WOMEN’S FINAL PREVIEW – A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: By this time, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova are definitely familiar with one another. Kerber holds a 4-3 overall match-up advantage and a 3-2 advantage on hard courts, and the pair have already met in the finals of three events (including last year’s Bank of the West Classic final, which was decided by a tiebreak). Kerber won their first two final meetings in three tight sets, but Pliskova decisively came out on top of their most recent match in Cincy three weeks ago, allowing Kerber only four games in the process.
A match between the two is a study in contrasts, with Pliskova’s big serving and aggressive metronomic groundstrokes going up against the dangerous counterpunching and retrieving skills of the more consistent lefty Kerber. The secret factor may be Kerber’s relative familiarity with the late stages of Slams – in fact, this is the new No. 1’s third Slam final of 2016, whereas Pliskova had notoriously never moved past the third round of a major before this US Open. (Kerber also reached the finals of the Rio Olympics, cementing her bridesmaid status this summer.) Will Pliskova be nervous playing on the biggest stage of her career, or due her victories over home crowd favorites Venus and Serena, prove that she has what it takes to block out external factors – in this case, all of Ashe Stadium – and play her best tennis?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, both players come into the final with new self-confidence. Kerber is now the world No. 1 (ironically, thanks to Pliskova, who’d recently kept her from the spot by winning Cincy) and five years on from her previous best performance at this tournament, she’s a tour vet who has only become stronger over time. But if the 28-year-old Kerber was the US Open’s breakthrough player of 2011, then 24-year-old Pliskova, currently riding an 11-match winning streak, is this year’s revelation, and her game is certainly big enough for her to take control of the final’s outcome if she comes out strong and stays the course. Looking to solidify her standing on top of the world, Kerber has to be the favorite. Yet if Pliskova holds her current form, she may score a huge upset.
JUST WONDERING: Is Serena Williams the most controversial player since John McEnroe?…Last year after Serena lost in the semis to Roberta Vinci, she took the rest of the year off. Will she do that again?…How come Karolina Pliskova has never advanced beyond the third round of a Grand Slam before?
SERENA JUST DOESN’T SPARK THE SAME FEELING OF INEVITABILITY
WITH OTHER BIG NAMES OUSTED, HEAT IS ON NOVAK DJOKOVIC
CLEVER MINDS THINK ALIKE: Both the New York Post and Long Island’s Newsday featured the headline SERENA STUNNER. The Daily News simply said PAINFUL ENDING!
NO KAROLINA, WE ARE NOT HATERS: Karolina Pliskova said, “America probably hates me because I beat Venus and Serena.”
SAY IT ISN’T SO: The National Tennis Center is built on a landfill and slowly sinking.
REMEMBERING RODDICK: Andy Roddick, who was just nominated for the International Hall of Fame, was not only the last American man to win a Slam (in 2003) and to be No. 1, he was once said to be the ninth best athlete to ever host Saturday Night Live. On SNL he claimed, “What’s scary about Connecticut is the possibility that you can lose your tennis racket in the Pottery Barn.” But Roddick doesn’t need high-paid comedy writers to be funny. During an exhibition, a cocky Andre Agassi challenged him, saying, “Let’s see what you got big boy.” Roddick responded, “Hair.” More recently, when IT asked Andy what advice he would give to his younger self, he responded, “I should have enjoyed my hair more.”
HALF WIZARD, HALF BOY: That’s how Rolling Stone magazine characterized 19-year-old Andy Roddick. BTW: Young Roddick said the difference between him and his girlfriend, Mandy Moore, was that “nobody is sending me their underwear.”
“Superwoman is only human after all.” – Larry Brooks
“The list of achievements Serena Williams had within her reach – a record 23 Slam titles and an unprecedented seventh US Open championship – will have to wait.” – Greg Garber
THE LEBRON FACTOR: Roger Federer was inspired by Michael Jordan. For Gael Monfils, it’s Lebron James. He told Christopher Clarey: “I feel he was like the man on the mission: The real man on the mission. It gave me a little more inspiration to get back; to get back to work.”
A EURO MYSTERY: Inside Tennis asked Rod Laver why Europe has been so dominant in men’s tennis for so long – they’ve won every Slam since Andy Roddick. The Aussie legend replied, “Everyone would like to know.”
THE LAVER CUP: Three years ago, Roger Federer challenged his agent Tony Godsick to come up with something to honor his idol Rod Laver. Godsick came up with the Laver Cup, an international competition a little bit along the lines of the Ryder Cup to be held every year except during the Olympics. It would pit 6 players from Europe vs. 6 players from the rest of the world in an exhibition that would feature three singles matches and one doubles match per day. The first Laver Cup will be held in Prague late in September 2017. Federer and Rafa Nadal have already committed to the event. The European team will be captained by Bjorn Borg, and John McEnroe will captain the international team.
DON’T WORRY STEFFI, I’VE GOT YOUR BACK: German Angelique Kerber knocked Serena off the top spot of the WTA rankings after a 186-week run. Wouldn’t you know it, that leaves Serena tied with another German, Steffi Graf.
LOU’S TOP FIVE: According to espn.com, the top 5 matches ever held on Louis Armstrong are:
No. 5: 1993 third round, Serena Williams d. Kim Clijsters 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
No. 4: 1992 semifinals, Stefan Edberg d. Michael Chang 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4
No. 3: 1996 quarterfinals, Pete Sampras d. Alex Corretja 7-6(5), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7)
No. 2: 1991 fourth round, Jimmy Connors d. Aaron Krickstein 3-6, 7-6(8), 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
No. 1: 1988 final, Mats Wilander d.Ivan Lendl 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
GO FIGURE: The USTA is open to the idea of Miami’s troubled tournament moving to its new Lake Nona campus…Karolina Pliskova won 86% of her first serve points against Serena.