NAOMI OSAKA – EVERYONE ON THIS PLANET CAN LEARN FROM THAT GIRL: After Naomi Osaka’s quick, efficient quarterfinal win, her coach “Big” Sascha Bajin, who once was Serena’s hitting partner, offered unique insights into what makes her special. “What I really like about Naomi is that she’s really preserved that innocence somehow,” he said. “So if she’s sad, she’s gonna show it. If she’s happy, she’s gonna show it. There is no fake emotion…It’s just very raw and pure. And that makes it easy for me to understand because my job is based on emotions as well. It’s been very fun and beautiful to work with her.”
After her breakthrough win at the BNP Paribas Open earlier this year, Osaka spoke openly about her battles with depression and said that she cried right after winning her fourth-round match in New York, explaining afterward that the sudden emotion came from achieving one of her goals, a Grand Slam quarterfinal, after numerous earlier defeats. Billie Jean King tweeted, “@Naomi_Osaka, I’m terribly sorry you were teased for crying following your @usopen victory. Never, ever be afraid to be your authentic self, #champion.”
Noting that Osaka’s innocence is one reason why she’s so appealing, Inside Tennis asked Bajin if she can sustain it in the tough, competitive world of tennis, and if it’s good for the sport. With extraordinary insight, he replied, “I think everybody in this room and on this planet can learn a lot from that girl in order to maintain that innocence,” he replied.
“I believe the more open we are and the more honest we are, showing vulnerability sometimes and who we truly are, the better this world is just going to be. All that fake emotion, I’m not a fan of it. I believe that, yeah, she’s a star for that.”
BOLLETTIERI – NINE SLAM CHAMPS, EIGHT WIVES AND LOTS OF LITTLE RABBITS: Is the one and only Nick Bollettieri, who has worked with nine Slam champions and had eight wives, the best self-promoter in the game, or what? During one of his on-site public interviews, he was asked, “Who is your favorite player?” He responded, “Nick Bollettieri, baby.” He confided that when he was training the young, workaholic Monica Seles, he went through two wives, then added, “When you are among the best players, you have to play the best. Why? Because the little rabbits are after you.”
HOT TOPIC – THE QUESTION NO ONE WANTS TO PONDER: Will the surprisingly intense hot and humid conditions America is experiencing impact tennis in coming years? It’s an issue few want to face. For many it’s just too big, daunting, political and frightening. There are numerous questions about ten-minute breaks and wet bulb indexes, but few want or are able to ask more fundamental questions about what’s really going on. Instead, we hear plenty of resigned comments, like this one from Sloane Stephens: “It is what it is. It’s the weather in New York here.” But Wimbledon was the hottest it’s been since 1976, and there were many wretched days at this year’s Australian Open.
British journalist Mike Dickson observed that this season of Slams was the hottest of any year in memory. No one really talks about climate change, but clearly something has impacted the US Open big time – just ask Federer. Now the question remains: Will this potentially drastic development affect the outdoor sport of tennis, and of course, what can be done about it?
“I really feel like right now I’m playing free. I was having a baby this time last year, so I have nothing to prove.” – Serena
“After you knock out Muhammad Ali, you get Joe Frazier.” – Chris Fowler on Aussie John Millman, who after beating Federer had to play Djokovic
“It’s getting late early.” – John McEnroe quoting Yogi Berra as the Djokovic–Millman match stretched late into the night
“I’m too sweaty to serve.” – A soaked John Millman
“This is less a tennis match and more a war of attrition.” – ESPN on another late-night marathon
‘The Crown Is Down’
’Time to Acknowledge It’s Title or Nothing for Serena Williams’
TIME CHECK: This summer, shot clocks to control the time players have before serving and the time they have during the warm-up have made their appearance. Okay, that picks up the pace, but the natural rhythm of matches has been diminished. There’s now little time to relish and reflect on mind-boggling moments. Especially when matches reach their peak of excitement, it’s okay, but players rush on to the next point. Of course, the ten-minute rule and additional mid-match breaks have come into play, and they take far longer than the time saved by the clocks. Plus, these breaks, while often sensible, can really disrupt the momentum of matches.
JUST WONDERING: Is Novak Djokovic’s return of serve the best ever, as John McEnroe claimed?
A KEYS PIECE OF ADVICE: Last year Madison Keys reached the Open final, but faltered against Sloane Stephens. The key for her matches now is, “Don’t expect perfection.”
THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE ‘OPEN’ OPEN: Forty-three percent of the spectators at the Open come from outside the New York City metropolitan area.
WILL THE TIEBREAK SCORE A BREAKTHROUGH? As “heated” debates continue about the best-of-five men’s singles format in Slams, Simon Cambers reports that Wimbledon and the Australian Open may introduce final-set tiebreaks in 2019. The six-hour 36-minute Anderson–Isner Wimbledon semi and its toll on the winner brought the issue to the fore. A member of the ATP’s Player Council, Anderson thinks the switch to a fifth-set tiebreak is inevitable. Adding yet another option to the mix, Judy Murray said she’s in favor of a best-of-three format with no tiebreak in the third set.
ISNER-LESS DAVIS CUP TEAM TO CROATIA: When the US men’s Davis Cup team travels to Croatia later this month for a Davis Cup semi, they’ll be without top player John Isner, whose wife is expecting their first child. The team lineup features Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe and Mike Bryan. Rookie Tiafoe is the youngest player to be selected for Davis Cup since a 17-year-old Ryan Harrison competed in 2010. Bryan is coming out of Davis Cup retirement to partner Sock in doubles.
The US will face a tough Croatian team probably led by Marin Cilic, who just lost a five-set marathon to Kei Nishikori, and Next Gen star Borna Coric.
GO FIGURE: There were times during his early days on the Challenger circuit when John Millman would sleep in train stations.
REVENGE WINS: One storyline of this year’s US Open is revenge wins. Kei Nishikori reversed the outcome of the 2014 men’s final, defeating Cilic, while Anastasija Sevastova beat defending champ Sloane Stephens, after giving Stephens her toughest match at last year’s Open.
GENIE THE JOURNEYWOMAN: Back in 2014, Genie Bouchard was a Wimbledon finalist and tennis’s new ‘It Girl,’ but these days she’s attempting to work her way back up the rankings. She had to come through qualifying to reach the second round at the US Open, a state of affairs that had Chris Evert likening her to Andre Agassi. Now she’s already lost in another tournament – before the US Open is even over. Former Stanford player Kristie Ahn just defeated her at a $150,000 tourney in Chicago.
If this seems like singling Bouchard out, she’s not alone. Timea Bacsinszky, the 2015 French Open finalist and former world No. 9, also just lost in the first round of a $60,000 event in France. On a more upbeat note, tour vets Patty Schnyder and Vera Zvonareva have been steadily working their way back up the rankings, not to peak levels, but with a consistency that reflects dedication to the game, and suggesting that pro careers can last longer. Both the former top 10 player Schnyder and Wimbledon and US Open finalist Zvonareva made their way through qualifying at the Open.
FRAN SAYS THE HEART NEEDS NEW DREAMS: Italy’s colorful Francesca Schiavone, the surprise champ of the 2010 French Open, announced her retirement. “When I was 18, I had two dreams – first one was to win Roland Garros, and the second was to become top 10 in the world,” she said. “I accomplished that. So I’m very, very happy and lucky that, as we say in Italia, ‘It’s done. This part is done.’
“After 20 years…I have new dreams. The heart needs dreams every day of the life. My new dream is to come here…and be in a Grand Slam as a coach. Be fantastic emotion for me.”
On Twitter, David Kane observed, “Schiavone can’t walk two feet without getting hugs from everyone: Hantuchova, [Barbara] Schett, Sascha Bajin. [Fran says,] ‘People love me, I never knew this.’”