Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Great Wave (& Truth) of Osaka

Naomi Osaka is a newly minted grand slam champion. Her U.S. Open title at age 20 may turn out to the first of many over the next decade as she cuts a swath through women's tennis along with her generational cohorts.

That's what's important here.

Not the distraction of stewing arguments swirling around a great champion acting like anything but, nor a chair umpire who may or may not have better carried out his duties by refusing to "swallow his whistle" and "take one for the team" rather than carrying out his assignment to adhere to the rules as they are presented to be followed. Not the most ridiculous notions, from both high and low (and sometimes from supposedly in-the-know sources who should know better), that Serena Williams was somehow "cheated" or "robbed" of anything on Ashe Stadium Court in the women's final that she didn't set the stage *herself* to lose her grip on.

Osaka was awarded (via penalty) a point and a game during the course of a contest which she totally controlled but for a few-minutes-long stretch, and is thus a champion on tremendous merit. No player was better than her the last two weeks. She lost just one set, and didn't show her lack of experience against the greatest champion she'll ever face, on the biggest stage on which she'll ever play. No woman at this Open deserved this title more, and no one could have deserved how things spun out of control in the final games any less.

That's the truth of what happened at Flushing Meadows. Don't let the "fake news" convince you otherwise.

You knew it'd happen eventually. What Serena Williams (and Venus) begat, one day, would flare up and cost her a few tennis prizes down the line, as one (or more) from the generation of players that her dominance inspired managed to rise up herself to snatch away an additional Williams moment in the sun and make it her own.

Perhaps no player better embodies the notion better then 20-year old Naomi Osaka, a player who has never known a tennis world that didn't include one Serena Jameka Williams. Osaka's father was inspired by Richard Williams' tennis upbringing and development (example: no junior play) of *his* daughters, so Leonard "San" Francois followed in those footsteps with his own, Naomi and Mari, as closely as he was able. As the Williams Sisters sought to break down the sport's ages-old racial barriers and prejudices, Osaka, the daughter of a mixed marriage between her Haitian-born father and Japanese mother (Tamaki), born in Osaka but raised in the U.S., has challenged the notion of what it means to even be "Japanese" even while she struggles to determine just where her own thoughts and actions (she knows and can speak Japanese, but is too self-conscious about her abilities to do it publicly) place her as far as whether she *feels* Japanese, American, or some multi-cultural, biracial, transcontinental combination of both.

Her big game, and especially her Serena-esque serve, bear much credit to the dreams of glory first presented by the similar game and weapons of her childhood idol. When she first played Williams in Miami, immediately following her own breakout Indian Wells title run, Osaka's sense of awe and respect, even while defeating Serena in what was just her fourth match back after having daughter Olympia, far outweighed her actual win in the match. She was on the same court with Williams. It was a dream come true. Her tendency to slightly bow to opponents, a well-known point of etiquette in Japanese society, took on a whole new meaning for Osaka at that particular meeting at the net.

As Osaka has improved every aspect of her came since bringing aboard Sascha Bajin (naturally, Serena's longtime former hitting partner and "unofficial assistant coach" during some of her greatest seasons) as *her* coach, from her fitness and movement to game tactics and consistency, she has proved true all the whispers about her preternatural power and potential for greatness. Corralling all her promise in the desert in March, Osaka soon experienced the normal up-and-down follow-up stretch common when a young player first experiences great success. But she arrived in New York for this U.S. Open declaring that the "fun" had returned to her game. And it showed. She blazed through the two weeks leading up to her maiden slam final, a first by a Japanese woman, losing just one set (vs. Aryna Sabalenka, the booming Belarusian who'd stolen the pre-Open Generation PDQ spotlight) and proving herself to be more than able to handle the pressure of the moment in her first deep run at a major (saving 13 of 13 BP in the semis vs. '17 finalist Madison Keys).

Not backing away from the prospect of facing Williams in the final, Osaka instead winningly embraced the moment two days ago. "I really want to play Serena," she said. Why? "Because she's Serena."


Of course, still being a Serena fan, Osaka's final words to Serena as both headed off to prepare for this final were, "I love you."

"Serena being Serena" has been a thing for a while now. Well, say hello to "Naomi being Naomi." (And, as it turned, the flip side of "Serena being Serena," as well.)

Osaka showed no sign of nerves in the opening moments of the biggest match of her life. While Williams held from love/30 to kick things of, Osaka followed suit by doing the same in the next game. Williams came into the final having overcome a series of slow starts vs. opponents who'd failed to capitalize on it as Serena found her game and soon took control. Against the potentially overwhelming power game of the 20-year old, it would be a more difficult feat to overcome. But Serena *would* give her opponent the chance to grab. Osaka reached break point for the first time in the third game, converting it with a double-fault from Williams.

Consolidating the break, Osaka held for 3-1, then saw Williams' third DF make the score 30/30 in the next game. Forehand and backhand errors turned over the next two points to Osaka, who got the double break lead at 4-1. Osaka pulled out a laser-like forehand pass on the second point of game #6. Williams' down the line forehand winner was punctuated by a "Come on!" yell and, as commonly happens in the immediate shadow of such a circumstance, Serena did produce a spurt of greater play. A wide angled backhand and put-away volley got her a BP opportunity. Osaka saved it with an ace. She saved her 18th consecutive BP at this slam a few moments later, and held for the 22nd straight time to lead 5-1.

Serving for the set at 5-2, Osaka's big serve up the middle caused Williams to fly a forehand, giving her SP at 40/15. On her next serve, the youngster fired a body serve directly at Serena, who could only *try* to fight it off, without any real chance to get it back over the net and in the court. Osaka took the set 6-2.

While Serena's career record in slams after dropping the 1st set was 39-36, she hadn't staged such a comeback in a major final since the 2005 Australian Open (vs. Lindsay Davenport), having lost the last five such matches.

Early in the 2nd set, after Williams coach Patrick Mouratoglou was given a warning for coaching from the stands, Serena seemed to be infused with a dose of outright contempt at the thought of it, telling the umpire that *no* coaching was going on (it was, at least on Mouratoglou's end of things) and that she "doesn't cheat," and would "rather lose" than do so. Williams' opponent tried her best to ignore the intense anger rising up on the other side of the net, and she wasn't shaken by it. Osaka held for the 24th consecutive time at this U.S. Open. Williams saved a BP in the following game and held for 2-1, then opened game #4 with a big return winner and proceeded to carve out an opportunity to get back into the set.

Osaka saved her 19th consecutive BP with a winner to end a 19-shot rally, then saved two more (one w/ an ace). On her fourth BP chance in the game, Williams got the break via a backhand error from Osaka, taking a 3-1 lead. But rather than use the moment on which to build the foundation for a comeback, Serena's own serve let her down. Up 30/15, she had back-to-back DF to fall down BP. A backhand error gave the break back to Osaka, and Williams crushed a racket in anger and frustration, earning herself a second code violation and a point penalty (the second step following the coaching infraction).

When she learned of the penalty, rather than accept it and go on, Williams berated chair umpire Carlos Ramos, demanding "an apology" for the first violation earlier in the set, flashing an anger similar to, though not on the level of, her verbal assault and threats against a lineswoman in the '09 Open final after a foot fault call.

With her power pushing Serena deep behind the baseline, Osaka went up 40/love and held with an ace for 3-3. After Williams' ace put her up 30/15 in game #7, a forehand error brought Osaka back into the game. A big return into the corner gave her a BP, and her passing shot took the game for a break lead at 4-3.

During the changeover, Williams, being beaten to the punch at nearly every turn between the lines by her opponent, again turned her full attention to Ramos, refusing to let go of the earlier (actual) coaching violation and later point penalty (after actually breaking a racket), continuing to blast the umpire with heated accusations that included calling him a "thief" who "stole a point" from her (essentially, calling an official she later admitted she'd had no prior issues with a "cheat" after being so angry after alleging that the the insinuation was being pointed her way earlier).

It was the straw that broke the camel's (and nearly the match's) back, and Ramos issued a third code violation for verbal abuse, resulting in a full game penalty (as the rules state) that took the game out of a serving Osaka's hands and put her up 5-3. Once Williams got wind of the (new, or newly elevated) situation, she exploded, as expected. She called out the tournament referee -- though for what it's unknown, since everything played out pretty much according to the book, whether she chose to acknowledge as much or not -- and ranted about being treated "unfairly," commenting about men's players saying worse without being penalized (she was right on the latter assertion, though maybe not when they do it with two code violations already in the book). All in all, it was a bad look. One, honestly, not seen on Ashe since, well, probably the last time Williams was involved in another ugly incident there.

With the dark buzz of the situation still hovering in the air, barely under the surface where Serena was concerned, and alive in the din of discussion traveling around the stadium, Williams held serve at love.

Finally, Osaka had the chance to serve out the match at 5-4, while all eyes (and cameras) were still on Williams. Again, the newcomer didn't blink and/or emotionally implode as her more experienced idol (and, on this day, opponent) had earlier. She fired a big serve up the middle to get within two points of the title at 30/15. An ice-cold ace -- the kind Williams has blasted under similar circumstances in the past -- gave her her first MP. After Williams saved it with a down the line winner, Osaka got off another big wide serve which Williams could only struggle to just get a racket on, ending the 6-2/6-4 contest and making the 20-year old Japan's first grand slam singles champion ever.

Suddenly, it's a whole new world.

Osaka had six aces on the day (Williams had 6 DF), and own 73% of her first serves. She converted four of five BP chances, while denying Serena five of six (making it 18-of-19 here and in her SF win over Keys).

Osaka, tearful but stunned and unsure of the moment with so much calamity still in the air, found her way to her players box, where she received hugs from the likes of Big Sascha and her father (her dad never watches her matches, and would have to get his reward later). While the stage for the post-match ceremony was being set up, Osaka hid her face under a towel, while Serena watched it all a short distance away with a scowl on her face. Or, at the very least, the general look of a very perturbed individual as she tried to prepare herself for the rest of the program (a comment on this @JJlovesTennis tweet said she looks "confident," though I'm not sure I'd use that word to describe that expression).

What followed was maybe the most surreal trophy presentation in grand slam history. The usual act of singling out the champ umpire was not followed (be thankful for that small favor), and the crowd (mostly uninformed of the progression of the rules violations throughout, then confused and angered when the penalties were enforced) choose in the aftermath to boo anyone and everyone with a microphone as if *they* had anything to do with it (though not Serena, who bore as much or more responsibility than anyone, it should be noted).

Finally, Williams remembered who she is, and spoke up to defuse the situation, calling for an end to the boos so that Osaka would not have her moment spoiled.

It worked, up to a point, and at least avoided a truly wretched embarrassment to play out.

Still, Osaka seemed as sorry for winning as she was excited as she should have been for having done so. That it all happened against her idol, too, added another layer of unfortunate coincidence.

History will soon sort out this night, with varying results. Osaka will remain a winner, while the arguments will persist, with no one being convinced of anything other than their own personal (sometimes overly emotional) response in the heat of the moment, just who was right or wrong when it comes to everything that happened that *didn't* involved the superior play of the young Japanese star.

But, again, that's all that matters here.

After a period of time in which flags warning of its impending arrival were flown, the Great Wave of Osaka arrived on this day on the New York shore. It's impact will surely be felt elsewhere, far and wide.

Before Indian Wells, Osaka had the potential to have it all. Before this U.S. Open, she had it all except for one of the sport's big prizes. Now she's got a slam crown.

Oh, my. What will she seek next?

Whatever it is... it can't help but be easier than this turned out to be.


First off, as far as the chaos that overtook the 2nd set (then spilled over into the trophy presentation until Williams recognized that Osaka was being turned into an unwitting victim of everyone involved and reminded the crowd that she should be honored) goes, it was a perfect storm that managed to (and will continue to do so, at least for a while) overwhelm one of the best coming out parties the sport has witnessed in decades (joining that of Latvian Thunder just last year). Whether or not Serena's eleventh hour moment of stateswoman-like composure worked (in the moment, or as a salve for all the rest) is open up question. The boos stopped, but there was a somber undertone to everything that played out, and Osaka never really seemed able or willing to enjoy the moment as she should have felt free to do.

It just never should have happened this way.

But no matter how much some will want to pile onto Ramos, he does not and should not bear all the responsibility. The whole incident involved a series of contributing factors from the Williams box, originally, and then later Serena herself (even before the continued berating during the changeover, by crushing her racket in anger after giving away the break she'd just earned minutes earlier) that were indeed legitimate violations, at least had this been a "normal, everyday" match rather than a grand slam final.

I suppose that last qualifier, in the eyes of many, makes *all* the difference when assigning "blame." But, emotions removed from the moment, things actually played out the way they *should have*, and would *all* the time in a perfect tennis world. Granted, that world doesn't exist, and all on and off court decisions are influenced by and seen against the backdrop of all that has come before, including the longtime slights both perceived and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. But still. How would giving one player a "pass" on her actions during this match been any less bad than a situation in which a player (male or otherwise) wasn't punished as *they* should have been in another? Are there going to be reasonable gameday rules of tennis etiquette in this sport or not? We've already seen this year a player (on the WTA tour) destroy a portion of an umpiring chair with her racket at the conclusion of a match in a fit of anger over a call, yet be given just a token slap on the wrist rather than the suspension she rightly deserved. At some point, the written rules need to be enforced, or not (and subsequently rewritten). Make a choice and live with it.

The fact is, Mouratoglou admitted after the match that he *was* trying to send Serena a signal, meaning the original violation had legs as far as the rules are concerned, and it didn't matter that Williams didn't see it, nor if there was any belief she'd have accepted it if she had. And Patrick's defense that "Sascha was doing it, too" isn't really much of one, nor is the notion that it "happens all the time." If one is going to hold up oneself as being above reproach, as Williams did where the potential coaching signal was concerned, then having Mouratoglou essentially not do the same sort of thing on his part kind of punches a hole in the notion of being owed an apology for what Ramos actually *did* see with his own eyes.

Of course, the assigned violation, rightly enforced or wrongly not overlooked, *should* have been the end of it, forgotten and then denied in full with an annoyed tone of voice after the match. Problem is, Serena seemed to view the penalty as an accusation against *her*, which it was not. It was against Mouratoglou. It wasn't an affront, it was a recognition of a violation -- whether it SHOULD be is another discussion entirely, as I noted during the tournament that once the WTA allowed on-court coaching the proverbial toothpaste was out of the tube, thus rendering the anti-coaching rules nonsensical -- that Patrick has since owned up to.

On the same front, the notion that men's players have said worse and not been penalized accordingly, no matter how true it is, bears just as little weight in the specific picture of what happened here. Ramos wasn't umpiring one of those matches, just this one. Those other incidents should be penalized, as well, and just because they *weren't* doesn't mean that this one should be given a "mulligan," too... especially since it occurred following *two* code violations in a known officiating process which, by the time the game penalty is assessed, has seen a significant shift in responsibility onto the shoulders of the player to know the jeopardy he/she is in if they're going to accuse a chair umpire of, say, being a "thief" who "stole" a point from them, and demand an apology for a (technically *correct*) code violation many games earlier that was against their *coach*, not them in an attempt to impugn their honor. Nor do I believe, as some have, that it's incumbent upon the chair umpire to explain the code violation rules to a player who has been a professional for two decades. Could they? Of course. Is it required? Hardly.

That said, could (and maybe should) it have all been handled differently? Well, uh, of course.

As we've seen in other sports, there are times when an official should essentially "swallow the whistle" and recognize that, under the pressurized circumstances of such a big event, that it's probably best to err on the side of discretion, and *not* pile on violations unless it is absolutely necessary. Ramos *could* have given Williams a "soft warning," but he by no means *had* to. How he did handle things turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, and he might have recognized before the game penalty that it'd be less potentially messy to do nothing than impress the rules upon a moment in the match where Osaka *seemed* on her way to the win, but not with so *big* a lead that the tide couldn't be turned in a single game. She was serving up a break at 4-3, remember, and while the game penalty didn't result in a break back (just an Osaka hold, which may have happened anyway), it did sap the "good" drama from the moment, and injected needless controversy into the mix instead.

In the end, we need to eradicate this whole incident from out collective memory so that the focus is where it should be (most will, but some, I'm sure, will refuse to do so), Ramos was within his right to do everything he did. And Serena (and Mouratoglou) bear just as much responsibility for the whole thing. The chair umpire is there to officiate the match, not provide some form of professional day care and assign various actors to the corner for a "time out" until they cool down.

Responsibility is a two-way road. Today wasn't one of Williams' finest days. It shouldn't change how anyone feels about Serena, admittedly one of the greatest (and complicated) champions of all times, but it is what it is. She's still Serena, for all the miraculous notions and ideas that such a simple statement can spark in the heart and mind's eye. But she's also human, and not infallible or immune to legitimate criticism.

While one enjoys smelling a rose, one must also be mindful of its thorns. They're natural, too.

...the first champions of this U.S. Open were crowned earlier in the day, as Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Jamie Murray (who won the '17 title with Martina Hingis) defeated Alicja Rosolska & Nikola Mektic in the mixee final, 2-6/6-3 (11-9).

It's Mattek-Sands' first title of any kind since her knee injury at last year's Wimbledon. It's her eighth overall slam crown, and third in MX. Just as in women's doubles, BMS is now three-quarters of the way to a Career Slam. She needs a Wimbledon crown in both WD and MX to complete the sweep in both disciplines.

...the wheelchair singles final was set, as #1 Diede de Groot defeated Sabine Ellerbrock 6-0/6-3, and #2 Yui Kamiji won out over Kgothatso Montjane 6-1/6-0 (after double-bageling her QF opponent yesterday). They'll add another chapter in their rivalry tomorrow with their fourth slam singles final meeting in the last five majors. de Groot is playing in her sixth straight major singles final, and needs a U.S. singles crown to keep alive her chances of having clear sailing toward next year's Roland Garros, where she could potentially become the first WC player to ever win all four singles and all four doubles titles in slam competition by winning the AO doubles and RG singles. Kamiji needs only a Wimbledon singles title to be eight-for-eight.

Top seeded de Groot & Kamiji combined later in the day for the women's doubles championship, defeating #2 Buis/van Koot 6-3/6-4. It's the third slam win this year for both, as they combined to win at SW19, while Kamiji won the AO with Marjolein Buis and de Groot took the RG title with Aniek van Koot.

...Pastry Clara Burel (#11 seed) advanced to her second '18 junior slam final, as the AO runner-up defeated #4 Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, 7-5/1-6/7-6(3). She'll face #3 Wang Xinyu, who knocked off qualifier Dasha Lopatetskaya, 6-1/5-7/6-3.

If she wins, Wang will become the first Chinese girl to win a slam singles crown. Burel is looking to become the first French junior to do so since 2009 (K.Mladenovic - '09 RG).

LIKE ON DAY 13: The calm in the middle of the storm...

LIKE ON DAY 13: The warnings were legit...

#20 Naomi Osaka/JPN def. #17 Serena Williams/USA 6-2/6-4

#13 Barty/Vandeweghe (AUS/USA) vs. #2 Babos/Mladenovic (HUN/FRA)

Mattek-Sands/J.Murray (USA/GBR) def. Rosolska/Mektic (POL/CRO) 2-6/6-3 [11-9]

#3 Wang Xiyu/CHN vs. #11 Clara Burel/FRA

#1 Gauff/McnNally (USA/USA) vs. Baptiste/Hewitt (USA/USA)

#1 Diede de Groot/NED vs. #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN

#1 de Groot/Kamiji (NED/JPN) def. #2 Buis/van Koot (NED/NED) 6-3/6-4

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[Open Era]
1968 Virginia Wade, GBR
1979 Tracy Austin, USA
1990 Gabriela Sabatini, ARG
1998 Lindsay Davenport, USA
1999 Serena Williams, USA
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2005 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2011 Samantha Stosur, AUS
2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2017 Sloane Stephens, USA
2018 Naomi Osaka, JPN

4...Venus Williams (2-2)
2...Victoria Azarenka (0-2)
2...Svetlana Kuznetsova (1-1)
2...Caroline Wozniacki (0-2)
1...NAOMI OSAKA (1-0)
1...Maria Sharapova (1-0)
1...Sloane Stephens (1-0)
1...Samantha Stosur (1-0)
1...Jelena Jankovic (0-1)
1...Angelique Kerber (1-0)
1...Madison Keys (0-1)
1...Karolina Pliskova (0-1)
1...Vera Zvonareva (0-1)

Unseeded/Wild Card - Kim Clijsters, BEL (2009)
Unseeded - Sloane Stephens, USA (2017)
#26 - Flavia Pennetta, ITA (2015)
#20 - NAOMI OSAKA, JPN (2018)
#9 - Samantha Stosur, AUS (2011)
#9 - Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (2004)
#7 - Serena Williams, USA (1999)
#6 - Virginia Wade, GBR (1968)

17y, 45d - Seles (17) d. Navratilova (34) = '91 U.S.
16y, 20d - OSAKA (20) d. S.WILLIAMS (36) = '18 U.S.
15y, 180d - Martinez (22) d. Navratilova (37) = '94 WI
14y, 175d - Graf (18) d. Evert (33) = '88 AO
13y, 113d - Muguruza (23) d. V.Williams (37) = 17 WI

2007 Vera Zvonareva, RUS
2008 Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2009 Kim Clijsters, BEL
2010 Francesca Schiavone, ITA
2011 Liezel Huber/Lisa Raymond, USA/USA
2012 Ana Ivanovic, SRB
2013 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2014 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2015 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2016 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2017 Petra Kvitova, CZE
2018 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
AO: Angelique Kerber, GER
RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
WI: Serena Williams, USA
US: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA

2015 Flavia Pennetta, ITA
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
2017 Venus Williams, USA
2018 Serena Williams, USA
AO: Hsieh Su-wei, TPE
RG: Latisha Chan, TPE
WI: Angelique Kerber, GER
US: Serena Williams, USA

1998 Serena Williams/Max Mirnyi, USA/BLR
1999 Ai Sugiyama/Mahesh Bhupathi, JPN/IND
2000 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario/Jared Palmer, ESP/USA
2001 Rennae Stubbs/Todd Woodbridge, AUS/AUS
2002 Lisa Raymond/Mike Bryan, USA/USA
2003 Katarina Srebotnik/Bob Bryan, SLO/USA
2004 Vera Zvonareva/Bob Bryan, RUS/USA
2005 Daniela Hantuchova/Mahesh Bhupathi, SVK/IND
2006 Martina Navratilova/Bob Bryan, USA/USA
2007 Victoria Azarenka/Max Mirnyi, BLR/BLR
2008 Cara Black/Leander Paes, ZIM/IND
2009 Carly Gullickson/Travis Parrott, USA/USA
2010 Liezel Huber/Bob Bryan, USA/USA
2011 Melanie Oudin/Jack Sock, USA/USA
2012 Ekaterina Makarova/Bruno Soares, RUS/BRA
2013 Andrea Hlavackova/Max Mirnyi, CZE/BLR
2014 Sania Mirza/Bruno Soares, IND/BRA
2015 Martina Hingis/Leander Paes, SUI/IND
2016 Laura Siegemund/Mate Pavic, GER/CRO
2017 Martina Hingis/Jamie Murray, SUI/GBR
2018 Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Jamie Murray, USA/GBR
AO: Gaby Dabrowski & Mate Pavic, CAN/CRO
RG: Latisha Chan & Ivan Dodig, TPE/CRO
WI: Nicole Melichar & Alexander Peya, USA/AUT
US: Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Jamie Murray, USA/GBR

**SLAM MX TITLES - active*
5...Katarina Srebotnik, SLO
3...Sania Mirza, IND
3...Samantha Stosur, AUS
2...Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2...Gaby Dabrowski, CAN
2...Anna-Lena Groenefeld, GER
2...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2...Serena Williams, USA
2...Venus Williams, USA
2...Vera Zvonareva, RUS
1...Elena Bovina, RUS
1...Latisha Chan, TPE
1...Andrea Sestini-Hlavackova, CZE
1...Lucie Hradecka, CZE
1...Jelena Jankovic, SRB
1...Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
1...Nicole Melichar, USA
1...Laura Siegemund, GER
1...Abigail Spears, USA
1...Elena Vesnina, RUS
1...Heather Watson, GBR

2005 Korie Homan & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2006 Jiske Griffioen & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2007 Jiske Griffioen & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2008 --
2009 Korie Homan & Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2010 Esther Vergeer & Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2011 Esther Vergeer & Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2012 --
2013 Jiske Griffioen & Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2014 Yui Kamiji & Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 Jiske Griffioen & Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2016 --
2017 Marjolein Buis & Diede de Groot, NED/NED
2018 Diede de Groot & Yui Kamiji, NED/JPN

2017 AO - #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED
2017 RG - #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2017 WI - Diede de Groot/NED def. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2017 US - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #2 Diede de Groot/NED
2018 AO - #2 Diede de Groot/NED def. #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN
2018 RG - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN def. #2 Diede de Groot/NED
2018 WI - #1 Diede de Groot/NEd def. Aniek van Koot/NED
2018 US - #1 de Groot vs. #2 Kamiji

TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #13 Kiki Bertens/ NED
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #20 Naomi Osaka/JPN
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): #20 Naomi Osaka/JPN
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: #23 Marta Kostyuk/RUS def. Valentyna Ivakhnenko/RUS 4-6/7-6(6)/7-6(4) (saved 6 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #10 Alona Ostapenko/LAT def. Andrea Petkovic/GER 6-4/4-6/6-4
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #20 Naomi Osaka/JPN d. #26 Aryna Sabalenka/BLR 6-3/2-6/6-4
TOP NIGHT SESSION WOMEN'S MATCH: 2nd Rd. - (Q) Karlina Muchova/CZE def. #12 Garbine Muguruza/ESP 3-6/6-4/6-4
FIRST VICTORY: (Q) Jil Teichmann/SUI (def. Jakupovic/SRB)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Magdalena Rybarikova/SVK (1st Rd. - Q.Wang/CHN; second con. FSO at major for Rybarikova)
REVELATION LADIES: Belarus (four -- Azarenka, Lapko, Sabalenka, Sasnovich -- into 2nd Round of a slam for the first time ever)
NATION OF POOR SOULS: Switzerland (1-4 1st Rd.; Golubic double-bageled, Bacsinszky love 3rd set)
CRASH & BURN: #1 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 1st Rd. to Kanepi/EST; first #1 to lost 1st Rd. at U.S. Open in Open era)
ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEW YORK: Katerina Siniakova/CZE (1r: Kontaveit served for match at 5-4, 30/love in 3rd, Siniakova wins set 7-5, taking 12/14 points; 2r: Tomljanovic served for match at 6-5 in 3rd; opponent served for match in 1st and 2nd Rounds and saved MP)
IT ("Court"): (new) Louis Armstrong Stadium (four of top 5 women's seeds -- #1 Halep, #2 Wozniacki, #4 Kerber, #5 Kvitova -- fall in first three rounds on the newly rebuilt #2 show court, as well as slam winner #12 Muguruza and summer stars #13 Bertens and #26 Sabalenka)
Ms.OPPORTUNITY: #20 Naomi Osaka/JPN and #19 Anastasija Sevastova/LAT (first-time slam champ and semifinalist)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Karolina Muchova/CZE (3rd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Victoria Azarenka/BLR (3rd Rd.)
LAST BANNERETTE STANDING: #17 Serena Williams/USA (in final)
COMEBACK PLAYER: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA
DOUBLES STAR: Nominees: Babos/Mladnevic, Barty/Vandeweghe
BROADWAY-BOUND: Kaia Kanepi/EST (new Armstrong Stadium premieres w/ Day 1 def. of #1 Halep)
LADY OF THE EVENING: Carla Suarez-Navarro/ESP (ended Sharapova's undefeated night streak)
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Dasha Lopatetskaya/UKR

All for Day 13. More tomorrow.


Blogger colt13 said...

Hmmm, should I open up with a New York Post type headline and say O-SHOCK-A? No, because this isn't a shock.

Should I compare Williams to Streisand, and Osaka to Lady Gaga, since A Star Is Born? Tempting, but unwieldy once you realize that the Streisand version is a remake of the Judy Garland one, which itself is a remake.

So who comes to mind? Kurt Warner and Phil Jackson. Seemingly a stretch, but bear with me.

Osaka is the Kurt Warner here. Warner, the NFL Hall of Famer, is ultra religious off the field, but fierce and combative on it. The contrast reminds me of Osaka, shy and unassuming off court, but with a laser like focus on it. A lesser player would have cracked yesterday, she did not. Bodes well for her future.

The Phil Jackson/ Serena pit has a different twist to it. And I don't mean the Knicks version, where the game had passed him by. What I do mean is the Bulls and Lakers version.

And I didn't realize this until after the fact. When the Bulls lost in the playoffs, and Michael Jordan went 8-24, it was normally a game in which Dennis Rodman got kicked out. So the narrative was always "Has Phil lost control of his team", instead of asking Jordan what was wrong.

I did not realize this until the Lakers era, when Shaq or Kobe would have a bad game, and then Rick Fox or Derek Fisher would get thrown out, repeating the pattern. So the stars got the smokescreen.

Where Serena falls into this is that she puts pressure on herself to win her home slam, and I think would rather be asked about her temper than her not winning. There is a similarity of the Clijsters, Stosur and Osaka matches all being at her home slam. Theory goes is that she was angry and wanted to vent, and instead of saying "You're a hater", and not getting a penalty like in the Stosur match, she was going to fire herself up.

Obviously, she miscalculated, and it became a Broadway Show.

So instead of pointing out that she lost consecutive slam finals, or that since she won the Australian Open in 2017, Wimbledon in 2016, and the French in 2015, that the 2014 US Open is the longest drought.

So is there a redemption arc this year? With a Williams, one never knows. Right now, Serena has enough points for Zhuhai, but does she have any interest? A decent Asian swing could get her to Singapore.

Part 2 below.

Sun Sep 09, 10:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Osaka will be an interesting case study. We normally expect a dropoff after that first slam win, but the tour goes to Japan next week-this week too. Will she play, or ramp up on the many marketing opportunities that should come her way?

I think the most impressive thing about Osaka's win is that this wasn't a fluke. After she held the first 2 times, dropping the first point on serve each time, it felt easy. Serve was on point, strokes were on point, and Serena was getting overpowered.

Stst of the Day-7- The amount of men's winners at the US Open the last 15 years.

This has become the one slam in the Big Four era that has posed a challenge. Both Del Potro and Djokovic have won before, so the number won't change, but if Del Potro wins, it will be the first time since 2014 that there have been 4 different slam winners-Wawrinka, Nadal, Djokovic, Cilic.

The odd thing, going back to 2004, even with Nadal's dominance, there have been more winners at the French than Wimbledon.

Since 2004:
7-USO-Federer, Del Potro, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Cilic, Wawrinka.
5-Australia-Federer, Safin, Djokovic, Nadal, Wawrinka.
5-French-Gaudio, Nadal, Federer, Wawrinka, Djokovic.
4-Wimbledon-Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray.

One last note: The only other time in the Big Four era when there were 4 slam winners? 2012, when each of the Big Four won one. Before that? 2003, when Agassi, Ferrero and Roddick won their last,and for the latter two their only, and Federer won his first.

Sun Sep 09, 10:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I have many thoughts about what happened (none of which I care to go on about in my own post because I'd still be writing), but briefly:

1. Does Serena really not understand the coaching rule?! Sorry, but that's a really hard notion for me to swallow. Assuming she knows good and well that coaching from the stands is illegal whether she saw it or not, her outburst was disturbingly irrational, obviously connected to a deep wound that has been with her throughout her career because of accusations of doping, taking steroids, etc. (There may also be a low oxygen issue, such as the one I talked about in 2009.)

2. Members of the non-sport media such as Sally Jenkins, whose WAPO piece is receiving high praise, need to shut up unless they have a knowledge of tennis rules. The crew on Joy Reid's show this morning, including Reid, were too ignorant to bear.

3. As you know, I'm a stickler for rules being followed, but even I don't think that "you're a thief" sinks to the level of abuse. As crazy as Serena acted during the match, I think giving her the game penalty was just as crazy.

The problem with these situations--other than the obvious problem of having gender and race issues brought up (and in this case, I think the gender issue is valid)--is that too damn much is going on at once.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that it was Simona who got coaching from the stands, and it was Simona who broke her racket. And that finally, upset, she called the umpire a thief. It feels different, doesn't it?

Because there wouldn't have been all that ranting and raving and speech-making and carrying on. Serena is her own worst enemy sometimes. That's not even a criticism--I learned to accept Serena as Serena a long time ago. But it doesn't do her any favors.

Finally, Naomi is scary-good and an endearing champion--with a great coach.

Sun Sep 09, 11:47:00 AM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Diane, good analysis. I think the best Serena as Serena might go to Venus, who they showed a shot of in the stands. And she had a look on her face like she had seen this many times-what can you do?

Sun Sep 09, 12:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Thank, colt. It all makes my brain hurt :(

Sun Sep 09, 12:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I didn't realize until this week how easily Osaka's name can be twisted around for NYP-like headlines. "Boom-shaka-Osaka" after the Sabalenka/Osaka match sort of hooked me. :)


And the "O's" have it for Gen PDQ, with Ostapenko and Osaka winning slams. Hmmm... one day, Osorio Serrano?

The discussion on Tennis Channel last night was similar to what you'd mentioned a while ago, that the chances are that Serena might not play again until the start of '19. After the way things ended yesterday, I'd say the chances of that probably went up.

"...but if Del Potro wins, it will be the first time since 2014 that there have been 4 different slam winners-Wawrinka, Nadal, Djokovic, Cilic."

And not one of them a NextGen player, either. :\

The enduring problem, also, is that what happened will provide some with a convenient excuse to pass off Serena's loss as a moment in which she "was done wrong," when the fact above all else is that Osaka was the far better player in the match. It's a little like how ESPNers and others held onto that Sloane/Vika match in the AO as some sort of "close match" wrongly marred by controversy (Vika's double MTO) that robbed Sloane of her moment, when it was actually a match in which Azarenka dominated play save for about 1 1/2 games.

And, really, I've learned to ignore the opinions of national media people who don't bother to follow the sport all year, but then drop in from the sky when something with Serena (or Rafa, or Roger) pops up, as if they have all the answers chiseled into stone tablets that they just found in the course of the afternoon.

Truthfully, while Jenkins hits things out of the park quite a bit (when you agree with her, it's easy to point to her words, because they're always so on point), she was also the main culprit behind the God-ification of Lance Armstrong before (and, somewhat, after), you know, he was eventually revealed to be a pretty reprehensible individual when it came to attacking those he declared to be his enemies (even when they were telling the truth, or just doing their job). [Geez, that sounds familiar.] ;)

A quick animated YouTube thumbnail sketch: here

Sun Sep 09, 01:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Oh thanks for the great YouTube video--I'd never seen it. And I was over Jenkins after the Armstrong business.

(I always had a bad feeling about Armstrong, btw, just like I always had a bad feeling about Tiger Woods--and not just because of his patronizing attitude toward women in his sport. Neither of them has anything going on behind his eyes. They both creeped me out.)

I was worried about Osaka after she had a crying "breakdown" in Charleston. But now, I think she can handle things. Well, not the horrific abuse being hurled at her--that will have to come later--but the situation itself, she seems to be handling pretty well. Pity that she has to.

Sun Sep 09, 02:05:00 PM EDT  

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