TENNIS AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT: Venus Williams said, “I think sport is, you know, a little microcosm of life, and it shows the human spirit, just being out there on the court, fighting against all odds. You never know whose life you’ll touch just by being your best.”
THE INNER GAME OF KEVIN ANDERSON: At this year’s US Open, much has been made of finalist Kevin Anderson – the frequency and volume of his “C’mon!” as much as the speed and power of his serve and forehands. But Inside Tennis quizzed Anderson about the inner, mental side of his game. “There is a huge component just on the mental side,” said Anderson. “For me, some of the challenge has been to trust my ability a little bit more. I have always been very critical about myself. I’m being a bit more patient with myself. That’s a big change I have implemented in the last few months…I definitely try and focus a bit more on the positive stuff now.”
BIG INSIGHTS ON BIG MEN: As reported in the New York Times, Kevin Anderson’s coach Neville Godwin noted the reserved personalities of numerous tall men on tour, such as John Isner, Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic, and that many shorter players tend to be more feisty.
Godwin said, “I think it always goes back to one thing: little guys have little-man syndrome, and big guys have big-man syndrome. Big guys are very seldom bullies; they nearly are embarrassed by their size, so they tend to shrink into themselves to make themselves smaller or less obvious.”
THE MURRAY FACTOR: What’s in a name? Andy Murray’s withdrawal played a huge role in the wide-open bottom half of the men’s draw, and coach Kamau Murray has been key to Sloane Stephens’ emergence at this year’s US Open.
HOT COCO WANTS TO BE THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME: Coco Vandeweghe may have been blitzed by Madison Keys, but there’s still some hot Coco simmering at the US Open. That would be the 13-year-old African-American, Coco Gauff, whom Inside Tennis wrote about earlier this year. Bringing outsized power and strong serving to a straight-set win over the well-named NorCal phenom Katie Volynets, Gauff is into the semis of the junior girls tournament.
After the match, a small cadre of media quizzed Gauff about her time at Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy, her next match, her boisterous grandmother who cheers loud, and other topics. So Inside Tennis dared to ask, “Are you ready for the media spotlight?” She replied, “My dad and my mom, they always practice giving me good questions. My brother plays baseball, and sometimes I announce the baseball games. That helps me a little bit. Mostly I just try to stay calm and not get too nervous.”
So what’s the toughest question Coco’s parents have thrown at her? “They throw all sorts of questions to me – and they’ll tell me if I’m saying “um” too much,” she said, with nary an “um” to be heard. “That was their biggest critique of me. I’m trying to do better and I’m still learning how to answer different kinds of questions.” Don’t worry Coco, you’re doing fabulously. And, yes, someday you, too, may well be a champion. She agrees. The Floridian’s intention is to become the greatest player of all time.
NOT EXACTLY THE SOUND OF SILENCE: Former Inside Tennis Managing Editor Richard Osborn reflected on Delpo’s love of New York, writing, “There’s something about this diverse little hamlet in the borough of Queens, New York, in the shadow of the Unisphere, amidst traffic both high (JFK, LaGuardia) and low (the Van Wyck, the L.I.E.), that seems to agree with Juan Martin del Potro. In this oddly beguiling cacophony – the 7 Flushing Local rumbling overhead along Roosevelt Avenue, the music-box siren’s call of the Mr. Softee truck in Corona Park, boom-box-backed line-dancers strutting their choreographed stuff in the Hall of Science parking lot – comes yet more delectable dissonance whenever the towering Argentine takes to the courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the kind usually reserved for the futbol pitch or a Davis Cup outing: ‘OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ, DELPO, DELPO!’
“From the very moment the 6’6” baseliner with the concussive serve and full-orbit forehand took out both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in claiming the 2009 US Open title, when he snapped King Fed’s 40-match tournament winning streak in five sets, New Yorkers have embraced him like few others. It’s the kind of adoration equaled only by the likes of Jimmy Connors, who at the tennis-old age of 39 thrilled us with his improbable run to the ’91 semis; or Our Chrissie, who won a half-dozen titles here; or Serena Williams, who’s made it a habit of delivering the dramatic inside the cavernous confines of Ashe Stadium, American tennis’ version of the Colosseum.”
THE SUMMER OF SLOANE
US COMES TO THE 4 FRONT
RARE: FOUR AMERICAN SEMIFINALISTS. RARER: NONE ARE SERENA WILLIAMS.
HAVING TO BEAT FEDERER AND NADAL AGAIN? THAT FIGURES
THE WORLD WISHED FOR NADAL–FEDERER AT THE US OPEN, BUT JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO HAD OTHER IDEAS
THE NEXT BEST THING TO FEDERER
I LIKE WATCHING BLACK WOMEN DO COOL STUFF ON TV. THIS WEEK, THAT MAKES ME A TENNIS FAN.
VENUS WILLIAMS’ TENNIS CAREER IS A STORY OF PERSEVERANCE
NADAL LAST NAME PLAYER LEFT IN OPEN
CRUMMY FEELINGS AND POSITIVES: In a raw, candid press conference after her loss to Madison Keys, a tearful Coco Vandeweghe said, “I didn’t really have much to do with anything out there…It’s a really crummy feeling…[Still,] I have made a lot of strides. It’s a step closer. It’s not the end. This year has a lot of positives.”
NO MORE QUESTIONS: “I don’t want anyone to ask me about the state of American tennis ever again,” Sloane Stephens said after her win over Venus Williams. “For American tennis, there is no question mark…American tennis, here we are.”
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR: Chris Evert said, “If it takes an injury and a year off to change a player like Sloane…I wish everyone could have an injury.”
“It will be the first all-American [women’s] final without a Williams sister in New York since Martina Navratilova defeated Chris Evert in 1984…This non-Williams all-American final is not the Cubs or Red Sox winning the world series, or Cleveland bringing home an NBA title after a lengthy drought. But it erases the question marks hanging over the heads of the next generation.” – Alyssa Roenijk, ESPN
“Hopefully we make Sports Center tomorrow, hint, hint.” – Sloane Stephens
“It’s great, after all my wrist problems, [to] come back and see how much the love from the fans comes to me…I was trying to retire [from the Dominic Thiem] match [in] the second set. Then I saw the crowd waiting for more tennis, waiting for my good forehands, good serves. I took all that energy to change in a good way.” – Juan Martin del Potro
“I’m watching because the players are black women, and I like watching black women do cool stuff on TV…I like seeing Venus, her hair natural, like mine, thick and bundled under her brightly-colored visor….And Sloane, her forearms defined, unfortunately way more chiseled than mine, and covered by an endless canvas of beautiful mocha….I can already hear the All Tennis Players Matter crowd complaining that I shouldn’t be so caught up on race….But I unabashedly root for representation and role models.” – Candace Buckner
“So wonderful to have four American women left in the US Open. Excited to see how it plays out. History will be made! #pressureisaprivilege.” – Billie Jean King
“There’s a new fighter in town, and her name is Sloane Stephens. And I never thought I would hear myself say that…Sloane defended beautifully. She just has a new look in her eyes, and it’s one of desire.” – Chris Evert
GETTING THE “BESTA” OF BUSTA: South African Kevin Anderson, ranked No. 32, is the lowest-ranked player to reach the men’s US Open final in the Open era. The 6’8” Anderson lives in Delray Beach with his wife, and the American hard courts have been key steppingstones in his 15-year career – he’s picked up two of his three titles at Delray Beach and Winson-Salem. But today he stepped out onto a much bigger stage, Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he got the “besta” of Busta. Translation: he beat Spain’s Pablo Careena Busta in four sets. Knowing that South Africa was key to Arthur Ashe’s history and that Ashe was influential in South Africa’s, Inside Tennis asked Anderson for his thoughts.
“Coming from a country that loves tennis…we definitely face a lot of challenges when it comes to producing tennis players,” he said. “My biggest hope is I’m able to inspire kids to get out and play, because it can definitely feel like it’s a long road, being so far from everything…I was in that same position back then…When I’m back, I often speak at several schools…I try and focus on the youth coming up. Tennis is a great sport regardless of how far you make it…obviously [it provides] a lot of good life lessons.”
KEEP IT MOVING – SLOANE FINDS HER FOOTING: Sloane Stephens has always been praised for her fleet movement, but in the early years of her career, she sometimes came under criticism for sloppy footwork. Not so Sloane 2.0, who has returned from, well, foot surgery, with rock-solid shotmaking form. After her inspired win over Venus Williams, Inside Tennis asked her if she and coach Kamau Murray had focused on footwork. “When I get nervous and tight, obviously in big situations, I focus on my feet,” said Sloane. “That’s something that I have definitely worked on, because I do get a little sluggish. So I have focused on, in big moments, [to] just keep them moving at all times, and I will be okay.”
MADISON AND SLOANE IN BLOOM: Both Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens have made it clear that they’ve answered some questions about the state of American tennis. So Inside Tennis asked Madison, why now – why is this tournament where they’ve stepped up a level? “Both of us had done well in previous years,” said Keys. “Whether it was not being able to handle things and the pressure, injuries, it feels like we have always kind of been around. But this [is the] tournament where we both put everything together and went on a really good run.”
Additional reporting by John Huston and Frances Aubrey