Sports & Leisure

Who Smashed It Best?

Last week's Australian Open antics may offer a preview to the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas.

I can’t even begin to talk about last night. So I’ll start with the good news. Americans Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison have made in to the semis in men’s doubles (tonight) at the Australian Open, besting Jack Sock, another fellow American, who is already one of the greatest doubles players of all time.

Harrison will be in town in less than two weeks’ time for the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas at the T Bar M Racquet Club, February 4–10. This is the annual local ATP tournament where you can see guys like Sock, Kei Nishikori, and the bicep-thumping Frances Tiafoe up close by the ice tea dispenser in the club hallway (Hey, Taylor Fritz!) for as little as $20. (Disclaimer: I am an at-large board member for the Dallas Tennis Association, which hosts a silent auction for the Dallas Tennis and Education Academy at the event.)

Harrison is worth watching. He’s one of the top 10 American male players (Highland Park resident John Isner is #1), and he’s still chasing his big break. That is, when he’s not making big breaks. The guy is known for smashing rackets. He once took out five in a matter of minutes at Indian Wells, even stomping one for good measure.

Serena Williams’ racket smash at the U.S. Open final was the one heard round the world when it resulted in a point penalty, followed by a game penalty, followed by the loss of the match to Naomi Osaka, but in the crushed frame scheme of things, it was relatively tame (a single blow broke it in four places).

Harrison was back to smashing rackets last week, during a straight-set loss to Daniil Medvedev. But he wasn’t the only player brought to violence in the summer heat of the Australian Open. Let’s compare.

Naomi Osaka v. Su-Wei Hsieh, Round of 32
Smash cut: Osaka bounced two rackets with no damage, almost threw one (she caught herself), and had an unintended throw resulting from a fall.
Style points: 4/10
End game: No damage here, but she gets credit for graciously accepting the racket back from the ball boy. And for winning the match.

Borna Coric v. Lucas Pouille, Round of 16
Smash cut: After Coric guessed wrong and Pouille passed him easily at the net, Coric gave the racket one good throw, breaking it in half on the first attempt with an impressive follow-through.
Style points: 6/10
End game: Coric lost in a heartbreakingly close match to a guy who had never before won a match at the Australian Open: 7-6, 4-6, 5-7, 6-7.

Dominic Thiem v. Alexi Popyrin, Round of 64
Smash cut: After being broken on his serve at 5-6, costing him the set, Thiem smashed his racket on the ground, chased it down, then repeatedly hit it again, resulting in an unusual Pac-Man-shaped break.
Style points: 8.5/10
End game: The 19-year-old Popyrin was leading 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 when Thiem retired due to “heat exhaustion.”

Ryan Harrison v. Daniil Medvedev, Round of 64
Smash Cut: After a missed overhead return of serve (a classic day-lady move that is difficult to counter and underused in men’s professional tennis), Harrison smashed his racket convincingly on the ground three times, shattering it and effectively proving that, perhaps counterintuitively, the strings down method is much more effective than the side racket smash (see Thiem, above).
Style points: 8.74
End game: Despite a disappointing loss in straight sets, he has advanced to the semifinals in doubles with partner and fellow American Sam Querrey.

Alexander Zverev v. Milos Raonic, Round of 16
Smash cut: After being broken like 15 times in the first two sets (I can’t do the math, but it was a lot), Zverev retreated to his shady bench on the crossover and gave his racket 8 good whacks.
Style points: 9.87
End game: Zverev (that’s Alexander, not Sasha to you) clearly wore it best (why does Roanic always look like a parody of your grandfather at the 75-and-over drills at Brookhaven?) and smashed it best. But he found his footing too late and lost in three sets.

I smashed 9 rackets last night. In my head.

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