Friday and Saturday were brutally hot days in Flushing Meadow—to paraphrase the great Casey Stengel, let’s just say that the hard courts of the U.S. Tennis Center hold the heat well. It drained players and fans alike, sending many of the latter to the refreshment stands, with the exception of the one selling champagne for $24 a flute. The $3.75 water was a bargain by comparison. By Monday, the thermometer got more Septemberish. It was the tennis that turned brutal.
In the first match of the morning, Tomas Berdych dismissed Nicolas Almagro in straight sets in front of some nicely spaced fans at Louis Armstrong stadium. Then Serena Williams took the court against 82nd ranked Andrea Hlavackova who is also a law student from Czechoslovakia and had knocked off 14th seed Maria Kirilenko in the previous round. The court showed no mercy. Williams sentenced Hlavackova to a 6-0, 6-0 thrashing that was painful to watch at times because of the lopsidedness of the match.
But all the same, the wonder that is Serena demands attention. Her 124 m.p.h. serve is the just the beginning of the armory. Her return of serve against Hlavackova was frightening. And as she has demonstrated in playing doubles with sister Venus, Serena plays the net wonderfully, too. (Although the pair bowed in the doubles to the Russian team of Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova in an evening match.) Serena’s singles match barely lasted an hour. The women’s tournament is now wide open, with No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska joining the list of high-ranked casualties.
Roger Federer provided the biggest disappointment of the day—only because he didn’t play. American hopeful Mardy Fish, the 23rd seed, had to default for medical reasons—he’s had some heart issues recently—and certainly the heat could not have been his friend in the nine hours he’d spent on court in earlier matches. So fans instead found themselves watching 12th seed Marin Cilic playing unseeded Martin Klizan for the right to be demolished by Andy Murray in the quarters after Murray demolished Milos Raonic in straight sets on Sunday night.
Raonic is a big server, but his best shot, at 140 m.p.h., was only marginally better than Murray’s, and more importantly, Murray won nearly 60% of his second serve points vs. 31% for Raonic. Berdych won’t be lacking for fans in his next match: he tests the well-rested Federer, a player he has beaten before, including at Wimbledon. Said Fed: “He has always been a tough opponent. I will have to continue to serve well and dictate the points.” In this tournament, Federer and the other top seeds—Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — are doing exactly that.