Sock Has A Bright Future

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was the past against the future. American tennis’s past darling in Andy Roddick against future star Jack Sock.

And when it was the master took on the apprentice today, Roddick showed experience wins out in a straight set win over his fellow Nebraskan, 6-3 6-3 6-4.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play another guy from Nebraska in my career,” Roddick said.  “You know, it was just cool.  I could draw so many parallels to what he was going through.  You know, but also I could draw on my experience a little bit.”

Sock’s inexperience showed when he missed a few break points in the first, which could have changed the complexion of the match. It is something that will come in time for the 18 year-old, because this was such a learning experience for him.

“After watching him I knew that he kind of plays a lot from the baseline, maybe a little bit behind the baseline, makes a lot of balls, is steady,” he said.  “I felt like I could go out there and try to dictate points and try to hit a lot of forehands, try to move the ball around as much as possible, and then attack when I could.

“I felt like I did a decent job of that.  I mean, like I said, it comes down to him getting back in the court and retrieve and be able to hit passing shots how he wants, like standing still or not on the run. I felt overall like I played a pretty good match.”

But it still wasn’t enough for Roddick who came in knowing his opponent would be a little nervous playing in the big bowl for the first time in his career. According to the 21st seeded player he has participated in 27 night matches at Ashes, so tonight was just old hat.

Yet, Roddick knows this won’t be the last he sees of Sock. In fact the 2003 champ feels Sock will be one of the “legit prospects” along with fellow American Ryan Harrison. And after the match Roddick invited him to his compound in Texas to practice with him, the same way Andre Agassi did back in the early 2000s with the current American star.

“I certainly feel the need to pay it forward,” Roddick said. “This game has been great to me.  It’s pretty much an impossibility for me to do it. But as far as leaving it better than when you came, when I came it was the best generation that has ever existed in a country.

“But I enjoy having the young guys at home.  I think I can help them.  It’s inspiring for me.  You can kind of feed off of their hunger a little bit.”

And that’s how American tennis will come back. It will be a cumulative effort. Although Roddick shown Same Querrey and Harrison the same hospitality, Sock, coming from the same background in Nebraska, may have some real success working with Roddick.

Plus he has the skills. With a 135 m.p.h serve, the talent is there, so all he now has to do is hone it in and learn about the intricacies of the game that only come with experience. When that happens, Sock will move up the ranks and become a star in this game, muck like Roddick did about 10 years ago.

So this is only the beginning and soon you may see the student teaching his teacher a thing or two.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly of the Open

That was some Open.

Not only did we have some great matches, upsets, and surprises, we also saw the downside with Serena’s meltdown and that darn, pesky rain.

And that may be the story of this Open. We had the good and the bad as well. For all the good Kim Clijsters, Melanie Oudin, and Caroline Wozniacki brought the sport, everyone was still talking about Serena Williams threatening the lineswoman in the Semifinals.

Yet, all of that is needed. The only way tennis can grow is to go through the bad and learn from its mistakes. Do they put on a roof? Do they make the rules harsher for outburst at on court officials? These are questions the governing agencies will have to answer.

At the same time, we have met Oudin, Wozniacki, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Yanina Wickmayer, all of whom look like future stars on tour and could move up to elite status. Tennis rich countries like Belgium and the United States have their newest torchbearers, while Argentina and Denmark can begin their histories.

All in all, this was a great Open. Anytime you have a 5-set final – and the first one in 10 years – you have a memorable tournament.

But let’s take a closer look at the good, bad, and ugly from Flushing Meadows.

The Good

The New Stars – New York was introduced to Melanie Oudin and fell in love. The normal kid attitude and fighting spirit gave the American tennis its newest hope. She’s only 17 and seems to have a very bright future ahead.

Then we had Wozniacki and Wickmayer, 19 year-olds who played each other in the semis. Wozniacki looks to be a star with an aggressive, but defensive game, while possessing a very pleasant demeanor and stunning good looks. Wickmayer lost her mother when she was 9 years old, and convinced her father to move to the US to learn tennis. Ten years later, it’s paying off.

Finally, 20 year-old Del Potro stunned the tennis world by beating Rafael Nadal in the Semifinals and Roger Federer in the finals. His on the mark serve and laser like forehand will make him an elite for a long time.

Welcome Back Kimmy – Kim Clijsters fully came back, winning the woman’s title in her only third tournament, proving there’s life after motherhood.

The Unlikely Pair – The team of Travis Parrott and Carly Gullickson won mixed doubles after getting together two days before the tournament. The unseeded team made themselves known in the tennis world.

That First Saturday – Let’s see, Oudin beat Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick went out in a five set classic to John Isner, and No. 1 seed Dinara Safina goes out. There may not have been a more exciting day at the Open in years.

The First Week Weather – Sure the rain marred the last weekend, but that first week was beautiful, and the weather made Flushing Meadows a very pleasant experience.

The Bad

The Lack of a Villain – Too bad Federer is a nice guy. If he was a jerk, his loss to Del Potro would have been just so much sweeter to watch. Imagine the ‘Roog—Ahh” chants coming down from the rafters, which are usually reserved for Roger Clemens on the baseball diamond. But Federer is a classy individual and a great champion. Tennis needs some sort of villain for everyone to hate.

Or maybe it needs a people’s champ like Phil Mickelson is in golf of Andre Agassi was in Flushing just a few years ago. Unfortunately there’s just no one out there to fill the role.

Bad Andys – Both Roddick and Andy Murray went out before the playoff rounds, which is disappointing. Both were somewhat favorites (Federer is the only true favorite), but neither could get through. Roddick lost a five set third round match to John Isner, while Marin Cilic took out Murray in straight sets, and the Scotsman didn’t really show up.

The Rain – The last Friday was a washout and the next day had an eight hour delay. The press screamed for a roof on Arthur Ashe, which is more of a pipe dream, since the place may not physically be able to hold a roof. Yet something has to be done.

The Ugly

Serena’s Meltdown – Serena losing her Semifinal match with Clijsters made for a very ugly story which showed the dark side of tennis. Something may have to be done, even though Serena did apologize and was fined. Yet new rules may go into place to protect the officials.

Oudin’s Family Affair – Just hours after losing to Wozniacki, Si reported that Oudin’s parents are getting a divorce because her mother was sleeping with coach Brian de Villiers. This only proves that no matter how normal the kid, the family can still be dysfunctional.

Wozniacki Has Bright Future Ahead

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s not easy losing the US Open after a tremendous run, but Caroline Wozniacki has nothing to be embarrassed about.

“There was nothing I could do anymore,” she said. “I lost the last point and I lost the match. She just played better than me. I really did my best. I tried my hardest, and I had a great two weeks. I think it’s just about enjoying the moment, enjoy and enjoy that you were in the finals and just be happy about that.

“Because, I mean, if I started saying, Oh, I should have won, I should have done this and that, I think that would be kind of a sin. I’ve really done great, and I think I should be proud what I’ve achieved.”

Wozniacki didn’t lose the match because she wasn’t talented enough to stay with champion Kim Clijsters – losing 5-7, 3-6 – but the 19 year-old lacked experience. You can see it in the first set as the veteran Belgian lost four games in a row, but then started to make adjustments to Wozniacki’s game.

And although, Wozniacki was two points away from the set, Clijsters would not let her Danish counterpart close her out.

That’s the mark of a champion.

“The first couple of games I wanted to get into the match,” Wozniacki said. “I wanted to just know what I’m up against, and I fast found out that I’m up against a really strong player that doesn’t give away any free points.

“I really had to fight for it. I mean, she played really well. She played aggressive. I mean, yeah, she’s playing really well.”

Clijsters used her experience to move up on Wozniacki as the match went on. Playing on the baseline for most of the first set, she learned that she could come in and volley the ball against her opponent.

The first set was also a return game with six breaks and neither player establishing their serve, but Clijsters was able to do that in the second, which made Wozniacki easy pickings.

“Actually, I feel like I’ve been serving really well the whole tournament, and also today I had parts where I was serving well,” Wozniacki said. “I think, I need some more experience. And, I mean, of course, when I came to the net I was doing the right thing. Sometimes I just missed, and that’s tennis. You can’t hit everything straight.

“But of course all the volleys I wished I could have, you know, finished them up.”

That will come in time. Wozniacki established herself as a force on the tour this year with seven finals under her belt. Although for the first week and a half of the tournament the story was Melanie Oudin, this 19 year-old was the real story and one that has a very bright future ahead.

“Obviously I don’t like losing,” she said. I’m a competitor and I love winning. But I think I’ve had some great weeks here. I mean, I was in the finals of a Grand Slam. I’m only 19 years old, like you were saying.

“I mean, my ranking will go up again, and I’m just happy the way I’m playing and the way I’ve been progressing so far. I feel like, yeah, I’m playing good tennis.”

And that’s all that matters.