Okay, I should’ve just gone straight to Queens, forget dropping my bag at the hotel. On the subway ride out, I checked Twitter and saw that Rafa had been out on the practice courts. By the time I got there, he was over in a corner, chatting. He might have been interviewed, but I couldn’t see past the crush of people down that end. Instead, I got a chance to watch the end of practice for Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. [Yes, there were others on court, including Michael Youzhny, but all eyes were on the Armada.] One of the Todds (Martin? Woodbridge?) was practicing on Court 5 as I strolled by. On Tuesday, I left with enough time to get there when the gates opened…but still ended up arriving just before game time due to a train breakdown. Took a quick walk past but didn’t recognize anyone practicing. All in all, I would recommend checking out the practice courts to anyone interested in the US Open…or any tennis tournament, really. You never know what you’ll see. Last year, I watched a lot of Stosur/Stubbs practicing with Conchita Martinez, some Tsonga, and a bunch of Nestor/Zjimonicz.
For the Monday day session, had a grounds pass, meaning no Ashe for me, which was a bit of a shame because I would really have liked to see the Djokovic/Fish match or the Sharapova/Wozniacki match. Ah well. Instead, I caught the end of a first round boys’ match, then the doubles match between Granollers-Robredo and Wasser-Mayer. Followed by part of the Black-Rodionova vs. Goerges-Groenefeld match on the Grandstand, and then Montanez/Soderling on Armstrong. Montanez took the fist set, but Soderling settled down and cruised for the next three sets. (Why does LJ not like the tilde for the n?)
For the evening, over to Ashe. Andrea Petkovic has been getting a lot of press among tennis journalists, and maybe she deserves it, I can’t tell. But as Brad Gilbert would say, Vera Zvonareva took her to the woodshed. I thought she was going to lose 61 60, but Vera’s nerves got to her and she broke before tuning back in to the game. Then Federer-Melzer. :sigh: I’m not sure why I bothered, really, other than to say, yes, I’ve seen Federer play a night match on Ashe. It wasn’t quite a beatdown, but it was not enthralling tennis. Gwen Stefani looked bored out of her mind while Gavin Rossdale watched R-Fed. Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson-Wentz seemed to enjoy themselves, as did Clyde Drexler and Boris Becker.
Day 2: Tuesday’s dilemma would be whether to check out the action on Ashe (doubles, the last American man standing, Venus) during the day match or whether I should stake out a spot on the Grandstand or Armstrong. I had a ticket to the Ashe day session, but wasn’t enthralled by the early line up. Frankly, neither Sam Querrey nor Stan Wawrinka thrill me with their games, and Querrey’s whinging about Americans not getting priority on Ashe irritated. Hello, ranking and ratings earn you Ashe, it’s not automatic unless/until you have a track record in the majors, which you don’t, Querrey.] Laura Robson, Great Britain’s great white hope for women’s tennis, was up first on the Grandstand, followed by Andrea Collarini, the US boy who seemed to get a lot of press at Wimbledon in part for his game and in part because of whatever kerfluffle arose when he was persuaded to return to America (he’s a citizen) from Argentina, where he’s been living and his family originated. On Armstrong: Robredo vs. Youzhny, followed by women’s doubles, men’s doubles, then an all Spanish affair, Verdasco vs. Ferrer. And I was utterly thrilled with the evening line up of Stosur vs. Clijsters and Nadal vs. Lopez.
Ended up watching all of the Robredo/Youzhny match and having an interesting chat with a fellow fan about the general style of Spanish players. While I hoped for a good match, I expected Youzhny to win based on paper alone; looking at the two at the net, Youzhny seemed to have an advantage: bigger, stronger, more powerful. Robredo would get into long rallies and then eventually net a forehand. He seemed kind of balletic. Youzhny did win in the end, but at least Robredo pushed him to four sets. My neighbor and I also chatted about Gael Monfils: such a frustrating player with so much raw talent but seeming to have little discipline, control or conditioning. After that, checked into Collarini’s match (Robson dispatched her opponent in brisk, straight sets) before getting a chocolate ice cream cone and staking out a seat back in Armstrong for the women’s doubles match: Dulko-Pennetta vs. King-Shvedova. As the guys behind me (and @sunita_d) pointed out, three of the four women were wearing the exact same outfit, the white Lacoste kit. Only Pennetta had any color, wearing the pink/magenta Adidas kit. Dulko & Pennetta were upset in a really good match. Followed by the Bryan brothers, who turned out to be as frat-boy-like in person as they appear on TV. Not impressed by their demeanor toward their opponents or the chair umpire.
Then the day match that I had been waiting for: Verdasco vs. Ferrer. My crush on Verdasco has been documented elsewhere, so let’s talk about David Ferrer. Ranking-wise, he’s not that far behind Verdasco and he’s ahead of Robredo and Lopez, and yet he’s often the forgotten man in the Spanish squad of players. As I watched the players warm up, it occurred to me that while Verdasco seems to have more raw talent and power (which he often squanders by being a headcase), Ferrer has fewer natural gifts but has maximized those gifts. He’s all about control and repetition, and his effort made him a top five player and now a perennial top 15 player it seems. Watching the two play, their match up was extremely even and impressed upon me the immense physical gifts that all professional tennis players have. Circling back to the Robredo match again, I was also struck by how large the gap is, in terms of talent, skill, what-have-you, been a player ranked #15 and a player ranked #41. They are all the top 0.1% of tennis players, but the gap between #41 and #15 is immense, as is the gap between #20 and #1.
Anyway, the Verdasco-Ferrer match was worth the price of admission all by itself. Truly, I didn’t care who won, primarily because whoever won would likely have to play Nadal in the quarterfinals, an unenviable task. So I enjoyed the match and figured it would end in time for me to catch all of the Stosur-Clijsters match over on Ashe, since the day session had run long. But no. Four hours of tennis; four hours of baseline rallies; four hours of beautiful winners followed by unforced errors. In the third set, most of the crowd thought Ferrer had the match wrapped up, so they left for Ashe. I couldn’t leave; I was invested in this match. The Biochemist was watching ESPN at home, texting me the Stosur scores, complaining that they wouldn’t switch to Armstrong during change overs, and I texted scores back. When set #5 rolled around, it seemed like Verdasco had run out of come-from-behind energy, but suddenly there was a tie break. Then he was down in the tie break, but suddenly it was match point and he won! The roar of the crowd, which was not large at all by that point since people were edging over to Ashe in preparation for the Nadal-Lopez match, was as loud as any football crowd I’ve ever heard. Louder than the cheer when the home team hits a walk off homerun to beat the Yankees in September. It was ELECTRIC.
The Nadal-Lopez match? It was good. It would have made for good tennis-watching on any other day, what with the New and Improved Rafa Serve and Lopez’s shanks and net play. [And, hey, USTA, turn the lights out! I bet Rafa’s shoes will glow in the dark and light up the stadium enough to play by!] But anything after the Verdasco-Ferrer match was going to be anti-climatic.
Other random things: 1) overheard a conversation in which I learned that the Bryan brothers cannot be identical twins because one is right-handed and the other is left-handed (uh, really, is that how identicalness is measured, queries the twin?); 2) from the same conversation, the Bryan brothers have never spent more than 24 hours apart, which just is hard for me to believe, but also is a little creepy and unhealthy if true; 3) from the Nike rep I learned that the neon lime shirts are flying off the shelves and that those heinous waffle/brown shorts that were part of Nadal’s AO kit? SOLD OUT in Miami – Nike marketed them as board shorts; 4) Grey Goose + Chambord = WIN; 5) if Brad Gilbert’s nickname for Granollers (The Granola Bar) sticks in my head, I’m going to be cranky; 6) ESPN’s spider cam kind of freaks me out; 7) next year, I’m going earlier; 8) no iPads or Kindles permitted on the grounds for some reason, which seemed odd; and 9) either ante up and pay for Loge seating or forget about Ashe, because the crowd control and seating in the upper deck is horrendous and brings out my misanthropic tendencies.
Took pics with Ignacio the iPhone plus some video, which I may get organized and post.
ETA: the US Open iPhone app? Useless on the grounds, which is ridiculous. No problem texting or calling but little to no internet/wifi access, despite the touted upgrades to wifi access on site.