Baseline rallies often lasting much longer than a minute. Players eliminated due to injuries or hobbled by debilitating cramps. Grueling five-set matches. Is it possible that the U.S. Open men soon might find that playing at the yearâ€™s final Grand Slam, a hard court event, is as physically demanding as playing on the French Openâ€™s slow red clay?…
As Week 1 nears an end, some key stats at this final best-of-five-set event are beginning to look a lot like those at the French Open. For example, more than a dozen early round matches were extended to five sets. Happens all the time at the French Open. Injuries and cramps kept the tour trainers busier than medics in a war zone. See a lot of that, too, at Roland Garros.
â€œA couple of times, I called the trainer, he called the trainer,â€ said Novak Djokovic, who outlasted Radek Stepanek 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) in a four hour, 44-minute second round match.â€You could see that we have a lack of energy, but we were fighting all the time. We play the longest match in Open (this year) and it was quality match as well.â€
The medics, er, make that trainers, also worked overtime Thursday night when No. 6 James Black outdueled Franceâ€™s Fabrice Santoro in a five-set, second round thriller. Santoro, 34, struggled with cramps throughout the last two sets. Veteran Tim Henman (back), who soon will retire, and even youngster Rafael Nadal (knees), a 22-year-old Spaniard, came into the U.S. Open hampered by injuries.
Referring to Nadal, Henman said, â€œWhen youâ€™re built like that, playing on hard courts, (injuries) are inevitable. His game is physically so demanding. Heâ€™s putting so much strain on his body. Heâ€™s got to manage it as best he can, as Iâ€™m sure he will.â€
Nadal, bothered by tendinitis in both knees managed to get past Serbiaâ€™s Janko Tipsarevic quickly Friday night, mainly because Tipsarevic, who received trainer assistance, couldnâ€™t continue due to a rib injury. Nadal advanced to the third round, defeating Tipsarevic 6-2, 6-3,3-2 (retired).
With more quality matchups expected in the later rounds, Week 2 also should produced longer baseline rallies, more grueling tests of stamina, and, of course, more court time for trainers.
One possible long range solution: just as the Marines always are in search of a few good men, tennis academy gurus should focus a bit on developing a few more good serve-and-volleyers Contrasting styles make for interesting matchups, artistry and shorter matches, which might mean longer pro careers.
One short-range solution for fans: bring pillows.