OVERNIGHT AT THE US OPEN
Last night at the US Open, I saw top seed Justine Henin dance around the leaden-footed Serena Williams to win in two sets, but the real excitement was the contest between Spanish players Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.
Nadal was the two seed and Ferrer the fifteen seed, so I thought that Ferrer was facing an uphill battle not unlike the climb to my seats, but it turned out that the match was an uphill battle for both players. There were aces here and there, but the opponents often returned serves for some fascinating volleys, breaking serve on many occasions.
For a while, Ferrer scored by getting Nadal to hit a soft backhand return that Ferrer could slam back to gain the winning momentum, but Nadal caught on and repositioned himself to unleash powerful backhand returns instead of the softies. Time and again a player chased down a difficult-to-reach ball and surprised the crowd by keeping it in play.
As the match continued over its 3:28 duration, the north end of the court seemed to get slippery—so much so that both players (but especially Nadal) skidded around at times. A ball chaser actually slipped and fell, interrupting the action and possibly breaking Nadal's concentration.
Ultimately Ferrer prevailed, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2, winning a sincere ovation from the depleted crowd remaining at 1:50 am. I rooted for Ferrer out of respect for his gutsy, energetic, play, but I also experienced growing annoyance at Nadal for his habit for getting three balls, discarding one, pocketing another, and serving the "survivor." He's totally entitled to do what he wants, but for some reason (or lack thereof) it got on my nerves. Regardless, both players gave us a very exciting match.
So now it's possible that the championship match will be Feder vs. Federer. Sounds like Dumb and Dumberer, doesn't it?
You can see Nadal's pre-serve routine around the 00:11-00:16 mark here. A version of the weak Nadal backhand phenomenon follows immediately thereafter.
Photo: David Marc Fischer