Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008 U. S. Open

I went to a few sessions of the 2008 U.S. Open tennis tournament at Flushing Meadows, New York. The best match I got to see was the 4th round match between eventual men's champion Roger Federer and 23rd seed, Igor Andreev. Federer was expected to win the match easily, but Andreev played very well. Federer won in 5 sets, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Federer went on to defeat Andy Murray in the finals to earn his 5th straight U.S. Open title.

Here is Federer serving to Murray:

I also had fun watching an exhibition match between Michael Chang and Todd Martin. Both these players have been retired for several years, but they still played at a high level.

Michael Chang was one of my favorite players. He was the youngest-ever male winner of a Grand Slam singles title when he won the French Open in 1989 at the age of 17. Possibly the most exciting match I ever saw was the 4th round match of the 1989 French Open between Chang and then World No. 1 ranked player Ivan Lendl. The 17 year old Chang showed a tremendous amount of determination and toughness in beating Lendl. I was glued to the television and became on instant fan.

Here is a short synopsis of the match between Chang and Lend from Wikipedia:

1989 French Open match vs Ivan Lendl

Perhaps Chang's most famous match took place at the 1989 French Open, which was Chang's only Grand Slam singles title. In the fourth round, he faced the World No. 1 and three-time former champion Ivan Lendl. Conventional wisdom made Lendl the heavy favorite to win the match against the 15th seeded and 17-year-old Chang.

Everything seemed to be going to form when Lendl comfortably took the first two sets 6–4, 6–4 and then broke Chang's serve in the opening game of the third set. But Chang broke back immediately and went on to claim the third set 6–3. Part way through the fourth set, Chang experienced a severe attack of leg cramps. Fighting to stay in the match, Chang resorted to some novel tactics. For a period, he began taking all speed out of the match by playing "moon balls", causing Lendl, who was known to be one of the calmest players, to lose his rhythm. He began to swear at the umpire and the crowd, especially after losing a key point in the fifth set when Chang shocked him by delivering an under-arm serve. Chang later explained, "I was trying to break his concentration. I would do anything to stay out there." (That underhanded serve achieved cult status among amateurs and, at least in Chang's hometown area of Southern California, it was not unheard of to see juniors emulate the swing in desperation while trying to come back from behind in a match during the 1990s.)

Barely able to stand, and screaming with pain after many of his shots, Chang continued to battle on. Despite being on the verge of physical breakdown, he fought his way to a 5–3 lead in the fifth set with two match points on Lendl's serve. Aiming to break Lendl's concentration one more time, Chang stood well inside the baseline, almost at the T-line in the centre of the court while waiting to receive Lendl's serve (normally an almost suicidal position when facing an opponent's serve). The tactic worked as Lendl produced a double-fault to give Chang the victory, 4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 6–3, 6–3 in four hours and 37 minutes. Chang sank to his knees and broke down in tears at the conclusion of the match. Seven days later, he became the youngest male champion in Grand Slam history.

Here is the now 37 year old Michael Chang in an exhibition match at the 2008 U.S. Open:

No comments: