As the tennis season draws to a close; the sport’s attention draws it’s self to Flushing Meadows for the final Major tournament of the year. With Rafael Nadal a notable absence from this years tournament it’s been left to the rest of tennis’ big names to fill the void.
So what have we seen? It’s been the usual mix of nostalgia, heartache and triumph that surrounds any of sport’s more illustrious prizes. With Flushing Meadows as the backdrop here’s some of the dramatic points we’ve seen this week.
Heartache and a final goodbye for Clijsters
We all knew well in advance that the 2012 U.S. Open was going to be Kim Clijsters’ last tournament. The former world No. 1 was going to retire from professional tennis for the second and most likely last time. Clijsters had previously retired in 2007 but came back to the game in 2009, enjoying many successes upon her return. Recent injuries and setbacks however, compelled the former No. 1 to retire again.
Clijsters won her opening-round match over charming teenager Victoria Duval 6-3, 6-1. Her second round match was against another teenager, up-and-coming Brit Laura Robson. Most assumed Clijsters, with her experience on the biggest stages in tennis, would prevail in the match. The teenager won 7-6, 7-6 in a riveting match. Clijsters fought to the last but Robson ended her U.S. Open dream.
Roddick’s “last hurrah”
August 30th 2012 was a milestone day in the life of Andy Roddick. America’s finest player of recent years marked the date by both celebrating his 30th birthday and announcing to the press and the rest of the world that the 2012 U.S. Open would be his “last hurrah” in professional tennis.
The high point of his career came in 2003 when Roddick captured the U.S. Open, defeating Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero. The win catapulted him into the spotlight as he became the world No. 1 at the age of just 21. Starting then, Roddick became the standard bearer of men’s tennis in the U.S. following the retirement of Pete Sampras and the aging assisted decline of Andre Agassi.
Roddick won his first and second round matches without losing a set. He was then victorious on Sunday by three sets to one. Next up in the fourth round is Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.
Will Roddick have one last American dream fulfilled?
There’s not been too many large scale giant killings but there has been some surprises that would effect the order of events and some expected match ups. On the women’s side of things we lost fifth seed Petra Kvitova as she flopped having won the first set comfortably. She was down 4-2 in the second set having held only one service game before losing the next eight games to Marion Bartoli. Bartoli closed out the match 1-6, 6-2, 6-0.
Martin Klizan is a much unheralded name in the tennis world. With a world ranking of just 52nd, not many would have taken notice of Klizan. However the Slovak has easily claimed the biggest scalp of the men’s tournament thus far when he beat world No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
We couldn’t talk about giant killer’s at this year’s tournament without talking once again about Laura Robson. The plucky Briton made her way as far as the 4th round with two notable efforts. Her victories over Li Na of China in the third round and the previously mentioned Clijsters had seen the teenager being spoken about as the biggest thing to happen to British women’s tennis in recent years. Her tournament was ended however by defending champion Samantha Stosur.
Is age becoming just a number in the men’s game?
As the week came to a close and we headed to the 3rd Round. There was a quite staggering statistic to get your head wrapped around. Of the 32 men remaining, one quarter of those players were aged 30 or older. Players such as Roger Federer, Mardy Fish, Feliciano Lopez, James Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, David Ferrer, Andy Roddick and Julien Benneteau were all left standing trying to extend their stay into Round 4.
There’s been isolated cases in the past. Think Andre Agassi who retired at age 36 and Jimmy Connors who was still able to consistently play at the highest level even at age 39. Of course there’s been others but not at the same time like we’re seeing today.
We’ve seen through Federer the importance of excellent conditioning has had with allowing him to extend his top line career. As many have attempted to write him off he’s continued to stay very near the top of the men’s game. No doubt improvements in treatment and a player’s style do have an impact also. If you compare Federer to Rafa Nadal you will see the other extreme. Nadal’s style of play has possibly lead to his various injury troubles of recent seasons.
If you add that experience is often overlooked as one of the things that can make the difference in longer matches, as many of the wily veterans are using their experience to outclass the younger pros.
Fourth Round Draws:
With most of the pre-tournament favourites having made their respective ways through to the fourth round. Here’s how the draws look for the men and the women.
R Federer vs. M Fish
N Almagro vs. T Berdych
A Murray vs. M Raonic
M Cilic vs. M Klizan
J Tipsarevic vs. P Kohlschreiber
R Gasquet vs. D Ferrer
J Del Potro vs. A Roddick
S Wawrinka vs. N Djokovic
V Azarenka vs. A Tatishvili
L Robson vs. S Stosur
M Sharapova vs. N Petrova
M Bartoli vs. P Kvitova
T Pironkova vs. A Ivanovic
A Hlavackova vs. S Williams
A Kerber vs. S Errani
R Vinci vs. A Radwanska
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