U.S. Open Men’s Final Preview: Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray

Andy MurrayAs much as it pains tennis enthusiasts to miss out on another Federer/Nadal showdown, this match with Andy Murray will still contain the passion and close competition of that rivalry. Murray has a reputation of being one of the most disliked players on the tour. People say he’s petulant, argumentative, and that he likes to talk a little trash before a match. Nobody expected him to come this far—his lanky physique and penchant to helplessly huff and puff late into matches have caused critics to write him off as one who lacks what it takes to win a Grand Slam. To say that Great Britain has high hopes for Murray is an understatement. Fred Perry was the last Brit to win a Grand Slam, way back in 1936. It’s true that Murray has beaten Federer two out of their three meetings, but it has never been under the pressure of a Grand Slam final, which Federer has won 12 times to Murray’s zero. Despite Nadal’s absence, there’s still plenty at stake here. Andy Murray has a chance to get his first taste of dominance, and this is Federer’s opportunity to reclaim it.

The match will air today at 5 PM ET on CBS.

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U.S. Open Women’s Final Preview: Serena Williams vs. Jelena Jankovic

Serena WilliamsIt’s been six years since an American-born woman has played in a U.S. Open singles final. That match featured one of the earliest showdowns between the Williams sisters. At just 21 years of age, that was Serena’s second U.S. Open championship. Now, close to her 27th birthday, she’s gunning for her third against Serbian Jelena Jankovic. Though Jankovic has advanced to three Grand Slam semifinals this year, her match tomorrow against Serena will be the first Grand Slam final of her career. The two have the most powerful serves in the game, a skill which can produce numerous unforced errors by their opponents. Both are patient and able to sustain extended volleys as well. If Serena can consistently rush the net and get ahead early, she’s the favorite. The key to Jankovic’s success will be her placement; if she can pinpoint her crosscourt volleys and keep Williams on the run, we’ll have a new U.S. Open champion. Either way, we’re guaranteed a new #1 ranked women’s player.

The match will air Saturday at 7 PM ET on CBS.

Where have all the great American male tennis players gone?

It’s no great revelation that America’s top male players are not really considered a threat to win any of the Grand Slams. When it comes to tournament play, quality U.S. players are a dying breed, and the numbers do not lie. With no American in the U.S. Open men’s semi-finals this weekend, it will be the 16th straight Grand Slam event without a U.S. men’s winner.

Andy Roddick has become the poster boy of U.S. tennis in the post-Sampras and Agassi era. Is he bitter? Hardly, Roddick has found some solace in trying to lead the Americans with his meat and potatoes power game against the sophisticated style that has dominated tennis for years. And he holds the claim of being the last U.S. winner of a Grand Slam event; he won the 2003 U.S. Open final.

James Blake has been somewhat of a disappointment on the men’s tour. He is often noted for his athleticism, which many believe should enable him to win a Grand Slam. Instead, he plants himself on the end line and tries to become a straight-ahead basher, which just negates his speed.

It’s not only that the U.S. contenders have retired or currently slumping, but the pipeline of potential tennis stars is as thin as ever. A quick glance at the top ten players at the 16-17 years old level and you will not see an American name on the list.

There was a time when pro tennis players came from one of three global regions, Australia, Western Europe, or the United States. Today, the top two men’s singles players are a Spaniard (Rafael Nadal) and a Swiss (Roger Federer).

Tennis has grown everywhere else on the globe except in the United States. Many in tennis feel youngsters have shied away from the sport due to the popularity of action sports (skateboarding or other X Game-style events) in American culture. Tennis fans anticipated the drop-off of American players in the sport because of the lack of depth produced by the U.S. tennis academies. If the U.S. hopes to produce more male champions, that’s where it’s going to happen.

U.S. Open Singles Semifinals Breakdown

This year’s U.S. Open has already yielded many spectacular matches, and there’s still four days left of play. After 25 years of coverage on the USA Network (ESPN and the Tennis Channel will pick up the rights next year), the athletes are providing a worthy sendoff. We’ve already seen an epic showdown between the Williams sisters and a grueling five-setter from Novak Djokovic and Tommy Robredo. However, unranked or low-seeded players have given the likes of Rafael Nadal and Dinara Safina a run for their money. Below I’ve previewed both the men’s and women’s semifinal matches, which will begin tomorrow.

Women

Dinara Safina RUS (6) vs. Serena Williams USA (4)

The spotlight has always just missed Dinara Safina. Though the 22-year-old has won a Grand Slam doubles title, a singles championship has always eluded her. Also, it doesn’t help that she’s the little sister of 2000 U.S. Open men’s champion, Marat Safin. Safina lost to Ana Ivanovic in this year’s French Open final and earned the silver medal in Beijing. Unfortunately, two-time U.S. Open women’s champion Serena Williams now stands in her way. After losing to Venus at Wimbledon, the sisters put on a phenomenal show last night at Flushing Meadows, with Serena emerging the victor. Given Safina’s emotionality on the court and her focused desire to win the same championship as her brother, tomorrow’s match is a must-see.

Elena Dementieva RUS (5) vs. Jelena Jankovic SRB (3)

Elena Dementieva is another top-ranked player who’s never won a Grand Slam, a testament to how competitive the WTA Tour has been this year. However, it was Dementieva that took the gold from Safina in Beijing. She’s also beat Ana Ivanovic, Serena Williams, and Svetlana Kuznetsova in previous tournaments. Her opponent, Jelena Janokovic, continues her campaign for her first Grand Slam championship as well. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about the women’s competition is that the winner will not only receive the U.S. Open trophy, but the world No. 1 ranking (from Ivanovic) to boot.

Men

Rafael Nadal ESP (1) vs. Andy Murray GBR (6)

By now, most sports fans should be acquainted with Rafael Nadal, even if they’ve covered their ears at the mention of tennis. Some say that the rivalry he has with Roger Federer has resurrected the sport. While that may or may not be true, those two have definitely set a high standard of play and their matches are a pleasure to watch. Still, there’s no question that Nadal is this year’s dominant player, having won the French Open, Wimbledon, and the gold medal at Beijing. Murray, on the other hand, has never won a Grand Slam tournament. Both are very quick and eclectic players, so count on seeing dozens of drop shots and volleys at the net. It seems like more and more matches are being forced into the fifth set. (Nadal’s last match finished at 2:15 ET this morning!) This one shouldn’t be any different, with each player bringing out the best in the other.

Roger Federer SUI (2) vs. Novak Djokovic SRB (3)

Of all the matches in the singles semifinals, this will be the most exciting to watch, for a couple of reasons. First, Roger Federer is on a mission. He seems to like having the No. 2 ranking by his name; it’s almost as if a certain weight has been lifted that allows his to make amateur mistakes and take the same risks he did when he first joined the tour. He’s not playing like he did four years ago, but the this is his tournament, and he’s going for his fifth U.S. Open championship in a row. Novak Djokovic, was his opponent in 2007 final at Flushing Meadows. The New York crowd fell in love with the Serb, in part because of strong play against Federer, but also because of this hilarious video that has since surfaced. Unfortunately, New York’s adoration is a double-edged sword, and its cheers have since turned to boos over the past two days. Both Tommy Robredo and Andy Roddick criticized Djokovic for taking too much time during matches to nurse his injuries. Roddick was a bit more vocal, causing Djokovic to take offense. After Djokovic destroyed Roddick on his home turf, he was interviewed (in front of the 20,000+ crowd) and addressed the derogatory remarks. You can decide if the crowd’s response was justified. Either way, I find Djokovic completely entertaining. He’s also a gifted tennis player and a good bet for stopping Federer’s reign at the U.S. Open.

Federer looks sharp and advances in U.S. Open

Roger Federer looked like the four-time champion that he is on Sunday as he defeated Radek Stepanek 6-3 6-3 6-2. The victory was his 30th consecutive win in the U.S. Open tournament, an amazing feature in itself. Federer, who was knocked off of the number one seed for the first time last week by Rafael Nadal, knows that this is his chance to once again prove himself to be the best. He was number one for a record 237-weeks.

Federer advances to semifinalsAs if trying to remind himself and everyone else where he’s been and where he’s quite certain he’ll return, Roger Federer thrust his right fist overhead and pointed skyward with his index finger.

The universal gesture for No. 1.

As Federer made that signal, the 1970s song “Still the One” by Orleans rang out through Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday


Check out what else is happening at the U.S. Open tournament
. Federer’s next match will be against Russia’s Igor Andreev.

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