Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, serves to David Goffin, of Belgium, during the fourth round of the US Open tennis championships, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, in New York.
Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, serves to David Goffin, of Belgium, during the fourth round of the US Open tennis championships, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, in New York.|Frank Franklin II | Associated Press
Tennis

Tuesday Men's U.S. Open: Abrams picks Coric vs Zverev and Busta vs Shapovalov; Russian men dominate the quarterfinals

I find it embarrassing that there are no American males representing the country at this tournament this far along.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

If it isn’t obvious to the tennis fanatic, who already has adopted a global view of the sport of professional tennis, a more casual observer will notice immediately that 2 out of the 8 Men’s U.S. Open quarterfinalists are Russian. Young Russians at that. Not since 2003, when Andy Roddick broke through and won his first and only Grand Slam tournament has an American man won a grand slam event, and looking at the distribution of nationalities represented by the players in this year’s quarters, that bagel appears as if it might continue for a long time.

The quarters boast 2 Russians, a Spaniard (who isn’t Rafael Nadal), a Canadian, a Croatian, a German, an Aussie, and an Austrian. Nary a Yank in sight, with the complete demolition of Maryland native Frances Tiafoe last night. Frankly, I find it embarrassing that there are no American males representing the country at this tournament this far along, and last night’s dispirited display from Tiafoe was a case in point. Big Foe got broken early, recovered to play pretty well in the latter parts of the first set, which he lost 6-4, and won one game after that. Frankly, at 0-3 in the second, it appeared that Tiafoe simply threw in the towel, looking to get off the court as soon as possible. Embarrassing, indeed.

The one bright spot for the Americans this year appears to be the emergence of J.J. Wolf, a recent Ohio State Buckeye, who won two matches in his baby run to the Third Round here. Someone at the USTA, or the whole Association, frankly, should be held accountable for the simply horrendous display of American tennis. I noticed that for the first time in probably two decades that there were twenty entries of American men, which can mostly be accounted for by some not-ready-for-prime-time American Wild Cards and the lack of a Qualifying tournament. As I’ve pointed out before, in 1979 64 of the 128 spots in the draw were held by Americans. Clearly something isn’t going right in the training of young American tennis players, as the rest of the globe appears to have passed American tennis in the rear view mirror years ago, and the space between the other countries and us is simply growing greater. There must be something seriously wrong in the USTA with their approach to Junior training. Part of the blame, I believe, lies with the NCAA. They have stifled the growth of doubles, thereby limiting the players’ ability to be forced into learning how to volley, and they have allowed way too much access to American colleges for foreign players looking for scholarships and a place to call home here. There is no other explanation for the lack of a single American man in the quarterfinals of our own Championships.

Today’s Matches

Borna Coric over Alexander Zverev

Alexander Zverev has the game to win this tournament. If he plays the way he is capable of, he will. But that won’t happen. Zverev can do anything on the court, but lately, he has been subject to getting the “yips” too many times at just the wrong moment. He can be dominating a set, but when it comes time to serve it out he’s shown an inability to close. He’s had trouble with his second serve, in particular during crunch time, and facing the stoic Coric across the net will not help his mental shortcomings. I expect to see quality shotmaking by both players here, but when push comes to shove, the Croat, who holds a career 3-1 advantage over the German, should close the door. One spot in the semis will go to Coric.

Pablo Carrena Busta over Denis Shapovalov

The Spaniard, who is the third best in his own country, is playing good tennis. Just how good, however, is hard to say as we were deprived of seeing exactly what his form was in his Fourth Round match with Novak Djokovic, when the top seed and world #1 inadvisably hit a ball into a lineswoman’s throat and was disqualified from the event. At the time, Nole was down 5-6 in the first to PCB. Frankly, the Spaniard has had a cakewalk into the quarters with a draw that must have been pre-ordained by the Gods, as he was only tested by his first round opponent, the 86th ranked Yasutaka Uchiyama. But PCB has a lifetime 3-1 record over Shapavalov, and that matters greatly. The Canadian, on the other hand, has been tested in every round, having dropped sets in every match he’s played. But that’s shown how tough he is right now, and that’s something new for the flashy man who was born in Israel. With that said, style matchups mean everything in tennis, and I think Carrena Busta’s style poses difficulty for Shapavalov. Watch for Shapavalov to be on the offensive from the first shot to the last, and PCB to be a relentless retriever. Eventually, it will come down to errors, and Shapavalov will make more than Carrena Busta. The second spot in the semis will be Pablo Carrena Busta.

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