August 16, 2009

Renewing My Interest

After yesterday's semifinals took out some of my favorite players in both Montreal and Cincinnati, I didn't think I really cared about today's championship matches.

Of course Andy Roddick suffered his third straight heart-breaking loss to Juan Martin Del Potro and fell just short of his third final in a row, and if you know me at all yout know I never want Andy Murray to win anything.

On the women's side I'm forever a fan of Elena Dementieva and was slightly annoyed that Jelena Jankovic won that marathon match despite earning fewer points and being blanked in the second set. I was also rooting for LA champ Flavia Pennetta, who was running on a fifteen match winning streak as she broke into the top ten for the first time in her career.

Needless to say, none of my picks were playing on Sunday. But somehow I found myself more invested than I thought I'd be while watching the finals.

In Montreal DelPo took on Murray in their sixth career meeting, with the Scot being the obvious favorite. In a huge reversal on the men's tour, Andy's win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga yesterday earned him enough points to surpass Rafael Nadal in the rankings and made him #2 in the world -- I'm so upset, that's all I can say on that subject. But with Juan Martin's performance last week in D.C. and his sequential drubbings of both Nadal and Roddick, I gave him a slight edge in the match.

And for the first hour and a half of today's match, he looked like he might capitalize. DelPo, who's been front-and-center this summer, edged Murray in the first set tiebreak and even broke back immediately after losing his serve to start the second. But after calling for the trainer late in the set, you got the feeling that Murray, who's been in training since Wimbledon, was the one in better shape. The new #2 won the next tiebreak and got off to a 4-0 start in the third as Juan Martin quickly unraveled. He closed it out quickly and captured his fifth title of the year, an outcome most expected -- and a surprising number were hoping for!

The bigger shock came in Cincinnati where a struggling Jankovic faced Dinara Safina for the championship. Safina has had a lot of trouble in finals in 2009, but that pales in comparison to the year Jelena has been having. Ranked #1 in the world a year ago, she's dropped four spots thanks to upsets by players like Sorana Cirstea, Melanie Oudin and Anna Chakvetadze. Dinara had won the pair's last two meetings, and now at the top of the women's Tour, she was clearly the favorite.

But I was amazed by how aggressive Jelena was from the get-go today. Never really known as a big server, she kept Dinara on the offensive almost the entire match, winning seventy-seven percent of her first attempts to Safina's fifty-nine. Though she gave back one break in the second set, she took it right back and remained so powerful that Safina was caught screaming at herself in frustration more than a few times. In spectacular fashion, Jankovic reminded us why she was once the best tennis player in the world and why she might just make her way back there. And I'll certainly be rooting for her come the U.S. Open!

So with the last major of the year just two weeks away, a few players are throwing their hats back in the ring and making sure we all keep watching.

If they continue playing like this, I certainly will!

No comments: