Five takeaways from the U.S. Open
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- There are some truths you can take for granted in tennis: The Australian Open is hot; clay courts play slower. And to that you can add another -- when Serena Williams is playing her best, there is no one out there who can beat her.
Williams, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, is the biggest draw on the women's side and spent most of the tournament quickly dispatching overmatched opponents.
Victoria Azarenka made it a match, and thank goodness because the ticket-buying public does not want to see a double bagel on Super Saturday, or on Tornado Sunday, or any other day of the week. Another year of seasoning for Azarenka, and Williams might not have been able to escape the third set.
"I honestly can't believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, 'Man, she's playing so great,'" Williams said. "I'm really shocked."
But at any rate, tennis fans can rest easy knowing that the woman currently playing the best won the U.S. Open. Williams won her fourth U.S. Open title, her 15th Grand Slam singles title and, at 30, she is more committed to the game than she was in what's considered to be a tennis player's prime.
Here are some other takeaways from the 2012 U.S. Open women's tournament:
Kim Clijsters was one of the most beloved women on the WTA Tour and, as a three-time winner of the U.S. Open, she had the crowds on her side. But the Belgian was not able to spin wins into another opportunity to challenge for the title. The No. 23 seed was ousted in the second round by Laura Robson, a young British player.
Even paired with doubles specialist Bob Bryan, Clijsters was out of all three of her events by the end of the first week.
"You know, I always tried to give my best, even from when I was 8 years old until this last match," Clijsters said. "I always tried to give my best in everything that I did, whether it was sitting here, on the practice court. You know, maybe for that. Maybe that's something that I would like to be remembered for."
Ana Ivanovic made a dramatic statement with her play in 2008. She was young and excellent before a thumb injury cost her a grip on the No. 1 ranking. Ivanovic has struggled ever since to get back, dropping as low as No. 65 on the WTA Tour.
Yet Ivanovic reached the quarterfinals this year at the U.S. Open and raised her ranking to No. 12 in the world. Had she not run into the Serena Steamroll, Ivanovic may have gone another round.
She is nearly always picked to play on a show court at the Open even when she isn't a top seed because of her popularity with fans. Now, they can root for her game as well.
Loudest player award
Azarenka may have been the top seed, but her loud grunting brought almost as much notice as her play. Described as a dying owl or a dying loon -- apparently a dying anything works -- Azarenka may have forced hundreds of television viewers to locate the mute button. But it would be a mistake to define her by her volume.
The good news is that the player from Belarus finally had a proper introduction to American audiences by reaching the final. She had LMFAO singer Redfoo, with his Day-Glo outfits, in her player box for later matches, and she did a little shimmy in celebration after her quarterfinal and semifinal wins. Clearly, she loved New York and the U.S. Open.
"I feel like I'm in a place that I belong, you know," Azarenka said. "It's something that you will never be able to describe really with words, because that feeling that you get, that energy, you know, that something special, all eyes on you waiting for you to serve or return or see what you're gonna do -- it's absolutely incredible. It's something that, I don't know, we wake up every day for, you know, to feel that incredible atmosphere."
You might as well get used to the noise, because it looks like Azarenka will be around to make it for a long time.
Rain, rain go away
Another tennis truth: Hurricanes, tornadoes and stormy weather can blow in a northeast path toward the East Coast. It's the reason that the U.S. Open has its fifth men's Monday final in a row.
The USTA has announced a $500 million renovation -- but there is no roof in the works, not even on one of the smaller courts. Money, broadcasting, logistics all come into play, but ignoring the problem or crossing fingers isn't a game plan.
The main court in Arthur Ashe Stadium couldn't support a roof, but Louis Armstrong could. The argument against building a roof on Armstrong is that you couldn't squeeze roughly 23,000 fans into a venue built for 15,000, but the USTA is going to have to figure out how to do the math or risk sponsorship and broadcasting revenue on a semiannual basis.
That said, the USTA gets a pass on tornadoes not named Serena Williams.