Monday, September 6, 2010

The Major hurdle for Sharapova, Roddick and Murray

This has been some U.S. Open, huh? Favorites running through, new kids coming up, fights in the stands—the works. But I guess that's just New York and the Open: You never know what to expect!

As the quarterfinal fields between the men and the women are close to being set or are already, there are three players I seriously thought would have made it that far that fell short. And the fact they're on the sidelines now indicates a level of unpredictability in the game and concerns for their Slam-winning future.

In case you skipped the headline above and just went into what I've written, I'm talking about Maria Sharapova and Andys Roddick and Murray, three of my favorite players on tour.

Let's look at Roddick first. Now as you know, if you've been around this old blog of mine, I'm always optimistic about his chances on any surface, but now a little bit of doubt is creeping into my head on him winning a Major in his career again. Sure, there was the bout with mono this summer, but I think problems started surfacing when he missed the entire clay-court season. I know there were some injury concerns around that time, but it seems his level of intensity dropped after winning Miami. And if you look at the grass-court stretch, there's no reason he should've lost to Rendy Lu. Or Janko Tipsarevic at the Open, not if he wants to be considered a Slam contender.

As for Andy Murray—not to be a negative Nellie or anything—but the whole season now has to be chalked up as a lost one. Sure, there was the final in Australia, but the main thing is that he went 0 for 4 in the Slam-winning department. Sorry, Andy, if this gets back to you (yeah, right), because I don't want to put any more pressure on you now then you must feel already. Everybody always says he has the game—me included—to take a big one, but there's a matter of actually putting it all together at the right time.

But you know, if I were to really think about it, is his game strong enough to take out three top-eight players in a row in the last three rounds of a Major in best-of-five situations? Plus, the level of pressure on him is almost immeasurable?

And then there's Sharapova: Sure, Caroline Wozniacki had been playing lights out up to their fourth-round match-up today, but I think for a confidence boost in her game going forward, Maria really needed to win this match—almost desperately. She was off the court so long with that shoulder injury, but her schedule has been pretty full this year, indicating her arm must be in decent shape. Has the game passed her by? Will she be able to beat the Wozniackis, Azarenkas and Williams of the world in order to pick up a fourth Slam? It only gets harder from here on out.

These are three of my favorite players on tour, and I'm going to keep pulling for them at the Majors. It's something watching the windows of opportunity close for them, though, with each Slamless year passing by.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Andy said...

AM was in such great form, I thought he was going to go far this tournament. I hope he can win a Grand Slam next year.

van said...

I hear you, Andy. But I wonder, will he be able to beat two of the three guys in front of him in the rankings back-to-back in a best-of-five situation with his game?