TBS Diary: Cincy Finale
Jonathan: We’re underway in the women’s final. Sveta looked eager to get things started: first to shake the hands of the folks at net for the photo op, and first to get in position for the photo op itself. Accordingly, she got out to the early lead by breaking Madison in the first game. Right now, she’s up 4-2 after holding a long service game in which she saved two break points. Sveta has yet to reach 100 mph on her serve through three service games; instead she’s relying on her veteran wiles and creative instincts on court. To escape that last service game, she upped the topspin quotient on her groundies to draw errors from Madison who couldn’t resist going “hog wild,” as Venus termed it earlier this week.
James: Sveta is such a smart player. She has so many tools to work with, alternately using looping topspin, not-quite-moonballs, low slices, drop shots, everything. She’s seen it all out here and understands Madison’s weaknesses. Now this is not to say that Madison won’t turn it around and start clubbing the ball. Interestingly, though, Kuznetsova has never beaten -- or even won a set against -- Keys in their three meetings, all on hard courts.
Jonathan: Well look at you speaking things into existence! Madison breaks Sveta as she attempted to serve out the first set, held serve easily for 6-5, then broke again to close out the first set 7-5. It’s wild how quickly the tenor of this match has changed. Madison is exercising incredible patience out there and seems to be in total control.
Don’t look now, but Sveta has taken an early break to go up 2-1 in the second set. She called her coach down after the end of the first set, and being the veteran that she is, seems to have regrouped rather quickly. She finds herself in the exact same spot as the first set, serving for it at 5-4; let’s see how it goes this time.
James: And again, broken while serving for the set. Although it hasn’t seemed it this week, Sveta is not match tough, and it’s not crazy for her to blink in these tough moments. At the same time, Keys has managed to clean up her ground game in crucial moments. Madison’s mental game has been impressive during this match, as she has refused to panic after falling down breaks in both sets. By the way, I’ve just read that the on-court temperature is approaching the 120s Fahrenheit.
Jonathan: Ouch to the heat, and ouch to Sveta being broken while serving for the second set like she did when serving for the first. Luckily for her, it wasn’t a carbon copy of the first, in that she was able to hold serve at 5-6 and send the set into a tiebreak. Unluckily for her, Madison wins the tiebreak and the match 7-5 7-6(5).
James: In the tiebreak, Sveta lost some pop in the rallies … the balls were landing shorter and Madison was dictating more easily. Sveta tried her heart out in that tiebreak, but Madison was too steady and too powerful, winning it on her second championship point.
Madison Keys wins the biggest title of her career. Cincinnati is her first Premier 5, her fifth career title and second on hard courts. With this win, Madison has re-entered the top 10 at #10, now the second-ranked American behind Serena Williams. She’ll leave Ohio this week with wins over 2017 winner Garbine Muguruza, Daria Kasatkina, Simona Halep, Venus Williams, giant killer Sofia Kenin, and finally, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had outsmarted and outlasted every player in her path. What an amazing feeling it must be to go into New York knowing that you’ve beaten in-form players, in intense heat and humidity, conditions that will be similar to the US Open.
James: The men’s final is underway and it’s still 92 degrees and humid. As you know, Medvedev’s form has been out of this world lately. He’s got the most hard court wins on tour but only one title to show for it (Sofia in February). Last night, Djokovic felt that Medvedev was in such good form in the second and third sets that there wasn't much he could do, especially on Daniil's serve. He was right, as Daniil hit 16 aces, five of them on second serves. (Although that didn’t explain how Djokovic managed to get broken twice in the final set.)
Goffin and Medvedev have been fairly evenly matched in the first set, trading a break before reaching a tiebreak. Goffin hits so beautifully from the baseline, but Medvedev’s DIY, bizarro strokes have taken over this tiebreak. He lucked out early on when a Goffin volley clipped the net and gave him an easy putaway. Later in the tiebreak, Goffin drew Medvedev in with a drop shot but Daniil passed him with a perfect backhand volley. Goffin loses the first set with his fourth double fault of the match.
A very sloppy game from Goffin to open the second set, as he allows Medvedev to rope-a-dope a break from him immediately.
Jonathan: Since that opening break of the second set, it’s been all holds. Goffin saved an (in-effect) match point at 0-2 that would have had him down double break, and it’s been pretty routine stuff since...until Medvedev served for the match at 5-4. The one thing you cannot say about David Goffin is that he doesn’t try his ass off. He opens that return game by getting to 0-30 and eventually 15-40 with two chances to get to 5-5. Medvedev slammed his racquet on the ground. That’s when Medvedev did Medvedev things: four consecutive aces to win the match, then he launched a ball out of Center Court. And that was that!
James: Daniil is an unusual guy with an unusual game. He can servebot, which he did often this week, but he can also play a game similar to Goffin, Simon, or even RBA. Certainly not as clean or classic, but he can grind with the best of them. To me, what sets him apart is his brazenness. He goes out there with his ugly forehand and does ridiculous things against great players. I mean, can we reiterate that he won the match with four straight aces, one off a second serve?
Medvedev is projected to rise to #5 tomorrow, which is just an incredible rise over the past year.
Jonathan: What impressed me most this week was that he still had the stamina to pull it off after runs to the finals in D.C. and then Montreal, before winning here in his third consecutive full week of play. Keep in mind that he was absolutely blitzed by Nadal in Montreal one week ago, then was able to come here and come back against Djokovic in the semis, playing that absolutely brazen third set to beat him. A let down -- physical or mental -- would have been understandable in the final, but he was having none of that. The pecking order of who is the best player after the big three seems to be constantly changing. But with Medvedev’s win and rise to #5 in the rankings, he appears to be the definitive “next best” heading into the U.S. Open.
I think that’s a wrap from our #TBSDiary coverage from Cincinnati. Congrats to all the winners: Madison Keys, Daniil Medvedev, and the doubles teams of Dodig/Polášek and Hradecká/ Klepač.
10/6/2019 02:57:04 pm
Guys--just a note to praise the podcast on pre-open era tennis. I'm a longtime tennis fan (I've gone to the US Open since the 80s), but learned so much that was interesting from your research. I really had little conception of how the pro tour was structured by Jack Kramer. It puts major title counts into a totally different perspective. Also very interesting to hear about Pancho Gonzalez, and how his major title count completely understates the reputation which he had as a player. Anyway, if you want some positive feedback for your experiment, here it is.
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