Long Grand Slam season wraps up at US Open

Long Grand Slam season wraps up at US Open

NEW YORK - The Associated Press
Long Grand Slam season wraps up at US Open

Serena Williams serves to Angelique Kerber of Germany during the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Ohio on Aug 17. AFP photo

Champion at Wimbledon in both singles and doubles. Winner again at the All England Club in both events, four weeks later at the London Olympics. Nobody would blame Serena Williams if she felt worn down by this year’s jam-packed tennis calendar. She doesn’t see it that way, though - even with the grind of the U.S. Open looming.

“I look forward to this,” Williams said. “It’s almost like a launching pad for what I want to do for the rest of the hard-court season.”

In a way, yes, yesterday’s start of the year’s last Grand Slam actually marks something of a new beginning - the kickoff of a six-month stretch on the hard courts that winds down at the 2013 Australian Open.

Call it mental gymnastics, a creative way of looking at things or whatever else might apply. What can’t be denied is that in an Olympic year, the U.S. Open - considered the toughest test in tennis even under normal circumstances - is essentially the season’s fifth major.

“A lot of them,” Jim Courier said, “are running on fumes.”

Busy schedule for players

Indeed, many top players have had to double down on their fitness and find new, creative ways of organizing their schedules to get ready for what they hope will be a two-week grind in the fishbowl that is Flushing Meadows.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic barely took any time off following his fourth-place finish at the Olympics. He traveled to Toronto for a hard-court tuneup, played six matches and won the tournament.
Then, he flew to Cincinnati, played six more matches but lost to Roger Federer in the final. No shame there, though that loss to Federer did include an uncharacteristic 6-0 whitewashing in the first set. “Mentally, I wasn’t there, wasn’t fresh,” Djokovic said.

No big deal in Cincinnati. But a half-hour mental lapse in New York could mean the end of Djokovic’s quest to win what has, essentially, shaped up as the tiebreaker major for 2012.

Second-seeded Djokovic won the Australian Open. Rafael Nadal won the French Open. Top-seeded Federer won Wimbledon. Just for good measure, third-seeded Andy Murray won the Olympics, meaning the U.S. Open could essentially determine the player of the year in men’s tennis.

Some combination of Nadal - absent due to a knee injury - and the other three have occupied every spot in the finals of the past eight Grand Slam tournaments.

Though the women’s game has been more in flux than the men’s of late - seven different winners over the past seven Grand Slams - the math is essentially the same in 2012: Three of the top four women - Victoria Azarenka (Australia), Maria Sharapova (France) and Williams (Wimbledon) - have major titles this year and all need this one to break the tie.

Where things differ is in the way Williams has been playing of late. She lost a total of 17 games over six matches in the Olympics, punctuating it with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Sharapova in the final .

Sharapova had two hard-court tune-up tournaments on her schedule, but pulled out of both with a stomach virus.

“I think it was a sign my body just needed to slow down,” she said. “I had a hectic summer. So, I decided to shut it down until here, because we still have a lot to play towards the end of the year.”
Kim Clijsters, on the other hand, doesn’t have to save any energy for down the road. Win or lose, she says the U.S. Open will be it for her.

Clijsters has won her past 21 matches at Flushing Meadows. In 2005, she won the tournament. She didn’t return again until 2009, after she had gotten married and had a daughter, Jada. With virtually no tournament play under her belt in 2009, Clijsters won seven matches to become the first unseeded woman to capture the U.S. Open.

Because of how busy 2012 has been, she’ll do the same as Sharapova - come into the U.S. Open not having played a competitive match since the Olympics.

Is this any way to prepare for her farewell?

“I remember 2009, I didn’t have many matches, either,” Clijsters said. “So I don’t worry about that.”

Aussıe open confident of no boycott

SYDNEY – Agence France-Presse

Tennis Australia said yesterday it was confident players would not boycott the Australian Open over a prize money disagreement, but it was taking the threat seriously.

The Sunday Times of London reported players on the ATP Tour, which runs the men’s game, were considering a boycott of January’s tournament in a bid to gain a higher percentage of Grand Slam event revenues for themselves.Australian Open director Craig Tiley said he did not view the reported threats to the opening Grand Slam of the season with alarm.

“We are working on a compensation plan for the 2013 event and are keen to ensure it addresses a lot of the issues players have been raising with us in our ongoing discussions,” he said in a statement.

At issue is the pay of lower-ranked players who often exit in the first round after making the long journey Down Under. While this year they pocketed $21,600 for a first round defeat at the Australian Open, some players struggle to make ends meet during the year, as they pay for much of their own expenses and travel.