THE VIEW FROM ROGER: After his first-round win at the US Open, Roger Federer candidly shared his perspective on the current game.
On whether the new roof has changed Ashe stadium: “Yes, it has. Forever. (Smiling.) I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but old Ashe was great. I loved it. That’s all I knew until this year…If you don’t have to fight the wind you can play closer to the lines and make it better tennis…It might be better for the top guys…I do feel like it’s loud…Maybe in American sports it’s common that the fans do talk during games or matches. I feel like the roof might bring that back down, so, you know, you hear the crowd speaking more.”
On his new service return: “I used to chip and charge some…back in the day…Against certain players I did it more than others…but not in the way that I do it right now…Sometimes I stand there and I’m like, ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ And then it’s like, ‘Okay, whatever, I’m going.’…The good thing is when you do it, you have to play committed. There’s no way around it…Whatever is committed in tennis is a good thing.”
On whether he is playing his best tennis now: “Yes. If I win the tournament here yes, maybe…I will take it match by match…I’m not thinking too far ahead, as I know some people are. I’m just happy that the last…one-and-a-half years I have been…very consistent. I’m playing the right way, and also in a way that’s fun for me. If I decide to have long rallies and stay back, I can do that. If I decide to move forward and step it up, I can do that, too.
About his rivals, and how they’ve made him a better player: In the beginning it was Lleyton…who was a big challenge, and Andre Agassi…Those guys who dominated the baseline [were] difficult…It made me feel like a bad baseliner to an extent, until I realized I had to move better and be more consistent, have variation in my game. I started to figure it out bit by bit….Then the likes of Henman and Sampras explained to me how serve and volley was played…the art of sort of pressuring the opponent…Later, of course, this whole generation of Rafa, Novak, Andy – probably Rafa the most, [as a] lefty, challenged my backhand. I realized I had to return differently every single time I played against him. It made me a better player…And then that new generation – I would call it more new conditions, with the strings, the court surface slowed down – I had to adapt and become a physical player from the baseline with a lot of topspin and use the conditions from today to still be successful…With Novak it was always pretty straightforward. I didn’t feel like I had to adjust as much against him. He was just very good. And I saw the rise of Novak. I don’t know. [He’s] a difficult player to play against because he’s just that good.
STORMY BEL: Belinda Bencic made the US Open quarters last year, and the Swiss teen’s big breakthrough on the pro tour came this summer in Toronto, when she beat Serena Williams and Simona Halep back to back to win the Rogers Cup. But the recent junior No. 1 had to fight off three match points and get through anger and tears to defeat world No. 88 Misaki Doi in the second round. “I know I shouldn’t have…behaved like that,” Bencic said afterward. “For sure I know that. But sometimes I just can’t control myself…I for sure have to be working on that, but I think I’m not the only one who would freak out…I am not the player who is the calmest. I’m very emotional. That’s just how I am.”
Next up for Bencic is a match against her very first pro opponent, Venus Williams, who holds a 3-0 record against the Swiss protege of Martina Hingis. In fact, Bencic has yet to win more than four games in a set against Venus.
KEYS TO FAME: Since Madison Keys reached the semifinals of this year’s Aussie Open, she’s become more of a household name. Following an easy second-round win in New York, the 20-year-old was asked about being recognized by fans. “I think the funniest [example] was in LA. A woman recognized me as she was driving and hit her brakes …and screamed out of her window…[She] was screaming my name and was like ‘I love you.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, don’t crash, bye,” she said, drawing laughter.
Who would make Keys starstruck? “Maybe Jennifer Lawrence,” she said. “I saw Nicole Richie one day and she was with her kids. I have this bizarre love for Nicole Richie.”
CURIOUS KYRGIOS – NICK IN NEW YORK: It’s been said of Nick Kyrgios that his shot selection makes Gael Monfils look like a meticulous craftsman. People wonder where the new great players are coming from, but truth be told, we’re also checking the pipeline for the next great over-the-top characters. And many view Kyrgios as a new addition to the wild tradition of Pancho Gonzales, Nastase, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic and Marat Safin, to mention just a few.
When Kyrgios lost to Andy Murray in the first round of the US Open, the New York Post bid him farewell with the headline ‘Bye-Bye, Bad Boy,’ opening with the line, “At least Nick Kyrgios didn’t say anything tasteless about Andy Murray’s wife.” (Like Kyrgios, Kim Sears is no stranger to heated outbursts this year – in her case, during Murray’s Aussie Open semifinal against Tomas Berdych.)
Labeling the 20-year-old Kyrgios an “airhead,” the Post singled out his erratic behavior during changeovers and tendency to go for low-percentage flashy shots. As for Kyrgios , he says the “bad boy” tag attached to some young Australian players is “ridiculous.” Asked what he’s learned from his controversial on-court remarks this summer, he answered, “Keep your mouth shut at times.”
No stranger to hot-tempered outbursts, Murray wasn’t out to criticize his defeated opponent. “He (Kyrgios) is a young guy and he’s made mistakes, and everyone here when they were 19-20 would have done some bad things and made mistakes.” the Scot said. “It’s unfortunate that it happens in front of millions of people…It’s wrong, a lot of things he’s done, but…he’s still a young guy. He’ll learn. I don’t think he’s a bad person at all.”
FRIENDLY FIRE: John Isner‘s press conference after his first-round win had a surprise guest: Caroline Wozniacki. After the world No. 5 ribbed Isner for cutting into her press time, he said, “Caroline is a good friend of mine. She gives me a lot of s-h-i-t all the time, and she’s doing it again. That’s what good friends do.”
NO TIME TO CHAT: Coco Vandeweghe smashed a racquet during her second-round loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and her on-court interview with ESPN during her first-round win over Sloane Stephens drew both yays and nays. The network’s Chris Evert praised it for going “beyond the box” to bring new fans into the sport, but Federer and Serena expressed reservations. “You don’t want it to impact your game, and you don’t want to look back and think, ‘What a stupid move that was in hindsight,'” Federer said. “That’s kind of the integrity of tennis when you think about it,” said Serena. “It’s just you on the court. It’s not a reporter. It’s not a coach. It’s just you in that moment. I kind of love that. It’s the only sport where you have that.”
TOUGH TUESDAY: It was a rough day for racquets on the women’s side of the US Open – Kiki Bertens and Belinda Bencic hurled theirs on the way to losing and winning respectively, while Coco Vandeweghe smashed one in the first set of her second-round loss.
‘OLD HAND WITH NEW MOVE KEEPS EVERYONE GUESSING’ (New York Times)
‘THIS OPEN FEELS DONALD YOUNG AGAIN’ (Wall Street Journal)
‘IN SUN, QUIT HAPPENS’ (New York Daily News)
END OF AN ERA: For the first time since 2004, the Bryan brothers are going without a men’s doubles Slam title this year – the 2014 US Open champs lost their title defense in the first round, falling to another American duo, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson.
YOUNG, OLDER: Donald Young overcame a two-set deficit to win his first-round match against Gilles Simon, “One-hundred percent I would have beaten myself up (in the past),” he told the New York Times.
FROM ALTHEA TO SERENA: A New York Times piece by William C. Rhoden focuses on connections between Serena and Althea Gibson, the subject of a new documentary that airs on PBS. “At a willowy 5 feet 11, Gibson was built more like Serena Williams’s sister Venus,” Rhoden writes. “But Gibson’s temperament – the fire, the passion, the laser focus, the take-no-prisoners approach – was a precursor to Serena’s…Asked to describe her style, Gibson, barely smiling, said, ‘Aggressive, dynamic – and mean.’…Tennis was not the multimillion-dollar bonanza it is today, and those volatile times were not right for a woman, particularly a black woman, to be accorded mythic stature or even a job as a pro at a prestigious country club…Serena Williams is currently the beneficiary of a love fest, though this has not always been the case. Many of those throwing roses along Williams’s path to glory once threw darts.”