Wednesday, September 05, 2018

US Open Day 9: The World's Sweatiest Hug

Hi All. Galileo here.

Five hours and it ended in a sweaty hug, and Rafa Nadal with his arms aloft at 2 in the morning.

The Spaniard and the Austrian, Dominic Thiem, had been trading blows all night long, exchanging epic rallies and aces, breaks and holds. In the heat of a pungent, humid, painfully warm New York coliseum the Spaniard outlasted the challenger, the champion coming to the fore.

In a way it was inevitable. It seemed like it was bound to happen. Nadal has always found a way to get out of matches like this. On his first match point, Thiem butchered a smash, and that was all she wrote. In the breaker Nadal got a mini-break lead immiately before losing it. Thiem won a couple of epic rallies, but made one error. At 5-5 he had a second serve and netted a routine forehand. Had he been able to take charge of a weak second serve he would be playing for a spot in a second final this year. Two points go his way and suddenly his year looks fantastic. This was a brutal, physical match with more drama than a series of Desperate Housewives.

Forget about Nadal. This BACKSPINNER believes in Thiem off clay. There were doubts before and the scheduling, and consistency, need to both improve, but the ability to win these big matches is there. One or two small mistakes at the end have cost the Austrian a match he totally deserved. Cruelty runs deep in sport and this result reminded us of that fact. This US Open has felt more electric than any other. Well it has on the men’s side. I am sure Todd will correct me here, but the ladies' side has felt, I don’t know, a little flat? [Ed.note: Hmm, well, I wouldn't say "flat," as the overall performances of the likes of Serena, Osaka, Keys, Sabalenka and others have been superb at times, but I will say there hasn't been an EPIC MATCH to hold up as THE signature moment to this point (maybe because Halep and Kerber lost early, as they've had a habit of taking part in those in '18?), while the men's side has had both Federer/Millman *and* now Nadal/Thiem. - tds]

There have been some classic matches and great upsets, but the actual drama and epic matches have been a tad lacking. [You read my mind, or I read yours.] I have been enjoying the run of Carla Suarez-Navarro, but Karolina Pliskova just lost rather tamely to Serena. I really thought that would be a three-set affair with at least one tiebreaker. [I had Serena 4 & 4 or 4 & 5, as I've sort of thought the title was hers to lose after the level of play she showed vs. Venus, and then with Kerber's defeat, as I thought she was the only one left who really knew how to defeat Williams in a big final. - tds]

In men’s doubles, the all American pair of Krajicek/Sandgren played on Grandstand while the other doubles match, with no natives, played on Armstrong. It may seem odd but perhaps it was for the best- 7th seeds Kubot/Melot won 6-4, 6-4. They broke 6 times to 3 and hit 32 winners to 13. They could have a matchup against Murray/Soares coming up for a place in the final. Cabal/Farah dismissed Bopanna/Roger-Vasselin in the the other quarterfinal 6-3, 6-4. The 5th seeded Columbians converted both their break points and survived the only break point they faced. They hit 25 winners to 6 in what was a consummate performance. They will probably end up playing third seeds Bryan/Sock. Men’s doubles is fairly consistent, in that half the big seeds crash and burn but there are always at least two seeds in the semi-finals.

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]

...It took Thiem just 24 minutes to win the opening set at love, but with Rafa it is never that easy. That is one set and this is the best of five. There are four more sets to go. The Spaniard battled through the next two sets and took them 6-4, 7-5. It was a remarkable comeback, especially after he got blitzed in the first set in a fury of fiery groundstrokes. Thiem would not be denied, however, and stole the third set 7-6[4] to take us into a 5th. He came within inches of winning a 5th set and a match he deserved. The Austrian won two more games, broke six times to five and also won five more points. He hit 74 winners to just 58 errors, while Nadal could only manage a 55-49 mark. He won 37 per cent of his receiving points, with Rafa winning 35 per cent. Thiem outplayed Nadal across the board except in grit, and except when it mattered. If Rafa had to have a point he got it. The Spaniard also got a little lucky. He was very fortunate to scrape through this one. To beat Del Potro he has to keep the points short and try to move the big man around. He can’t have another five hour match. He has to take control of the points early and make the Argentine hit a lot of uncomfortable shots.

...In this titanic four set clash it took Delpo three and a half hours to finally subdue his giant opponent. John Isner deservedly took the first set 7-6[5], but Juan Martin Del Potro has experience and calmly set about restoring order. He took the second set 6-3, by using his backhand creatively. He counter-punched with it quite effectively. It was his first break of three. The American failed to break at all, blowing three opportunities throughout the match. Despite Isner hitting 26 aces the Argentinian won 35 per cent of receiving points, and his opponent just 20. Delpo himself managed to hit 14 aces. The third set was where the match swung decisively. There were two missed break points each, but Isner hit 14 errors, 10 more than his opponent. The other key factor? Isner won only 36 per cent of net points and he approached a lot. Delpo won the breaker 7-4 and took control in the final set. Down 2-5 Isner failed to hold. Del Potro has had far less time on court than Rafa. He should not be afraid to rally. He has bigger weapons, will be fresher and knows how to beat Rafa. He can go in confidently and know that he can beat the Spaniard. His forehand return off the serve and sneaky-good backhand will see him win in four.

Thanks and visit WTA BACKSPIN.

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