Dominic Thiem, of Austria, returns a shot to Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, during the fourth round of the US Open tennis championships, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, in New York.
Dominic Thiem, of Austria, returns a shot to Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, during the fourth round of the US Open tennis championships, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, in New York. |AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Tennis

Bet U.S. Open Tennis: Abrams rips Frances Tafoe, Chris Evert and picks Wednesday's men's quarters – Medvedev vs Rublev, Thiem, vs de Minaur

Matches start at 1:15 pm EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

After Monday night’s disastrous match that Frances Tiafoe turned into a charade, yesterday’s first Men’s first semi-final between Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric was an example of the kind of second-rate tennis we need to get used to seeing once The Big Three retire. Tiafoe, for his part, should have been fined for not competing in Monday night’s 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 shellacking. Halfway through the second set he threw in the towel, and announcer John McEnroe, the only announcer who has the balls to tell the truth, called him out on it. That was great to hear.

Yesterday, the Men’s quarterfinal match between Zverev and Coric was such a downer it was hard to watch. Zverev, the 6’6” German resorted to pushing (hitting a series of soft lobs), like a little girl, in order to cut down on errors. And we’re supposed to spend good money and waste valuable time watching that?

To make matters worse, for some reason both the USTA and ESPN continue to put forth announcers that are all homers. They root hard for Americans, and announce each match from the point of view of how the homey in the match is doing. Frankly, I’ve never heard a criticism of Serena Williams, even as she’s aged, gained weight, slowed down, and lost her invincibility. Brad Gilbert has interesting things to say, but rarely calls out a player for either their on-court errors or off-court stupidity (i.e. Novak Djokovic). John McEnroe, and to a much lesser degree, his brother Patrick, have the audacity to tell the truth, although Patrick is much more politically correct. When the elder brother calls a match, you know you’re going to hear it like it is.

Unfortunately, the worst of the announcers is fellow Grand Slam Champion Chris Evert. Besides the ridiculous habit of everyone calling the 65-year old “Chrissie,” a name saved for 7-year-olds, the aging former champion says some of the stupidest things imaginable. Two examples: While Women’s #1 seed Karolina Pliskova was down 0-4 in the first set to Caroline Garcia in a Round Two match she lost in straight sets, Chris uttered this beauty, ““There’s a reason Pliskova is the #1 seed….because she knows how to win.” How about she was the #1 seed because #1 Ash Barty and #2 Simona Halep, as well as defending champion Bianca Andreescu all chose not to enter the Open?

Last night, the beleaguered Evert said that the women hit their groundies harder than the men. Frankly, this isn’t even a subject relegated to subjective opinion. Since there is a meter at the back of the court that measures serve speeds (and can measure the speed of any shot), and the court has been equipped with GPS apparatus that not only can call lines but measure the speed with which balls travel, the objective fact is that men hit EVERY shot harder than the women, as proven by these two measuring methods. Period. Chris, go find husband #4, please, and leave the announcing to others.

While I’m fuming about the announcers, what is it about television’s preoccupation with getting British accents on TV? Let’s see….they give us Darren Cahill and Renee Stubbs from Australia, and Cliff Drysdale from South Africa, among others. It’s not like there aren’t good American announcers. Hell, Jim Courier is darn good, but you’d have to wait until the Australian Open in January to hear him, because the AO employs him, not the U.S. Open.

Now that I’ve vented, I want to revisit last night’s late match in which Spain’s Pablo Careno Busta busta'd into the semifinals in New York City. Denis Shapovalov came out swinging for the fences, as I expected, and seemed in control of the match right up until the second set tie-breaker. Shapovalov was hitting his groundies with authority, he was sticking his volleys, he seemed thoughtful out there, and varied his serves so much that he reminded me of a pitcher who had five different pitches to choose from and seemed always to pick the right one for the situation. To the ad court, the Canadian swung his slice wide, opened up the court and simply punched either an easy groundie or a short volley into the wide open court.

When the Spaniard compensated and moved to return serve from behind the ad court alley, Shapovalov would hit a flat serve down the “T” that PCB couldn’t reach. In the deuce court Shapo mixed up his lefty topspin serves pushing Careno Busta out wide and opened up the court once again, and then threw in slice serves down the T, which moved the Spaniard into the center of the court to cut off any angle he could find on a return. The way Shapo varied his serves was a thing of beauty. But the wheels fell off the cart for Shapovalov in the second set tiebreaker when he suffered a mini-break and the Spaniard took advantage of it with an ace wide to the ad court on set point. In the third set tiebreaker it appeared that Shapovalov just let his guard down for 90 seconds, and that was enough to surrender the set, as he served at 4-3 in the breaker, only to lose both his serves and his grip on the set and the match. The fourth went to the Canadian 6-0, as Careno Busta seemed to be somewhat disinterested and perhaps was conserving his energy after a summer in which he played little, if at all, but the Spaniard came back strong and played a terrific fifth set. We were treated to a match worthy of this iconic tournament, unlike the night before and earlier in the day, and the stoic Careno Busta moved into the U.S. Open semi-finals.

Wednesday Men’s Quarterfinal Picks

Daniil Medvedev over Andrey Rublev

Is the umpire of this match going to speak English? With no spectators and the combatants both Russian, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for this match to be called in Russian? Nyet? Well, one semi-finalist here will be Russian, and I think it will be last year’s finalist, Daniil (Boris Badenoff) Medvedev. These guys have been friendly forever, coming up through the Russian system together, along with Karen Khachenov. But Medvedev has always been the better of the two, and he’s 2-0 against his buddy in professional matches. They even played each other back in 2016 in a Challenger event where Medvedev won, so it would take a change of precedent for Rublev to pull this one out, and I don’t see it. It will be a match worth watching, as they’re both terrific players, but in the end, Medvedev will move on to his second straight U.S. Open semi-finals.

Dominic Thiem over Alex de Minaur

Unfortunately, this will be another match that will go exactly as we all expect. The Demon has had a terrific tournament reaching the quarters (although I wonder if he would have had the world’s best players been here) and is clearly playing well. But he hasn’t come up against anyone as impenetrable as Thiem these past ten days, and Thiem will prove to be just too tough for the Aussie. These guys have played 7 sets against each other in the pros with Thiem winning six of them in his two wins over de Minaur. I’d expect that mastery to continue and when the dust settles, Thiem will move on.

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