Nate Chura is senior tennis pro at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn and covers the U.S. Open for WNYC.
U.S. Open ticket holders didn't get washed out this weekend by Hurricane Earl. But tennis fans and players did come up against some seriously blustery weather in Flushing Meadows on the penultimate weekend of the tournament. Swirling winds on Saturday exceeded 25 miles per hour at times. While the elements were kinder to some players than others, it seemed the weekend's wind gusts were all that anyone could talk about.
“Today was not easy," said Robin Söderling, the Swedish No. 5 seed and winner of this year’s French Open, who demolished Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands on Saturday. "It was difficult conditions. I told myself before the match, 'It's not gonna be pretty.' I think, during the circumstances, I played a pretty good match.”
Söderling pummeled de Bakker in straight sets. The score was 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
“I think it wasn't a pretty match, but tough conditions,” said de Bakker. “It was a lot of wind on court. I think we were both struggling a little bit actually. He was also struggling with his serve. I didn't serve well at all. So it was tough. Yeah, he did better than me with the conditions.”
If Söderling wins his next match, against Albert Montanes, he could face Roger Federer, who is ranked No. 2 in the world. The most memorable Söderling-Federer meeting occurred in last year’s French Open final. There, Federer prevailed, capturing his 14th Grand Slam and the elusive “career slam,” which means winning Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Oopen and the U.S. Open.
Federer, too, had something to say about the strong winds in Flushing Meadows. “Tough conditions to play in, especially if you're down in the score," he said. "I think you could tell [Paul-Henri] Mathieu was really struggling after being down in the score. His serve, his returns, everything kind of falls into pieces.”
Federer beat Paul-Henri Mathieu in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
“That's what the wind can do to you,” said Federer. “It's really hard to stay positive when you're down and the wind is the way it is, like today. I kind of felt comfortable, you know, because you can also use it to your advantage and play really great tennis. You have to be careful with it. Maybe not aim at the lines as much. After four games or so, I knew what I could do and what I couldn't do.”
Federer will play his Austrian friend, Jurgen Melzer, next, in the round of 16. Melzer routed Juan Carlos Ferrero, who used to be ranked No. 1 in the world, in straight sets shortly after Federer beat Mathieu.
Jelena Jankovic was one of the players who got flustered by the bluster. The No. 4 seed fell to Estonian Kaia Kanepi, 6-2, 7-6. Before this year's tournament, Kanepi had never gotten past the third round in New York.
“I think on Arthur Ashe stadium, the wind is really strong, and you really feel the wind a lot," Jankovic said. "You know, sometimes you need a little bit of luck in there and really try your best to make as many balls as you can in the court. Unfortunately, I couldn't do that today.”
Kanepi will have her work cut out for her in the next round. She plays Belgian Yanina Wickmayer—a U.S. Open semi-finalist last year—in the round of 16.
Here are some other notable weekend results:
Rafael Nadal def. Gilles Simon
Feliciano Lopez def. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Gael Monfils def. Janko Tipsarevic (Tipsarevic knocked Andy Roddick out earlier in the tournament.)
Mikhail Youzhny def. John Isner (Isner played the longest match in the history of Wimbledon in June.)
American Sam Querrey def. Nicolas Almagro
Fernandao Verdasco def. David Nalbandian
Venus Williams def. Shahar Peer
Caroline Wozniacki def. Yung-Jan Chan
Francesca Schiavone def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova