Saturday, September 12, 2009

The rain might as well have been in Spain

I forgot to mention the possible impact of the weather as one of the reasons I do not like to purchase US Open tickets in advance. When you attend a tournament for just a few days, it sucks to have rain interrupt play on any of those days. I feel for those folks who traveled to Flushing Meadows to watch tennis over the past few days. It’s been a complete wash-out. Already talk has started of the need for a retractable roof.

But while the rain hurts some, it may actually help others. I believe that the rain was a significant factor in Andy Roddick’s US Open victory in 2003. Roddick was one of the only top seeds who managed to finish his match before the skies opened and drowned the courts in four straight days of rain. Incomplete matches were crammed into the remaining few days of good weather.

So where other players were forced to play back-to-back with no days of rest in between, Roddick was much more rested as he faced and destroyed Juan Carlos Ferrero in the finals. Roddick would go on to be a finalist at four other Grand Slam events (2004, 2005 and 2009 Wimbledon , and 2006 US Open), all of which he would lose to Roger Federer. Those were all tournaments with good weather, at least before he lost.

Who might benefit from the rain delays at this year’s US Open? For a start, I think that the William sisters in general and Serena Williams in particular may benefit. The doubles match against Kleybanova and Makarova lasted over two and a half hours and was much closer than the 6-2 score in the third set indicates. Both Serena and Venus had to dig deep and come up with some special goods against a pair of opponents they had never faced before and who clearly believed themselves capable of winning.

You can tell that doubles opponents are not afraid of the Williams sisters when they dare to approach the net, particularly on the side closest to Serena Williams. Serena does not hesitate to ping her opponents, making it clear in a interview (after the match in which she called Martinez-Sanchez a cheat) that this is what happens when you’re from Compton. Kleybanova and Makarova were fearless. They lost by forcing the sisters to dig deeper and play better.

Afterwards many fretted about how Serena would fare in her semi-finals match against Kim Clijsters the following day. Throughout the tournament, Serena had insisted that playing doubles was helping her singles by giving her more serving practice. But following this match, it was a possibility that she could lose to Clijsters as she did not have a day of recovery. And then the rains came.

Another player whom I believe may benefit from this rain delay is Rafael Nadal. Rafa has claimed a stomach injury and has been wearing a patch under his shirt. The match against Gonzalez was shaping up to be brutal. Rafa won that first set by going all out. He held nothing back. If he was injured, it had completely slipped his mind. So too in the second set. Each game was hard-fought and gut-wrenching in every sense of that word. And at two games each, the sky opened.

A rested Rafa will be a much more recovered Rafa. A recovered Rafa will beat Gonzalez in straights. A recovered Rafa will beat the Federer who got so lulled into being two sets up against Söderling that the latter’s resurgence caught him completely by surprise. Söderling could easily have won the fourth set and the match. I am still shocked that he did not. He had Federer completely flummoxed and irritated.

That Federer, the flummoxed and irritated one, will go down in straights to a recovered Rafa. In order to win, Federer will need to bring his A++ game, the one that will see him through a back-to-back semi-final match against Djokovic and possibly a final against Rafa. He can’t say that I didn’t warn him.

No comments: