Always Aimed At

By Jane Voigt

August 30, 2014 — We’ve seen our share of prevailing underdogs, during the first week of this U.S. Open. There’s no better sport story. 

But what do the multi-slam winners think of these initial rounds? They are supposed to survive, but, quite obviously with games determined by a couple points won here and lost there, it isn’t always that predictable. 

Sam Groth, a hulking Aussie with a serve so thunderous you wonder why the racquet string doesn’t break, lost to Roger Federer last night, 64 64 64. Groth tried to keep his mind on the match, but Federer stood across the net on Groth’s first time on Arthur Ashe at night in New York. The situation screams nerves, at least for Groth. But, what did he have to lose?

Federer vs. Raonic-Western & Southern Open-20140816-PS-1278

Roger Federer is in the crosshairs of every opponent. In the semifinal of the Western & Southern Open this summer, Milos Raonic tried  but failed to avenge his loss to Federer in the semifinals of Wimbledon. Photo credit tennisclix.com

One reporter purposed to Federer that his ‘mystique’ lead some opponents to ‘always beat themselves.’ 

“I don’t know if it’s an advantage,” Roger began. “The opponent has nothing to lose. He can go out there and just go for it because he’s not expected to win." 

“I was trying not to get caught up in the whole Roger act out there,” Groth said. “To be honest, I feel I should have won the third set. Game points at 4-2, game points at 4-all. I didn’t execute when I needed to.”

Venus Williams lost a close match to Sara Errani yesterday, after having match points. The Italian is not an up-and-comer. She’s seeded No. 13, has a career Grand Slam in doubles with her partner, Roberta Vinci, and had never beaten Venus in their three previous meetings. 

Errani was buzzed about her victory. She wagged her finger at the crowd, letting them know she, the petite Italian, was in charge. She won. 

“I think she just played one of the best matches of her life,” Venus emphasized. When serving for the match, Venus said, “I went for too much, for the shot too fast. Everybody’s playing well these days. You have to be ready. The last two points in the tiebreaker she played really flawless tennis.”

Kvitova vs Riske06

Petra Kvitova (No. 3) lost today to Alekandra Kurnic, a qualifier and player ranked No. 145 in the world. It’s the second year in a row that Kvitova has failed to make the second week in New York. Photo credit tennisclix.com

Today, Petra Kvitova (No. 3) experienced the brunt of a young woman ranked 145 in the world, Aleksandra Krunic, 64 64. This was not supposed to have happened. 

“I tried to put the pressure off my shoulders,” Krunic told the press. “Usually last couple of years I’m the one who is putting the pressure on myself. And, also, on the changeover, on the 5-4 in the second, I just told myself it’s still on her. You still have nothing to lose, play as every other game you have played.”

Kvitova praised Krunic. “She was really great moving on the court. She served well in the important points. She pushed a lot of balls back and it was difficult for me then.”

But Kvitova also understood who was under the most pressure to win. 

“I think I know how she’s feeling when she’s going to play top-10 player,” Kvitova began. “I know the feeling that you don’t really expect anything from yourself and just going there and play your best tennis. That’s what she did today, for sure, for 100%. To play like with nothing to lose, just enjoy the match and everything. I was the favorite and I knew I should win. Of course it’s always a little bit difficult.” 

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni hasn’t been to the second week of a slam in 15 years. In the late 1990s she was a prodigy and was expected to drill opponents off the court, in the same manner as had Martina Hingis. But injuries ruined Lucic-Baroni’s dreams. She never returned to the tour until 2010. She never advanced then because of more injuries: her back and a herniated disc in her neck compounded problems in her shoulder.

Coming through qualifications at this Open, Lucic-Baroni improved each round. She felt the improvement and confidence grow. “I finally been able to play the tennis that I love the way I love to play. You know, being really aggressive and consistent at the same time.”

Down 2-5 in the first set, Lucic-Baroni said she followed the tactics, and “played the way I was supposed to play. I was able to do that.”

She won the match 76(6) 62.

“On the papers I was the favorite for today to win this match, but every day, every match is another match,” Halep said. "I know that in tennis is not easy to think that you can win the title. Everyone can beat you."

With Kvitova and Halep out of the U.S. Open in the third round, this will be the third consecutive major where at least two of the top three women’s seeds are out before the fourth round. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013