Jonathan Newman and James Rogers are the hosts of The Body Serve Tennis Podcast. In the The Body Serve Diary, Jonathan and James write conversationally about the various happenings in the wild world of tennis.
JR: That Shania concert was … something. This US Open night session is on schedule like a Lauryn Hill concert.
JN: I don't want to go in too hard on Shania; I own Shania records (something you've long given me grief about), but that was so bizarre and not good. Oooh, here’s Maria with Rinaldi in the tunnel.
JR: I see you were working on that Canadian citizenship years before you even moved to Canada. Chrissie just did a mini-monologue about how hard Maria has had it. Chrissie has HAD IT! It is so strange to see Maria back on a tennis court.
JN: Simona is all primary colours in Pharrell’s Adidas line, and Maria is in all black with some sparkles. These two are so different in style of play and their outfits are showing that contrast tonight too. Maria Sharapova to serve. Quiet please, thank you. Ready. Play.
JR: Maria has clearly got a game plan …. Well, to be fair, it is the only Sharapova game plan there has ever been. Hit hard, control the middle of the court. All offense all the time. She holds serve to open the match.
JN: Can we talk about this nonsense that Halep is mostly just a counterpuncher? She’s got plenty/enough power to trouble anybody. It’s a matter of having the moxy on court to execute it.
JR: I don’t know if I’d say she has enough power to “trouble” anybody, but she can hang with basically anybody. She gets a lot of torque out of her body. Speaking of moxy, Simona brought up the first break point of the match at 1-1. Maria will not stop hitting out, so Simona has to seize on Maria’s errors.
JN: Maria rips a crosscourt forehand winner on the run to save it and eventually hold for 2-1. This has been verrrrry entertaining so far. Mayweather v McGregor, eat your heart out. The crowd is loving it.
JR: Unrelatedly, this stadium must be super loud because I can’t hear the SI-MO-NA crowd at all. I was expecting Maria to tell them to Haide up their …. Anyway, Simona is being pretty aggressive on the serve, by her standards; she’s trying to mix up the placement of her first serve, especially. Of course, just as I type that, she drops a 74 mph second serve right into Maria’s forehand strike zone. Absolutely stunning retrieving from Simona at 1-2, Ad Sharapova.
JN: Yeah, Simona’s second serve is everything Maria could hope for and more. Maria thwacks another 70+ mph sitter to break for 3-1. Just when I’m starting to count the number of games won:lost ratio for Simona in her last two matches, she summons some of her best stuff to snatch the break right back. Admit it, you are entertained.
JR: Indeed. But it hasn’t stopped the Chris twins from talking all the way through points. Just like that, though, Simona is down 0-40 on her serve. And there’s the third straight break of serve.
JN: Make that FOUR in a row. Sharapova seems to be battling her serve a bit more; we’ve now seen a couple of those double fault shockers that we used to see PM. And no, I'm not talking about Patrick Mouratoglou.
JR: After all those breaks, Halep held serve after a storm of Sharapova errors. Maria has had real chances to shut down this set, but she is alternately imperious and sloppy. There is no in between with her.
JN: Maria eventually breaks to take the first set 6-4. The stats don't show much difference between the two at this point, even in the second serves that I've maligned Simona for. Ultimately, Maria is just a bit more tenacious and her much talked about intangibles have carried her to the first set finish line.
This Week In Tennis
We're excited to bring you a sit-down chat with the first Canadian player on our podcast, up and coming Montrealer Francoise Abanda. We also answer some of the questions you all were so generous to ask us, with the help of friend and listener Chad. The rest is just us: recapping the stunning Muguruza-Kuznetsova quarterfinal, the perplexing men's draw, Querrey's rudeness, and more happenings from on-site.
8:00 The odd men's draw: Rafa the only superstar left
9:20 Odds and ends - Giorgi's no handshake, Sam Querrey's abominable behavior, Makarova-Kerber epic
15:00 Thiem - our analysis of Thiem proved to portentous (lost to Ferrer after we taped)
18:00 Our sit-down with Francoise Abanda, our first Canadian player on the pod!
32:20 Our listener mailbag, with the silky Southern stylings of Chad (@ccsmooth13)
36:30 Most importantly, what's good to eat here?
45:30 Question from @AnnaMarseille: have any players changed your impression of them after speaking with them in person?
Photo credits: Jonathan Newman
It wasn’t always pretty, but Garbiñe Muguruza powered through Madison Keys’ sustained aggression, a 2-hour rain delay, and three match points against her to win a third-set tiebreaker against the in-form American. The Spaniard survived a tough test in Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon, handling unpredictable conditions and an opponent whom she had never beaten. Keys had won their previous three meetings: here in 2012, in Rome on her way to the final in 2016, and in Stanford just two weeks ago.
Keys got off to a fast start, punctuated by a dazzling down the line forehand to secure the early break and 2-0 lead. Muguruza, unnerved, broke right back in the next game, the trade of early breaks setting the tone for the rest of the match. The serving struggles were in no small part due to the wind -- a portent of the wild thunderstorm to come -- which wreaked havoc on both players from the onset. But, it was Keys’ ball toss that seemed to be the most affected.
Still, Keys inched ahead on serve to 4-3, before Muguruza left the court for treatment on a lower back problem. When she returned, her thigh taped, the Spaniard took control of the first set and sped to the finish line: she held serve, broke Keys, and served it out with little fanfare. In their previous three meetings, the loser of the first set went on to lose the match; would this match prove different?
After six straight service holds to start the second set, Keys broke to go up 5-3. Serving for the set, the American handled a tough shoelace volley, and launched a deft lob to reach set point. She then bagged the set with a trademark wide serve and inside-out forehand combination, one that she used effectively throughout the match.
With the match in the balance at 2-2 in the third set, the Mason skies produced an almighty storm, delaying the proceedings for two hours. When the thunder and lightning abated, Keys sprinted away with a 4-2 lead in the decider; but, in what was the story of this third set, her untimely errors squandered the multiple leads and chances she held. Still, Keys kept coming, breaking again with a barrage of winners to serve for the match at 6-5.
With the match on her racquet and a 40-15 lead, Keys failed to convert three match points, undone mostly by the unpredictability of her backhand. While Keys was erratic in the key moments, Muguruza remained steadfast, returning with extreme aggression and drawing costly mistakes from Keys.
Muguruza credited her experience in getting her through tough moments: “I knew that no matter what, I’m there and I have my options as well . . . sooner or later I’m going to have a chance.”
That chance came in the third-set tiebreaker. The Spaniard’s sustained aggression finally wore down Keys. After failing to serve out the match and squandering three match points, Keys doubled down with error after error in the tiebreak, thanks in no small part to Muguruza’s brilliant stretch of hitting from the backcourt. A final backhand error sealed the win for Muguruza after 2 hours and 18 minutes.
The Body Serve Tennis Podcast
Join us for Round 2 of player pressers - you'll hear good stuff from no. 1 Pliskova, Kerber, Domi Thiem, Wozniacki, Halep, and Svitolina. But first, we catch you up with what's been going on in Cincinnati in our own words: Venus blazing through her first match, Fabio-Dominic play a strange one, the heat, and balancing the packed schedule despite of the withdrawals.
1:00 What we've been up to in Cincinnati today
6:00 The men's draw was already a huge mess - and then Fabio barfed on court
9:15 Venus plays an efficient, powerful match against Alison Riske
14:30 Watching Ash Barty in singles and doubles (Venus' next opponent)
20:50 Meeting tons of Tennis Twitter folks in Cincinnati
25:45 What is going on with the famous Applebee's?
27:00 Getting into the player interview snippets
32:00 Simona on another level no passengers on her plane ....
40:00 Elina Svitolina talks about her steady rise
44:30 Mega Thiem talks about why he recaps his matches on Facebook
46:26 Angie Kerber brings the honesty
51:00 Karolina Pliskova is funny!
54:45 A few words from Caroline Wozniacki
Venus Williams, donning an atypical white baseball cap, led from start to finish as she blitzed past Alison Riske 6-2 6-0 in her opening match in Cincinnati. Williams served with intent from the first ball. The four points she won to take the opening game came on first serves clocking 109, 110, 105, and the last a 108 mph ace out wide to Riske's backhand. Despite Venus' quick 2-0 lead, Riske was playing well, and fought back to tie the match at two games apiece. Game on.
Or so we thought. The pivotal moment of the match came with Riske facing break point at 2-3; after a prolonged, intense rally, Riske seemed to wrest control of the point when she lured Venus into the net with a stealthy drop shot. Instead, Venus sprinted forward and with one last audible thud of her right foot, pelted a cross court forehand winner to seal the decisive break. The crowd roared as Venus made her way back to the service line with a 4-2 lead. Riske would not win another game.
Yes, Venus Williams is 37 years old. But, like she did in making the finals of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, Venus showed that she still cuts a fierce and intimidating figure as weekly contender, regardless of age. At 2-5, and having played well to that point, Riske called her coach to the court; what could she possibly do to stem the Venus tide? Her main failure to that point was to protect her second serve: up to 2-5 and 30-all, Riske had yet to win a point when made to serve twice. Venus would go on to win the first set 6-2 and win eight of nine points on Riske's second serve.
The last glimmer of an opening for Riske came in the third game of the second set with Venus serving at 2-0, 15-30. But, Venus summoned another of her seven aces to stifle that opportunity, and her subsequent break for 4-0 sealed it shut. All told, Williams broke Riske six times, while losing her own serve just once. Her first serve, of which she lost only four points, was the fortress that kept Riske at bay.
With the match at just a touch over an hour, Venus fired one final forehand winner to seal the win 6-2 6-0. It was, in short, one of the cleanest and most efficient performances you will see from Venus Williams, her serve and groundstrokes working together like a well-oiled machine. She improves her record against Riske to 3-0, all straight-set victories in the last 18 months. Up next, Williams will face Ashleigh Barty, 21, in their first ever meeting. Barty, a qualifier ranked 48th in the world, defeated Varvara Lepchenko 6-4 6-4 on Tuesday.
In this rematch of the Stanford final -- which Keys won in two tight sets -- it was easy to appreciate both players’ intensity and power off the ground. Keys came out of the gate strong, pounding returns to earn a break in the third game. At one point in the first set, 14 straight points were won by the server (two holds at love for Keys, one for Vandeweghe). Both players protected their serves with ease after Madison’s early break, but Keys and her ground game drew sloppy errors from CoCo to decide the set.
Vandeweghe pounced to a 3-0 lead in the second set after breaking Keys’ serve. CoCo did a good job to stay tight to the baseline, her aggression forcing Madison to produce a rash of errors. Serving for the set at 5-3, Vandeweghe scrambled to return an overhead smash by Keys and finished the point with a brilliant pass. She won the set with a 117 mph unreturnable serve.
The third set saw Madison race to a 3-0 lead, aided by a few poorly timed double faults from this year’s Australian Open semifinalist. At that point, Madison couldn’t miss; even her mishits clipped the lines. Despite CoCo’s comeback to tie the set at three games apiece, it was Keys’ serve that would ultimately decide the match.
At 5-3, CoCo saved three straight match points, but Madison closed her out 6-3 to bring their head-to-head to 2-0. After the match Madison noted, “It’s never easy to play a friend.” The two shared a warm embrace at net after the match, like they did two weeks ago in Stanford, and it was Keys who was again the victor.
Keys’ serve guided her through the tensest moments of the third set. It got her out of trouble when Vandeweghe erased Keys’ 3-0 lead: “In my head I was just thinking, you’re back on serve. It’s back even, and just focus on your serve and see if you get any chances in return games. And luckily I did.”
That game plan can be exciting in its simplicity. There is a terrible beauty to 115 mph serves, to Madison’s graceful ball toss with her palm raised toward the heavens, to CoCo’s menacing forward motion. Women’s tennis must always defend itself on many fronts, from style to athleticism to economics. But, Keys and Vandeweghe led the night session in a tournament marred by withdrawals, reminding fans that American women’s tennis is thriving. There was magic tonight in two women facing off, thumping the stitching out of the ball, sounding their yawps over the rooftops of American tennis.
The Body Serve Tennis Podcast
02:00 James gives his thoughts on his first ever player roundtable interviews
11:20 Muguruza reflects on being a two-time Slam champion
13:36 Garbiñe gives insight into learning how to keep things closer to the vest, navigate media
16:26 "I like that I like to be in those situations" - Muguruza on embracing the big stages
20:45 Reflecting on her emotional French Open press conference
26:22 Nadal responds to news of reclaiming world #1 ranking
31:35 Sveta for President?
34:29 Who Sveta texts with most, and a BIG BIG laugh
35:36 Konta commits to fun and games, segues to Wimby reflections
40:29 How Jo deals with the trolls: block block block block
44:59 Jo's take on some of the funniest players on the WTA
The Body Serve Tennis Podcast
00:30 What we really sound like, without edits!
05:00 Opening Monday at the Rogers Cup Toronto
07:30 Ostapenko loses to Lepchenko but shows how great she can be
13:45 Petra's back!
15:30 Venus takes the long way, but beats Begu at 11 pm
18:10 A bit of kvetching about annoying fans
26:00 Young Canadian Shapovalov beats Nadal in MTL
30:15 Is it Fedal the rest of the way in 2017? Who else? Zverev.
35:50 Madison Keys is here! And other US hardcourt news
38:00 Previewing the Cincinnati Masters, big first round match-ups
46:00 What we're personally looking forward to in Cincy