Murray Gets Ousted By Wawrinka

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Andy Murray threw the most revealing punch, but Stanislas Wawrinka delivered the resounding knockout. Whipping his one-handed backhand with authority, playing with aggression and pumping his first with a fury, the 25th-seed Swiss sent Murray out of the US Open with a 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3 third-round knockout.

“I think all my game was pretty good. One of my best matches, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “I was very aggressive. I was doing everything really good so I’m very happy.”

The fourth-seeded Scot is the highest-seeded man to fall from the draw, exiting a day after the fourth-ranked woman, Jelena Jankovic, lost to Kaia Kanepi on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court.

“I’m very disappointed, obviously,” Murray said. “But I think I’ve been more disappointed in other Grand Slams when you get closer to winning the tournament, I think it becomes a lot harder to take. I’m very disappointed, that’s it.”

It marked the second straight early exit from the Open for Murray, who fell to Roger Federer in the 2008 US Open final, but suffered a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 upset loss to Marin Cilic in the round of 16 last year. Murray took treatment for tightness in his quad and elbow pain, but said injuries did not play a part in his demise.

“He played better than me. There’s not a whole lot more to it,” Murray said. “He had a chance to win the first set; didn’t take it. I had a chance to win the second set; didn’t take it. I just struggled from then on.”

It is a deeply disappointing loss for Murray, who swept  Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in succession to capture the Rogers Cup in Toronto and went on to win the US Open Series. Murray split with coach Miles MacLagan in July and has been working with coaching consultant Alex Corretja at the Open. Murray said this loss will not expedite his coaching search.

“No, no. You got to be patient. I was getting asked five, six days ago, ‘You’re playing great tennis will you think about going without a coach?’ ” Murray said. “It’s based on one match. I’m not going to panic and hire someone to try to make things better. So no. I’m going to take my time. I’m going to go home, have a rest, cause I need it, and see what I decide to do after that.”

Murray’s loss may well be Sam Querrey’s gain.

The 20th-seeded Querrey crushed Nicolas Almagro, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, and will now play Wawrinka in what will likely be a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.

“That will be a tough one. Stan is one of the guys that hits the balls so big from both sides,” Querrey said. “If he gets hot, he can beat anyone.  He can hit the ball so well and so clean.  That would be someone you need to get him out of his comfort zone and mix it up and, you know, serve big and maybe attack his second serve and maybe catch him off guard a little bit.”

In their line prior meeting, Wawrinka edged Querrey, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(8), at Indian Wells last year.

“That was a crazy match again, but he’s a very good player,” Wawrinka said of Querrey. “I think he improved a lot over the last two years. He’s a strong player. Big serve. It is never easy to play him. If I can keep the same level the serve for sure will be important for him and to stay aggressive because he doesn’t like to play on the defense and to be under pressure.”

It’s an interesting match-up in that Querrey is at his best running around his backhand and firing his inside-out forehand, but given the fact Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand is his best shot, Querrey will likely drag his forehand down the line at times. Both men can crack their serves so it could well be a match of first-strike tennis.

The last time Wawrinka met Murray at the Open he played meekly and got mauled, managing just seven games in the 2008 round of 16. Working with coach Peter Lundgren, who coached both Roger Federer and Marat Safin to Grand Slam titles, Wawrinka has tried to take the first strike in rallies more often.

“We start a month ago. We enjoy to work together,” Wawrinka said of Lundgren. “He helped me a little bit to be more aggressive and that helped me a lot today.”

Today’s rematch was played primarily on even terms until the third set when Wawrinka began to turn his shoulders into his shots, step into the court more and drive the ball with crushing conviction.

Wawrinka served bigger and bolder over the course of the final two sets. One of Murray’s primary problems is his first serve percentage often lets him down. Murray served 50 percent for the match, but only 36 percent in the third set and 38 percent in the fourth set. Murray, who favors a slice serve that often flirts with the top of the tape, is either unable or unwilling to try to take a bit off the first serve and increase his percentage.

He gave Wawrinka too many looks at his second serve and paid the price, winning just 15 of 42 points played on his second serve over the course of the final two sets. Murray is a usually an adept problem-solver on court, but by the latter stages of today’s match he wore the vacant expression of a man who had run out of ideas.

“I still feel like I’m super fit. I just didn’t feel great,” Murray said. “There were a lot of things that I was feeling on court. I just haven’t felt that way for a few years now. So I’m going to have to go look at why that was the case and try to get better.”

Neutralizing Murray’s speed by cracking balls down the line, Wawrinka began pounding away at the counter-puncher.

That’s when a singles match grew crowded as Murray began fighting both Wawrinka and himself. At one point, a frustrated Murray punched his racquet face as if trying to slug some sense in his stings.

“I was disappointed that I was struggling physically,” Murray said. “I tried to find a way to come back. Didn’t quite do it. I was disappointed that I’ve not really been in that position for a long tome….In the third and fourth sets, I was struggling physically and I got frustrated with that…Maybe I felt my chance of doing well here was slipping away.”

As Murray tried to explain the loss in his post-match press conference, he glanced up at the flat screen television mounted on the wall to his right and noticed the USTA’s video feed of himself in the press conference.

It was as if Murray was looking over his own shoulder and when he was asked if the defeat plants any seeds of doubt in his mind that he will eventually master a major, Murray spoke like a wounded man wary of looking too far ahead.

“I have no idea of whether I’ll win a Grand Slam or not,” Murray said. “I want to, but I mean if I never win one, then what? If I give a hundred percent, try my best, physically work as hard as I can, practice as much as I can, than that’s all I can do, you know. It’s something I would love to do. It’s a very difficult thing, but I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll win a Grand Slam or not. But I’ll give it my best shot.”

Wawrinka may well be best known by many fans as the man who partnered Roger Federer to the Olympic doubles gold medal in Beijing two years ago and celebrated with an embrace on the court. Wawrinka and Federer are good friends and for one day Wawrinka stood alone as a bigger story than even the five-time US Open champion.

“I hope I can still be in the tournament after the next match,” Wawrinka said. “I know it’s gonna be a tough match.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

US Open Day 6 Womens Results

New York, NY-USA

August 30-September 12, 2010

$22,668,000/Grand Slam

Hard/Outdoors

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Singles – Third Round

(1) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) d. Chan Yung-Jan (TPE) 61 60

(31) Kaia Kanepi (EST) d. (4) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 62 76(1)

(7) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) d. (25) Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) 62 76(2)

(11) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) d. (23) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 63 64

(14) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (WC) Beatrice Capra (USA) 60 60

(15) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Patty Schnyder (SUI) 76(5) 36 76(6)

Andrea Petkovic (GER) d. Peng Shuai (CHN) w/o (right elbow injury)

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. (Q) Lourdes Domínguez Lino (ESP) 60 61

Doubles – Second Round

(1) Dulko/Pennetta (ARG/ITA) d. Cirstea/Safarova (ROU/CZE) 60 64

(4) Peschke/Srebotnik (CZE/SLO) d. (WC) Gullickson/Gullickson (USA/USA) 62 63

(5) Raymond/Stubbs (USA/AUS) d. Chuang/Govortsova (TPE/BLR) 62 63

(9) Black/Rodionova (ZIM/AUS) d. Kudryavtseva/Kustova (RUS/BLR) 64 61

(13) Niculescu/Peer (ROU/ISR) d. (WC) Glatch/Vandeweghe (USA/USA) 67(6) 63 76(4)

The Winds of Change for Jankovic

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The ball fluttered in the gusty bluster as predictably as a piece of popcorn tossed from the promenade deck and the sweet spot looked as large as a lifesaver when Jelena Jankovic shanked a serve so badly it sailed several rows back into the stands prompting one fan to duck the felt foul ball.

That frame shot symbolized the type of day it was for the 2008 US Open finalist: a frustrated Jankovic fretted, framed balls and even yelled at the elements at one point while Kaia Kanepi continued to swing away through the drafty day.

In the end, the 31st-seeded Estonian managed both her emotions and shots better than Jankovic in bouncing the fourth-seeded Serbian out of the US Open third round, 6-2, 7-6(1) on a day in which wind gusts reached more than 25 mph on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court.

“Oh, the wind was really tough. The conditions were really, really tough to play,” said Jankovic, who got to the post-match press conference so quickly you wondered if she sprinted down the hall way. “I had a really hard time hitting the balls. obviously, they were going all over the place. The wind was really strong and she handled those kind of conditions a lot better than I did…You hit the ball in one direction, it goes another. You’re just getting ready to hit the ball and it just moves away from you. She was the better player today. Congrats to her.”

Reaching the Flushing Meadows fourth round for the first time in five appearances, Kanepi is one win away from her second consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. The Wimbledon quarterfinalist will play either 15th-seeded Yanina Wickmayer or Swiss southpaw Patty Schnyder for a place in the last eight in what has become a wide-open second quarter of the draw.

“My coach told me we have a chance everywhere we go, so we have a chance here,” Kanepi said.

Player and coach have cause for such optimism.

In the span of four months, the 25-year-old Kanepi has completely revived her career in raising her ranking 108 spots from No. 140 to No. 32 after embarking on a 31-4 tear from the start of May through mid July. She played through qualifying at Wimbledon and strung together seven straight wins, beating French Open finalist Samantha Stosur at the grass-court Grand Slam along the way, before suffering a heart-breaking loss to Petra Kvitova, 8-6 in the third set, in the quarterfinals.

Following her Wimbledon run she swept World No. 12 Flavia Pennetta in the Palermo final to become the first Estonian woman to win a WTA Tour title in July.

The 5-foot-11 Kanepi has always been a big hitter, but has worked to temper her power with patience after bottoming out with a Flushing Meadows first-round loss last year that was one of 11 consecutive opening-round exits. During those dark days she bounced racquets off the court as frequently as fans through coins into the fountains outside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Now she’s collecting wins even in unforgiving winds and reaping the rewards of a more self-controlled approach.

“I changed my game and tried to play more patient,” Kanepi said. “Then I started winning and my confidence started getting higher. Last year, I started losing and I had to change. I’m still quite aggressive, but I try to play more patient.”

Patience and precision are the the cornerstones of Jankovic’s game, but that foundation cracked and crumbled as Jankovic, who is usually so adept at taking those short preparation steps before striking her shots, sometimes flailed off balance like a woman trying to hit the ball while embroiled in a game of twister.

On a day in which merely making clean contact looked as easy as threading a needle on a stuck on a spinning pin wheel, the Wimbledon quarterfinalist summed up her
tactical approach simply.

“I tried to hit as much balls inside the court as possible,” Kanepi said. “She was frustrated, but sometimes I also got upset.”

Jankovic is one of the fastest players in women’s tennis and plays concise combinations when she’s on her game, but could not use her speed to salvage a match of shoddy shotmaking in which she clanked 41 unforced errors against just 13 winners.

The former World No. 1 does not hit the ball as hard as Kanepi and struggled to hit through the wind when playing against it on the north side of the court.

“Why is it so windy?” Jankovic pleaded at the sky at one point as if seeking some celestial answer that never came.

“You get frustrated with the wind because you want to hit the ball in a certain direction and they want to go everywhere except where you want them to go,” Jankovic said in explaining her frustration. “And then, it’s physical because you have to move your feet a lot more. You have to be alert.”

The swirl sent a Jankovic backhand beyond the baseline as Kanepi broke for 5-3 in the second set. Serving for the match, Kanepi got tight and dropped serve for the first time when Jankovic stepped forward and smacked a backhand return winner down the line.

“That wasn’t because of the wind,” Kanepi confided afterward. “It was because of the head. Most of us start to think too much when we serve for it.”

The breeze blew the bottom of Jankovic’s purple dress up to her waist revealing her red
sports shorts. She held for 5-all then broke for 6-5, but Kanepi broke right back and hammered her way through the wind and Jankovic in the breaker.

Kanepi took the court with a 1-8 career record against top five players. She sealed her fourth career win over a top 10 player with two of those coming against Jankovic on hard court and received a congratulatory text from her father moments after stepping off court.

“He said ‘Well done. It was amazing,’ ” Kanepi said in summing up the sentiments of surviving her first appearance on the largest  — and windiest  — Grand Slam stage in the game.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.