-punching performance on a big stage since the 1994 Wimbledon final. This year Serena has not been at her best. But when Muguruza, Sharapova and Venus [2001 US Open for Venus] won they were all young. They had all gathered a lot of momentum and they weren’t afraid of Serena. I think Osaka is the same. She has no fear. She is on a roll. In five matches she has dropped just 15 games. In the other, the Sabalenka Monster pushed her hard. Osaka has been the best player in the tournament in terms of performance. She also beat Serena in Miami 6-3, 6-2. Before Sharapova won her maiden slam she played, and lost to Williams, in Miami. She had experience. Osaka has that, but Serena will also want revenge.

So here are my key reasons why Osaka is going to do a Sam Stosur.

* - She is not mentally weak
* - She has a forehand crosscourt that can wreak havoc on anyone
* - She can move better than Serena
* - Her return game is Agass-like. If she can pick the serve she can win the point on the first ball.
* - She has the h2h advantage
* - She is in hot form
* - There is zero fear in this girl's eyes. This will not be Vera Zvonareva in the 2010 Wimbledon Final.
* - What are Serena’s fitness levels like? Surely she can’t last in a long three setter if it goes that way.
* - Most importantly though, Osaka:

So tell me Todd does Osaka have a shot? [You may be right. I have to PICK Serena, but I wouldn't be SHOCKED if Osaka won it. I surely think she has a far better shot than Keys would have had. If Keys had won, I'd save gone with Williams in something like a 3 & 1 straight sets win. If Naomi can keep her head, she can hit (and maybe even serve) with Serena. Williams has had some slow starts at this Open. If it happens again, Osaka has to jump on it and try to get the 1st set. If she can... - tds]

Just a little note about the women’s suicide. I could only have picked Williams, and then it would be over.

MS 1st Rd: RAONIC [26] d. [q] BERLOCQ [W]
MS 3rd Rd: ISNER [11] D. LAJOVIC [W]
WS 2nd Rd: SEVASTOVA [19] D. [WC] LUI [W]
WS 3rd Rd: BARTY [18] D. [Q] MUCHOVA [W]
WS 4th Rd: KEYS [15] D. [29] CIBULKOVA [W]

...This match lasted almost three hours, which is impressive. In the third set, John Millman came back from 4-2 down but still lost the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Aside from Novak Djokovic’s typical post-match arrogance, nothing happened in this match. It didn’t even go four. It wasn’t even a total rout. It was a totally forgettable straight sets match. Four breaks to one from the Serb. Together the pair went 54-97 on the winners ratio. If you had paid to see this match you would probably be sorely disappointed. Djokovic actually had 20 break points but failed to convert on 16. That is significant. There were also some pretty good rallies, including on match point. The semi-final coming up will be much better. Don’t worry. To win Nole needs to do whatever he did to get a 14-2 advantage in the h2h. Last time they played a US Open semi, Kei Nishikori won. The Japanese man will have to break down Nole's forehand and really mix up the serve.

...Revenge is a dish best served cold. Nishikori took out a tricky match 2-6, 6-4, 7-6[7-4], 4-6, 6-4. You should give Marin Cilic a lot of credit for hanging in there in the last set when things were looking bleak. He was down in that 5th set but ground back into it. This was a mirror image of Rafa Nadal’s quarterfinal. Cilic took the first set 6-2, blasting through his opponent and looking great before losing the next two sets 4-6, 6-7[5]. Then they swapped 6-4 sets. In the 5th Cilic was down 4-1 and struggled through his service game. He looked finished. But he came back to 4-4. He would win just two more points. It is another mystifying chapter in the book for the Croat. Cilic was a passable 57-70 on the winners count. Nishikori was an abysmal 29-45. There were 11 breaks, with neither man getting 60 per cent or more of their first serves in. It was another dramatic match but the quality was lacking in places. Kei has to find Nole’s forehand. He has to avoid serving predictably too. Can he do it? We will soon find out.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN.

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