For the first time since Wimbledon 2012, all of the Big Four convene at the same tournament. We take a detailed look at a balanced Indian Wells ATP draw.
First quarter: Twice a champion at Indian Wells, Djokovic brings a perfect 2013 record to the desert following titles at the Australian Open and Dubai. Having faced Federer at neither tournament, he could face the Federer facsimile Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. While his one-handed backhand certainly spurs thoughts of the Swiss star, this young Bulgarian continues to alternate encouraging results (Brisbane final) with disappointing setbacks (first-round loss in Melbourne). The towering serve of Isner ultimately undid Djokovic in an Indian Wells semifinal last year, and Querrey’s similar game toppled him at the Paris Indoors last fall. Now the Serb can eye an opportunity for revenge in the fourth round, where he could meet the latter and will hope to stay mentally sturdier than he did against Isner here. A higher-ranked potential opponent does loom in Juan Monaco, but the world #14 has not won a match this year outside the Davis Cup as injuries have sapped his confidence. Among the intriguing first-round matches in this section is serving leviathan Karlovic against future American star and forehand howitzer Jack Sock.
Winless against the top eight from the start of 2012 until last month, Tsonga may have gained confidence from finally snapping that skid against Berdych in the Marseille final. On the other hand, he also lost immediately in Rotterdam to an unheralded opponent and thus still seems less trustworthy than most of those ranked around him. Rarely has he made an impact on Indian Wells, outside a near-upset over Nadal in 2008, but his draw looks accommodating through the first few rounds. Returning American Mardy Fish, a former finalist here, surely cannot sustain the level of tennis necessary to discomfit Tsonga at this stage of his comeback if they meet in the third round. In the opposite side of this eighth lies Milos Raonic, tasked with outslugging the more balanced but less intimidating Marin Cilic in the third round. Lesser players of note in this area include French serve-volleyer Michael Llodra, who upset Tsonga in Dubai, and Vina del Mar champion Horacio Zeballos, who has not won a match since stunning Nadal there. Although Tsonga obtained considerable success early in his career, his results against him have tapered so sharply of late that one might think Raonic the sterner test for the Serb.
Second quarter: Assigned probably the smoothest route of any top-four man, Murray cannot expect much resistance at a tournament where he reached the final four years ago. Nevertheless, early losses to Donald Young and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his last two appearances illustrated the Scot’s struggle to recover from his annual late-round disappointment in Australia. Murray will want to bounce back more smoothly this time on a slow hard court that suits his counterpunching so well. Looming in the fourth round is Memphis champion Kei Nishikori, who faces a potentially edgy opening test in Tursunov. Resuscitating his career in February, the Russian reached the Marseille semifinals as a qualifier and qualified for this draw as well. The mercurial Dolgopolov, the second-most notable player whom Murray could face in the fourth round, has floundered throughout 2013 and probably lacks the steadiness to threaten either Murray or Nishikori.
Of all the seeds whom he could have faced in the third round, Del Potro surely would have wished to avoid Australian Open nemesis Jeremy Chardy. The Frenchman receded into obscurity again after reaching the quarterfinals there, but he may hold the mental edge over Del Potro should each win his opener. Not since his first appearance in the desert five years ago, though, has the Tower of Tandil tumbled to anyone other than Federer or Nadal, and he has taken care of business against lower-ranked players with impressive consistency over the last year. One of the most compelling third rounds in the men’s draw could pit Almagro against Haas in a clash of exquisite one-handed backhands and volatile shot-making arsenals. The eleventh-seeded Spaniard has produced an early 2013 campaign inspiring and deflating in equal measure, but his Australian Open quarterfinal (nearly a semifinal) reminded viewers what a threat he can pose away from clay with his underrated serve. Accustomed to wearing down mentally dubious opponents, Murray should handle either Almagro or Haas with ease, and he compiled a flawless hard-court record against Del Potro even during the latter’s 2009 heights.
Third quarter: The section without any member of the Big Four often offers the most notable storylines of the early rounds, although Ferrer succeeded in living up to his top-four seed at both of the majors where he has held it. Never at his best in the desert, however, he may find his transition from clay to hard courts complicated by the two towering servers whom he could face at the outset in Kevin Anderson and Igor Sijsling. The latter upset Tsonga and nearly Cilic last month, while the former started the year impressively by reaching the second week of the Australian Open before injury sidelined him. Curiously, the fourth round might hold a less formidable test for Ferrer because his grinding game matches up more effectively to the two seeds projected there, Simon or Kohlschreiber. The quirky Benoit Paire and the lanky lefty from Luxembourg, Gilles Muller, add some individuality to an otherwise monochrome section, as does the invariably entertaining but terminally fading Verdasco.
Berdych may loom above the opposite eighth, considering his two February finals in strong fields at Marseille and Dubai. But an equally intriuging storyline may come from Jerzy Janowicz, still attempting to find his footing in the crucial post-breakthrough period when players encounter scrutiny for which they are not yet prepared. The next several months could prove critical for Janowicz in consolidating his seeded status, and he will deserve credit if he emerges from a neighborhood filled with diverse talent. Nalbandian could await in his opener, and the trio of Bellucci, Tomic, and Gasquet will vie for the right to face the Pole in the third round. Twice a titlist in 2013 already, the last of that trio has retained his top-ten ranking for a long time without scording a signature victory. Such a win could come in the quarterfinals if he can solve Berdych, unlikely to expend much energy before that stage against the likes of Troicki and Florian Mayer. The heavier serve of the Czech should propel him through on a hard court, though, as it should against a fourth seed who has not played as crisply this year as his results suggest.
Fourth quarter: Defending champion Federer can anticipate his first quarterfinal meeting with archrival Nadal in the history of their rivalry, but a few obstacles await before then. Like Del Potro, the second seed probably drew the least auspicious third-round opponent imaginable in Benneteau, who nearly upset him at Wimbledon last year and succeeded in finishing the job at Rotterdam last month. Federer obtained avenge for a February 2012 setback against Isner at Indian Wells a month later, so he can seek similar revenge this year. A rematch of last year’s final beckons against Isner himself in the fourth round, although little about the American’s recent form can infuse his fans with confidence that he even can reach that stage. Much more consistent this year is Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss #2 who played the most thrilling match of the Australian Open against Djokovic and backed it up with a February final. This section also features the most curious match on Thursday, an encounter between the battered Hewitt and the one-match wonder Lukas Rosol that should offer a clash of playing styles and personalities. Despite falling short of the final in his first three tournaments, Federer looks fully capable of sealing his side of the rendezvous with Nadal.
Not in much greater doubt is Rafa’s side of that appointment, for he could face no opponent more intimidating that Tipsarevic through the first four rounds. Young American Ryan Harrison looks set to become Nadal’s first hard-court opponent of 2013 (exhibitions aside), and his woeful results of the last several months intersect with a non-competitive effort against Djokovic in Melbourne to suggest a lack of confidence fatal here. While Youzhny has enjoyed several successes and near-successes against the Spaniard before, the Russian has left his prime several years behind him and lacks the power to outhit him for a full match. Hampered by injuries recently, the ninth-seeded Tipsarevic never has tested Nadal in their previous meetings and should count himself lucky to reach that projected meeting. The Serb’s current four-match losing streak could reach five in an opener against lefty serve-volleyer Feliciano Lopez or Delray Beach champion Gulbis, who carries a ten-match winning streak of his own. Either the winner of that first-round meeting or the unpredictable Baghdatis seems a safer bet than Tipsarevic to meet Nadal one match before Federer. Afterwards, the Swiss should repeat his victory in their semifinal last year.
Check out the companion piece that we wrote yesterday to preview the women’s draw if you enjoyed this article.
Roger Federer drew level with Ilie Nastase on 57 career titles after beating 6-3 6-4 David Nalbandian in the final between the Top two seeded players. Federer never faced a break point and won in Basel third straight year. “It feels great to win at home. Once you had it you want more of it and you want to do it over and over again.” said Federer who improved 10-8 against Nalbandian and 29-6 lifetime record in his hometown.
Robin Soderling has finally won his 3rd ATP tournament. The Swede has been waiting more than three years for another title, losing meanwhile 4 consecutive finals, three this year (Rotterdam, Memphis, Stockholm). Soderling is one of the biggest indoor specialist, he has played 9 finals in career, all of them indoor. On Sunday needed three sets to upset Julien Benneteau and his home-crowd 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1. Soderling broke the Frenchman’s serve in the 7th game of the second set but lost his own serve in the following game – it was the only game of the match with break points for Benneteau who lost his second ATP final. “As a player you always have the goal to reach the Top 100,” said Soderling who next week will be for the first time in career a Top 20 player. “Once you get there, you want to get to the Top 50. Reaching the Top 20 feels great. It has been my goal for two or three years already.” Thanks to this triumph Soderling creates theoretical chances to play in Masters Cup. He needs to win in Paris next week on the assumption that Gilles Simon and David Ferrer don’t make QF, and anyone else behind Simon and Ferrer doesn’t make the final.
The Russian-born but Kazhstan representative, Andrei Goloubev was able to win only two games in his first ATP final against defending champion Andy Murray. The British No. 1 converted five of 8 break points and saved two break points in the match which lasted just 58 minutes. It was the shortest final on the ATP circuit this year, and the second shortest final in terms of games (14) after Mikhail Youzhny defeated Rafael Nadal 6-0 6-1 in Chennai. Murray won 8th title in career (5th in European indoor) and became the first British player to win back-to-back titles since Mark Cox in March 1975. “I’m happy to defend my title in St Petersburg,” said Murray. “I like to play indoors. I reached my first ATP final indoors in Bangkok and then won my first ATP title in San Jose.”
Basel – Final
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (2)David Nalbandian (ARG) 6-3 6-4
Lyon – Final
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1
St. Petersburg – Final
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (q)Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) 6-1 6-1
Roger Federer for the fifth time (third in a row) advanced to the final of his home-event in Basel after convincing 6-3 6-2 over in-form Feliciano Lopez. “It’s great to play back-to-back semifinals and reach the final,” said Federer. “I have some points to defend but that is not what my life is about anymore, I hope to win titles. My game has really come along this week and I’m serving well this week.”
In the second semifinal between two Argentinians, David Nalbandian outplayed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4 6-4. Nalbandian is also a Basel specialist. He has played three finals there, won one of them, six years ago, in his first attempt (beating Gonzalez in straight sets in the final).
Gilles Simon has finally lost a three-setter. He was beaten by the hands of the indoor specialist Robin Soderling. Simon was losing 4:5 (15-30) in the first set but won 10 points in a row and the first set 7-5. The next two sets Soderling won 6-3 and reached third indoor final this year (after Rotterdam and Memphis).
Julien Benneteau defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 7-5 despite 2:5 down in the first set. Benneteau later saved set point at 5:6 with subtle volley. In the similar style he won his first set point in the tie-break as well.
Andy Murray has won 17 of his last 18 matches. In the Satursday’s semifinal British No. 1 demolished Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-3. Last year in the final Murray playing against Verdasco lost only two games more. “I played a solid match and he got off to a slow start, making some mistakes and I was able take advantage of that,” said Murray.
“I was very happy with my level of play today and it was a perfect match,” said Golubev, who won the final 10 games of his semifinal match against Victor Hanescu. “This will be my first ATP final and I will never forget this match and this tournament.”
Basel – Semifinals
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-2
(2)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 6-4 6-4
Lyon – Semifinals
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (4)Gilles Simon 5-7 6-3 6-3
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. (3)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(5) 7-5
St. Petersburg – Semifinals
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (3)Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-3
(q)Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) d. Victor Hanescu 6-3 6-0
Roger Federer after two difficult matches in early rounds, won easily his quarterfinal match against Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-2 6-3. “I’m very satisfied by how it went,” Federer said. “I tried to step up the pressure and so far that’s worked well.”
In the semifinal Federer will face Feliciano Lopez who knocked out James Blake 6-4 7-6(7). Blake had double setpoint at 6:5 in the 2nd set but Lopez saved it with second serve ace and forehand winner. In the tie-break Lopez led 6:3, then saved another set point (6:7) with service winner to convert finally 4th match point with excellent cross-court backhand passing-shot. “This one hurt,” Blake said. “I had a set point in the tiebreaker. If I expect to beat a lot of the guys out there I need to play well on those points and I didn’t do it today.” Lopez has won 10th tie-break in a row!
In the other semifinal will meet the two best Argentinians (Del Potro and Nalbandian) who played a match last week in Madrid – Del Potro won 6-4 6-2 in the last 16. “Last week I beat him (Nalbandian) in a great match, and tomorrow I’ve got to be in good shape if I want to do it again,” Del Potro said.
Two former champions Andy Roddick (2005) and Robin Soderling (2004) played a hard-service battle with no breaks of serve and two tie-breaks. Both tie-breaks had the same pattern – Roddick was leading 3:1 but Soderling won twice 7-5 thanks to unforced errors of American player. Roddick was better (22-20) in aces. Roddick doesn’t add points to Champions Race (he should have reached the final to do it) in contrary to Gilles Simon who has won for the first time in two weeks time a match in straight sets (6-3 7-5 against compatriot Ouanna). Simon could move within three points of sixth-placed Roddick if he wins the title.
In the bottom half of the draw, two Frenchmen (Tsonga and Benneteau) will fight against each other to reach the final. Benneteau advanced to the last four in impressive style – hasn’t lost 4 games in a set in three matches this week.
Defending champion Andy Murray has won 10th consecutive match beating Janko Tipsarevic 7-6(5) 7-5 in two hours and 10 minutes. Murray sets up semifinal clash with Fernando Verdasco who qualified to St. Petersburg semifinal third straight year. Murray beat Verdasco 6-2 6-3 in last year’s final.
Andrey Golubev as a first player from Kazakhstan reached the ATP semifinal. Golubev in a duel of two qualifiers was better than Misha Zverev 6-7 6-4 7-6. 21 year-old Kazakh won match point after a successful challenge. He now face Victor Hanescu. The Romanian hadn’t any problems against 27 year-old Michail Elgin who won this week his 1st ATP match.
Basel – Quarterfinals
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-2 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. (4)James Blake (USA) 6-4 7-6(7)
(3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (6)Igor Andreev (RUS) 6-4 7-5
(2)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (q)Benjamin Becker (GER) 7-6(4) 6-4
Lyon – Quarterfinals
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (1)Andy Roddick (USA) 7-6(5) 7-6(5)
(4)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. (WC)Josselyn Ouanna (FRA) 6-3 7-5
(3)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 7-6(5) 6-1
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. Steve Darcis (BEL) 6-3 6-2
St. Petersburg – Quarterfinals
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 7-6(5) 7-5
(3)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Rainer Schuettler (GER) 7-5 6-2
(q)Andrey Golubev (KAZ) d. (q)Michael Zverev (GER) 6-7(3) 6-4 7-6(4)
Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. (WC)Michail Elgin (RUS) 6-1 6-4
Roger Federer hasn’t lost a set in 10 meetings against Jarkko Nieminen. The Finn was very close to win a set against former No. 1 this time. Nieminen had two set points at 5:3 in the first set, led 30-0 on serve in the next game and was 5:4 up on serve in the tie-break. Federer finally won the match in two tie-breaks.
Nieminen can’t win a set against federer, Philipp Kohlschreiber can’t win a match against Igor Andreev. The German has lost 7 match in a row to Andreev but for the first time in career was relatively close of victory. Andreev won 7-6 6-7 7-5 breaking Kohlschreiber’s serve for the first time in the last game of the match. Kohlschreiber lost tight matches in his last three indoor events (all of them 6-7 or 5-7 in the third set).
James Blake builds up chances to play in Shanghai after beating Oscar Hernandez. Blake surprisingly lost first set in a tie-break but won the next two sets comfortably 6-2 6-4, facing just one break point in the whole match. “I was serving well and that got me out of a lot of trouble,” Blake said who served 17 aces.
Kristof Vliegen saved with stunning backhand passing-shot a match point against David Nalbandian in the 12th game of the final set and was leading 4:3 in the tie-break but experienced in tight matches Nalbandian won the last four points of the match.
Marathon-man Gilles Simon still wins his matches in three-sets. In the second round he beat Andreas Seppi 7-6(5) 5-7 6-4. It has been 7th three-set win for Simon in the last two weeks and each of those matches lasted more than 2 hours (against Nadal more than 3 hours)!
Tennis Masters Cup qualification contender Andy Roddick needed two tie-breaks and 26 aces to overcome his compatriot Robby Ginepri. Roddick has to reach the final to add the points in Champions Race. He will now face Robin Soderling who served 20 aces in just 8 service games against one of the shortest player on the tour Christophe Rochus. Rochus received also 20 aces from Gilles Muller one round earlier.
For the first time in history two players from Kazakhstan and Latvia reached second round of an ATP Tournament. From those foursome only Andrey Golubev won his match, easily surpassing Marat Safin 6-2 6-4. Unexpectedly Russia won’t have a seeded player in the quarterfinals (four seeded players at the start of tournament). The best Russian tennis player Nikolay Davydenko withdrew due to injuried left wrist. “In one of the games when I was receiving his serve I just snapped my wrist,” said Davydenko about his first-round match against Guccione. “I was able finish the match but today I felt a lot of pain and I just can’t play”.
Basel – Second Round
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 7-6(6) 7-6(1)
Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-4 6-2
(4)James Blake (USA) d. Oscar Hernandez (ESP) 6-7(4) 6-2 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. (8)Mardy Fish (USA) 7-6(9) 6-4
(6)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 7-6(6) 6-7(0) 7-5
(3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (WC)Stephane Bohli (SUI) 6-3 6-3
(q)Benjamin Becker (GER) d. (LL)Andreas Beck (GER) 3-6 6-3 6-4
(2)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (q)Kristof Vliegen (BEL) 6-4 5-7 7-6(4)
Lyon – Second Round
(1)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Robby Ginepri (USA) 7-6(5) 7-6(3)
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (q)Christophe Rochus (BEL) 6-1 6-2
(4)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 7-6(5) 5-7 6-4
(WC)Josselyn Ouanna (FRA) d. Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) 6-3 1-6 6-3
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) d. (8)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 6-4 6-1
(3)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Fabrice Santoro (FRA) 6-2 5-7 6-3
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. (5)Tommy Robredo (ESP) 6-2 6-2
Steve Darcis (BEL) vs (2)Richard Gasquet (FRA) 6-4 3-6 7-6(5)
St. Petersburg – Second Round
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 6-4 6-2
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4 7-6(3)
(3)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (WC)Karlis Lejnieks (LAT) 6-1 6-3
Rainer Schuettler (GER) d. Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) 6-3 6-3
(q)Andrey Golubev (KAZ) d. (8)Marat Safin (RUS) 6-4 6-2
(q)Michael Zverev (GER) d. (4)Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 7-5 6-4
Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. (q)Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-3 7-6(7)
(WC)Michail Elgin (RUS) d. (2)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) w/o
NEW YORK – It may not have been the Roger Federer of old, but the outcome was familiar. The Swiss superstar is in a Grand Slam semifinal for a record 18th straight time.
Seeking his fifth straight US Open title – a feat that hasn’t been done since Bill Tilden did it in 1924 – Federer overcame a surprisingly strong performance by qualifier Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-6 (5) 6-4 7-6 (5).
“It was really difficult,” Federer said. “Gilles played a really fantastic tournament. … It was hard just to get solid contact on his serve.”
Federer has not won a Grand Slam tournament title since last year’s Open – his 12th major title, two behind the men’s record held by Pete Sampras.
“I was very happy the way I pulled it out at the end because it looked like it was going (to a) fourth (set),” Federer said. “You try to stay positive, but you look at the score and sometimes it’s not good.”
Muller may have come out of the qualifying and been a surprise quarterfinalist, but he gave Federer all the tournament’s number two seed could handle. The left-hander’s big game – he finished with 16 aces – matched Federer for much of the afternoon.
“It was tough today, especially to break against the wind,” Federer said. “It was almost impossible. He’s a big guy. He gets great angles and he’s got a lot of safety in his serve, especially the first serve. He does have great variety.”
It was the first time the best player from Luxembourg has made it past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament, and only once did he make it that far, at Wimbledon in 2005 when he upset Rafael Nadal in the second round. Prior to this year, Muller had won only one match on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Center, and that was an first-round upset of Andy Roddick three years ago.
The two held serve through the first set, with Federer stymied when he had two set points on Muller’s serve in the 12th game. Federer then jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak before Muller pulled even at 4-4.
Four points later, Federer rifled a backhand down the line that Muller got his racquet on, but was unable to control his shot and his volley went wide.
That gave Federer, who had failed to convert five break chances, the opening set.
Federer finally broke Muller’s serve in the ninth game of the second set – the first service break of the match and, as it turned out, the last – then held his own serve to grab a two-set lead.
Still, Muller didn’t fold. He fought off several break points in the ninth game of the third set. If Federer had broken there, he would have served for a spot in the semifinals. Instead, Muller refused to back down and served his way out of the trouble to take a 5-4 lead.
Federer reacted by holding at love. And again the left-hander showed the game that had taken him to the quarters, blasting his 14th and 15th aces of the match for a 30-0 lead. He eventually held at 15, the final point coming when he brought Federer to the net with a drop shot, and then softly lifted an offensive forehand lob over Federer’s head that hit a foot inside the baseline.
“I think it’s not so much about him. I think it was more me,” Muller said. “Before when I played him, I think a lot of players have too much respect for him. I mean, he’s a nice person outside of the court, and he’s a good player, so everybody has a lot of respect for him.
“But on the court nobody should have respect for him. You just go out there to win, no matter who is on the other side of the court.”
The third set, like the first, went to a tiebreak, which Muller began with yet another ace. It wasn’t enough.
When he ripped a backhand cross-court pass to take him to match point, the usually staid Federer shouted, “Come on,” accompanied by a fist pump, an outlandish, for him, show of emotion.
Federer closed out his victory on the very next point. When Muller netted a backhand, Federer had survived yet another strong attack and had a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
“I’m happy to keep sort of the semifinal streak alive,” Federer said. “That’s a huge streak, you know, for such a long time.
“I played well this tournament, so I’m really happy to keep it alive and give myself an opportunity again to be in the final four. I hope this time around I can take it a step further than I did in Paris or Wimbledon.”
There is no doubt that Andy Roddick and 2004 silver medalist Mardy Fish are feeling justified in skipping the Olympics. They are among four of the eight quarterfinalists who did not travel to Beijing. Neither Juan Martin del Potro nor Gilles Muller qualified at the entry deadline. Another, Andy Murray, was dismissed in the first round of the Olympics – so he had additional days to recover for “the world’s toughest tournament.”
The Big Three of Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, who continue to show they are a cut above the field, are the only players who went the distance in Beijing and are still standing in Flushing. Consider their collective Olympic experiences to be the handicap that will bring them back to the field. Each has looked vulnerable at times throughout the tournament, and has admitted to running on fumes at this point.
This trend is less telling on the women’s side. The best two-of-three set format for women is more welcoming for such a hectic, demanding, grueling schedule.
I have always advocated that the men play best-of-three at the majors (like they used to do at the US Open from 1975-78) until the quarterfinals. During the latter rounds, the full “championship distance” is appropriate. In the preliminary rounds, the longer matches are too taxing on the players. It has a wearing affect, and thus the level of play is compromised at the end of the event. The fans are rarely engaged throughout long five-setters. Oh, well. By the way, the player who is ahead after three sets (either 3-0, obviously, or 2-1 in sets), wins well over 90% of the time.
It has been great to see the net-rushing, serve and volley tactics at this US Open. Federer, Fish, and Muller have been racing forward frequently. The other five players have also demonstrated a willingness – and comfort level – in doing so. Why is this? For one, players are increasingly forced to block back the huge serves. These blocked or chipped returns are easy balls to volley with authority. On second serves, players are often receiving from well behind the baseline (sometimes much further back in dealing with kicking second serves than on the harder, flatter first serves), and compromising this territory makes it more inviting for players to serve and volley. Finally, the surface (as hard as it may be on joints) is easy to plant and change directions on. It has been enjoyable to observe these tactical changes, as contrasts make for better viewing.
If the US Tennis Association wishes to support doubles, and doubles at the professional level, then it ought to start the tournament on Sunday (and not Monday). The extra – or 15th – day would allow more of the world’s top players to consider playing the team event.
Supposing it was a 15-day event, the top singles seeds would be scheduled in approximately the following manner: Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Labor Day Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, Super Saturday, and Final Sunday. The increased off days might entice at least some of the top players to participate in doubles. Thank heavens for the Bryan brothers, because the other teams in the quarterfinals at this year’s US Open are virtually unrecognizable among even hard core tennis aficionados. The prize money for doubles is already stratospheric at the Open- greater than at any other event in the world. It would be better for the sport if the world’s truly best players were competing.
Furthermore, the first Sunday (day and evening) session(s) would showcase some of the world’s most famous players, and allow our sport to reach a weekend audience on the best day for televised sports. Wimbledon’s stubborn refusal to play on the middle Sunday is laughably archaic. This would be yet another opportunity for the US Open to lead the way forward.
If Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic or Andy Roddick or Roger Federer were assured of extra days of rest between singles matches, it is conceivable that they would opt to enter doubles, as they do occasionally during ATP Tour events. Andy Murray did this year. John McEnroe famously used his doubles efforts as, essentially, practice for his singles matches. Roger Federer has attributed his rediscovered comfort in attacking the net to his having won Olympic gold in doubles.
Obviously, an additional Sunday session(s) would mean increased revenues for the USTA. More importantly, it would assure that the US Open becomes a three-weekend, two-week event-and thus increased exposure for our sport. The success of the pre-tournament Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day underscores how effective this plan could be. There is no doubt that the US Open management team would create a bonanza of an experience. Fingers crossed.
By the way, the grounds at the USTA/Billie Jean King National Tennis Center have never looked better. I have heard the word “magic” to describe how the nation’s largest public tennis facility shines during the tournament. It is a wonderful place to be – even when not watching matches – for anyone who enjoys tennis, sports, people-watching, eating, going on dates or family outings, or simply getting some sun. Well done.
The crowds at the US Open are demanding, but they are also more sophisticated about tennis than virtually anywhere else. At the All England Club, punters are respectfully church-like quiet, even on the field courts for preliminary round mixed doubles matches. At the Open, people are boisterous, opinionated and talkative. When a match reaches a crucial juncture, a surprising hush come across the massive stadium, and this heightens the drama. At Roland Garros, the French are known to whistle and jeer even their own players. On changeovers, they frequently engage in the wave (hard to imagine, but the wave makes Paris feel like being in Pittsburgh’s old Three Rivers Stadium in the early 1980’s!). At the US Open, people are busy watching themselves on the big screens during changeovers and, like weekenders in the Hamptons, apparently happy to be there. It remains the greatest place in the world to watch tennis.
What is the Federer Effect? Players have gotten betterer. Igor Andreev was another example. If Roger Federer wants to regain his place atop the rankings, he needs to get faster, stronger, and even more versatile. He raised the bar for everybody, now he needs to keep up with the same pace of improvement. He also needs someone to remind him that he is Roger Federer. Paul Annacone did this so successfully with Pete Sampras near the twilight of Sampras’ career. When you are an all-time great champion, it is fair to have a certain swagger.
Lastly, by writing this paragraph I am hoping to reverse-jinx it so that it does not occur… My biggest concern is that one of the finalists will not be fit to finish the Championship match due to an injury brought on by the brutal summer schedule. There. By writing about it, it cannot happen. Enjoy the high drama!
NEW YORK – Still living his dream, qualifier Gilles Muller on Tuesday turned Nikolay Davydenko’s US Open into a nightmare.
In yet another shocker, Muller continued his remarkable run by upsetting the fifth-seeded Russian 6-4 4-6 6-3 7-6 (10) and becoming only the second qualifier to reach the quarterfinals of America’s premier tennis tournament. Nicolas Escude did it in 1999.
With the victory, the left-hander from Luxembourg moves into the semifinals where he will take on defending champion Roger Federer, who struggled before outlasting hard-hitting Igor Andreev 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 6-3 3-6 6-3.
Third-seeded Novak Djokovic also was pushed to the limit before surviving Tommy Robredo 4-6 6-2 6-3 5-7 6-3. His quarterfinal opponent will be eighth-seeded Andy Roddick, who had an easy time beating Fernando Gonzalez 6-2, 6-4 6-1.
“It’s true I have nothing to lose, but on the other hand I have a lot to win,” said Muller, who came into the US Open ranked 130th in the world. “There’s still some pressure, but it’s easier to deal with the pressure to win something than to lose something.”
Playing serve and volley, the first player, man or woman, from Luxembourg to reach this deep into a Grand Slam tournament, controlled the tempo as he outplayed Davydenko. He won the opening set when Davydenko, struggling to find his rhythm, sprayed the ball around the court, committing several unforced errors.
Whenever the Russian appeared to be close to taking control, Muller found an answer. He hammered 20 aces, changed pace constantly and kept the pressure on with his many trips to the net for crisp volleys.
“I don’t know if I can say now if Nikolay played bad or good today, but what I can say is I think I played one of my smartest matches today,” Muller said. “I just kept changing the pace. I played a lot of slices, which he doesn’t like, and then I went with the high ball.
“I changed my serve all the time. I changed spin, then slice.”
In the fourth-set tiebreak, the two battled to 10-10 before Davydenko double-faulted, taking Muller to match point. With Muller at the net, the Russian rifled a passing shot down the line, but it caught the top of the net, bounced high and fell on Davydenko’s side of the court.
Muller threw up his arms in triumph as Davydenko tossed his racquet to the court in disgust.
“I can beat everyone, and I can lose to everyone,” Davydenko said. “Today, he was playing good, and normally I have a chance to win, but I didn’t. What can I say?”
Both Federer and Djokovic, ranked second and third in the world, respectively, struggled mightily to survive and gain quarterfinal berths.
Federer appeared to be the player who has yet to win a major tournament this year, not the one who dominated the sport for most of the past four years. He repeatedly missed his backhand and drove his forehand into the net over and over.
A lot of that was because of how well Andreev played.
“It definitely was a great match,” said Andreev. “I really enjoyed playing. When you play five sets against Roger, good tennis. For me, it was a great experience.”
The two traded tiebreak sets. And when Federer won the third set, it appeared he was back to being the player who has won the last four US Opens.
The crowd, solidly behind Federer, failed to take into account the fire in Andreev’s makeup and the firepower in his racquet. Pounding his ground strokes deep into the recesses of the court, Andreev refused to fold.
“He’s a risky player from the baseline,” Federer said of his foe. “He takes incredible chances, especially with his forehand. … I think he played a good match from beginning to end.”
But with the match on the line, Federer picked up his game and sealed a spot in the quarters.
“I didn’t think I was playing that bad in the first set,” said Federer. “He just got off to a great start and I was always running behind. Actually I felt I was hitting the ball OK, serving well, and just needed a little bit of luck here or there, and maybe an error him.”
Djokovic was hampered throughout his match with physical problems, including injuries to his left hip and ankle, as well as Robredo, a hard-hitting Spaniard. And at times the Serb right-hander seemed to be out of shape and trying to catch his breath.
“Physically he was fitter than me,” Djokovic admitted. “And winning that fourth set, he gained confidence. So he was really going for his shots.
“But somehow I managed to really stay focused and play the right shots at the right time.”
(U.S. Open first week)
Julie Coin beat top-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-3 4-6 6-3
Katarina Srebotnik beat third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 7-6 (1) 6-3
Kei Nishikori beat fourth-seeded David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 3-6 2-6 7-5
Gael Monfils beat seventh-seeded David Nalbandian 6-3 6-4 6-2
Tatiana Perebiynis beat eighth-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-3 6-3
Mardy Fish beat ninth-seeded James Blake 6-3 6-3 7-6 (4)
Ekaterina Makarova beat tenth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze 1-6 6-2 6-3
“I have the same goal. When I was number two, the goal was the same, was win the US Open. The goal wasn’t win the US Open to be number one. The goal is win US Open, no?” – Rafael Nadal, playing his first tournament as the world’s number one player.
“I don’t realize yet that I beat number one in the world. I don’t realize that I played at the big court. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight.” – Julie Coin, after upsetting top-seeded Ana Ivanovic.
“I don’t really play any different on clay than I do on a hard court. It’s not like I’m changing anything when I go out there. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, I lose.” – Sam Querrey, asked if he changes his game plan for different surfaces.
“This is my, I think, fifth US Open, and this time I’m the happiest to be here, so I enjoy every moment of it. And first couple days when I had some afternoons off I went shopping and to Central Park. I really tried to get best out of it.” – Ana Ivanovic, on playing in the US Open as the top seed and before she was upset.
“I’m not going to hide and try to go around and say tennis is fun, it’s so easy, because people will understand it’s not true. … It’s difficult to practice every day.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, admitting it’s difficult to stay inspired to play and practice year-round.
“I guess they call it the yips on your serve. I don’t know where it came from. Probably came from all my years making fun of people that had it. That was my karma coming back.” – Lindsay Davenport, joking about starting a game with seven straight faults in her loss to Marion Bartoli.
“I think that definitely the Wimbledon win helped me a lot to change my mentality, to realize not everything had to be perfect all the time. … Now if I don’t have a perfect practice, I know I can play. I think that helps me to relax.” – Venus Williams.
“I don’t think I’d have as many because she motivated me, especially being young and watching her play. The mistakes she made, I made them with her. So when I actually played, I didn’t make the mistakes that she made. I was able to grow with her on the sidelines, so to say. … If anything, I think she definitely helped my career.” – Serena Williams, about big sister Venus Williams.
“There is nothing bigger. There is nothing more important than Olympic Games for an athlete, for a sports person.” – Elena Dementieva, who won the women’s singles at the Beijing Olympics.
“I always believe that the match is on my racquet. I think every time I lose is because of me, not because of the other person.” – Serena Williams.
“I’m me. I love to show my emotion. I love to do a show because when I was 9, 11, to play in front of a lot of people is for me something amazing. So I like to do it for me. It’s fun. You know, I have to show them I’m enjoying on the court, (that) I enjoy my sport. And then they show me emotion, so it’s great.” – Gael Monfils, after upsetting David Nalbandian.
“Right now I’m very happy. That’s the only word I can say right now. And I couldn’t give up in the fifth set. … I was tired and my legs was almost cramping. But I tried to think, I am playing David, he’s number four in the world, and (I’m) playing five sets with him. I felt kind of happy and more positive. That’s why I think I could fight through everything.” – Kei Nishikori, after upsetting fourth-seeded David Ferrer.
“I’m enjoying the city, the crowd. When you play here it’s a different atmosphere, and you just have so much fun being on the court. Even playing first at 11 (a.m.), it’s not so many people, but you feel special being on central court.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, before losing in the third round.
There have been 40 winners in the men’s and women’s singles in the 40 years of the Open Era – 21 men and 19 women. The 1968 champions – the late Arthur Ashe, who was represented by his wife and daughter, and Virginia Wade, led a parade of past champions onto the court on opening night to help the USTA celebrate the anniversary. Chris Evert won six US Opens, the most of any woman in the Open Era, while Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors led the men with five titles each.
Serena Williams swapped places on the WTA Tour rankings with Svetlana Kuznetsova, moving up one spot to number three in the world behind the Serbian pair of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. Kuznetsova dropped to fourth, the best showing of the six Russians in the top ten: Maria Sharapova, Olympics gold medalist Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Anna Chakvetazde and Vera Zvonareva. Venus Williams is ranked eighth in the world.
James Blake presented a USD $10,000 check on behalf of Evian Natural Spring Water to USTA Serves and the Harlem Junior Tennis & Education program. USTA Serves is the USTA’s not-for-profit philanthropic entity dedicated to improving the quality of life among the nation’s youth, with a mission to support, monitor and promote programs that enhance the lives of disadvantaged children through the integration of tennis and education.
Spectators at the US Open for the night session have seats for only two matches, those beginning at 7 p.m. in Arthur Ashe Stadium. All other matches still being played elsewhere at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are considered day matches. That was true when Chuang Chia-Jung and Daniel Nestor played a mixed doubles match against Sloane Stephens and Robert Kendrick. Because Kendrick had played a singles match against Novak Djokovic earlier in the day, the mixed doubles “day match” was scheduled to start on an outside court “Not before 8 p.m.”
SELES TO HALL?
Monica Seles heads the list of candidates for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009. Seles won nine major singles titles and was ranked number one in the world. On the ballot in the Master Player category is Andres Gimeno, one of Spain’s most prominent players of the 1960s and the singles champion at Roland Garros, which he won in 1972. Others on the ballot in the Contributory category are Donald L. Dell, a lawyer, founder of ProServ and former Davis Cup captain; Dr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson, founder and director of the American Tennis Association (ATA); and Japan’s Eiichi Kawatei, for his leadership and dedication in the development and promotion of tennis in Asia.
Ivo Karlovic served 42 aces in his second-round victory over Florent Serra. The 6-foot-10 (2.08m) native of Zagreb, Croatia, has three of the top seven ace totals at the US Open since 1991. In his 11 career US Open matches, Karlovic has hit 330 aces, an average of 30 aces per match. In his 7-6 (5) 7-6 (5) 6-2 third-round loss to 6-foot-6 (1.98m) Sam Querrey, Karlovic had 24 aces, matching the fewest total he has had in any match at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. He wound up his US Open with a total of 94 aces in three matches. Surprisingly, Karlovic is not in the top ten in the serving speed at this year’s event, that honor going to Andy Roddick, who had a serve clocked at 147 mph (236 kph)
SIX FOR ONE
When the US Open began, six players had a chance to wind up number one in the world in the WTA Tour rankings at the end of the fortnight. The easiest scenario would have been if the two top seeds – Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic – wound up in the final; the winner of that match would take over the top spot, as would Serena Williams if she wins. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva also had a shot at number one when the tournament began, but with a dizzying array of options and outcomes needed. Kuznetsova was knocked out of the running for the top spot when Ivanovic won her opening round match.
Because of security reasons, the Bangalore Open, scheduled to start September 29, has been cancelled. The ATP said it has “accepted a petition from the Bangalore Open to suspend the 2008 event due to the local promoter’s security concerns.” The tournament has been held at Mumbai for the past two years. It was moved to Bangalore in May, but a series of bombs rocked the southern Indian city on July 25, killing one person. The ATP said the total prize money of USD $400,000 would go into the ATP player pension fund.
Gilles Muller of Luxembourg worked overtime to get into the round of 16 for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament. The last qualifier remaining in the draw at the U.S. Open, Muller defeated Laurent Recouderc 6-4 6-0 4-6 6-4 and Tommy Haas 2-6 2-6 7-6 6-3 6-3 in the first two rounds. The Haas victory was the first time he came back after trailing by two sets. He did it again when he beat 18th-seeded Nicolas Almagro in the third round on Sunday.
When Kei Nishikori upset fourth-seeded David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 3-6 2-6 7-5, he became the first Japanese man to reach the final 16 at the US Open in the Open Era. The only Japanese man to go further in a Grand Slam tournament was Shuzo Matsuoka, who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1995. At 18 years, 8 months, Nishikori became the youngest player to reach the last 16 at the US Open since Marat Safin in 1998.
When qualifier Julie Coin shocked Ana Ivanovic in a second-round match, it marked the earliest defeat by a number one-seeded woman at the US Open in the Open Era and the first time a number one seed has lost in the second round of the even since 1956, when top-seeded Billie Jean King lost to Australia’s Kerry Melville 6-4 6-4 in the US Championships. The previous record for the earliest loss in the Open Era came in 1973 when King retired in the third set of her third-round match against Julie Heldman. Only four number one seeds in the Open Era have lost prior to the semifinals: Justine Henin in the fourth round in 2004, Martina Navratilova in the quarterfinals in 1982, King in 1973 and Ivanovic this year. The last time a number one seed has lost in the second round of a Grand Slam tournament was in 2004 when Tathiana Garbin shocked Justine Henin at Roland Garros.
SONG FOR VENUS
Wyclef Jean has written and recorded a song inspired by tennis champion Venus Williams. The song, titled “Venus (I’m Ready),” is a musical fan letter to the 2008 Olympic doubles gold medalist and reigning Wimbledon singles and doubles champion. “Venus’ determination and mental strength inspires me,” said Wyclef Jean, a Grammy Award winner. “Much like Isis, her strength should be celebrated.”
SITE FOR SIGHT
The USTA is creating two USTA-branded channels on YouTube, one devoted to professional tennis and the other dedicated to recreational tennis. The US Open Channel includes daily updates from the US Open, including post-match player interviews. The website will also feature a daily Junior Report on the US Open juniors. The second channel (www.youtube.com/tennis) will be entirely devoted to recreational tennis and is scheduled to launch later this fall.
He may be ranked number two in the world, but Roger Federer is still the top money winner in tennis by far. In the past 12 months Federer has earned USD $35 million, almost twice as much as Rafael Nadal, who has replaced the Swiss star atop the rankings. According to Forbes, the global appeal of tennis is the reason Federer rakes in more endorsement money than American sports stars Derek Jeter, Payton Manning and Dale Earnhardt. Federer, who is fluent in English, French and German, has won 55 tournaments in 17 countries and is a global brand. Forbes says another reason is that tennis players command the prime demographics. Sandwiched between Federer and Nadal is Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete with earnings of USD $26 million. Tied for fourth is a trio of Americans at USD $15 million: Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.
Four sets of siblings sought the doubles titles at this year’s US Open, and that doesn’t include Venus and Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon and the Beijing Olympics this year but decided to skip the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, an event they last won in 1999. American twins Bob and Mike Bryan were the number two seeds in the men’s doubles, which also included first-round losers Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand. The women’s doubles included Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska of Poland and Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine.
SITES TO SURF
US Open: www.usopen.org
Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com
USOpen Channel: www.youtube.com/usopen
USTA YouTube: www.youtube.com/tennis
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
ATP and WTA TOUR
U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard (second week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$416,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romania, clay
$225,000 Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic, Bali, Indonesia, hard
$100,000 Vogue Athens Open 2008, Athens, Greece, clay
$100,000 ITF event, Kharkiv, Ukraine, hard
Russia vs. Spain at Madrid, Spain, final, clay
NEW YORK – If Roger Federer were to increase his Grand Slam tournament singles titles to 13, he will have to come up with the type of game he put on display on Sunday.
That was when the Swiss right-hander easily crushed Radek Stepanek 6-3 6-3 6-2 to advance to the fourth round of the US Open Tennis Championships.
“If I were to win a big tournament, you know, again, one of those Slams, whatever, right away I have the invincibility factor again, which is great for me,” Federer said. “That’s what I’m working for.
“I was that close in Wimbledon, so I hope to go a step further and win it this time.”
Federer has been stuck at 12 major titles since he collected his fourth consecutive US Open crown a year ago. Not only did he not win his third straight Australian Open championship, he failed in a five-set thriller to capture Wimbledon for the fifth straight year.
“I’m playing well and moving on in the draw,” he said. “At the end of the day what counts is winning the tournament. And anyway, you forget who you beat, how you won. You forget all the unforced errors you made, and all anybody’s going to talk about is the finals.”
There was one surprise in the men’s singles in the afternoon matches Sunday. Qualifier Gilles Muller of Luxembourg knocked off 18th-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-7 (3) 3-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 7-5 in a battle that last six minutes under four hours.
“I got only one break in the whole match,” said Muller, who is in the round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career. Muller is playing in his first major tournament since the 2007 Wimbledon, having failed to qualify for last year’s US Open and this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Other early finishers to reach the fourth round were Andy Roddick, a 6-2, 7-5 7-6 (4) winner over Italy’s Andreas Seppi; fifth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, who beat fellow Russian Dmitry Tursunov 6-2 7-6 (3) 6-3; and Igor Andreev of Russia, a 6-2 6-4 6-4 winner over 13th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain.
Second-seeded Jelena Jankovic, with the loss of top-ranked Ana Ivanovic the top seed left in the women’s field, grabbed a spot in the quarterfinals by beating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 3-6 6-2 6-1. Jankovic’s next opponent will be Sybille Bammer of Austria, who eliminated 12th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France 7-6 (3) 0-6 6-4.
It has been a horrendous year for Federer, although almost every other player except top-seeded Rafael Nadal would love to be able to have his record. Federer lost to Nadal in the final at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and fell in the semifinals of the Australian Open to eventual winner Novak Djokovic.
After four years as the world’s top-ranked player, Federer has ceded that distinction to Nadal and is seeded second here on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“I think I returned well, especially in the second serve,” Federer said. “I was good off the baseline. I think I moved well today and really hit some great shots when I needed them. I think all in all I’m really happy.”
Which should make the rest of the field more than a little sad.
In order to get to the final, however, Federer may have to face either Djokovic, last year’s finalist here, or 2003 champion Roddick. In fact, Roddick was the last winner of the US Open not named Roger Federer.
“I’m very proud and happy about my run at the majors, and it’s always nice to be a part of the final group, either the final four or the final two,” Federer said. “I feel like it could happen here again.”
Muller has had a few good wins in his career, but has been unable to string together several in a row.
“I guess everything is in the head. Everything is confidence,” Muller said. “I guess I lost a lot of it through the last two, three years, because I was playing pretty good in ’05 when I beat Nadal and then Andy here in the US Open.
“But then I had a tough time after that. … I started to play challengers again and I was losing matches there. I lost a lot of confidence. There were even moments where I thought, `Should I still keep playing?’
“It was a rough time, but I’m glad I didn’t stop.”