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LaRosa's 2011 US Open Blog

9/12/2011 9:00:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Archive |

 

9-12 - 9pm ET

The wildest Grand Slam in recent memory, complete with earthquakes, hurricanes and the ground opening up, is behind us. For those still alive to enjoy them, it’s the 2011 US OPEN DUNLOP AWARDS!

Most Breathtaking Performance: NOVAK DJOKOVIC, who took out Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal back-to-back to win his first US Open title and 10th title of a most ridiculous season. And he did it not with luck (sorry Roger), but with power, precision and tenacity. Neither Roger not Rafa went gently into that good night. See:

Best Match (ATP): NOVAK DJOKOVIC/ROGER FEDERER: Crazy tension! A comeback from two sets down! Two match points saved, one with a return Djokovic called perhaps the best shot of his career! My nerves are still so fried I’m screaming! Runner Up by a hair: NOVAK DJOKOVIC/RAFAEL NADAL, which was less a tennis match than a war. The fight these two put up was unreal, almost as unreal as the rallies the treated us to over the 1000 hours they were on court. Studs, the both of them. Runner Up #2: JUAN CARLOS FERRERO/GAEL MONFILS. So inspiring to see the former champ not only come up with the goods but outlast one of the most physical whippersnappers on tour. Allez and vamos.

Breakthrough Performance (Female): SAM STOSUR, who spent more time on court than the Slambonies and showed nerves of steel in the face of Serena Williams’ fury to win her first major. More telling, the grace she showed after she won. Truly a class act. Runner Up: ANGELIQUE KERBER. The No 92 came out of nowhere to steamroll her way to the semis, losing to the eventual champion. Congrats Angelique, whatever you look like.

Best Match (WTA): How can a straight sets win with a first set beatdown be the best match? When the second set was just that good. SERENA WILLIAMS/VICTORIA AZARENKA showcased not just jaw-dropping big girl tennis, but also a champion’s mentality from Azarenka, who showed the world what she has between the ears now. What first looked like a bad draw revealed itself to be downright cruel. This could’ve been Vika’s title.

Worst Match (WTA): CAROLINE WOZNIACKI/SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA. Sveta had Caroline dead to rights showcasing the brilliance that won her two majors. And then she fell apart. Credit to Wozniacki for taking seizing the opportunity and squeezing her like a boa constrictor until she mercifully stopped wriggling, but Sveta’s brain freeze was one great big painful set-and-a-half-long unforced error. And it hurt my head.

Worst Match (ATP): ANDY MURRAY/ROBIN HAASE.  Murray was getting pasted the first two sets. He was on his way out. Then, inexplicably (they need to invent a new word for inexplicably), Haase vanished. Went away. Gone. At one point he returned a serve into the stands. Why? Just cuz.  When all was appeared lost, Haase woke up. Too little, too late. Andy’s response at match point was laughter. He was the only one.

Biggest Upset: LI NA and PETRA KVITOVA. In this case, the French Open and Wimbledon champs upset themselves. Misery.

Best Shot: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EGz8AeqAPY)

Worst shot: The one of the men’s doubles final where Philipp Petzschner set up break point by hitting a winner off his leg – and didn’t cop to it. Enjoy your trophy. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=532c2FoGqj8)

Scariest Moment: RAFAEL NADAL, who had a press room and the tennis world freaking out over what the &^%$ was wrong with him when he collapsed to the floor. Cramps was never such welcome news.

Breakthrough Performance (Male): DONALD YOUNG. Taking Stan Wawrinka out in a fifth set tiebreak was great, but following it up by bouncing Juan Ignacio Chela in straight sets was the true statement. Runner Up: JACK SOCK, who showcased all kinds of awesomeness against Andy Roddick and showed serious cojones serving out our next award:

Oudin took home some hardware.

Sweetest Moment: MELANIE OUDIN and JACK SOCK win the mixed doubles. Mel’s greatest success came at Flushing, and since then it’s been one great big giant downfall. To see her hold up a major trophy, and here of all places, had to feel good. Add the insane promise of Mr. Sock and it was sweet indeed.

This next award is for fight, and few know fight more than the special guest I’ve asked to hand it out: nine-time Grand Slam champion (and the woman whose upcoming young adult book series “The Academy” she’s graciously allowed me to write with her), the one and only Monica Seles.

Fiercest Fight: Monica awards this to SAM STOSUR and MARIA KIRILENKO for their incredible and historic 32-point fourth round tiebreak. Says Monica, “There were so many ups and downs in that tiebreak. It had unbelievable line calls, and both players went for their shots when crunch time came. I was so impressed.” (Relive the drama here, with fantastic commentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajr8ShjoT6Y)

Let it also be known Monica completely agrees with my best men’s match pick. We’re twins!

Breakdown Performance: U.S. OPEN. Who’s to blame exactly? I don’t know that any one person can be singled out, but when so much goes wrong somebody made a suspect decision somewhere, from scheduling to court assignments to umpire conditions to players put on slippery cracked courts bubbling from underneath to THE HEAD SPINS.

Most Awesome US Open Staff Member: Her. (http://www.daylife.com/photo/0esw5jn4GFb97?q=ball+girl)

Best Handshake: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_hG-eUCqQI)

Serena Williams Cockroach Award: US. Despite being beaten down by everything under the sun, we all made it through the last two weeks. At least those of us who didn’t play the drinking game.  Runner Up: FLAVIA PENNETTA, who dry heaved her way past a slew of what might as well have been match points to triumph over Peng Shuai. This is the chick you want on your side in a knife fight.

Biggest Bummer: SAM STOSUR and ANGELIQUE KERBER forced to play their semifinal off Ashe. Sam’s tasted the big stage in the past, it’s Kerber I feel worse for. That’s no way to reward someone for the run of their life. It’s both their day just as much as everyone else’s, even if their names aren’t Federer or Williams.

Most Missed: KIM CLIJSTERS. The two-time defending champ’s absence left a gaping hole in the draw, and in the general quality of tennis on the women’s side. Oh no I didn’t. Oh yes I did.

The Stella McCartney Worst Dressed Award: NADIA PETROVA in curtains from a 1970’s nursing home. There’s only so many times you can blame Ellesse before you have to own the fact that you willingly put this stuff on.

Best Dressed (Male): This might be a case of the man making the clothes rather than the other way around, but JO-WILFRIED TSONGA looked bold in the Adidas red and infrared with the matching sneaks. Frenchie was poppin’ in high-def.

Best Dressed (Female): Shocked to say this as I don’t think she’s been anywhere near this award her whole career, but SAM STOSUR. The purple and the shades combined to make her look like a super hero, which is how I like my tennis players to look.

Biggest Bombshell: VENUS WILLIAMS, who shocked all by withdrawing from the tournament with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that’s no doubt impacted her past on the court and will no doubt impact her future. Get well soon.

Most Memorable Quote: "You're out of control. ... You're a hater, and you're just unattractive inside." – Serena Williams

The Pam Shriver ‘Best Use of a Microphone’ Award: DICK ENBERG. Our Grand Slams will have a little less “Oh My” from here on. Thank you for being the soundtrack to a whole lot of our best tennis memories.

Okay kids, that’s a wrap. Like Zelda Rubinstein, I declare “This house is clean.” At least until next year when the frogs and locusts arrive. Thanks for sharing this cracked out mess of a major with me.  Don’t forget to check back here for The Sweet Spot.

See you next time!

James

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa

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9-9 - 8pm ET

It was a joke. That’s all, just a funny joke. And now I’m amurderer. Today, we check back in with the 2011 US Open Drinking Game. Let uspray.

Remember (and you can’t), we were supposed to swig if…

ANDY RODDICK goesape**** on an umpire or other official.

Oh boy. This is where I’d post a link to Andy chewing out USOpen officials about the state of his court yesterday but (shock!) the U.S.Open has had them all removed from the internet. They can’t plug a leak on thecourt but they plugged one on youtube in a hot second. SWIG.

The BIG STORY is Serena Williams’ return to the US Open for the first timesince her foot fault fiasco. Take two swigs if someone suggests a reunion(perhaps even an on-court hug!) with “the lineswoman.” Chug if it eclipses thefact that Serena nearly died in the meantime.


SWIG. SWIG SWIG. (re: the hug, apparently that alreadyhappened off camera. WHO DOES ANYTHING OFF CAMERA SERENA?) And yes, Serena didin fact have to remind people she almost died. SWIG.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI isasked about Rory McIlroy. Swig again if there’s giggling like a school girl.Chug if that giggling is by the commentator doing the asking.

SWIG. The only commentator giggling was Chris Evert, butthat doesn’t count since she was dissecting Caroline’s game. No, Chrissie isnot having it.

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTROreturns to a hero’s welcome. Down a shot of Patron if he’s asked about hiswrist and all the emotions he felt not being able to defend his title last year,all while the person asking cuts figurative (or perhaps even literal) onionsunder his eyes.

SWIG. SWIG SWIG.

In his final US Open broadcast, Dick ENBERG drops an “Oh MY!”

SWIG SWIG SWIG.

Roger FEDERER pulls off his annual US Open ‘tweener. Chug if another playeralso pulls off a ‘tweener but you never hear about it.

Does it have to go in? Fed hit a tweener in his match v.Juan Monaco, but it sucked face with the back wall. No Swig. Oh but hey, didyou see this shot Sergiy Stakhovsky hit plastered all over ESPN? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uapYdZiSiMw)No..? Hm. SWIG.

GAEL MONFILS thrillsthe crown and himself with one unbelievable play after the next. Chug if heloses the match.

I’m going to spare you the effort and just stick you with anIV.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dCYf79yYDg)SWIIIIG.

Ryan HARRISON breaksa racquet after losing a point. Tap a keg if, after winning a point, heimmediately swivels and points for the towel like Michael Jackson. Who’s bad?

SWIG! SWIG! Bonus swig for generally stomping around andleaving his sneaker imprint on a pesky tennis ball. SWIG!

“I SWEAR TO GOD, I’M GOING TO ******* TAKE THIS BALL AND SHOVE IT DOWN YOUR *******THROAT!” Lather, rinse, repeat.

I don’t feel too good…

JUDY MURRAY says ordoes something that makes Andy want to crawl out of his translucent white skin.


Andy facing her beloved Deliciano Lopez in the 3rd round +her Twitter account (https://twitter.com/#!/judmoo)where she makes a comment about looking for a hot dog that I still haven’tfully decoded = SWIG.

Petra KVITOVA looksnonplussed.

52 unforced errors will do that to you. SWIG.

LI NA says something awesome.


Normally I like hard court a lot. But I think these twoyears I just doing s**t.” SWIG.

MARIA SHARAPOVA doublefaults.

23 SWIGS! And I’ve officially killed 392 of you.

Swig!

NOVAK DJOKOVIC wins.

I’m gonna throw up.

MELANIE OUDIN inspiresbittersweet headshaking like a beloved pug with a wheeled cart in place ofmissing back legs.

False alarm! Just some Flavia Pennetta dry heaves, I’mcomin’ back strong. And so is Melanie,into the mixed doubles final with Jack Sock. Suck it haters!!! SWIIIIG!

PAM SHRIVER covetsRafael Nadal. Take two swigs if she doesn’t even pretend to play it off.

Move over Pam, Mary Joe Fernandez wants in on the action, ruingto Rafa that the crowd wanted to see him do his post-match interview withouthis shirt on. Right MJ, “the crowd.” CBS went one better, running a MONTAGE ofRafa shirt changes, all to the tune of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Since we’re all too drunk to tell thedifference between Pam and Mary Joe, SWIIIG!

QUESTIONS about his physical health plague Rafa with every match he plays. Tossback a cerveza for every match he wins anyway.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABY0BR8d_z0)Oh God, someone hold my hair back. Here it comes. No no, false alarm again.

Cries for a ROOF ringout across the land when weather inevitably screws with play. Suck down a Long Island Iced Tea if those criesfall on ears too deaf to hear a Belarusian shriek.

<VOMIT>

SHINO!

No seriously, Shino, what is she doing here in my room? Andwhy is she braiding Alexandr Dolgopolov’s hair? No wait that’s a mailbox. Nowait, it’s the inside of an ambulance.

John Isner plays a TIEBREAK.

Count ‘em, 8. SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG. Drinkwith me nurses!

The U.S. OPEN is proudly promoted as available in spectacular 3D! Take twoswigs if you don’t see a second of it.

Excuse me, is this EKG machine 3D compatibile?

VENUS WILLIAMS is asked about retirement. Take two swigs if she says she hasabsolutely no plans to retire, she’s going to keep playing as long as she feelsgood. Chug if she continues to be asked.

I can’t.

“WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE EARTHQUAKE HIT?” creeps into a player interview. Suckback a Four Loko if the long-winded, over-animated reply boils down to the factthat they in fact felt nothing and have no story to tell.

Thank God I didn’t say Hurricane Irene right?! Cuz thanks toTweeeter we knew every player’s supermarket run and bathroom visit that nightdidn’t we? HAHAHAHA. Did you see the picture Andy Murray took of Kim Sears? HESTUFFED HER IN A BAG! I’m in the bag. You’re in the bag. Bags are funny. Whatwere we talking about?

No matter how many times it’s mentioned, you still don’t know what an XPERIAHOTSHOT is.


Now I’m being fingerprinted. I’m really starting to getpissed off!

YOU are tore up from the floor up by the time Radek Stepanek sweats through hisfirst pair of white tennis shorts.


We’re all part of the show! You’re just working for that,not for me! The court is bubbling! UNION!

You have ZERO abilityto remember anything after the second round.

And now Sam Stosur and Angelique Kerber are here. It’sanother mirage. No wait, it’s really them. They heard about their shabby courtassignment for the final, they came to bust me out so we can go drink and smashstuff! Come on ladies, let’s go put those racquets to good use! And don’tforget that case of Jack, it’s gonna be a long night.

--

Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa

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9/5 - 11:15am ET

HELLO PEOPLES! Is Dunlop, writing to you from hospital. The bagra is so angry she lose again that she locks Dunlop in Nole’s big magic exercise egg! Is so much pressure on my little Serbian tennis ball body that it rips at the seams! Dunlop almost does not have the strength to lift Shame Stick to punish the peoples who put big stink on US Open.

Almost.

Batter up!

WTA & ATP: 14 retirements, a U.S. Open record! Who is to blame? Dunlop shows you how to take action – 14 Whacks with Shame Stick

AMERICAN JOURNALISTS: So many stories about amazing young Yankee Doodles! Except for the one who says big F.U. to USTA, no one wins more than 2 matches but they are bigger than Beatles and Jesus combined! – 1776 Whacks with Shame Stick and 1 reality check

MARIA SHARAPOVA: You are second favorite to win whole tournament and you make 20 double faults and 118 unforced errors in just two matches! Dunlop shows you how to hit a target. – 5 Whacks with Shame Stick

Fear the Shame Stick.

LI NA & PETRA KVITOVA:
WHAT HAPPENED? 106 unforced errors between you. And you only play four sets! Dunlop is sick and tired of learning all the many ways people who win first grand slams can suffer under the pressure. PLAY TENNIS! Dunlop does not have heart to whack you with Shame Stick. He uses your trophies instead! - 106 cracks on head with Grand Slam trophies. Each.

Whew, all this beating is loosening all of Dunlop’s stitches. He should retire. But he will not, he is strong like bull! He eats the Funyuns for energy and keeps going!

SIMONA HALEP & ALEXANDRA DULGHERU: You win big matches against brain-freezed French Open and Wimbledon champions then lose in next round to big no ones. WHAT IS POINT? Dunlop gives you point – of Shame Stick! – 4 Whacks with Shame Stick

ROBIN HAASE: For two and one half sets Dunlop sees more effort put into job than by his beloved Nana, and she is corpse! You receive one serve by hitting it into stands! Receive this. – 12 Whacks with Shame Stick

ANDY MURRAY: You laugh after Haase match when you should be making tears over how bad it was. Dunlop will remind you how to cry. – 4 Whacks with Shame Stick

Dunlop is seeing stars. The pain! But he keeps going. This is what you paid for! This is what you want! (Dunlop makes clever Jimmy Connors reference. Now is when you laugh, Andy.)

RYAN HARRISON: Big baby throws big baby temper tantrums after every point! Here is pacifier. Just kidding – is Shame Stick! – 3 Whacks with Shame Stick

BERNARD TOMIC: You win three games against Marin Cilic. Dunlop is as bored to make a joke as you looked to play your match. Oh look, a joke - Dunlop is more successful than you by making no effort at all. – 4 Whacks with Shame Stick

BRYAN BROTHERS: Dunlop wins as many matches as you and he is in hospital choking on Funyuns. Chest bump this. – 4 Whacks with Shame Stick

TWITTER BULLIES: You say anonymous filth to players, make them run away! Be men and say to face, not behind computer screen. Although is likely you are too ugly to leave house. – 140 Whacks @Shame Stick. #getalifepig

Dunlop sees life flash before eyes. Papa, Papa is that you? No, Dunlop fights! So many more beatings to do! So many more lessons to teach! Nicolas Almagro, Agnieszka Radwanska! Whoever makes Nadia Petrova’s child’s-birthday party-tablecloth dresses! Daniela Hantucho--

(Ret.)

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9/3 - 9:30pm ET

Much like the 150 players who’ve limped out of the tournament with injuries, the first week of the U.S. Open has come up, in all fairness, a bit lame. So thank God for those who brought a little TADDOW! to the festivities. To them we raise a glass in our WEEK 1 HONOR ROLL.

THE YOUNG AMERICAN BAD-ASS CLUB! Before the U.S. Open, the future of American tennis looked more bleak than…wow, usually when I make this joke the example I use is the future of American tennis. Which shows you how much we Yanks needed something to take the noose off and hop down off the chair for. We got five hopes in the forms of DONALD YOUNG, JACK SOCK, CHRISTINA McHALE, IRINA FALCONI and SLOANE STEPHENS.

Donald scored a huge second round 5-set win over Stan Wawrinka. I loveto see Donald do well, partially for his game and partially because ofall the crap he gets. When he wins, he’s awesome, when he loses he’s a wild card guzzling bug who needs to be squashed. Take that haters. While Jack may have lost against his idol Andy Roddick in the second round, he showed a few things that tickled my pickle. Namely a serve, a forehand, a backhand, net play, movement and nerve. So yeah, everything. Extra credit for pairing with Mel Oudin (ghost of the future ofAmerican tennis past…or something) to take out Huber/Bryan in mixed dubs.

American tennis has a bright future

Christina McHale showed she didn’t take out Caroline Wozniacki by accident earlier this summer by bouncing tough cookie Marion Bartoli. She wilted under the night lights of Arthur Ashe (which THEY ALWAYS DO USTA, STOP GIVING YOUNG BREAKOUTS NIGHT MATCHES, IT GIVES THEM THE RUNS AND THEN ENDS THEIR RUNS), but her trajectory is one way, and that’s up. In downing mighty mite Dominika Cibulkova, Irina waved the American flag – literally. Falconi carries one in her bag! Even Liezel Huber’s like, dayum that’s hard core. Finally, Sloane toughed out feisty Shahar Peer on the strength of a glorious forehand. I’m rooting hard for Sloane to break through, partially because I personally love her, partially because she’s got the biggest personality of all the young Americans. She could be the kind of star that attracts more young kids to the game. She could also sell a lot of toothpaste with that smile.

Final thought on The Young American Bad-Ass Club - it’s not just that they all scored big wins, it’s how they won. At the end, none waited outerrors. They attacked. Me likey. Add Coco Vandeweghe, Ryan Harrison and Madison Keys and I’m giddy as a kid at a red, white and blue Christmas.

GERMAN LADIES!: ANDREA PETKOVIC, ANGELIQUE KERBER & SABINE LISICKI are all into the round of 16, the first time three Germans have gotten that far here in Flushing since 1987. It wasn’t easy, with Kerber needing to take out US Open Series runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska and Lisicki needing to take on Hurricane What’s-her-name to get to NYC. Represent!

IRISHMEN! CONOR NILAND and LOUK SORENSEN made headlines by qualifying for the main draw, and each hoped they’d be the first Irishman to win around at the U.S. Open ever. Yup, ever. Sadly the luck of the Irish was not with them, first drawing Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling respectively, and then being forced to retire with food poisoning and cramps. Describing the positives to the Boston Globe, Sorensen said “The money was wonderful. $19,000 apiece! That’ll buy a lot of Guinness.” Move over U2, these are real rock stars.

JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: After a season marred by injuries, 31-year-old JFC came out of nowhere to triumph in the scorchingest men’s match so far, an epic 5-setter v. Gael Monfils. Pump those crazy legs, grandpa!

GAEL MONFILS: Usually I want to punch myself in the throat watching Gael go down in the flames of his own showboating. But between his match v. Grigor Dimitrov and falling just short in his match v. Juan Carlos, Gael was a one-man highlight reel. No shame in his game this Open.

TOMMY HAAS: At 33, the guy is a walking emergency room, the fact that he even got to the third round was a damn miracle. Werk.

FRANK DANCEVIC: Frank achieved something no male player has ever done –the Qualifying Calendar Grand Slam, qualifying for all four majors in a single year. Sadly he didn’t win a main draw match in any of ‘em, but why dwell. That’s four times more Guinness than the Irishmen got!

CARLA SUAREZ NAVARRO: Spain’s answer to Nancy from the Sunday funnies has taken that supersweet one-handed backhand and battled her way into the fourth round, and there ain’t nuthin funny about that. 

CARLOS BERLOCQ: There’s no one at this entire tournament who suffered more than Carlos – and that’s including the 150 people who withdrew or retired. Down 0-6, 0-6, 0-2 to Novak Djokovic, this guy had, as Johnny Mac so eloquently stated, his pants around by his ankles. So why is he on this list? Because he tried. He won the crowd over, everyone was pulling for him to win a game. And when he did, his giant smile was met with an even bigger standing ovation. Take notice Robin Haase. Berlocq had a great attitude and he tried his hardest no matter what. And there’s nothing more honorable than that. 

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9/1 - 10:30am ET

For young Americans, day 3 was delightfully shocking. Christina McHale and Irina Falconi upset Marion Bartoli and Dominika Cibulkova respectively, Coco Vandeweghe and 16-year-old Madison Keys impressed in defeats, and 18-year-old Jack Sock made a nifty splash against Marc Gicquel.

But yesterday was shocking for all the wrong reasons thanks to Robin Soderling and Venus Williams. Robin pulled out with a virus, having already missed the entire US hard court season with a wrist injury. Venus, who’s had a crap year all around, withdrew for an even scarier reason: Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain. It’s awful for two players who so wanted to play this event, but devastating for Venus as it threatens not just her career, but her ongoing health.

It got me thinking of the other players who couldn’t be at the U.S. Open doing what they love, sidelined by life’s BS, forced to watch the final Grand Slam of the year from afar. Rather than write something pithy about Haase/Machado (you try, I dare you), I’d like to use this space to let a few people know how much they’re missed.

Day 3 had its surprises

Tough not to start off with anyone but the two-time defending champion. It’s hard to call Kim Clijsters’ season a disaster, but after winning the Australian Open her year has gone downhill faster than Matthew Fox’s career. It’s been one injury after the next. The latest, a freak abdominal tear the week before the U.S. Open that’s forcing her to watch what might as well be her home tournament on TV. And that just sucks.

Dinara Safina’s had a couple years from hell, thanks to that back (that back!). It was at the U.S. Open in ’09 that the then-No 1 player in the world suddenly, inexplicably, started struggling in one three set match after the next. That would prove to be the beginning of an odyssey that persists to this day. Dinara has no return date. And that double sucks.

Lleyton Hewitt had to give back his US Open wild card thanks to a bum foot, just the latest in a list of injuries that have taken a giant metaphorical dump on the tail end of his career. For Lleyton, the decision to pull out of the Open was gut-wrenching (his agent’s words) since this is the 10-year anniversary of his 2001 U.S. Open win.

Milos Raonic was in the middle of a superfly break-out season when he suffered a hip injury that required surgery. Sam Querrey, Tommy Robredo and Anna Chakvetadze are a few more absentee players who can’t catch a break.

Last but certainly not least, someone I personally want to know more than anyone that they’re on my mind. Alisa Kleybanova shocked the world when she announced she had to take a leave from the tour to fight Hodgkin's lymphoma. Calls and emails of support poured in, and rightly so. But that outpouring fades just when the real work begins. And at the U.S. Open, I haven’t heard her name once. Alisa has always laid her heart out at the majors and is always good for at least one hard-hitting, rollercoaster clash. She should be here to jerk that head, wring out that bun and pound that ball like only she can.

To Alisa, Milos, Sam, Tommy, Anna, Lleyton, Dinara, Kim, Robin and Venus, you may be gone, but you’re not forgotten.

Get well – and come back - soon.

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa

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8/29 - 8:55pm ET

Welcome welcome! We’ve survived earthquakes, hurricanes and the Maria Sharapova/Jelena Jankovic Cincinnati final to arrive at Day 1 of the 2011 US Open. Would we start on time? Would the trains be running? Would we be drunk from our drinking game before lunch?

Yes, yes and yes!

Today is all about the future. Who is it, when will they break out AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN THEY PLEASE BE FROM AMERICA! (That’s not me saying that, I’m just paraphrasing…everyone.)

First up on Armstrong, it’s Marin Cilic v. the U.S. men’s doubles team of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ryan Harrison is a total enigma to me. So gosh darn polite off court, such a raging beast on court, either he’s the biggest, phoniest Eddie Haskell on the planet or the guy has multiple personality disorder like I’ve never seen. I prefer to think he’s mentally ill as I see him toss his racquet, wail how embarrassing he’s playing and high kick balls like a red-faced Rockette. (SWIG.) It generates debate about what kind of future Ryan can have with that Michael Lohan-like inability to control his fury. To those who suggest it proves someone cares and reflects a champion’s mentality, I’m hoping you’re mentally ill as well. That’s not channeling energy into something positive, that’s channeling Satan. That said, I like Ryan. I want to see him succeed. He’s only 19, so I give him a lot of slack. But as he can hear from fans giving him the business after yet one more (un-penalized) tantrum, that only lasts so long before people are ready to hang you with the rope.

A first round shocker.

Over on Arthur Ashe, another 19-year-old is showing what a true champion’s mentality looks like. Heather Watson should be happy to win a few pride games from Maria Sharapova, but the Brit is taking it to her. Aided by eight double faults (SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG SWIG) and seriously scratchy groundstrokes from Maria (but not as scratchy as in that Cincy final – okay I clearly haven’t totally survived it), Heather wins the first set. And even though Maria is dragging her to what seems like the logical conclusion, a third set beatdown, Heather is showing no nerves at all. What she’s showing is eerie concentration and an unwillingness to blame the world for every point she loses. She just keeps on plugging. I’m grateful, to see someone who appreciates the opportunity they’re being given and the crowd who’s there to watch.

The immediate future of tennis, Petra Kvitova, is already the past. At least today, as she becomes the first big casualty of the tournament. With her game I would’ve thought she could win that match by accident (whoops, game set and match me), but alas and woe. Something tells me she’ll be all right.

With an easier opponent than Harrison or Watson but perhaps a more overwhelming occasion, 16-year-old Madison Keys takes on vet Jill Craybas on the Grandstand. Madison doesn’t play a big schedule, and I’ve been counting down the days until she does for a few years now. Because her game is BIG. And when she wins today, I’m only reminded - as we sit terrified over the future of American tennis – what we have to look forward to. Have faith y’all. She’s a comin’.