I am still fired up from this year’s U.S. Open … the most physical Grand Slam tournaments I've ever been a part of since I began playing them in 1983. Before the tournament began, there was an earthquake centered in Washington, D.C. and felt on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with no physical damage to the site of the Open. A Hurricane named Irene put a direct hit on the U.S. Open grounds just a day before the tournament began. The matches were delayed by just an hour on the field courts and two hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Two solid days of rain in the second week pushed the women's final to Sunday and the men's final to a third Monday. In addition, you must also take into account the emotional toll of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 on the New York area, as so many of the professional tennis family have connections to that tragedy. The event I was supposed to participate in at the 2011 U.S. Open, the “Dead Division” or the “Over Your Playing Weight by 35 Pounds Division,” aka the “Former Champions Division,” was cancelled due to the bad weather.
The entire tournament presented some amazing challenges and still produced one of the best U.S. Opens in history. The men's final was a match that reflected the rough and tough U.S. Open of 2011. Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in four sets, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1, but by the fourth set, both players had gone past empty and were playing on fumes. Djokovic tweaked his lower back late in the third set and Nadal poured every ounce of energy, power and will into winning the third set. It was the most physical men’s Grand Slam final I have ever seen. I have seen the five-set thrillers in other slams, but this final was played at a level none of those were played at. I have never seen anyone wear Nadal out, but Djokovic did. The pace of the rallies was at a level in the third set, I have never seen in the game. Nadal dug so deep into himself to redline to the max in order to win the third set and stay alive in the final. Nadal was so spent after the third set, that even an injured Djokovic was too much for Nadal. Djokovic is 6-0 against Nadal this season alone, and Nadal must evolve as a player once again to compete for top spot in the world. Like Rafa did as a clay court player to win Wimbledon and last year’s U.S. Open, Nadal must adapt his game to beat Djokovic.
That is the beauty of our game. It will always challenge you to come up with more to succeed. If you don't … the game will pass you by. The game gets better … are you getting better? Go for the lines!
Raised in Ludington, Mich., Luke Jensen’s resume includes 10 ATP Tour doubles titles. He was also a member of the U.S. Davis Cup teams that reached the finals in 1991 and won in 1992. His ambidextrous play, including his ability to serve the ball with either hand at 130 mph, earned him the nickname “Dual Hand Luke.” Luke is currently director of racket sports at West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. He may be reached by phone at (315) 403-0752 or e-mail LukeJensen84@yahoo.com.