Ennui at the US Open

Just got back from watching the only two French guys que tengo ganas de apoyar – besides Zinedine Zidane (retired) and Serge Gainsbourg (dead) – go down in flames. Jo Wilfried played flat against the strong Chilean, Fernando Gonzalez, and Monfils simply got a big spoonful of classic Nadal. I have to say though, watching Rafa remind Monfils which side of the Pyrenees he’s from was nothing less than glorious! 

Petit Cassius

Petit Cassius

Let’s start with Jo Wilfried.  Lacking a day pass, I had to watch Little Cassius from the big screen outside Ashe Stadium.  Not a bad consolation prize if you can only procure tix to the night session.  I cracked an $8 Heineken and leaned back in one of the bar stools at the outdoor cafe facing Ashe.  [As a side note, the US Open is one of the most fan friendly sporting events in existence…that is, if you can scratch together enough ducats for a ticket…and an $8 Heineken!]  Tsonga is without a doubt one of the most compelling players to watch on the tennis court.  Well aware of his uncanny likeness to Mohammed Ali, he is confident and smooth and patrols the court with a conscious swagger and natural style that are absolutely infectious.  You want this guy to win.  Everybody wants this guy to win…well…everybody except Fernando Gonzales.  Mano de Piedra (as Gonzo is known to some) just happens to be really good…and he just happened to play really well last night.  Well enough that Jo Wilfried needed a bit more than swagger to win.  He needed that A-game that got him to the Aussie finals… but he just didn’t bring it.  I stepped away to watch Serena on Ashe while the match was tied at one set apiece…but Tsonga looked uncharacteristically flustered and a bit rattled, trying to find the proverbial “groove” that on this night was leaning more towards rut.  The butterfly wasn’t floating and the bee had lost its sting.  When I later checked the score, Jo Wilfried had just lost the third set tie break…and as we would see with Monfils, it just wasn’t a night for the French to make a comeback.  Of course, we must tip our hat to Gonzales!  He played brilliant tennis and was steady as rain.  El Bombardero de La Reina didn’t blink when Tsonga took the first set and played his powerful and consistent game through to victory.  Hasta la victoria, siempre!  One Frenchie down, one to go.

Le Plastique

Le Plastique

Much like Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils is a guy you just gotta love.  Skinny and awkward yet ripped and athletic, he’s one of the fastest and most dynamic players on tour.  I mean…the guy slides on hard court!  For the tennis ignant, you just don’t slide on hardcourt.  The surface isn’t made for it…your shoes aren’t made for it…your ACL isn’t made for it!  So with his long lanky limbs and Don King hair flying to and…uh… fro, and with his knobby knees bending in ungodly directions as he slides around the court, he is one of the most fun and exciting players to watch.  And much like Little Cassius, he doesn’t hesitate to get the crowd involved.  After any one of his freakishly athletic shots he’ll flex his outstretched skinny-ripped arms, turn to the stands and start gesturing towards the sky until the whole place is screaming.  This plays right into the hearts of tennis fans – especially New Yorkers – who growing up on Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe won’t hesitate to jump ship and root against their favorite player if the other guy is bringing more charisma to the table.  New York tennis fans also love the underdog.  So here’s Monfils with style, grit, personality, and coming in ranked 13th to Nadal’s #3.  From the start, the crowd – most of whom were wearing Rafa t-shirts – were screaming “Allez Monfils” in hopes of an upset or at least an epic battle.  And it looked like Monfils would deliver.  Serving much tougher and matching Rafa’s court speed and groundstrokes, Monfils repeatedly set up a high flat forehand that would explode down the line for a winner.   One of the nastiest shots I’ve seen.  When Rafa turned the ball back to Monfil’s backhand, Gael would lift his back leg and leap off his front foot as he whipped his torso around in the air to connect on a leaping backhand crosscourt winner, a one-two punch that earned him victory in a first set tie break.  But here’s the rub with Rafa.  You can play perfect and take a set from him.  You can play amazing and take two sets from him… but to beat him in a best of five match, you have to play perfect – and amazing – for the whole nine yards…and right now the only hombre in the world who can do that with any predictability is Roger Federer.  Love Monfils as we may, he is no Roger Federer.  Sure enough, the tide turned and Rafa broke Gael to take the second set.  He then leapt out to big lead in the third and here’s where Gael made a crucial mistake.  Serving at 1-5, he tanked the last game.  It may or may not have been a conscious decision, but he most definitely blew that last game in hopes of flipping a switch in the fourth and coming back in five.  Bad move.  Rafa could smell the desperation and kept his foot on Monfils’ neck.  The fourth set had some exciting moments, but none of the 10,000 in attendance were at all surprised when Rafa closed it out.

So now we have a quarterfinal lineup that includes Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin Del Potro, Fernando Gonzalez, and Fernando Verdasco.  Not too shabby for the hispanohablantes.  I especially look forward to seeing what Del Potro is able to do this year.  This US Open could mark his arrival…or we might see another Federer-Nadal final.  As for the French…? well, the way they folded, you would have thought they were playing Tommy Haas or Philipp Kohlschreiber.  (Sorry, but sometimes you gotta pick the low hanging fruit).

Attention now turns to Oudin-Wozniacki.

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~ by El Pollo Rico on September 9, 2009.

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