Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Five Set City At The US Open

On this gateway-to-the-quarterfinals day, it was a battle of attrition throughout.
To start the morning, we had third seeded Novak Djokovic battling 15th seed Tommy Robredo. This one went the limit, with all of the requisite ups, downs, injuries, shotmaking, and drama you need. Djokovic was gimping around on a bum hip and ankle, Robredo fell down and tweaked his shoulder. In the end, Djokovic had just a bit more in the tank and beat Robredo to move into the quarterfinals.
As this match was winding down and Roger Federer's match against Igor Andreev was building up, qualifier Gilles Muller continued his unlikely run through the tournament, knocking off 5th seed Nikolay Davydenko in 4 tough sets. He got back to the locker room just in time to watch the next thriller of the day, as the Federer vs Andreev clash started to heat up.
Andreev is a player more comfortable on clay, but possesses arguably the biggest forehand in the men's game, which on hardcourts is a great equalizer. Federer dropped the first set, then stormed back to take the next two. Just when it looked like vintage Roger was ready to put the hammer down and close out the Russian upstart, he faltered and Andreev seized the opportunity to push the match into a fifth set.
Shouting, gesturing, and emoting all over the place in a way I've not seen before, Federer found another level just in time and took the 5th set 6-3. With Boris Becker and John McEnroe in the booth, Federer channeled them and rediscovered the net. He won 16 of 20 points when he attacked the net in the 5th set, and looked cool as the other side of the pillow up there. He said after the match he "rediscovered" his confidence at net during his run to the doubles gold medal, and (you heard it here first) this is going to be the way he forges into the future. He'll use that first serve that goes in about 70% of the time, his quickness, size, and confidence to take his game back to the highest levels. On his way there, you'd better believe that he's glad to be facing the qualifer Muller instead of the 5th seeded Davydenko in the quarters
On the women's side, we met our first two semifinalists: Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic, who coasted through their quarterfinal matches and will square off in a few days (I got this one half right; who knew Dementieva had gotten so mentally tough?)
It fell to Andy Roddick to change the tempo of the day, and he looked tremendous in his three set crushing of Fernando Gonzalez. He'll be facing Djokovic on Thursday in the quarters, promises to be something special

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