Day 16 - Sep 13 - 11:50pm EST
Another US Open is gone with the wind. We laughed, we cried, we took Mother Nature out back and shanked her. Nothing left to do but celebrate the best, the worst and the huh? of the final Grand Slam of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, the DUNLOP AWARDS. Everybody into the storm cellar!
Most Historic Moment: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor dark of night could stop Rafael Nadal. Neither could a final pushed to Monday then interrupted AGAIN by rain. A lesser player would’ve cracked. Rafa’s not that guy. The only thing he held better than his new and improved serve were his nerves in the face of perhaps the greatest occasion of his life. The result? Fred Perry. Don Budge. Rod Laver. Roy Emerson. Andre Agassi. Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal.
Serena Williams Cockroach Award: Novak Djokovic. Not only did he squirm his way out of that Federer match (2 MATCH POINTS! Hello!), he never would’ve gotten to the semis had he not gutted out that five setter v. Troicki in the hot sun in the first round. Redonkulous. Nole v. 2.0 is amazing and I for one can’t wait to see what he does next.
Biggest Bully: Kim Clijsters. She’s supposed to be the nicest gal on tour, but when it comes to winning she’ll cut your throat. Just ask buddy Ana Ivanovic, who she dismantled in the Round of 16 without a hint of remorse. But she saved her most vicious machete strokes for the final, looking dead-eyed across the net at a crying Vera Zvonareva as she cut her down in a jaw-dropping 59 minutes. Apparently motherhood makes you evil. And I love it.
Nada won several awards
Best Match (ATP): Federer/Djokovic. We’ve been here before. Fed v. the Djokester at the U.S. Open, with the Serb coming up short 3 years running. But this one went the distance thanks to some serious cojones by Novak, who hit one jaw-dropper after the next to dig out from multiple match points late in the fifth. My heart’s still racing.
Best Match (WTA): Sam Stosur/Elena Dementiva. In the brawl apparently only myself and 6 other people saw, these two women went toe to toe for three sets, pounding the ball until it, and we, begged for mercy. In the end, it drove Elena mad, but for the rest of us it hurt so good.
Worst Match (ATP): Novak Djokovic/Gael Monfils. Djokovic did nothing wrong. Monfils did nothing right. Gael going for a completely unnecessary tweener when he had all the momentum in the first set – and botching it – sums up what was so so wrong with this stinker. And frankly, why watching Monfils often makes me want to punch myself in the face.
Worst Match (WTA): Wozniacki/Cibulkova. For once, this has absolutely nothing to do with either player. The wind was so atrocious, so hatefully awfully torturous, that watching these women just try to keep the ball in was like watching all those Gaels in that K-SWISS commercial attempt tweeners at the same time. Really hoping Caroline and Dominika went out and got sloshed together after this one. I know I did.
Biggest Upset: Andy Murray. I hadn’t fallen into that “this is Murray’s time” trap everyone else seems to every major…until this year. I joined in on the chorus who really thought he had a clear clear shot. Apparently the only one who didn’t was Andy himself.
Breakthrough Performance: (Female): She may have been double bageled by Maria Sharapova on Ashe, but Beatrice Capra had to knock out Karolina Sprem and Aravane Rezai to get there. Not too shabby for a kid who hasn’t even turned pro yet.
Breakthrough Performance (Male): India’s Rohan Bopanna & Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, who paired up to not only promote a message of peace, but (lest it be overshadowed) crush the competition with amazing tennis. They may not have won the battle against the Bryans in the final, but they won the war on our cold dead hearts. Ultimately, getting doubles on CBS might have been their biggest accomplishment of all.
Breakdown Performance (Male): Tomas Berdych. The first round? Really? You beat Federer twice this year but you couldn’t handle Michael Llodra? Hurrumph, I tell ya. Hurrumph.
Breakdown Performance (Female): Na Li, who was microwaved by the sun in the first round. If Novak can hang, so can you.
Scariest Moment: Victoria Azarenka collapsing on court and having to be rushed to the hospital. Sometimes there can be too much drama on a tennis court.
Most Missed: Juan Martin Del Potro. Not sure if this one came though on the old TV, but on the scene the big guy was so painfully missed.
Best Dressed (Male): Novak Djokovic (red & blue night outfit). I’d wear that. I’d get ridiculed to no end, but I’d wear it.
Best Dressed (Female): Amidst a sea of Bedazzled figure skating fiascos, Venus Williams busted out a black & white daytime outfit that she wore instead of it wearing her. It was also the Tide contest-winning dress, so perhaps Venus should consider having more of her outfits designed by Olivia Oram of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Worst Dressed: If this were awarded on eyesoreness alone, Venus would win this award in every color that ice costume came in. But for pure discomfort watching it, this one goes to Elena Dementieva, who made me sweat in the sun just looking at her running around in that red plastic get-up. Could you even burn it if you tried? Let’s find out.
Biggest Game Changer: The weather. Brutal sun. Brutal wind. Brutal rain. Just %$#@ brutal.
Hottest Shot: The Tweener! Pulled off successfully by Roger Federer, Francesca Schiavone, Rafael Nadal and Mikhail Youzhny. Pulled off unsuccessfully by a certain Frenchman and me every damn time I try it.
Best Point: This. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26AyIAkJUW8
Hottest Female Runner Up
The Pam Shriver ‘Best Use of a Microphone’ Award: Pam Shriver (who, congrats, now officially has this award named after her), who proved herself worth her weight in gin. Best moment, rushing to interview Nadal before he could put his shirt on. Get ‘er done, Pammy.
Most Memorable Quote: Novak Djokovic, in response to Brad Gilbert’s question if he had a tweener, between-the-legs shot like Federer: “I have something else between my legs. Don’t worry, I won’t show you tonight.”
Finally, the first ever Dunlop Awards decided by you! Hundreds of votes, but only one winner:
Hottest Male Player: Drumroll please…RAFAEL NADAL. (Runner Up): Novak Djokovic.
Hottest Female Player: ANA IVANOVIC. (Runner up): A photo finish between the Marias, but Kirilenko takes it by a button nose.
Incidentally, I was going to run your reasons why you think they’re so hot but they turned out to be too filthy. You’re all pigs. And my kinda people.
Okay, that’s a wrap kids. Thanks to Janko Tipsarevic, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Bud Collins for stopping by, and thanks to you for reading. Check back in this Wednesday and every Wednesday for the Sweet Spot. On behalf of Dunlop and myself, see you next time!
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.
Day 15 - Sep 12 - 8:10pm EST
Hello peoples! Is Dunlop. While we wait for rain to stop so we can watch my Nole give Lime Green Blunder atomic wedgie he can never pull out, I answer some questions from millions of fans on the twitter!
Ataraxis00 aks: Have you seen Alec Baldwin's ball? Competition? He has a headband and a tongue. http://youtu.be/UcfkQ69Hvxg
Wise person tells Dunlop “Imitation is highest form of flattery.” Dunlop stabs wise person with business end of Shame Stick, right after he stabs 99 Cent Store tennis ball and bloated man from the Beetlejuice. Shenanigans!
Peggles12 asks: I can't express the love I have for Dunlop..forget Rafa, Fer and even Feli..its ALL about Dunlop..oh and I like Junior Mints!
Junior Mints! Duds and Mints are like Crips and Bloods or JJ and Ana. So much bloodshed! We must be the friends. But Dunlop is big fan of benefits.
julesdc asks: Which tennis player has best Dunlop grip that you've posed with so far?
Alejandro Falla’s grip is so soft, he has hands like girl baby. Alisa Kleybanova squeezes like I am hair bun, so hard! Dunlop likes both, but Dinara Safina’s grip is just right!
TennisRomi As much as I like u Dunlop why haven't u made a decent racquet 4 Verdasco!? He's playing w/ a technifibre! Love, Me
Dunlop would like to take opportunity to say, even though he has logo tattooed on his backside, he is not, how do you say, associated with big racquet company in any way. Unless they want to give him big sponsorship money, then he says so many amazing things about them he sound like a McEnroe at a Roddick match!
luciahoff asks: brazilian wax???
Yes Dunlop have the wax before the US Open, but what if he has to do interview in locker room?? He would never make player sit in towel alone. Dunlop has the manners.
MindTheRacket asks: Is your hairdresser the same as Dinara's?
Dunlop does not go to hairdresser. He and Ernests Gulbis stay up all night, they talk about love and do each other’s hair. Do you think his hair is great big beautiful accident? Ajde!
jlandsb3 asks: Why are the Spaniards so much better than the rest of the men? If Americans start practicing w/out shirts, will they catch up?
Dunlop will throw up! Have you seen Yankee Doodle bodies? Dunlop has not seen so much white paste since the kindergarten!
jlandsb3 is very inquisitive. She also asks: Zimas? Dunlop, have you tried Carlos Moya beer? I think you would enjoy drinking from a sweaty bottle of that.
For the peoples who do not know, Carlos Moya does the beer campaign in Spain where he is on bottle with no clothes on! Who enjoys that?? This reminds Dunlop, maybe is good campaign for Nole Water. (http://www.gototennisblog.com/2010/03/04/davis-cup-mind-games-novak-djokovic-vs-team-usa/)
Kfish_WTA asks: Is it really Not that Easy Being Green?: http://bit.ly/bS8Buv
Kermit is self-hater. Dunlop is self-lover.
LadyRain782 asks: Is there a Mrs. (or Mr.) Dunlop?
Of course there is a Mr. Dunlop -me! Until he finds the right woman to settle down with, Dunlop remains very stylish bachelor.
LadyDarkRose asks: Do you think BabyGirl Ana is gonna get back together with Man*****Verdasco now that she left GolfBoy? And Curtos07 asks: Now that Ana is single, how do I capture the girl’s heart? I want a date.
Everybody, everybody, Ana is going through many emotions right now, she needs time to be sad while body of relationship gets cold! When she is healed, it will finally be Dunlop’s chance! (Is always a reason why we cannot be together! Is like Meg Ryan movie!) Curtos07, if you want, Dunlop can get you date with Sorana Cirstea. After couple Zimas you will not be able to tell difference.
pkultgen asks: Do Bud's pants change color in the hot tub?
What happens in hot tub stays in hot tub. You will thank me when you are in hot tub.
donkeygrooming asks: I have two questions: 1) Why haven't you called me since LA? 2) Are you willing to take a paternity test?
Oh no, looks like man final is canceled, Dunlop must go! See you tomorrow! Vamos Nole.
Day 13 - Sep 11 - 11:19pm EST
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Here’s how I know a match is epic. If this jaded mofo becomes 12 years-old watching it.
I’m 35 when Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic walk out onto Arthur Ashe for their semifinal. A savvy 35. I know full well we’ve been here before. Three times, to be exact. That’s how many times Novak Djokovic has fought his way to the semis of the US Open, only to have his heart ruthlessly yet surgically removed by Roger Federer. But this time feels different.
Okay I’m totally lying, this time feels absolutely no different. Because no matter how well Novak has been playing the last two weeks, Roger’s been playing that much better. Particularly in his utter dismantling of Robin Soderling in the quarters. The serve is on, he’s destroying forehands. The only question is, Will Novak be able to take a set? Considering Roger hasn’t lost one yet this tournament, I have to consult my Magic 8-ball. It does a spit take.
The match starts. And they’re both hitting the stink off the ball. Novak breaks first. Fed breaks back. And takes the set. Yup, we’ve been here before. Novak comes out firing, Rog wriggles off the hook. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Suddenly, a wrinkle. Federer plays a bizarre second set, and before you know it, 6-1 Djokovic.
Huh. Now I’m 21. A little more energized, and just naïve enough to think things might not play out the way I think.
The third set, Federer recovers and keeps his nose in front. Inexplicably (or, if you’ve been paying attention, according to the script), Novak fires off back-to-back-to back errors and gets broken for the set. I’m now 45 and practical. Djokovic rallying from two sets down in Roger Federer’s house is too big an ask. What’s for dinner?
A Heavenly Match
Suddenly, Djokovic breaks early in the fourth and manages to hold on long enough to take this match to a fifth. At this point I’m 80. Fragile, weary, losing hair. And my bladder is giving me fits.
And here’s where things get bonkers. As solid and gutsy as the match has been to this point, the fifth set is AMAZING. Federer and Djokovic are clearly missing Juan Martin Del Potro, because they are imitating his forehand like crazy. Boom! Boom! Boom! 4-all, the rallies are incredible, the crowd is bananas, I’m bananas.
Double match point, Federer. And it feels right. Let’s be honest, we all knew it would come to this. We’ve read the script. We’ve memorized our lines.
This is where I go out of body. And Novak clearly joins me, as he saves both MPs with wicked shots and holds. AND BREAKS.
There’s no way Djokovic can serve this out. No way. The first point is a huge rally that Roger wins. This is Federer, he’s not going away like a punk. An error by Novak and it’s love-30. Roger breaks and wins the tiebreak.
No wait. Novak gets it to 30-all. Break point! Deuce! Advantage Djokovic. HE WINS!
Pure pandemonium in the stands. And I’m jacked up higher than a fourth grader overdosing on Pixy Sticks. In ten minutes, Djokovic went from a point from defeat to an epic upset. And with the win, Novak snatches the No 2 ranking from the Swiss. But that’s almost incidental. He’s rewritten the script. We need to learn new lines.
This match wouldn’t have been so phenomenal if Roger didn’t make Novak earn it. And he did. Fed fans will be understandably crushed – full disclosure, no one was pulling for a Fedal Final more than I was - but hopefully they can appreciate how much the 5-time US Open champ poured into it. I certainly can.
So much love for Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. For showing what two champions look like going toe to toe. For showing how much heart can add to a match. And for making me feel like a kid again.
Day 12 - Sep 10 - 11:55pm EST
Wimbledon had its Official Poet. The US Open needs an Official Exorcist.
There have been so many moments of OH GOOD GOD NO over the last two weeks. Moments where, like a car accident or any Jennifer Lopez movie, time slows as imminent disaster looms, and all we can do is flail for something bolted down, brace for impact and yet helplessly watch as we and those we love are inevitably shredded to bits. While many of our favorite players have flirted with disaster, some will be downright haunted by OH GOOD GOD NO moments that rained on New York like a thousand Linda Blairs.
Who needs a hug and who needs holy water? We’re counting ‘em down…
10. Patty Schnyder DF’s on match point. What was Wacky Patty doing in a third set tiebreak v. Yanina Wickmayer? And in what reality is a packed Grandstand roaring for this wily vet? “Patty! Patty!” But there she was, going toe to toe with a youngin’, and the ’09 semifinalist to boot. So to see it all go up in smoke with a single DF, ugh. Heartbreaking. – 2 Hugs.
9. Robin Soderling’s questionable call. Can one call unravel an entire match? It can if you’re Robin Soderling, who got what he thought was a bum deal early on (on a point to break Fed no less) and systematically fell apart for three sets. The match ended with Robin faking out the umpire with a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t handshake (Patty would’ve been proud), but the memory of this one isn’t going to be disappearing on Robin anytime soon. - 3 hugs and a there there.
8. Sam Stosur lets Kim Clijsters off the hook. Kim couldn’t find the service box with Yahoo Maps and Sam broke the defending champ 7 times. Yet Kim was able to break Sam 8 times. The Sam Stosur serve. Broken 8 times. Was it fatigue after her last match v. Dementieva? Emotional letdown? Nerves? She’ll figure it out after replaying this one in her mind over and over again for awhile. – 1 long hug and a Call me if you need to talk.
7. Elena Dementieva punches her ticket to looneyland. It one long highlight reel of a match, Elena Dementieva battled to a match point. Then another. Then another. Then another. Madness finally set in in the 3rd set tiebreak as Elena more or less cracked like a funhouse mirror. One more Grand Slam opportunity out the window. – 5 Hankies and a Here, lie on this couch and tell me all about it.
A Million Lost
6. Fernando, meet Hurricane Rafa. What do you do when a guy is just on? Pray to weather the storm. When it picks you up and slams you into the side of a stadium over and over until you can’t see out of your left eye anymore? Pray for it to be over. We felt for Nando. We winced for Nando. We grieved for Nando. Hopefully his virtuoso match point v. David Ferrer the round before lives on in his memory longer. Cuz it was a beaut. – 3 locker punches and a shot of Patron.
5. Dominika, meet an actual hurricane. How much does it blow when you’ve worked your behind off to earn a shot at a Grand Slam semi only to have to play your quarterfinal in a tornado? The only reason Wozniacki isn’t as traumatized is because she won. For Dominika, all she’ll be left with are thoughts of what could’ve been. And the knowledge that she was seen on TV’s around the world in that horrible horrible match. – 4 shots of Patron and a round of hypnotherapy until she’s clucking like a chicken.
4. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, meet three match points. Now say good-bye. She had three against Andrea Petkovic in the second round. The fact that Petko played three brilliant points is cold comfort considering Andrea’s next opponent gave her a walkover. Converting just one of those BP’s would have given Bethanie a Fastpass to the second week of her home Slam. – 5 locker punches, 3 Jagerbombs and some misplaced aggression on a cab driver.
3. Ryan Harrison shanks a million. Ryan had such an amazing tournament, even when he couldn’t capitalize on his match points in the second round, I thought, he’ll be fine. And then an article came out suggesting that converting even one of those match points would’ve made him a million dollars richer. (http://opensource.si.com/2010/09/05/harrisons-million-dollar-shot/) Now I’m hoping there are no sharp objects within 500 feet of the boy. Cuz you know he can read. – 4 Lurchings up from nightmares covered in sweat and 1 brick to the head to make him forget. Oh sweet release…
2. Venus Williams’ SF Tiebreak. OH GOOD GOD NO. Venus had this. Oh, she had it. She hasn’t had much luck outside of Wimbledon (though hello, we should all have such problems), but this was her shot. At 30! And with Vera Zvonareva, who hasn’t beaten her in over seven years, waiting in the final! She was one tiebreak away, and she was serving like a beast. Until the beast turned on her. She double faulted her first two service points, botched an overhead, threw in another error. Pretty sure J-Lo showed up in a supporting role. In a flash, it was over. While Venus stayed positive in her presser, she’s for sure going to be dogged by memories of this tiebreak for a long long time. You know, the way Regan was dogged by Satan. – 1 vat of holy water and a pair of swim trunks.
1. The Story of Us. The players will eventually get over it, they’re made of tougher stuff, but what about us? How many Dementieva, Stosur, Soderling and Venus fans are scarred for life? For having to bear witness to all this pain and misery (and that Woz/Cibulkova match – phew!): 1 Exorcist. And he better not be a hack cuz these cuts run deep.
Still two more days left. And tomorrow, all eyes are on Fedal. Still time for more emotional scarring! Stay tuned…
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa
Day 11 - Sep 9 - 11:45pm EST
Dear Roger Federer,
You do not know Dunlop. We have not had the conversation. I was between your legs last week, together we make the magic with epic tweener! But you give Dunlop no credit after! You just wave hands as if to say, no, no, I cannot believe I hit Big Shot either, I am so good!
Yes yes, King Goat, you are so good. Dunlop gets it. Dunlop gets more and more as years go by. Because you tell him!
It was not always this way. When we were young together, you win the tournaments, you drop to ground, your long hair flopping in wind like Breck Girl, you wipe big tears, hold up trophy and everybody cheers. Your specialness speaks for itself! Now it has spokesperson.
In case you do not know who spokesperson is, find guy with big RF stamped on forehead.
Last night after you beat skeleton man from Nightmare Before Christmas, you get compliment on court for your serve and YOU AGREE! Yes yes, you say, I am serving machine. I can serve at 2 in morning, 4 in morning, 6:43 and 58 seconds. I can serve off bad ball toss! I can serve underwater! I can serve can off man’s head, do not ask magician how he does tricks! Dunlop is sick of it! Enough! So many years of compliments have turned you into egomaniac trapped in tower of own greatness! Your head is more inflated than Macy’s float! Big turkey float with hairy belly.
Now some peoples may say to you, King Goat, do not listen to Dunlop! He is big Nole fan, you beat him three years in row in meadow that flushes, you again are to play him in semifinals and Dunlop is just scared of you.
LIES! Told by fascists!
Dunlop is bored of you, like Gwen Stefani sitting in your box waiting for death to come. He is bored of hearing you say all the things you are good at. And he is bored of all of the Jedi mind tricks!
Oh you know what Dunlop is talking about. You give Andy Murray the big psych out at Melbourne Open, you try to do the psych out of Rafael Nadal last night in press conference, saying he had easy road to quarters and easy road to final (Dunlop is not so good at math, but that is just one big easy road, no?), and now you try to work Jedi trick on my Nole! Saying he waits for big breakthrough in big apple, but year after year after year he cannot get through you.
LEAVE MY NOLE ALONE!
Go fly on your NetJets and suck on your Lindt chocolates and make people sit on your headshrinker couch made from MY PEOPLE, and get out of my Nole’s mind! And jump out of your tower!
And if you could do Dunlop one more favor, he would appreciate it.
Day 10 - Sep 8 - 3:25pm EST
It’s getting closer to the finish line, closer to when we crown our US Open champs. I’m not going to make any predictions, or bold statements, or anything like that. Partially because I’m a jinx, partially because there’s still some major tennis to be played.
But, uh…RAFAEL NADAL, are you kidding me?
Let me stop. Seems like I’m putting a klieg light on the Lime Green Wonder, and I won’t. I can’t. He’s got such a task ahead of him here. The Career Slam is on the line, and with it, potentially, history. And between his draw and his play, it’s, just, wow, so right there, just…inches from his finger tips, just…
No. No. Lots of threats still in play. Fernando Verdasco not only played Nadal to within an inch of his life in Australia in ’09, he also pulled off perhaps the shot of the tournament in his come from behind match point v. David Ferrer yesterday. It may not have been a tweener, but it was for sheezy an exclamation point.
Serving Up Winners
And Mikhail Youzhny & Stanislas Wawrinka, both possible semifinal opponents SHOULD Rafa get that far, are playing the tennis of their lives. Mikhail’s even beaten Rafa here before.
Meanwhile, either Gael Monfils, Robin Soderling, Novak Djokovic or (!) 5-time US Open champ Roger Federer await in the final.
Have you seen THE SERVE? Where did this thing come from? As if Rafa needed something else to add to his game to make him even more of a nightmare to play. Is it a grip change? Is it confidence? Witchcraft? Not only is Nadal serving harder than ever, he’s protecting it like it was Fort Knox, reaching the quarters without being broken once. Not once. Used to be a player could say, alright, Rafa is going to break me, I need to make peace with that, but I’m gonna have chances on his serve. Now their best chance is to hold? Against Rafa? That’s your best chance now? Imagine poor Feliciano Lopez last night, marching out to the Majorcan Firing Squad. Feli played hard, but at no point did it look even for a moment like he believed he could beat him. And the last time they played? Lopez beat him. Different tournament, different Rafa.
Somehow even more exciting, Nadal’s healthy. He’s covering the court so freely, like, well…like he used to. No wincing, no tape jobs, no massaging of the knee or tummy. Nothing but a 6’1” humming bird buzzing from corner to corner, up and back, a ninja in Day-Glo sneakers. What that’s allowing him to do is hit shots we didn’t even see in Paris or London. Last night we saw back-to-back-to-back forehand winners ripped to the far corner with abandon. We saw him chase down a lob and pull off his own tweener (fine, it wasn’t a winner, it didn’t even win him the point, but he hit it). And that match point was Del Potro-esque, just the sound of the crack off his racquet.
There’s just so much going for Nadal right now, it’s hard not to look to Sunday feeling like something historic might just happen. Which of course I’m not doing. I’m dead from the neck up. But between now and then, one thing is for sure: Whether or not Rafa pulls off the Career Slam, he’s making it damn fun watching him try.
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa
Day 9 - Sep 7 - 11:22pm EST
What a difference a day makes.
One day, Caroline Wozniacki had everything in the world to prove when she took the court against Big Bad Maria Sharapova in a hotly anticipated 4r clash. The next day Miss Sunshine has Maria’s scalp swinging from her tennis bag and is the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the whole shebang.
That’s pretty huge considering there’s another lady in the draw riding a 19-match US Open win streak.
I tweeted during that match that those who’ve written Woz off as just a pusher need to snap out of it and get with 2010. While many of you said hear hear, just as many of you told me in no uncertain terms that Woz is a big wuss who exists only to get the ball back, you don’t respect that and PS have some salt with that brick you can go suck on James.
Okay, I hear you.
Now hear me.
I wrote a whole column a ways back about Pusher Power. About how it works, and how it worked for Caroline. But that’s out the window. This isn’t the same player who first made the scene on tour. She’s not even the same player she was a year ago when she made the final here. She’s hitting bigger, serving bigger, going for more. Check the stats.
No no no, you say, you check the stats. Did you see her winner count v. Sharapova? Negative 2! Those are pusher numbers!
Stats don’t show placement. And Caroline places balls better than most any other on tour. Why do opponents regularly have such high UFE counts against her? It’s not because they feel so compelled to get the ball past her that they wind up hitting the side fence (though they absolutely do). It’s because Woz puts them in ridiculously uncomfortable positions. She uses her noodle.
Not only that, she can keep her shots in, and she knows a well-placedball with some mustard on it is going to draw the error no matter what.
We throw our hands up at big babe tennis when it goes off the rails, and yet here’s a player who’s consistent, who has the ability to notonly mix up her shots but also has the ability to implement a Plan B and even a Plan C when she needs to, and yet she gets no respect. She’s the top seed of the tournament and we cry foul. Sure, if Serena were here, things would be different. But she’s not, and the ranking points Caroline got that put her in pole position weren’t gifted to her for Christmas. She earned them, by doing the only thing she’s tasked to do week in and week out: win.
Yet we continue to dismiss her. Why? Well, being a top seed without a Slam title is a surefire way to make yourself a target. Just ask the tour’s most recent scapegoats, Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina. They both needed their behinds iced on a regular basis with the sheer volume of butt-kickings they received, not only from fans and the press, but often their colleagues. But at least they were No 1s. There’s a special place in H-E-double hockeysticks for a top seed who’s never even been top ranked.
But here’s the deal: it’s coming. And maybe as soon as Saturday. Should Wozniacki win this Grand Slam – and don’t be fooled, she has a very real shot - she’ll supplant Serena as the new No 1. She’ll have the rank, she’ll have the hardware. And then what will people say? That she’s suddenly a true star of the game? Or that she got lucky?
Keep this in mind: Maria Sharapova has spent her career being touted as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, mentally on tour. And she blinked first. Now you’re battling her, likewise refusing to budge an inch. Whether she wears you down - whether you ultimately come to see her worth, how she’s evolved or respect what she does on the court - she will beat you. And then she’ll hang your scalp on her tennis bag alongside Maria’s and, after a truly epic battle, my own.
And she’ll do it all with that $%#& smile.
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa
Day 8 - Sep 6 - 7:02pm EST
Hello peoples! It is Dunlop here. Why waste time with clever opening when there is so much beating to do? Dunlop has been taking lessons on how to swing and hit from fans in upper deck of Arthur Ashe, so away we go!
Ready to give a beating
ANDY RODDICK: You lose in second round in own home! AND you are so mean to poor lineswoman who just tries to do job! I beat you as long as silly baby tirade lasts. 1 Whack, 2 Whacks…
ANDY MURRAY: Again you get the people excited – this is it, this is where is really going to happen! - and again you lose. In the third round?! Million dollar US Open Series bonus down the drain! Do you know how many bottles of Zima one million dollars can buy? Pretend Grand Slam is video game or moping competition, maybe then you will win. – 6 Whacks with Shame Stick
ANDY RODDICK: 4 Whacks, 5 Whacks…
MOTHER NATURE: You bring sun, you bring heat, you bring wind, you bring headaches! Stick to chasing after Serena Williams with monthly gift and leave rest of us alone! – 5 Whacks with Shame Stick
IVAN LJUBICIC: You let Justin Beiber make you look like giant geriatric, running you this way, that way, huffing and puffing! Dunlop wanted to run oxygen tank on court but he was afraid he might wake you. 4 Whacks with Shame Stick
ANDY RODDICK: 8 Whacks, 9 Whacks…
TOMAS BERDYCH & LUCIE SAFAROVA: You lovebirds both lose in first round against players with no numbers next to name. Did you two get in big fight the night before over who was going to do worse? Ha! You both win! – 5 Whacks with Shame Stick
ANDY RODDICK: 13 Whacks, 14 Whacks… Ugh, even Dunlop cannot drag this on as long as you can. Dunlop gives lineswoman and every umpire you ever screamed at the stick, they decide when they are done.
Dunlop bets you think he goes away now, but no! See how I trick you? I have very special guest, I meet him here in the meadow that flushes and he is amazing amazing legend of game. We are now, how do you say, roll dogs. And I will interview him for you now! Is Dunlop’s first time so hopefully you will be gentle.
Please say hello to my friend Bud Collins!
Bud, I cannot think of question to ask, Dunlop is blinded by your wardrobe! You are so stylish! Your pants are like if bag of skittles makes baby with Lite-Brite. Where did you get such a, how do you say, killer fashion sense?
Bud Collins: I didn’t know I had a killer fashion sense. The story of the pants is, years ago my tailor in Boston, Charlie Davidson, said I look very dull on television. I used to wear white trousers and a blue blazer. He said I looked like somebody at a yacht club. So he made me a pair of trousers, madras, red and white check.
Dunlop cannot wait to see where this story is going! Sorry, he interrupts. Bad Dunlop.
I took a look - this is 1966 - I said I can’t wear those. You wouldn’t notice them today, but in 1966… But he’s a good friend so I wore them. I was embarrassed to be seen in them. But I went to a Davis Cup and, walking to the press box, people were whistling at me, shouting insults and so forth. I wanted to hide. But I couldn’t hide, I had to keep walking. But by the time I got to the top of the Grandstand, I said, well, this is kinda fun. That’s how it started.
When people make the catcalls, why you do not punch them in their stupid faces?
I’m a pacifist.
Dunlop was just about to let you try out Shame Stick! Is too bad, Bud, I think you would really enjoy. Is wonderful exercise, like Shake Weight. So you make your pants from scratch. Where do you get such beautiful fabric?
We purchase the cloth wherever we go. Yesterday’s pants was Zimbabwe, this here is Thailand. And Charlie makes the trousers.
Do they come in Dunlop’s size? Can I have a pair?
The man with killer pants
Sure, sure you can. You go see my man, I’m sure Charlie would be pleased. As long as you can afford them.
Your book, The Bud Collins History of Tennis, is very heavy. Dunlop does not like to read. Can you, how do you say, summarize?
In one sentence, it’s everything that’s happened in tennis since 1877.
What page is Dunlop on?
I’m not sure we’re okaying you to go on a page.
What?? I am world famous tennis personality!
It’s like getting into heaven. I don’t know if you rate. We take that up with our editorial commission. You should apply, write us a letter.
Dunlop does not like to write either.
We have some people who are not players but are covered because of their contributions to the game. So if you can prove you’re a legitimate…person or…monster, or whatever you are…we’ll take your bid under consideration.
Dunlop has been between the legs of both the Federer and the Schiavone this week! I am famous tweener, I am on the youtube!
Well, that’s interesting. We’ll take that into consideration.
Do you like Milk Duds?
I don’t know what Milk Duds are.
Oh my gosh. Dunlop dies! They are chewy balls of chocolate caramel love in the mouth! They get stuck in the teeth, it is amazing. So much sugar!
My teeth can’t afford that. I like chocolate chip cookies. But Milk Duds I would rule out if they’re going to stick in my teeth.
Then we will be even better best friends! No fighting over the Milk Duds!
I cede all the Milk Duds to you.
Have you ever been to Serbia?
I’ve been to Yugoslavia when it was Yugoslavia. I’ve been to Croatia. I think I once landed at the Belgrade airport on my way to Slovenia. But I don’t believe I’ve ever settled down into Serbia.
I want to take you on a tour!
That’s what I was afraid of.
There is so much fabric in Serbia! Have you seen Jelena’s dresses? You can make them from anything!
It would be nice to have some fabric from Serbia, certainly.
I will call JJ’s people. Have you ever considered purple pleather and yak fur? Ajde! Dunlop does not know how to end interview so he just screams STOP! Okay how did he do as interviewer?
…you’re…trying. Keep trying.
Is glowing review! I will now plan our trip to Serbia. We do the clubbing with Nole and Janko! Poljubac, Bud Collins!
And poljubac everyone.