First Ball In, 8/8: The Rust Bowl

Friday, August 08, 2014 /by
Wimbledon champs Djokovic and Kvitova, Australian Open champ Wawrinka, and French Open champ Sharapova all lost on a tumultuous Thursday at the Rogers Cup. (AP Photo)
Wimbledon champs Djokovic and Kvitova, Australian Open champ Wawrinka, and French Open champ Sharapova all lost on a tumultuous Thursday at the Rogers Cup. (AP Photo)

Is it too late for the Rogers Cup to sign up an anti-rust product as a major sponsor? Yesterday the tournament lost one top player after the other, as they showed the effects of their month-long, post-Wimbledon layoffs. 

Were any of these losses about more than just old-fashioned short-term corrosion? Here’s a look at each, from the least concerning to the most.

Venus Williams d. Angelique Kerber: The German was the No. 6 seed and the American was unseeded, but this was hardly a shock. Venus is still Venus on the right night, and last night was one of those nights. At 26, Kerber is in her prime, she's putting up a strong season, and even in defeat she played her share of quality tennis.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Novak Djokovic: The Serb, as we know, got married last month, he had played a long match with Gael Monfils the previous day, and Tsonga, despite his recent slide, was due for a good win. What was troubling in the short term was just how far Djokovic was off, in both of his matches, with two of his best shots, his backhand and his return. 

Kevin Anderson d. Stan Wawrinka: These days, you never know how much stock to put in any win or loss of Wawrinka’s. He showed with his titles in Melbourne and Monte Carlo that, whatever he had done before, he can raise his game to the absolute highest levels. And he showed with his first-round loss in Paris that, a few weeks later, he can sink to absolute lows. Now he’s proven that he can lose to Anderson twice in one season. In other words, Stan is still Stan.

Ekaterina Makarova d. Petra Kvitova: Stan is still Stan, and Petra is ever Petra. There was no reason to think that she would carry her Centre Court confidence and cussedness with her wherever she went. But I still hope that, in the longer term, Kvitova’s expectations for herself will be raised by her second Wimbledon title, and that defeats like these will become less acceptable to her.

Carla Suarez Navarro d. Maria Sharapova: A loss to Suarez Navarro, a Top 20 player, was not a shock in Sharapova’s second match back. But as with Djokovic, what was surprising was how poorly Maria played even in victory in Montreal. Her serve hurt her again, and she has now lost two of her last three three-set matches. If she doesn’t have the confidence that she can prevail in those, Sharapova becomes a different player.

Coco Vandeweghe d. Jelena Jankovic: JJ, the seventh seed, has obviously taken her share of lumps before; nothing gets her too high or too low as she makes her smiling way through the weekly grind. And she’s still in the Top 10. But Jankovic is also 29, has won just one of her last five matches, and she has significant points to defend in Cincy and at the U.S. Open.

Feliciano Lopez vs. Tomas Berdych: I’ve been wondering for a month whether Berdych, who will be 29 in September, has begun a decline. First there were the surprisingly one-sided losses to Gulbis and Cilic at the French and Wimbledon. Then he was beaten badly by Vasek Pospisil in D.C., he squeaked past Rendy Lu in his Toronto opener, and he went out to Feli in three sets last night. The last match one wasn’t a terrible loss; Lopez has been on a roll, and Berdych is still a more than respectable 38-13 for 2014. But he hasn’t reached a semifinal since April, and he has points to defend in his next two events. 

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OOP Analysis

See Friday’s Order of Play in Montreal here and Toronto here.

Serena Williams vs. Caroline Wozniacki: Serena is 6-1 against her beach buddy, and Caro has been simultaneously training for a marathon this week. Will she discover a new way of working out for tennis? Or will she leave herself utterly exhausted? Hopefully not the latter; Wozniacki has been playing well lately.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Andy Murray: Yesterday Jo ended an 18-set losing streak to Djokovic. Can he improve on a 1-9 record against Murray today? 

Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Venus Williams: On paper, you have to like CSN in this one. She has won two of their three previous matches, and Venus was up late last night.

Milos Raonic vs. Feliciano Lopez: Raonic leads this battle of sometime doubles partners 2-1. Prediction? More serves than returns.

Roger Federer vs. David Ferrer: Federer has spent the last four years losing to good players he had never lost to before. But Ferrer hasn't been one of them; Federer is 14-0 against the Spaniard. 

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On This Day...

Thirty-three years ago, Roger Federer was born in Basel, Switzerland. He obviously hasn’t lost much over the years, as he showed again last night in bouncing back to beat Marin Cilic, eight years his junior, in three sets. But here are a few reminders of his vintage years, 2004 to 2007. Men’s tennis has never seen a run of play quite like it. Happy birthday, Rog.

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