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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

US Open blog: Give us a smile

It took Roger Federer 27 games to raise a smile before defeating Tommy Robredo to reach his 22nd consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.
Where exactly has the fun gone in tennis? It is so rare to see players really enjoying themselves, or at least letting others see they are.
It is unsurprising when you consider how many top seeds have fallen before this stage at Flushing Meadows.
Only Serena Williams remains in the top five women's seeds, and Andy Roddick was beaten by his fellow countryman John Isner in the third round.
True, the Swiss master did have a tough opening set against his Spanish opposition, but the quality of his tennis in the latter two sets was just too good. It is difficult to know where he will drop a set.
Clijsters delight
But talking about enjoying the game, Kim Clijsters must be delighted at her decision to return to the tour.
In a bizarre match, she finally got her first top-five scalp in the form of the elder Williams sister, Venus.
It will be a great disappointment to all if the Belgian doesn't return to the top five, and with the current line-up, it would take a poor effort from her.
What a joy it is to see the 2005 US Open Champion having so much fun on court.
It makes such a difference not only for the fans, but for the players too.
Once again, Dinara Safina is struggling to prove her worth at the top of the game.
Losing in the third round of a Slam is poor for any top seed, and there's a danger it could become a habit for the unhappy Russian.
Surely nobody has ever seen her smile on court.
There is a ray of light in the men's game though.
The rising fleet of French players have reinvented the term 'showmanship', with both former Australian Open runner up Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils constantly entertaining spectators...and themselves.
People want to see amazing tennis.
That is why the likes of Federer, Murray, Nadal and the Williams sisters draw sellout crowds. And it really is a sight to behold when these stars pull out all the stops.
And yet the biggest cheers come when the players are clearly having fun. Relaxation sets in, the arms begin to swing, and the stunning shots come off the racket.
Wozniacki beat Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the quarter-finals [AFP]There have been some wonderful performances so far, but with just 16 players left in the tournament, who are looking decent bets for the titles?
As the highest-ranked player left in the draw, Serena Williams must be favourite to retain her title at the end of the week.
But she may still have to contend with Clijsters in the semi-finals.
Otherwise, it's difficult to see Caroline Wozniacki losing before the final in the top half of the draw.
And it's still Federer who looks the man to beat, with either Murray or Nadal meeting him in the final. The world number one is now looking nigh-on invincible.
So it should go to the form book come Sunday, but there are still a few players who could spring some upsets, or spoil the return to New York for the defending champions.

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