September 5, 2012

Cramming It In

We were kind of spoiled during the first week of action at the U.S. Open. After a rain delay on opening day, there weren't a lot of weather-related concerns during the early rounds, and most matches that went late into the night did so because these athletes were fighting their butts off through one marathon match after another. But that all changed yesterday, with some strong showers suspending many matches midway through, and creating a bit of a jam in today's schedule which, given Wednesday's forecast, may be difficult to immediately unclog. And that might mean a couple busy days of play in the back half of the week.

Just two matches were completed Tuesday -- world #1 Victoria Azarenka put together a brilliant performance against defending champion Sam Stosur to book a spot in her first New York semifinal, and David Ferrer, likely the most underrated top seed at the Open, endured some long breaks in play to finish off France's Richard Gasquet under the lights. They are the only singles players who get today off, that extra day of rest may serve them well while everyone else hustles for court time.

Maria Sharapova didn't get off to the start she wanted against Marion Bartoli -- in the half hour of play they got in yesterday, the 2006 champion found herself down 0-4, disconcerting as she hadn't dropped even a set to the Frenchwoman in their previous four meetings. Something tells me she'll come back rejuvenated today -- she just broke Bartoli to open play again -- but she'll have her work cut out for her. After a stunning comeback against Petra Kvitova Sunday, Bartoli had won twelve games in a row, and to keep going Sharapova will have to keep that momentum squarely in her favor the rest of the afternoon.

While at least some of the ladies' semifinals are set, there are some fourth round men's matches that still have to be decided. Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka barely got any balls in play when action was halted last night, the defending champion up a quick break. His countryman Janko Tipsarevic was leading 2012 breakout story Phillipp Kohlschreiber too, up 5-2 in the first, but not surprisingly neither match was the focus of many people's attention.

Andy Roddick's Farewell Tour was extended by one more day when play was called after nearly an hour. Under supremely humid conditions last night, the crowd-favorite American got off to a strong start and broke for a 4-2 lead over 2009 champ Juan Martin Del Potro, but the big Argentine raised his game and Roddick couldn't serve out the set. In a near dead heat in the tiebreak -- Roddick's thirty-six points outnumber DelPo's by one -- they're set to resume today once if the skies clear, and there will be little time for rest after that. The winner faces the possibility of back-to-back quarters and semis, and that could put these players through an even tougher mental and physical toll.

You might think the players who didn't take the court Tuesday would now be at an advantage -- so far their schedules haven't been affected -- but some warm-ups have already been halted once today, and with eight partial or full single matches still on the docket there's no guarantee we'll be able to wrap things up be end of day. Hopefully the players will be able to handle the rapid fire matches in the back half of the week -- traditionally my last-minute cramming hasn't served me well in the long run.

And with so much on the line -- for some players more than others at this Open -- we certainly want to see everyone able to give their very best.

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