Jonathan Newman and James Rogers are the hosts of The Body Serve Tennis Podcast. This diary entry comes to you from the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.
JR: Hi Jonathan - we just witnessed two clunkers in the women’s semifinals, but a tight match between John Isner and Grigor Dimitrov. Let’s talk about scheduling, though, because I don’t want to slag the losing semifinalists for things that were out of their control.
JN: Just yesterday we were marveling at how well Stephens and Pliskova did in winning two matches on the same day. However, today was when the chickens came home to roost. Both women looked lethargic, especially Sloane, who even told her coach during the match that she had no legs today. What would you have done differently with scheduling?
JR: It’s hard to say, because we’re not fully aware of the TV obligations that restrict scheduling options. Ideally, you show more respect to the world no. 1 and get her on Center Court. There is no reason that she should play with barely two hours rest in between matches. Muguruza and Halep would have always had an advantage, just because they were lucky enough to get matches in before the rain Thursday. But it should have been handed better. Another option was to start earlier; they stuck to the 11 am start yesterday, and didn’t even start play on the outer courts until 1! Wimbledonian stubbornness, in my opinion.
JN: The 1pm start for Grandstand was the real head scratcher for me yesterday. Fine, Muguruza-Sveta is the marquee women’s match, so put that on Center. But surely you start Sloane or especially Karolina at the same time on Grandstand. Such a shame that both matches were affected by the obvious fatigue of both women, the matchups and the fans deserved better.
JR: No disrespect to Simona and Garbine, the two victors. Each came with a gameplan and executed beautifully. Simona was her athletic best, whacked her backhand with authority, and covered the court like she always does. Garbine has improved with each match here. She was stunning against an inspired Kuznetsova. Today, she served well, and put constant pressure on Pliskova’s service games. Pliskova won only 25% of her own second serve points.
JN: Seriously, both women came to play today. I was especially impressed by Halep, she was relentless from the start and Sloane didn't stand a chance. Still, what a couple of weeks for Sloane after losing in the first round in her first two tournaments back from that long injury layoff. She made back-to-back semifinals, last week in Toronto and then here again in Cincinnati. Surely, she must be pleased with that run ahead of the U.S. Open. She’s already back inside the top 100 as of Monday, landing somewhere in the early 80s. If I’m her, I’m not sure playing New Haven next week is a good idea.
JR: Well, you know me, I think playing New Haven is almost always a bad idea. :)
JN: Is that the one that Wozniacki always plays before the U.S. Open? You have something to say about that every year!
JR: Yeah, Caro and Petra play it often. Onto the men: we need to talk about the Nadal-Kyrgios match last night. It was a plain awful performance by Rafa, but I’m actually more interested in the live crowd’s reaction to Nick.
JN: Sure, let’s! But, before we do that, we have to mention that Halep is in another final with the world #1 ranking on the line. She had, shall we say, a less than ideal finish to the French Open final this year. It will be very interesting to see how she does this time around, especially after such an efficient and accomplished performance today in the semifinals. As for the Nadal-Kyrgios match, wow was the Cincy crowd not feeling Nick last night!
JR: He broke immediately and was a point from 4-0 when he hit an unnecessary tweener (they’re actually never necessary, but that’s another topic). The crowd erupted in boos. Fine, give him a little trouble. But it lasted the entire match. This crowd heckled him throughout the match and booed vociferously when he won. They obviously loved Rafa, but they sure hated Nick. It wasn’t all because Rafa is so popular. I wonder what is lurking under the surface ….
JN: I don’t know exactly what you’re alluding to there, but I think Nick has played a big part in casting himself as a villain on tour, and perhaps now we see crowds running with that when he comes up against a guy like Rafa. That said, I’ll never not think that race doesn’t have a part to play with Nick and how he’s viewed, talked about, and treated. I mean, how many non-white people were in the crowd last night?
JR: It was simply an ugly and uncomfortable experience, being in that crowd. I’ve heard that a lot of locals were embarrassed by the display. I agree that Nick doesn’t make things easy for himself - for someone so famous, there remains so much mystery about him, and he has a defiant streak a mile long. He doesn’t go out of his way to endear himself to crowds, because he feels he’s already lost them when he’s stepped on the court. About the match, though: Nick was masterful on serve, and his forehand was firing. Rafa had no answers whatsoever.
JN: The first set was done and dusted in well under 30 minutes. Nick came to play and Rafa couldn’t find his best all night long. The moment that best illustrated this was when Nadal broke Kyrgios to stay in the second set and even things up at five games all: the crowd went wild in support of Nadal, but he gave it right back in the next game at love. Even Nadal didn’t seem to understand how he could have played such a poor game in that situation. By the end of it, Nadal was as upset on a tennis court as I’ve ever seen him; he almost slammed one of his bottles on the changeover. Just not a good night for him at all.
JR: I like that the angriest Nadal ever gets is almost throwing his bottle. The first men’s semi finished earlier, with Grigor Dimitrov taking out American Isner in two tiebreak sets. All of the stats were pretty tight, but Dimitrov managed to play the big points better. He’ll play his first Masters 1000 final against the winner of Ferrer-Kyrgios.
JN: For all the whining we’ve done about the men’s side this week, a Grigor-Ferrer or Grigor-Nick final is not too shabby!