Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Young at heart


Black Tennis Pros has an exclusive interview by the site's proprietor, Sheila, with American tennis player Donald Young. He's still a teenager, but he's been touted as the next great American hope for years now.

His career has had some starts and stops to it, but there's no denying the talent's there. I wrote something about him last year where I thought he could be in the top 20 by 2010. While I'm still confident about him getting there, I've also been kind of hard on him over the past year because it seems like he's taken a step backward. Sheila's interview has softened my recent stance on him because who really knows what it's like to be in his shoes, a kid who everyone expects the world of? Then again, I wish he were working out with Robby Ginepri and Bobby Reynolds down in Atlanta—you know, hit with some pros, get bigger … I'm gonna stop there!

Anyway, check out this cool, exclusive interview with Donald Young here.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Always a bridesmaid ...


Another slate of tournaments has gone by with Andy Roddick, Maria Kirilenko, Jelena Jankovic and first-time titlist Jo-Wilifried Tsonga grabbing the tournaments in Beijing, Korea, Beijing again and Thailand, respectively. Congrats to all the winners, especially my man Jo-Willie on bagging his first bit of first-place hardware.

However, the biggest story I feel to come out of the weekend's tournament results was what happened in Beijing on the women's side: Svetlana Kuznetsova fell to Jankovic pretty easily, a week after knocking her off on her way to the finals in Tokyo. The big deal about this is that Kuz has now lost 10 of her past 11 finals (thanks, Freakyfrites, for the numbers).

Folks, that's a pretty staggering amount.

You can look at it from the glass half-empty/half-full perspective: She's coming in second, but hey, at least she's getting that far. I think there's a little too much half-full-viewing going on over there because even if you were to look at it the past two weeks, the scorelines in the finals have been pretty one-sided. I don't think it's a matter of physical conditioning; she's consistently getting deep in draws, even over back-to-back weeks. Is it the intensity level falling off when she gets there? Being content? What? I know it is kind of baffling that a recent U.S. Open champ can't seal the deal on picking up a regular title.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of something that was going on with me in my younger days: When I was playing in the juniors and my first couple of years in college, my goal for my tournament-playing season was to at least get to one final, whether it was singles or doubles. That way, I could still focus on my partying! Then, the guy I was playing doubles with was winning every tournament in sight, and I thought, "Hey, I should set my goals a little higher." I did try harder; however, I 've gotten into a feeling-the-pressure kind of loop as to where now, if I win a match or two at a tournament, it's a mini-miracle.

I just hope Kuz doesn't fall into that cycle. It's a rough one to get out of.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 26, 2008

All the time in the world


You know what's kind of cool about the action over in Asia?

It's before noon Eastern time and all your semifinal matchups are already set! You can plan for a nice lunch, go get your dry-cleaning, actually do some work at the office—all of those options are available. You don't have to stay glued to your desk following the live scoring on the ATP and WTA Web sites! (My whole day isn't devoted to following the scores, but definitely some of it is.)

Anyway, both the men and women are back in Beijing (that is, if they were Olympians) for the China Open. The men's draw got pretty rocked by upsets with the only seed among the top four getting to the semis is Andy Roddick. The women's side has kind-of held form with the biggest upset happening today being Ana Ivanovic getting knocked off again. (Can someone PLEASE tell her to take two weeks off, practice hard, and get her mind and body right?) Some of the guys are also competing in the Thailand Open, where the top four seeds have gotten through, led by Novak Djokovic. And more women are playing at the Hansol Korea Open. The number-two seed there, Shahar Peer, lost in the quarters to Jill Craybas, making for the biggest upset.

Since I have so much of my day left, I figured I'd give a semifinal breakdown for each tournament. Amazing what you can do with a little extra time!

• In Beijing (women, then the men):
Jelena Jankovic (1) vs. Vera Zvonareva (5): These two have both been playing well of late, with Zvonareva just picking up a title last week. I'm going with Jankovic in this one, mainly because there's something I don't get: Why does Zvonareva play so many small tournaments like she did last week? She should've been in Japan with all the big guns. I don't think she's going to be prepared for a player of Jankovic's caliber.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (4) vs. Jie Zheng: All right, Kuz, like I said last week: Get it done! Zheng's a tough one, though, (as Ivanovic can attest to) but I'm still going with the top-tenner on this one. And maybe, just maybe, she can pick up a title!

Dudi Sela vs. Rainer Schuettler (7): Sela's had a great run this tournament, particularly knocking off David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo back-to-back. But the veteran Schuettler has also had a pretty good win, beating Richard Gasquet in the quarters. I'm going with Schuettler in this one.

Andy Roddick (2) vs. Bjorn Phau: A-Rod really showed me something today (well, virtually: I was following the score online!) with his win over Juan Carlos Ferrero. He was down a set, but rallied, when he could've bailed and not many would have blamed him after his long Davis Cup weekend. He should be able to blow past Phau, who should be a little tired by now from running down the big shots of Sam Querrey and Fernando Gonzalez, two players he upset to get this far.

• In Thailand:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Tomas Berdych (3): If you were to make a list of the top 10 underachievers in the game today, I think you'd have to have Berdych on it. For some reason, it just hasn't come together for him. He should be right up there with Djoko, but isn't by any stretch of the imagination. Djoko in straights.

Jo-Wilifried Tsonga (2) vs. Gael Monfils (4): This is one I'd definitely like to see! There's going to be some serious shotmaking going on here, crazy gets being made … you name it, this one will have it. I like Tsonga in this one, based on his ability to generate more firepower.

• In Korea:

Maria Kirilenko (1) vs. Kaia Kanepi (3): Now, as I mentioned above about Zvonareva, I have the same issue with Kirilenko: Why doesn't she play in bigger events where better players are? You know if it's an event where she's the top seed, she's going to win. That's why you don't see her in later stages of Slams: She's not used to going up against the best. Anyway, I think she'll take out the big-hitting Estonian Kanepi.

Jill Craybas vs. Samantha Stosur: You know, I actually like both of these players: Craybas because she keeps grinding, and Stosur because she hasn't fallen under the lure of just becoming a doubles specialist: She's just a player. This one's a toss-up, but I'm going to pick Stosur.

That wraps up my semifinal previews: I'm going to grab that lunch I was talking about!

You gotta love the Asian swing!

(Photos: Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The world-class wrecking crew?


I promise this is my last Davis Cup-related post until the finals!

I just saw something that's kind of big: The matchups for next year have been released, and there's a pretty huge one that caught my eye. The U.S. team will be hosting the Swiss next year! I'm definitely holding off on making any bold, crazy, what-have-you predictions on that one because if Roger Federer plays, it could be a wrap. I mean, what surface would you choose to have a shot against him? Nails? The best chance would be if Stan Wawrinka got tight, but that's not entirely likely.

You can't even say the doubles point would be a given, because look what happened in the Olympics, where R-Fed and Stan (or Federinka, as I saw on GoToTennis!) took out the Bryans. Yeesh! Talk about tough matchups! This one worries me more than the one against Spain did, which wasn't due to Rafael Nadal, but was more about how I thought David Ferrer could be a weak link.

Speaking of Spain, their 2009 path won't exactly get off to a cakewalk-type start as they host Serbia, which will be probably be led by Novak Djokovic. Again, I'm pretty sure Rafa's going to be OK, but anybody else you name, you have to be concerned with them going against Djoko.

France plays the Czech Republic away, which can be a toss-up because both squads feature players you don't know what you're going to get from them: France could throw out Gael Monfils or Richard Gasquet and the CR will probably feature Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek: unpredictable, all.

Croatia hosts Chile and I'm pretty sure they're going to pick glass or something as fast and slick to play on to help its big servers. Russia's traveling to Romania, which should be a cakewalk for Nikolay Davydenko and the boys. Israel's going to Sweden, and I would assume the Swedes should be OK there, save for the doubles, where Israel's Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram should be able to handle anything the hosts have to offer.

Argentina, which I guess never has to play an away tie again, it looks like, is hosting the Netherlands, which I think is even weaker than Romania as a World Group participant. If the Dutchmen take a set, I'd be highly surprised. And the final matchup has Austria against Germany, who's playing host. Germany is going to have to be careful as to which surface it picks. I think Jurgen Melzer's capable of beating any aging star (Tommy Haas, Nic Kiefer, Rainer Schuettler) Germany throws out, on any surface.

Again, sorry for the extra Davis Cup post. Just look at it this way: At least you won't have to read a preview here next year when the matches go down!

Monday, September 22, 2008

If I had to do it all over again ...


I'd still pick the U.S. for the upset over Spain!

I mean, ya gotta believe, right? Isn't that how the saying goes?

Anyway, I'd like to say congratulations to the Spanish Davis Cup team, which made it to the finals by beating the U.S. squad 4-1. Despite the scoreline, I don't think that's completely reflective of how things really went down in that tie. The stronger team did win, but I think there were some chinks in the armor. But if you can't capitalize on that, you find yourself heading home.

The U.S. team can take some positives from this, and I think the key thing is that the rotation just got a little deeper: If I'm Patrick McEnroe, I'd feel good about my team, as Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey performed better than anyone could have expected. I can't think of a tougher situation for those guys to be in, but they stepped up and played well.

It ended up being a little too much Rafael Nadal in the end, though? Is it even possible to beat him on clay? I thought the best shot would be to try and blast him off, but that's not the way to go about it, obviously!

Well, it was a great tie all-around with some great tennis, some heartbreak, some moments of joy: everything that makes Davis Cup the best thing going for me!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rooting interests


It's down to the final four at the WTA's tour stop in Tokyo this week, and it's kind of hard to pick who I'm pulling for to come away with the title. Each of the semifinalists kind of tugs at me a little as to where I really wouldn't mind who won.

First, there's Svetlana Kuznetsova, who's pretty much become the tour's perennial bridesmaid. How do you do as well as she's done over the past couple of years and not pick up much first-place hardware? Come on, Kuz! After knocking off Jelena Jankovic, you should be able to pick up a title already!

Then, there's Dinara Safina. If you were to see the Safina bandwagon trolling around your neck of the woods, odds are I'd be the one pulling it along! After doubting her forever, she's finally converted me with her play this year. She's definitely deserving of a top-four ranking by the end of the year.

Nadia Petrova's got a pretty good story going, too, as it seems she's finally starting to get her form back. Remember when it was only a couple of years ago that she got to number three in the world? She was the hottest player on the tour going into the '06 French Open and was picked by many to bag that title, but a hip injury knocked her off course then. It's good to see her playing well again.

And what about the veteran, Katarina Srebotnik? I think if you're a top 10 player, you don't want to be facing her, as Elena Dementieva can attest to after being the latest one to fall to her this year. She's still playing a lot of doubles and having success there, but she's showing she's no slouch sans a partner. And just think, Srebotnik came through the qualies to get this far!

So after looking at them all, I guess I'm going to go with Safina/Kuznetsova/Petrova/Srebotnik. That's my pick and I'm sticking to it!

(Photos: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Don't cry for Argentina


OK, if Argentina doesn't win the Davis Cup this year, then my man Alberto Mancini needs to be bounced from his job as captain.

Actually, if Argentina doesn't win every Davis Cup for the rest of the decade, then some rule should be made to send them back to Zonal play.

And you know what? Now that I think of it, Argentina should actually be penalized for not having won multiple Davis Cup titles in the 2000s or the Aughts or whatever you want to call these years!

The other Davis Cup semi going on this weekend has Argentina hosting Russia, which has some pretty good clay-court players, to say the least, in Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev. The home team is throwing out one of the hottest players on the planet in Juan Martin del Potro and David Nalbandian to play singles.

Now, the reason I made those statements about there needing to be repercussions for Argentina not dominating is because if you were to think about it, has there been a nation with a deeper talent pool in men's tennis over the past few years? From Guillermo Coria to Guillermo Canas to Nalbandian to del Potro to many others, the depth is crazy! There's Agustin Calleri, Juan Ignacio Chela, Juan Monaco ... shall I go on?

It seems the book on the team is that if you get to host them, you have to put them on something other than clay: Hard, carpet, glass, ice ... whatever. But Argentina has players that have had success on faster surfaces (and not only Nalbandian; Canas has a Masters shield from Canada on his resume). I just don't get why they haven't won a title yet and only have two runner-up finishes in the nation's history, in 1981 and 2006!

If they win against Russia (I'm going with a score of 3-2 in their favor; I think del Potro's gonna be shaky) then they get to host the winner of the U.S.-Spain tie. Come on Alberto! (I was a fan of his when he was playing.) Get it together for your guys or get going! You can't help but win with the way things are set up this year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sinking the Spanish Armada

I bet this is the ONLY place you'll find the following statement:

The U.S. team can, and will, pull off the upset this weekend!

I know, I know: A rookie's on the squad and one-half of one of the greatest doubles teams ever is out. The other team is led by a 22-year-old, who's already a legend. Plus, the hosts are playing on their favorite surface, one in which they've become pretty much synonymous with.

However, here's why I'm picking the U.S. for one of the most stunning upsets in Davis Cup history:

• Getting higher, baby: The tie is being played in Madrid, much to the chagrin of the players on the Spanish team, who think the high-altitude conditions will help the big hitters on the U.S. team. If ever there was a chance to play on a quick clay court and have a great shot, this is it.

• Net gains: As a result of the high altitude, there's going to be more of a chance for attacking styles to pay off, therefore resulting in the opportunity to knock off some easy volleys. If the U.S. boys don't take to the net at every available opportunity, they're crazy.

• Serving notice: Andy Roddick and Sam Querrey serve bombs, we all know that. But here's what needs to happen: They just can't go out there hoping to do that, despite the quick conditions. Busting kickers out wide will open the court for big inside-out forehands.

• Pressure's something that comes in tires: There won't be any pressure on the U.S. to win this one, so why not go out there loose? That's how underdogs pull off upsets!

There you have it: Why I think the U.S. will win this weekend. Of course, it's not outside of the realm of possibility for the U.S. to not even pick up a set, but if they put their heads and hearts into it, who knows?

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I don't want to say I'm Fed up, but ...


I've played tennis the majority of my life, and it's my number-one sport, obviously. But I've also always been a big team sports guy. Since I've lived in New York, I've embraced the concept of having local pro sports teams to root for, something that I missed out on growing up in Mobile, Ala.

Maybe that's why I'm such a big Davis Cup dude: It combines my favorite sport, which for the most part is considered an individual one, with the team aspect.

That being said, though, Fed Cup has never captivated me. I don't know if it's the format, which has changed a few times over the years, or the fact that it attracts so far fewer top players than Davis Cup does, with many of them bailing with injuries; or the weird scheduling … I don't know what it is. It's probably the most-ignored tennis event on my radar, sad to say.

Anyway, despite all that, I did happen to notice that Russia won its fourth Fed Cup title in five years today over Spain. Really, though, was there any doubt who would win that? Russia's so deep, it should only play Fed Cup matches against itself!

Congrats to those players that got this far and pulled it off. It means a lot, obviously, to the winners and is a great accomplishment. It's a shame it can't captivate other players—and me, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

All bets are off


Well, it looks like things have finally come to a wrap on the whole Nikolay Davydenko gambling fiasco as the ATP has announced that he's in the clear.

It's been dragging on forever, but what a wild ride it was! Chair umpires accusing Nik of tanking, journeymen galore getting busted for betting on matches, players saying they were offered money but not saying from whom: Oh, what fun!

Seriously, though, over the course of the year, there were only two things that made sense to me about the whole situation being brought to light: One was Tommy Haas calling for the players saying they were approached to name names. The other was Davydenko's explanation for what could've happened—maybe someone overheard him exclaiming to his box that he might not be able to go on and others running with it. But then again, what gets me about that is that there was a TON of money being bet on that match. Could that little information create such a flurry? Hmmm...

HBO's "Real Sports" had a segment on this in its most recent episode. It was interesting, but I think it kind of appealed to everyone's craving of the sensationalistic. A point was made on the show about tennis allowing some almost-devious things to continue, such as guarantees and matches tanking. Could gambling be far behind? I hope that won't be the case.

I also hope this is the end of the whole fiasco.

Anyone want to bet that won't be the case?

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Dropped" shot


If you've been a regular reader of this site for a while, then you know that my favorite sporting event is the Davis Cup. I often set my alarm clock for the wee hours of the morning to watch Team USA play first-round ties if necessary. Them winning last year was the highlight of my year sports-wise (especially with my New York Jets going 4-12)!

Anyway, there's a story on the Interwebs saying that James Blake was "dropped" from the team for the semifinal tie against Spain for Sam Querrey. And my reaction to this is, "huh"?

They actually "dropped" him? If the story said "replaced due to injury" I wouldn't have any questions, but to phrase it like that? Granted, he lost early at the Open, but I wouldn't think his form is that bad. Here's what I'm left to wonder:

• Did he refuse to skip Mardy Fish's wedding, if it is, in fact, around that time? But wait, isn't Andy Roddick in the wedding party, too?

• Is Blake a mental mess right now due to the Olympics?

• If the above is the case, did he beg Patrick McEnroe off the team? But then, wouldn't they have given some blanket statement, like "Blake injured himself at practice." You know, cover it up? Or did P-Mac take it upon himself to evaluate JB and "drop" him? That's within his rights as team captain, but I think it's totally unfounded.

• Is it the fact that it's on clay? Blake's no world-beater on the stuff, but his results this year are better than Querrey's.

• Is P-Mac playing to the altitude in Madrid and just looking for the biggest servers he can find? I think this is probably the most likely, but I also think JB would do just as well on a fast clay court as Querrey.

If someone has the answers, PLEASE let me know!

**UPDATE: HeyHeyHey stirred me to an ESPN story with quotes from P-Mac saying that James asked off the team. That's a lot clearer than what was originally posted. I think Team USA's chances have gotten slimmer, but you never really know. Weird things happen in Davis Cup!

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 8, 2008

That winning feeling


Another U.S. Open has come and gone (even though it's a day past when it should've been out of here) and in the singles, a couple of all-timers held off two players making their Major final debuts.

I'll start with last night's match under the lights with Serena Williams holding off Jelena Jankovic in two pretty tight sets. Not only did Williams win her third U.S. Open title (and first since '02!) and ninth Major overall, but she also got the number-one ranking back as well. Waaay back when Justine Henin retired, I thought that it would come down to Maria Sharapova, Serena or Venus Williams for the top spot on the rankings. Well, Serena has it now and in my mind, there's no question that it should be her in that position for the rest of the year. Congratulations!

Today, Roger Federer knocked off Andy Murray (who had an amazing run here), also in straights, to pick up his fifth straight title here and 13th big one overall. You know what? Looking back over the course of the past two weeks and watching R-Fed fight for this title might have been the most enjoyable tournament run I've watched of his. He probably doesn't like it, but I liked watching him go through with a little bit of an underdog/wanting-to-prove-the-doubters-wrong mentality. I think he'll get the top spot back before the year's out. And looking into my crystal ball here, which most of the time is usually broken, I think he'll win the Australian next year and break the all-time men's Slam-title record at Wimbledon. Congrats to him, too!

And I didn't get to mention this earlier, but congratulations to Liezel Huber and Cara Black on winning the women's dubs. Great effort by a great team!

That's it from New York. (Well, I guess I should say "that's it from the Open" since I live in New York ... you know what I mean!)

Photos: Getty Images)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

For all the marbles


Serena Williams easily took out the hottest player on tour, Dinara Safina, yesterday to set up today's final with Jelena Jankovic. And the big trophy comes with a little extra bonus: the number-one ranking.

I would assume this would settle for the year who should be holding the top spot. My money, and I'm assuming I'm not the only one, is going to be on Serena for this one. Williams' experience is going to be such a huge factor: I hope Jankovic can keep the ball in play and isn't shanking shots all over the place due to nerves.

That said, if Hurricane Hanna doesn't put things off a day, I'm expecting Williams to come out on top, both here and on the rankings list.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Good for her!


I have to say, out of the four women left in the tournament, Jelena Jankovic was the fourth-most likely to get to the finals, as far as I figured. But she pulled it off. Now, I'm not expecting her to win, but I guess I shouldn't sell her short like I did here!

Congrats!

(Photo: AP)

Seeing double


Wasn't Leander Paes just on court yesterday winning a U.S. Open title?

He and Cara Black won the mixed doubles title yesterday over Black's regular partner, Liezel Huber, and Jamie Murray. He came up short here, though, as he and his partner, Lukas Dlouhy, fell to the Bryan brothers in straights.

Good run by Leander here, but a great win for Bob and Mike. Personally, this year I was pulling for them to focus on grabbing the Gold in Beijing, but a Slam's always nice! This is their sixth Major (even though I think it should be their 16th or so!)

I think the Bryans are two of the best tennis players of all time. Crazy statement, ya think? Check this out to see my reasoning behind that.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Semi-tough


On their way to the semifinals—and more importantly, completing the Tennis Talk, Anyone? semifinal brackets—Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic both overcame some testy moments to get this point. R-Fed had to overcome some big serving from qualifier Gilles Muller, while Djoko's match was full of intrigue before he even took the court against Andy Roddick.

I only got to see the first set and a half of last night's action, but the way Novak came out ... man! I knew he would be fired up, but I didn't think he'd be able to make A-Rod look almost like a journeyman out there, especially considering the way Roddick had been playing up to that point. It got tight at the end, but you just had to figure it was going to go Djokovic's way.

Now, from what I've read and seen on the highlights, he didn't do himself any favors by commenting about what Roddick said and the crowd support. In his next match, it's pretty much going to be like he might as well be playing in Federer's backyard. The crowd, which has already thrown its support behind R-Fed more than ever, is REALLY going to be going nuts for him in the semis!

I feel a little bad for Djokovic going into the next round because, calls to the trainer notwithstanding, I think he's actually really good for the game. He's a character, which the sport could use. I saw him play that five-setter against Radek Stepanek last year, and both of them were doing everything to pump up the crowd and themselves, making it one of the most fun matches I've ever seen live.

I hope he doesn't get bitter after his next match if he loses (which I think he will) and stops showing his personality. It could stand to be tempered, but it shouldn't be diminished.

(Photos: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bombs away!


I'm currently doing what every tennis fan who's at work is probably doing, too: Following the Roger Federer-Gilles Muller quarterfinal match on the U.S. Open Web site via the Live Scoring function.

Not being able to actually see the points being played, but watching the games zip by with no breaks has me wondering: Is it a server's duel? The scoreline on the first set looks like it was decided by just one mini-break in the tiebreaker for Roger.

Wait, this just in: R-Fed's poised for a break at 4-all! We'll see what happens. Yep, he got it!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tough 'breakers


Well, the women's semifinal round is set at the Open and, of course, you knew a Williams sister was going to be in it with them playing against each other and all.

The question is: Is it the right one?

Venus had opportunities a-plenty to close it out last night, but came up short, losing two tiebreak sets. I think Serena's definitely feeling good to have gotten out of that one. I honestly wasn't even expecting Venus to make it to the sister showdown, having picked Aggie Radwanska to come through their fourth-round matchup. But Venus definitely showed me something there.

Then, I was expecting Serena not to have much trouble with big sis: I just think her game's more solid on hard courts. But Venus gave her all she could handle. And if she would have won, I wouldn't have been too mad—even though it would have wrecked my perfect call on the women's semifinalists!

I like the semifinal matchups that are set now, and I'm still sticking with my original picks—Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva—coming through.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The write stuff

Before I mention something about how wrong I was in predicting who'd have a hard or easy go of it yesterday at the tournament, I thought I'd pass this story along.

On the Baseline has a great article by writer Paula Vergara on working the U.S. Open as a credentialed member of the media. She gets to sit in on press conferences, hobnob with Bud Collins and keep abreast of every piece of action on all the courts.

In other words, it's a very interesting read! You can check it out here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Working hard or hardly working?


Labor Day has come and gone, and it's back off to work or school we go.

My day has already started off kinda weird: I wanted to go out and play tennis at the club I belong to in the early-morning program, but I got out of the house a little later than I needed to. Then the bus to the subway was late. After finally getting to the subway, then it was announced my train wasn't running from that stop, so I gave it the proverbial "Eff it" and went back home to sleep!

Anyway, yesterday's matches at the Open seemed to be pretty easy-breezy for most of the players out there: There was definitely no Connors-Krickstein Labor Day epics in the making! Juan Martin del Potro, Andy Murray, Flavia Pennetta, Mardy Fish and the Williams sisters all breezed through. It's funny: The only players that really seemed to get a workout were two of the big favorites to win the whole shebang: Rafael Nadal and Dinara Safina. Rafa fought past Sam Querrey—who gave a great showing this tournament—in four, while Safina knocked out my girl Anna-Lena Groenefeld in straights, but the first set was as close as close can get.

Today's got some pretty good matches on tap. And I'm going to keep the Labor Day theme going here by saying who will be working hard or hardly working:

• Working hard:

Andy Roddick vs. Fernando Gonzalez: Roddick pretty much owns Gonzalez, but I don't think it'll be a complete breeze, even though A-Rod's looking better than I've seen him play in months. I actually thought Roddick was going to lose earlier than this round. I picked Gonzo to make the quarters before the tournament started, and I'm sticking with that, even though my heart's not totally in it.

Jelena Jankovic vs. Sybille Bammer: This shouldn't really be a tough match, but Jankovic tends to make them go that way. She's going to be slipping and sliding all over the court, getting treatment and win 7-6 in the third.

• Hardly Working:

Roger Federer vs. Igor Andreev: Remember R-Fed? You know, the four-time defending champ here? He's looking real good out here and has been pretty much dusting opponents like the olden days. Andreev's big forehand shouldn't be able to do too much damage, and Federer will get by in straights.

Nikolay Davydenko vs. Gilles Muller: So on the men's side, this is the only section of the draw where I struck out on my quarterfinal predictions so far (I thought Dmitry Tursunov was going to come through). Nik is on one of those rolls he tends to get on and Muller has played a lot of tennis so far. The qualifer's run ends here, in about 90 minutes or less!