James LaRosa won our writer's contest for Roland Garros last year and did such a great job, he has been our resident blogger for everything tennis. For the next two weeks James will offer his funny and witty take on the US Open. Check back daily throughout the tournament for blog updates.
Make sure and read James' other blogs to catch up on all the information you may have missed and to get an introduction to his friend Dunlop (Hint: He is the tennis ball in the picture)
James' 08' Roland Garros Blog
| James' 07 Roland Garros Blog
| James' '07 US Open Blog
| James' '08 Aussie Blog
| James '08 Wimbledon Blog | Email James
Read James Q&A with Dmitry Tursunov
****Tennis Channel is pleased to welcome James as our permanent tennis blogger. He will offer his humorous and poignant take on tennis in a weekly blog starting after the US Open. First we need your help. Submit your name for James' new blog-- click here to submit -- and the winning entry will receive a Tennis Channel prize. .*****
2008 US Open Blog
Day 15 - Sept. 8 - 8:10PM EST
It's been 15 grueling days, but it's all come down to this. That's right, the DUNLOP AWARDS! Buckle up, buttercups. Best Match (ATP):
Djokovic/Roddick had the catfighting, Federer/Andreev had the nailbiting, but Nishikori/Ferrer had the history making. The youngest man to knock out a top four seed since '73, to get as far as the fourth round since '98, and the first Japanese man to to reach the fourth round here in...ever. But forget that and enjoy Kei, who won the first two sets, lost the next two, held match points in the fifth, lost those, then finally, doggedly, got the last point past the Spanish backboard. Three and a half hours after the match started, that huge smile that erupted on the youngin's face said it all. Best Match (WTA):
The final was the best we've seen at the U.S. Open in several years, but I'm sorry, it was the de facto final between the Sisters William in the quarters that stole the spotlight and never let it go. Not flawless through and through, but when it was on, it was on like Donkey Kong. Worst Match (ATP):
44 aces. 3 sets. 2 breaks. Nothing personal Sam Querrey and Ivo Karlovic, but may you never meet again. Worst Match (WTA):
Serena strikes again. This time, poor Elena Vesnina. I like Elena a lot, but she was so outmatched and overwhelmed by the occasion that the match, in which the Russian threw her arms up in celebration when she won the second of the only two games Serena would give her, was painful for all involved. Breakthrough Performance (Male):
Kei, right? Not so fasr. How about qualifier (and ace leader!) Gilles Muller, who made it to the QF by scalping Haas, Almagro and Davydenko. And he was one of the few to take a set of the eventual champion to boot. Breakthrough Performance (Female):
For sheer volume of ink spilled, Julie Coin. That said... Breakdown Performance (Female):
Ana Ivanovic. I won't kick a champ when she's down. I'll just say she lost to Julie Coin (who?), who lost in the next round to Amelie Mauresmo, who lost in the next round to Flavia Pennetta, who lost in the next round to Dinara Safina, who lost in the next round to... Breakdown Performance (Male):
James Blake. As thrilling as that first round match against whipper snapper Donald Young was, you let it happen by letting him back in the match. You scraped through your next round when Darcis retired. What Mardy Fish pulled off seemed more like an act of humanitarian mercy. You're better than this. Best Dressed (Male):
Novak Djokovic. With no new styles to speak of, it was all about color. And between the orange/blue and the green/gray mash-ups, Novak's were the only togs that had people running to the Sports Chalet. Best Dressed (Female):
Serena Williams. Again, not much of a style, but that bold red is the one you (and her opponents) won't soon forget. Worst Dressed:
Whoever was unlucky enough to be caught alive in those striped Fila shirts (among them Troicki, Kunitsyn and Tursunov). It made them all look like senior citizens who somehow stumbled onto a tennis court. Best Tantrum:
Marat Safin, after being called for a foot fault (over the center line, no less) from the opposite end of the court. The big guy's still got it in him. Jelena Jankovic Cockroach Award:
Anna-Lena Groenefeld, who wasn't just trying to survive a match, but her own career. After what can only be delicately described as "coach trouble," the former top 15 player nosedived to #430 as recently as May. Since what can only be delicately described as "reaching an agreement" with said coach to back off, she's burned up the Challenger circuit and reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open, a feat she never accomplished even when at her best. Welcome back, Anna-Lena. Most Fascinating Chain of Events:
After more trainer calling by Djokovic in the Robredo match, Andy Roddick makes a joke. Novak takes it out on Andy on the court - and in his on court interview, eliciting boos from the crowd. Boos carry over to match v. Fed, helping send Fed to the final against an opponent Novak leads 4-2 H2H. Hm. Shut Yo Mouth Award:
Me, for bemoaning the state of womens tennis. The #2, 4, 5 and 6 seeds all made it to the semis, and all had the deserved shot at #1. The one who claimed it did so by earning it with a win. All is in fact right with the world. Best On-Site Booth:
Juvederm. They gave out backrubs! Just ignore that they want to shove needles in your face. Best On-Site Grub:
Someone keep me away from these damn crepes! Gifthorse In Disguise Award:
Making her main draw debut, Coco Vandeweghe is thrown into the lion's den when she draws Jelena Jankovic first round. While she doesn't win, she does go on to become the first American to win the junior girl's trophy since 1995. Worst Timing:
Sure, the rain made Super Saturday Super Sucky. But was there a bigger tragedy than my comments section going wonk in the middle of the tournament? Huh? WHY WON'T YOU ANSWER ME? Best Quote:
"I don't know. It's - all these women, I guess, for papilloma. I don't know what it is. I have no idea. I took three. You have to take three vaccines per year...and then you're free." Jelena Jankovic, explaining the injection she got immediately following the final.
Dunlop and Jadal. Not sure what happened or, frankly, how. But sure enough, yesterday morning a little present was left for Dunlop on the doorstep. We're scheduling the paternity test as we speak.
Speaking of scheduling, check back Wednesday for the debut of my new weekly blog. Full of hard-hitting news, statistical analysis and...who am I kidding. You know what you're in store for. What you don't know is the title, and we do have a winner.
Thanks to the U.S. Open for living up to the hype. And thanks to you for reading. See you Wed.!
James (and Dunlop)
Day 14 - Sept. 8 - 12:21AM EST
Sept. 8 - 3:05PM EST
I don't know which of you is behind this e-mail, but for sheer genius, I deliver it upon the rest of my readers. Just awesome. P.S. If this is Snezana, hit me up on my Boost Mobile. I've got a case of lip gloss and a Jumbotron in my living room. Let's talk.
I received text message from talking tennis ball with Sharpie face. I worry for you sometimes. Luda sam za tobom, but you know that.
Ball said you need to meet a nice lady friend. He said other things too, but he's empty inside.
I know perfect girl. She likes smart, tall men. She has one back in Belgrade .
Don't you tell anyone, you know who I mean, that two face ball you call your friend. He uses your cellphone when you sleep. Don't you check your bill? Anyway, my baby's fiance, Nemanja is nice boy, tall, good dribbler, but when he says he went to college in Boston , it's not Harvard, not MIT, not Boston College . It's a little school in some place called Beverly . What, he couldn't get into DeVry? Tako je, no kidding.
James, you are different. I know you will be wealthy from your writing and most important, you could make my baby girl laugh. Nemanja is no Bob Saget.
I just want the best for us, or her, whatever, same thing.
Don't be shy, she is the girl in the yellow dress playing the American girl.
She's a little bit "loon" but doesn't that make life fun? Naravno!
Snezana, Drama Mama's Mama
Okay, I really don't want to dwell on this, but the other mens semi is set. Nothing against Andy Murray but, well, a Federer?murray final wasn't printed on the t-shirts. Hats off to the Scot, he could've folded but he hung tough. Of course, if Andy beats Roger tomorrow (is it bad luck to reference Murray's 2-1 H2H advantage over Fed?) I'll eat...mmm...no, I heard about that one guy who was literally forced to eat a hat. I'll eat...black licorice. It's nastier than a hat. And if you were paying any attention early in this blog you'd know it tastes like stale birthday cake laced with the bitterness of missed opportunities. Which I'd have to feed to Roger as a win tomorrow would put him one Grand Slam shy of tying a one Mr. Pete Sampras's record.
|Hello, my name is Jelena Jankovic, and I'm a Jumbotron Addict.|
I have the luxury with the womens championship to be thrilled with either winner. She'll be the new #1 (they're seriously handing that honor out like free crap you don't want or need at a U.S. Open lately – maybe I'll be next!). She'll have earned it by either taking out Venus and Safina or Elena and, well...Serena. And they'll be able to do a mean split. I like that in a player.
Not only will I be happy with the winner, I'm superstoked at the opening act. Anita frickin' Baker! Best. Singer. Ever. Discuss.
Oh, and who's that in the chair umpire's seat? Alison Lang! She reminds me of Jennifer Saunders (Eddy in Absolutely Fabulous). I want her to call the match in Christian Lacroix. "Advantage, Williams sweetie darling."
So finally the ladies of the hour come out (that makes them sound like streetwalkers – no no, you're both all class). Immediately I'm impressed. Not by Serena's earrings that fling off on the first point or Jelena's hair glitter that sparkles under the stadium lights (all class!), but by how strong they both come out. No Ivanovic first slam nervous meltdown. JJ's in it to win it. Serena's first service game is a dogfight, but she finally holds. And promptly checks her nails.
Jelena holds, too. Then breaks. This is where we should see the nerves. Nope, she's
|Ladies and gentlemen, your new #1|
up 40-0. Yup, she coughs up the next five points for the break. Still, Jelena's smiling during the points. I just love her. Maybe she sees J-Cap in the stands, partying down with Richard Branson and Common (what's that conversation like?).
Jelena aces Serena. Twice! Still, Serena breaks back with incredible court coverage and that trademark serve and steals the first set.
JJ's crushed, right? No. She comes out firing in the second (so impressed with this woman right now). She wins a great point. The Serbians are going crazy. She wins another with a lob and smiles when she gets caught watching the replay on the jumbotron (though lets be serious, she's an addict to that great big TV in the sky and she doesn't care who knows it).
Jelena breaks and has three set points. But shades of the Venus match hang over Ashe as, in yet another set where she's behind, Serena just refuses to be denied. A break, a hold and a break later and Serena wins! She's got her ninth major title and is the new #1.
Serena jumps for joy. The first thing Jelena does? Puts on lipgloss! I don't just love her, I'm in love with her. Wait, there's more. During the trophy presentation, Jelena grabs the Mic from poor unsuspecting Mary Carillo. She is eating this up with a spoon. And so am I.
It's the best U.S. Open final in years. And Serena, hoist that $1.5 million check...er...trophy. You deserve it.
(And someone please tell this Serbian chick what she's won!)
Day 13 - Sept. 6 - 5:45PM EST
The rain has mandated both an earlier start time for the first mens semifinal between Fed and Djokovic, but also, more shockingly, shoving Nadal and Murray onto Armstrong at the same time. Since I can't watch both - and this Roger/Novak match is all topsy-turvy drama, I can only imagine what's going on on the other court.
Mmm, that's right. I can only imagine...
12:32 p.m. - Fans who paid little more than train fare to see juniors play learn they can see Nadal in Armstrong. The stampede kills 10% of everyone not in Ashe (for a total of 1 person).
1:02 p.m. - Rafa and Andy take the court. Andy's patchy facial fair is so long he braided it. An homage to Serena? Not sure, until he takes off his jacket revealing the catsuit.
1:07 p.m. - Rafa does the first pre-match on-court interview in U.S. Open history, saying how happy he is to have made the final, how very
very important it will be to play his best tomorrow, and how sorry what he did to Murray during the match.
1:12 p.m. - Play begins. Rafa won the toss and chose to receive. He proceeds to lodge a whipping return into Murray's skull.
1:13 p.m. - Nadal is up a set and a break. Andy is yelling at someone in his box. Oh hey, it's Brad Gilbert! That man is just a glutton for punishment.
1:24 p.m. - Streaker! Oh wait, that's Bud Collins. Get back on the sidelines, ya nut.
1:25 p.m. - Martina Hingis arrives for the Parade of Champions. Hey, the party she was at just ended!
1:27 p.m. - To the fans' delight, Rafa decides to snatch Andy's racquet and play both sides of the net himself. He promptly announces he's joining the Oreo Double Stuf Racing League all on his onesies.
1:31 p.m. - Rafa takes the second set. Andy bursts into tears, yanking out his beads and flinging them one by one at Bud Collins, who... Bud! What did I say, get back over there!
1:35 p.m. - Andy bumps into Rafa on the changeover, prompting Uncle Toni to call him an ugly tall white turkey en espanol.
1:37 p.m. - Andy's cramping! No, his catsuit's on too tight. He changes on court into a more sensible hazmat suit.
1:39 p.m. - Celeb sighting! No, false alarm. It's Katie Holmes.
1:48 p.m. - Nadal ties one hand behind his back. Andy changes to a 450" head. Rafa breaks at love, and we're two games from Rafa's first U.S. Open final!
1:51 p.m. - Rafa serves four aces in a row. Murray serves to stay in the match. Andy's mom cheers him on from his box. Who's that sitting next to her? It's Tim Henman! Tim's cheering too. That's so awesome of him. Is vamos Cockney slang?
|Peek-a-boo, I see you.|
1:56 p.m. - Murray underhand serves to no avail. 0-15, 0-30, 0-40. Match point!
1:57 p.m. Federer triumphs in Ashe! In the stampede to Armstrong, thousands are trampled and gorged. And I'm dying to know how I did.
1:59 p.m. -Murray won the first set?! And it's a second set tiebreak?! Andy's playing amazing. And Nadal's playing...tennis? Murray wins the second! Oh dear. Still, I don't see Murray closing it out in three, or lasting 4 to 5. Rafa's the marathon man, he'll take this. Sure enough, he gets an early break in the third. Here we go! Uh oh, there we went. The rain finally comes and the match is called. Murray has all the time in the world to rest up.
Mother Nature is clearly a Fed fan.
Day 12 - Sep. 5 - 8:18PM EST
DUNLOP: Oh, oh, oh, oh...
It must have been cold there in semifinals
To never have close-up on your face
You were content to let Ana shine, that is your way
You always lose the round behind...
So she was the one with all the glory
While I was the one with all the pains (I have so many!)
A beautiful face thanks to Dr. Fritz (I had deviated septum!)
A beautiful smile thanks to Crest White Strips!
Did you ever know that you are my hero?
You are everything I wish I was
I could fly higher than a Penn 2
For you are the wind beneath my fuzz.
It might have appeared to go, how you say, unnoticed
But I have all your splits in my PowerShot
I want you to know, I know the truth.
Of course I know it, you bagra.
This U.S. Open would be nothing without you!
Did you ever know that you are my hero?
You are everything I wish I was
You could fly higher than a Penn 2
For I am the wind beneath you fuzz
Did I ever tell you you're my hero?
You're everything, everything I wish I could be!
Yeah, I know! I saw the pictures after Australia
That lipgloss belongs to me...
DUNLOP: Nole! When do you get here?!
Some speech you give last night. The way they boo you-
FLY away, she let you fly so high...
You say sorry pretty fast in press conference-
So high up in the sky
So high you never touch the net
Thank you, thank you
Thank God for you Jelena (and Nole!), the wind beneath my fuzz...
God bless you too, you little bagra. Now give me back my lipgloss.
Day 11 - Sep 4. - 2:28PM EST
7:59 p.m. - An hour after the highly-anticipated Venus and Serena Williams quarterfinal is supposed to start (thanks Andy and Juan Martin), the gates are finally opened. A dozen ticket holders are lost in the stampede.
|The Bullring |
8:37 p.m. - Play begins. Venus misses an easy put-away. Serena will win.
8:38 p.m. - Something is caught in my teeth. Project!
8:47 p.m. - Venus draws first blood. Venus will win.
8: 57 p.m. - The crowd is all sharing the same communal experience, but we have no idea what that it is. Restated, this is a hot mess.
9:01 p.m. - I always hear that the strategy for playing both Williams sisters is to hit it down the middle. Has anyone told them that?
9:04 p.m. - Donald Trump sighting. Now not only do I have to pick this thing out of my teeth, I have to pick out my eyes.
9:08 p.m. - Venus screeches hitting a delicate drop shot. I don't get it.
9:12 p.m. - Did I leave the iron on?
9:26 p.m. - Venus serves for the set. At this point I'm seriously dreading Serena's press conference.
9:27 p.m. - Serena breaks. Uh-oh, somebody woke the baby.
9:28 p.m. - These women are glistening. Do I look like that when I sweat? Could I?
9:30 p.m. - Tiebreak! And it's a scorcher. Serena steals it. Can I have two sets of this please?
10:05 p.m. - No, I can't. We're back to hot mess. On the bright side, I did wrench this thing from my teeth.
10:08 p.m. - I wonder what Rafa and Mardy are doing right now. Are they playing foosball in the players lounge? Is Rafa doing a sudoku? Is Mardy eating a sandwich?
10:27 p.m. - Venus serves for the second set at 5-3, 40-love. And loses the next five points. Serena's got The Look. I'm suddenly concerned for big sis.
10:47 p.m. - Now this is a match! Venus and Serena are usually so mindful of each other when one beats the other, but I suspect whoever wins this match is going to be doing a jig on the other's head.
10:53 p.m. - Clijsters in the house! Oh wait, that's Serena doing the splits. When did she add that trick to her bag?
10:54 p.m. - Another tiebreak. This just keeps getting better and better. Serena's like a red flag and Venus is the bull just attacking attacking attacking. Serena's hurling and diving all over the place. How is she not permanently crippling herself?
|The Matador |
10:59 p.m. - Venus is spitting up set points like a popcorn machine. We're at 6 points all again. I'm seriously dreading Venus's press conference.
11:01 p.m. - Match point Serena! No, set point Venus! We like the challenge system now, don't we Vee?
11:02 p.m. - 7-all. This is one white hot tiebreak.
11:04 p.m. - Serena wins, 7-6, 7-6! She's into her first U.S. Open semifinal since she won it back in '02. And Venus looks like she's going to cry. No dancing on heads. Aw, nice wave to the crowd Venus. 0 - 10 in set points. Keep your head up.
When they've faced each other in the past, it could be so painful it hurt. And they threatened a repeat today. But while this was no Wimby '08 final - for reals, this match was patchier than Andy Murray's facial hair - it featured some truly breathtaking tennis by two champions who've shown serious maturity. They can get past it now, past the nerves and the awkwardness, and bring a whole different kind of pain.
Thanks to both for making it hurt so good.
Day 10 - Sept. 3 - 8:06PM EST
We interrupt this blog to bring you the following Q&A with Russian livewire, blogging superstar and calendar pin-up Dmitry Tursunov. CLICK HERE FOR THE Q&A
As a placeholder, please enjoy this bit of trivia. Can you figure it out? It's tricky!
___________________________Day 9 - Sept. 2 - 9:29 PM EST
People ask me why I love tennis so much. Wow, that sounded quaint. I should add that it's usually asked in anger or disgust after I've blown them off to watch some big match. Or a nothing match. Or Match Point, which really featured no tennis at all. But it could've!
The fact is, tennis teaches a lot of lessons I can get behind. And today class was in session, yo. Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected.
Gilles Muller over Nikolay Davydenko, are you kidding me? This dude was 1-4 coming into the U.S. Open, ran roughshod over qualifying and took out Haas, Almagro and now the #5 player in the world? He's only the second qualifier to make it to the quarters here in the Open era. Next up, King Fed. A match Muller should lose. Should. Lesson #2: Adapt or Die.
Nobody's perfect. When a player bumps up against their own deficiency, they either compensate or go the way of the round robin (it's a funny little bird that existed to do nothing but poop on James Blake). Sharapova couldn’t move to save her life so to stay on the court she had to blast her opponents off it. Roddick's backhand was a liability so he developed a serve that seemed to require no groundstrokes at all.
|Lesson #7: Always Count Your Change. |
And was there any bigger example of Darwin's Theory on court today than Elena Dementieva? Her laserlike shots have always landed inches from the baseline, but sadly so did her serves. Since her rib injury, however, she's cleaned up the toss and now has a gold medal to show for it. Can her first Slam title be far behind? Lesson #3: Believe Nothing of What You Hear and Only Half of What You See.
This applies only to those who find themselves playing a limping, huffing, puffing Novak Djokovic. Lesson #4: Pressure is a Privilege.
And boy were we treated today, as Novak and Roger were both pushed to five sets (Roger for only the third time ever here) and the Bryans found themselves at 14-all in a first set tiebreak. It may not have been consistently brilliant tennis, but it showed that a) anyone can struggle and b) how you deal with it is the mark of a true champion. Kudos to all for making it through. Lesson #5: The Best Offense is a Good Defense.
Exhibit A) Jelena Jankovic. Good luck against Elena D. What's your H2H again? Lesson #6: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.
When Samantha Stosur came down with a virus
that kept her out of the game for months and months, her doubles partner Lisa Raymond could've cut and run. Instead she kept the court warm with replacements, making it clear they were just placeholders for her little buddy. Upon Stosur's return, they served and volleyed their way to the Wimbledon final and today carved a spot for themselves in the semis. Loyalty is a beautiful beautiful thing.
Of course if I truly learned that last lesson I'd see my peeved friends more often. Maybe if they picked up a racquet once in awhile...
Day 8 - Sept. 1 - 8:33PM EST
Party peoples in the house. It is Dunlop here, on a terrible terrible day. I think I meet woman of my dreams, but she turn out to be nightmare. She is nothing but lies wrapped in cheap yellow plastic fuzz. Now I am in bad mood and need to punish all that I see. Thank Nole I remember to pack my shame stick. It is, how you say, on.
: They play movie on big screen here showing all the good times from last year. You are in it two times, pounding your chest and roaring like big crazy lion woman. You win first set against crippled Chinese woman and then win one more game. How do you say boo in Hebrew? - Four whacks with shame stick. ANNA CHAKVETADZE
: It is only first game, and already you pout, you look up to sky, you roll eyes. And now look, so do I. Three whacks with shame stick. And a chill pill. JULIE COIN
: Cheater cheater pumpkin eater! She does not know how to play tennis. She doesn't know how to style hair. She can't even say her own name right. KWAN? That is voodoo talk. - Six whacks with shame stick NICOLE VAIDISOVA
: I think you are in Shame Stick Hall of Fame. You have such good time in Wimbledon, what happened? Severine Bremond? She lose all five matches she play this year. She need wild card to use bathroom here. Pretty soon you may be handing her paper towels and breath mint. - Three whacks with shame stick. DANIELA HANTUCHOVA
: What is wrong with you? Please write me back.- Three whacks with shame stick. PESCHKE/STUBBS
- You are number two doubles team in the world and you lose in first round. I give you stick and you decide who whacks who.
It seem like I have bad day with "woman" and I only take out on more women, so I will go after super studly males. RICHARD GASQUET
: You lose to studlier Tommy Haas in first round. He play one match a year! Also, while betting is unacceptable (I know because there are signs everywhere here that say this), let me just say I lose many Milk Duds each and every time you walk on the court in your fancy red shoes. No more. - Three whacks with shame stick.
: You lose all control of noisy block of J's, wild animals who have no respect for opponents or other fans. The flag waving and the screaming! That would never happen in Serbia. - Three whacks with shame stick. ANDY MURRAY
: Put that bicep away before you hurt yourself. - Six whacks with shame stick.
Ugh, I must go. Jelena keeps asking me about my bad bad date. She is, how you say, the drama mama. (The bagra!)
Day 7 - Aug.31 - 8:20PM EST
Have I got some scoop for you. You would not believe who hooked up at the Open! Tongues would wag, if they had tongues.
You may be wondering where Dunlop has been. Well, he met a girl. At least I think she's a girl. Some of you may recall from the French Open blog
a few months ago a mysterious creature by the name of Jadal (a sassy mix of Jankovic and Nadal - we're not quite sure which parts made it from each). She sent her picture in for a date with my surly Serbian tennis ball friend. Through the miracle of the internet, lines of communication were opened (stalkers take note) and they were united here at the US Open.
|US Open canoodling! |
So since he's happy, I'm happy. Which makes it the perfect time to spread the love to some players who've found love of their own on the courts of Billie Jean King National Tennis...oh just read on. ANNA-LENA GROENEFELD
: The success story of this year's U.S. Open, Groenefeld had a nightmare year and a half which began with the break-up with her coach, continued with his showing up at her matches to give tips to her opponents on how to beat her and culminated in her ranking plummeting from 14 in the world to 430. Since reaching an agreement with said coach in May to back off, she's taken to the court again, won 4 ITF titles, grinded through qualifying and made it to the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career. I saw her match last night and, like Alize Cornet, was blown away by her groundstrokes. And the serve? At 128 mph, she's the serve speed leader. (Take that, Venus and Serena.) KEI NISHIKORI
: In a thrilling 5-setter, Nishikori is not only the first Japanese man to reach the fourth round here in the Open era, at 18, he's the youngest man to get this far since Marat Safin in 1998. Oh, and he's the youngest man to knock out a top four seed at the Open since Borg upset Ashe in 1973. And he did it all with a smile. SAM QUERREY
: After upsetting Tomas Berdych, he won the battle of the giants by taking out Ivo Karlovic, both in straight sets. He's now deeper in a Slam than he's ever been. He should be proud of himself, soak it all in. Because knocking out his next opponent, Rafael Nadal, will be the tallest order of all. KATARINA SREBOTNIK
: The tour vet showed Serena le door in Paris, and now she can add Svetlana Kuznetsova to her growing list of scalps. Her aggression was spectacular, forcing Svets into all kinds of errors by coming in on nearly each and every one of her penetrating groundstrokes - when giving her anything to hit at all. So far Srebotnik is the tournament's ace leader (?!). GILLES MULLER
: a qualifier from Luxembourg making hay, Muller upset Tommy Haas and Nicolas Almagro, both in five setters, en route to a showdown with Nikolay Davydenko. Gut durchgebraten!
Last but not least, how about JULIE COIN
, who was a third set tiebreak away in qualifying to stay that French chick you've never heard of to become the woman who caused the earliest upset of a top seed in U.S. Open history. Sure Amelie scooped you up like crumbs off an Olive Garden tablecloth the next day, but ya done good.
So love is all around on this glorious glorious day. Here, have some yourself!
|Me and Fed. I swear.|
Oh, PS, the highlight of my day: being courtside during Fed's practice session this morning on Ashe. Special in and of itself, for sure. What made it more special was the woman who showed up early for the Jankovic match, saw it was Fed practicing, flipped her wig and asked me to take a picture of her with him behind her. I said of course and made sure I got a nice action shot for her. She offered to do the same for me. Sure, why not. It would be good for the blog.
This is the pic I get.
Day 6 - Aug. 30 - 8:10PM EST
So Lindsay lost what was (my guess) not only her last US Open appearance, but the final professional singles match of her career. If this is indeed the case, I'd be bummed. Not because it included serving that could only have been worse had she let Jagger hold the racquet, or because of a retirement itself - I dealt with that the first go-round - but because she went out to Marion Bartoli, a player she's beaten into submission several time in the past.
It was clearly just as frustrating to Lindsay, who was stuck in a muttering tailspin. You can take the mom from grumpy but you can't take the grumpy from the mom. Or something. On the whole, she doesn't want to be struggling against the Bartolis and the Safinas and the Jankovics of the world, players she'd routinely beaten in the past. And frankly I don't want to see that either.
I had the chance to have a chat with Lindsay this week. (Okay, I asked her a question in her press conference, but it was very intimate.) It was in regards to an interview she did with Tennis Magazine last year, where she was asked about her legacy. She said she thought fans would remember other players before they remembered her. Considering she has so many (many of whom were trying desperately to get her going last night), I asked who she thought her fans were and why they gravitated towards her:
"Oh, God. That's a tough question. I don't know. I mean, I've never played tennis to be famous or popular or well-liked. It just was kind of thrust upon me. I think I stand for the girls that, you know, in certain terms are ordinary. I don't like flash. I don't try to get a lot of attention. And I think that there is, you know, a niche for people out there like that."
"I try to bring as little drama as possible, unlike some other players we have. And I think that people have watched me growing up. I think they've seen me mature, and I think they're seen that you can be successful and not be psychotic, be realistic, have good people around you, and just -- I try to enjoy it now more than I used to. And I think people have seen me change over the years and have admired that."
Couldn't have said it better myself. Good luck in the doubles.
|Kuznetsova-slayer Katarina Srebotnik soaks up the love. |
Meanwhile, Andy flew the American flag a little higher last night against Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis is just awesome, I'm sorry. His touch is otherworldly. I wish he'd hung a little tougher and at least made it a 5-setter because I just wanted to see more more more. He was obviously overwhelmed by the occasion, but he's going to get used to that. And then the Slam titles will begin to stack, mark my words. In the meantime, he'll have to settle for stale birthday cake laced with the bitterness of missed opportunities (tastes like black licorace!).
Today tasted like blood, cuz there were a lot of beatdowns at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (whew, I passed out halfway through that). Venus, Serena, Rafa and Amelie all served up straight-set knuckle sandwiches. Once again, Andy Murray and Stanislas (love that name) Warwinka were made to work overtime, coming back from two sets down the both of them. Well now they have to face each other, so one of these cats is on his ninth life.
Meanwhile, we're gonna have to bake a whole new cake for the ones who let them off the hook, Jurgen Melzer and Flavio Cipolla (who?). Maybe if we bake it big enough, Flavio can jump out of it and we'll know which one is him.
Marat, you don't get any cake.
Day 5 - Aug. 29 - 7:15PM EST
It's open season, and we're on the hunt. For Roger Federer.
Or at least I was. I was over it. Over the domination. Over the Brand. Over Roger Federer rolling all over the ground after winning each and every tournament. We knew it was coming and so did you, get up.
|Swimmer Aaron Peirsol drops by to flaunt his own gold medal.|
So when he began rolling all over the ground in exquisite agony in loss after loss, I can't deny it tickled me. Because it was so unexpected. And look at everyone else who got a chance to shine. Fish. Roddick. Simon. Karlovic. Blake.
And Nadal. The perennial #2 finally got to wiggle his way into the top spot after a stunning Wimbledon final with an Olympic gold chaser.
So settling in for the Federer/Alves match, I cross my arms and think, go ahead #2. While I slurp from my commemorative US Open glass, wow me.
And damn it all to hell, he does.
Don't get me wrong, his play isn't up to his high standards. Crosscourt winners become off-the-scoreboard losers. Easy volleys French kiss the net. But when he's on, it's still borderline gorgeous. The retrieving, the slices, the unmitigated grace. Much like Amelie Mauresmo, his play is like ballet. (I wish they signed up for doubles together, could you imagine?)
Wait, where are all these positive vibes coming from? I can't afford this. I'm already rolling in pig poop over the (sort of) open field. Where I can root for Safin, Nadal and Djokovic not in total vain. But much like an ex you see at a club and go, oh yeah hey, their body really was bangin', I'm lured over once again.
As I resist, I get a feeling in the pit of my
|Now that's arty. |
stomach. It's familiar. It's how I feel on the women's side this very moment. You see, I'm a vindictive petty self-serving man, and all those emotions I described in relation to Fed, I felt double for Justine Henin. And I swallow hard when I say, what I wouldn't do to have her back. Did I like her? No. Did she maintain order? You bet. Without a rudder, women's tennis has been adrift adrift adrift, as exemplified by yesterday's Ivanovic loss, today's Kuznetsova nosedive and the inability for each and every female save perhaps Venus Williams and Dinara Safina to grab the reins. This car crash is far uglier and more real than just watching a champion suffer a few losses.
We need to turn back or else tempt the same fate. We need Roger Federer. I need Roger Federer.
Do I need him to break Pete's record? You know, I really don't. I want Pete to top that list. Do I even want him to win this tournament? I'm still feeling Nadal. But I've learned the hard way, I can't have my cake and eat it too. In the war between my artistry loving angel and my vindictive petty self-serving devil, we have a first time champion. My neck hurts from rubbernecking car crashes. I want great tennis.
I also want Alves to work on that grunt. But the world wasn't built in a day.
Day 4 - Aug. 28 - 10:06PM EST
14 courts. 4 - 5 matches per court per day. Is it really possible to see each and every match at a Grand Slam?
We're gonna try.
I have to be smart about it. First have a double shot of something caffeinated. Then do some math. 14 courts, 64 (!) matches, that's an average of 5 minutes per. That's about one service game and one return game. I can't dilly dally no matter how good it gets. I give myself a four deuce cut-off.
|Dunlop groupies! Not sure where the camera crew came from.|
I decide I've got to hit the women's matches first since they're max three sets but can easily be over quicker than a Jankovic reign at #1. I then have to look at the most lopsided match-ups. So off I run to Vaidisova/Bremond. Instead of helping me out, Nicole is coughing up points left and right. I don't have time for the pain. (Apparently neither does she as she goes down in straights.)
Thankfully Petrova, Cibulkova and Radwanska help me out. All three are playing great, I can tell in the blur. But my plan is quickly catching up to me. Geographically it's just impossible, Dinara's on Ashe, Alona's on Court 4 and, frankly, the second I see Timea Bacsinszky toss up her ball on Court 6 I realize I can't take one more woman hitting one more ball. Bring on the men.
Newly Gold-plated Stanislas Warwinka is made to work for it against Wayne Odesnik (Either one of them looks like they could be your PSP-playing older cousin. You know, the one with the pet snake and the bar bell collection?). Also sweating it out, Andy Murray and David Ferrer (who's about four apples and a gumdrop tall). I figure if I allow myself just one service game from Melzer I can linger an extra two minutes at Erlich/Ram. Uh oh, I'm already bargaining. Hold to the plan!
24 matches down, 40 to go. Half my day is gone. I need to reassess here, treat this like a match and make the right adjustments. First up, panic. Then, cheat. I double back to the media room, where nearly all the courts are on closed-circuit TV. With ease, I flip through clash after clash. Oh hey, Szavay looks sour. Blake looks even more sour. Lighten up, you're through! Fish looks...well, the same way he looks all the time. Minus the gut. Wedding diet perhaps? Deal!
38 matches down, 26 left.
And then Ana happens.
Watching Ivanovic play lately is like having that scene from Airplane! of the woman freaking out as the plane's going to crash, on a perpetual loop. "I gotta get out of here, I gotta get of here!" Her coach grips her shoulders, shaking her, "Calm down, get a hold of yourself..!" Meanwhile, everyone who drew her at Wimbledon and the US Open lined up with weapons of various shapes of sizes to finally put her out of her misery.
The lucky lady who finally clubbed her is
|What, me worry?|
Frenchwoman Julie Coin. Her reward? Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo. Who recently seems to have slapped herself sane. Does Coin have another (former) #1 in her?
Does Ana? She seems so terrified of the top spot that she's been nearly unwatchable lately. Yeah, yeah her thumb's hurt. Get well soon.
My mission seriously derailed, I tighten my laces and make a Hail Mary lap around the crowded grounds. Mostly doubles! Those are some quick points baby. Great shot, Zimonjic! Work those hands, Ai! Lay off the body glitter tube-topped European fan!
By the time Sam Querrey knocks out Nicolas Devilder on the Grandstand, I've got only one match to go. With nothing else to compete with it, I can stroll on over, put my throbbing feet up and enjoy. I check the order of play. It's Rafael Nadal and...Ryler De Heart? Good God. I better run or I'm gonna miss it.
But as I huff and puff, let the record show, you CAN see every match at the Open. All you need is a little caffeine, a lot of shoving, a giant bank of TV screens and a general acceptance that you're not going to be able to see any actual playing.
Maybe this is how Mardy lost the gut?
____________________Day 3 - Aug 27. - 7:00PM EST
It's a typical scene. Throngs of fans gathering at tournament hot spots, giant balls in hands, waiting feverishly for players to shove them in the faces of.
In general, players are happy to sign. But many of them only sign for kids. I get it, kids are cute. They're cuddly. They won't rush off to sell it through their home eBay business. But I'm calling foul.
|The Bondarenko sisters are exhausted just thinking about children. |
They don't know who you are Agnieszka Radwanska and Tommy Robredo! Or at least they won't tomorrow! I would sleep with that giant ball under my pillow. I'd shampoo-vac it twice a year with my rugs (careful to avoid that squiggly line and a dot you call an signature). It would have a place of Honor right next to my letter from Ted Kennedy and my signed photo of Salt n Pepa (I do have a life outside of tennis you know...).
In fact, I'm calling foul on all the preferential treatment these wet-nosed rug rats get. They get to be ball kids. They get to sing the national anthem. They get their own DAY. This place was a zoo Saturday. A zoo full of little animal children, screaming, braying, wanting wanting wanting. Then being carried out at the end of the day, passed out on their parents' shoulders, almost as heavy as the price of the tickets that got them in in the first place.
This is a plea for the adult fan. The adult fan
|Which Jonas brother is he?|
who races over the wooden bridge all wet-palmed and angsty to get to the front gates first in the morning. Who knows why Shahar Peer and Sania Mirza playing doubles together is a big deal. Who squeals like a baby when they see Dominika Cibulkova and Marin Cilic walk by, and not because they look like Hannah Montana and a really tall Jonas Brother. On the inside. Because we're adults steeped in shame.
I'm dropping the act, my long-toothed brothers and sisters! I'm getting in that autograph line without someone else's borrowed children. I'm pushing to the front of the crowd for a chance to see Igor Andreev and Maria Kirilenko hop in their player car. I'm going to cry out unabashedly during that match, I'M A MAN AND I LOVE YOU RAFA! I can hear the applause now.
This is a revolution. We're taking back our sport. You've had your day, kids. It's our turn. Who's with me?
UPDATE: Many of you have inquired about the absences of two of the greatest U.S. Open champions missing in action Monday night: Grafassi (Andre and Steffi get the Brangelina treatment here at TennisChannel.com). I spoke to a highly placed source who informed me they would've loved to have been there, but they had a personal conflict that couldn't be helped. The first day of school for their kids.
The prosecution rests.
_____________________Day 2 - Aug 26.- 9:20PM EST
So first thing's first. Last night. We've got to talk about it. I'm referring, of course, to the parade of past champions honoring 40 years of the Open era. Yeah yeah, James Blake beat Donald Young, but pound for pound (Donald weighs what, a buck and a quarter?), this is where the real drama was at.
|Look who made the trip!|
Don't believe me? I'll set the stage. A couple dozen US Open winners are announced individually over the loud speaker, then made to stroll out onto Ashe one by one in their finest duds. Legends, millionaires, celebrities. All at the mercy of the most public popularity contest you can imagine - a stadium full of tens of thousands of little clapping hands.
Of course, no one would be so gauche as to put any kind of quantifiable ranking on who scored the most Big Apple love and who choked on the seedy core in front of God and Paula Abdul (oh yes). Sorry, I mean no one else would.
Among the biggest vote getters, Serena trumped her big sis while Chrissie Evert edged out Martina (I'm waiting for the arm wrestling rematch). Battling for Top Dog, John McEnroe and Roger Federer went the distance. But Rog was just too strong. And he seemed genuinely touched to be there.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Svetlana Kuznetsova seemed vaguely uncomfortable by her being included. As did the crowd. Maybe it was just a reaction to the track suit. Maria Sharapova didn't have that excuse, but her reception was strangely not much bigger.
Of course, Roger and Chris were lucky Andre and Steffi missed the 7 train.
Fast forward to today, where another popular champion, Billie Jean King, is so traumatized that she's wandering the grounds talking to someone who isn't there. Alright, she's actually filming a Geico spot, and apparently they're going to green screen in a gecko. Or a cave man. Or James Lipton. Something with a pointy darting tongue.
I want to linger, but I have business.
Second to tennis, texting is the most popular sport at the US Open. And boy am I
|BJK gets ready to roll.|
playing it today. Because the US Open is second to airports and reunions. Whether you want to see them or not, all your friends are here. "Where r u?" "Meet me at the fountain!" "Which fountain?" "There's only one, stupid!" "I'm behind the umpire, on the left." "My left or ur left?" "I hate you." It goes on and on.
Meeting different people theoretically allows you to sample more matches. It just makes you sample more food. I've met so many friends I'm gonna barf (nothing personal guys).
I do manage to see Serena take out one of the Bondarenkos (the one with the sick back tat). And Sam Querrey notch one of the best wins of his career, allowing Tomas Berdych only 6 games in three sets. And Ana Ivanovic nearly crash and burn out of her second Slam in a row. All signs point to her not being ready to fill the vacuum left by Justine Henin. But who is? Last year's runner up, Kuznetsova?
Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing Kuznetsova win this tournament. If only to see the kind of applause she'd get in 40 years.
Just leave the track suit at home.
Day 1 - Aug. 25 - 6:20 EST
Hello from New York! Lots of exciting things to report so I'm just gonna get right to it.
First, the Tennis Channel home page is screaming that I've somehow lucked into getting my own weekly blog. That's right, in addition to my daily Slam duties, I'll be coming to you every Wednesday with even more nonsense passing as insightful commentary. As Tim Gunn would say, holla at your boy.
|The new indoor tennis facility. Eh, I've seen bigger.|
More importantly, my bosses are asking you to name it as I clearly cannot be trusted. No no, I was born of the people during last year's French Open when you all voted me into this sweet gig, and I will die by the people. But if you could give me a nifty name in the meantime, that'd be super great. The one who submits the winning entry is even guaranteed "a Tennis Channel prize." The curiosity factor alone! [You can submit your names here.]
My good buddy Dunlop will even sign it. Or Friend of Blog Martina Navratilova will dip him in paint and smash him into it repeatedly. It's art!
Meanwhile, apparently there's a Grand Slam going on. I say apparently because I show up to blank stares at the credential office. The U.S. Open says I don't exist. Ironic as I don't exist without the U.S. Open. I manage to track down a Tennis Channel employee, who had no idea I'd be here. An inauspicious start to my shiny new gig.
The grounds are tougher to crack than a Scientology compound (that Jenna Elfman can scale a wall!), and I'm forced to hang out outside until this pesky credential issue can be cleared up. So like a dog with its nose pressed against the glass, I look on drooling as Rafa, Ana and Venus make their way inside. I'm reminded of my painful pre-TC past when I trolled the mean streets desperate for scalped tickets. "Wanna date..? Wednesday Day Session, that's alright baby..."
|The Davis Cup trophy. Eh, I've seen bigger. |
Melting in the hot sun, I check in with my editor who jokes, oh hey, it'll make for a good blog entry, ha ha. Clearly he doesn't realize Lindsay Davenport is second on Ashe. If I miss it, someone has to die. Shoulda done that background check, suckas.
Finally, near panic, I'm whisked inside, to the Tennis Channel suite. Yes, it's real. And it's spectacular. Air conditioning, catering, some of the best seats in the house. And as if on cue, Lindsay. No limping, no scowling. And a great draw. The world is suddenly looking much brighter.
Around the grounds, everyone is feeling the love. The stands are packed. The beer is flowing. Ice cream mustaches for everyone. My advice, make like Oleta Adams and get here if you can. Even if you have to troll for the tickets. I can give you the names of a few streets...