So how’s that for irony? *Rafa* is supposed to be on the brink of leaving the U.S. Open due to injury, and not only does he look much better than in the first round but his opponent, *Janko Tipsarevic,* retires because of a rib injury.
In his post-match interview, Nadal said he felt better than Wednesday. Obviously that’s a great sign for the U.S. Open. USA just breathed a sigh of relief. (Actually Johnny Mac admitted it on the air.)
Just received a press release in the media center. The U.S. Open, day and night, is sold out through Labor Day.
That means it’ll be eight days of sellouts by the time Tuesday rolls along. The USTA says there are still a limited number of tickets available beginning Tuesday, but that there are no tickets or grounds passes available before then.
This is the best day so far, no question about it.
Day: No. 30 Agnieszka Radwanksa vs. No. 2 Maria Sharapova, 11 a.m.
Thomas Johansson vs. No. 5 Andy Roddick
No. 1 Roger Federer vs. John Isner
Night: No. 13 Nicole Vaidisova vs. No. 18 Shahar Peer, 7 p.m.
Stefan Koubek vs. No. 6 James Blake
No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko vs. No. 28 Nicolas Almagro, 11 a.m.
Feliciano Lopez vs. Donald Young
No. 16 Martina Hingis vs. Victoria Azarenka
No. 31 Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova (not before 3 p.m., may be moved to Ashe)
No. 7 Nadia Petrova vs. Agnes Szavay, 11 a.m.
No. 10 Tommy Haas vs. Sebastien Grosjean
Tamira Paszek vs. No. 11 Patty Schnyder
No. 19 Andy Murray vs. Hyung-Talk Lee
*COURT 11 â€”*
Maria Kirilenko vs. Julia Vakulenko, 11 a.m.
No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze vs. No. 26 Sania Mirza
No. 9 Tomas Berdych vs. Fernando Verdasco
*Rafael Nadal* probably won’t take the court for another couple hours, but I just watched him practice for about 20 minutes. He looked pretty good from my vantage point (about four or five courts away), and didn’t appear to be favoring his knees. After a series of overheads, Nadal sat down for a few minutes before resuming, but I don’t know if that’s customary for him or not. It didn’t seem like an injury break.
I sort of expect Nadal to roll tonight. He’s young and will have had more than 48 hours of rest. At some point later in the tournament his tendonitis may be an issue, but I don’t think tonight’s the night.
Two funny observations after watching him. 1) He wears his Wimbledon outfit to practice. Sleeveless white shirt, white shorts, white shoes, backwards white hat. 2) It must be pure hell to be his coach. *Uncle Toni Nadal* stood there and just takes a constant pounding, helplessly trying to return Nadal’s groundstrokes, which are low, deep and sizzling. Probably not so much fun.
Novak Djokovic did manage to beat Radek Stepanek, but it took 4 hours and 44 minutes. The final score was 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (2). It was a wild match — Djokovic did a scissors kick after winning the second set, and Stepanek high stepped back to his chair after winning the third.
After that it was a free for all of fist pumps, leg cramps, net dances and waiving for the crowd to get involved. At the end, both players got a standing ovation from the Louis Armstrong crowd and Stepanek jumped the net to give Djokovic a big sweaty hug.
“I smell my shoes,” Djokovic told the crowd. “They are so stinky.”
Marat Safin should be so lucky. His feet couldn’t have been that gross after a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Stanislas Wawrinka.
Although it is late in the afternoon, there are still plenty of matches to play since the five-setters have backed up the schedule. No. 8 Tommy Robredo beat Mardy Fish 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-4 in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Fish had been up 4-1 in the fifth, but really lost it.
Look’s like Harold’s prediction of an upset were off by a day. Former champ and No. 25 seed Marat Safin is down a set against the other Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka. At the same time, No. 3 Novak Djokovic of the easy side of the draw split sets with Radek Stepanek and is down a break in the third.
Top-seeded Justine Henin got through on the women’s side 6-0, 6-2 over Ekaterina Makarova.
No. 8 Serena Williams is slated to play later on Ashe. She looked shaky in her first match but much better last round. And No. 2Rafael Nadal looked awful in his first round, but has been getting worked on by trainers and a massage therapist. He plays in the last match tonight.
Every once in a while, James Blake says something so smart and funny it reminds you he’s the only player on the ATP Tour who has spent two years at Harvard. Last night after winning the first five-setter of his career, Blake was asked how it felt to “get the monkey off your back.”
“I’d find another cliche that fits better,” said the Yonkers native.
Good win for Blake, great match for the crowd. He said that he wasn’t bothered at the end by Fabrice Santoro’s tendency to milk the 25-second limit between points. And he said he hoped his career could extend as long — which is the ripe old age of 34. The life span of a tennis player is not long and, at 27, Blake is about right for a midlife crisis.
Well, you must know one thing: If there is a rain delay at some point during the U.S. Open, USA and CBS will have plenty to show. *James Blake* vs. *Fabrice Santoro* was that good.
The best part of the match may’ve been Santoro, who played the role of villain-turned-hero better than Rocky in Rocky IV. His act was that believable, as he stole the Ashe crowd â€” with the exception of an unruly J-Block â€” from the usual hometown favorite.
For tennis on this night, Santoro was probably the story. But for the tournament, it’s Blake.
He finally knows what it feels like to win a five-setter (he came in 0 for 9) and perhaps someday â€” whether it’s here or somewhere else â€” the experience will serve him well in a match against a *Nadal* or a *Roddick* or a *Djokovic.* After dealing with the pest that is Santoro, Blake will be quite prepared.
Plus, this tournament needs Blake and *Andy Roddick* around as long as possible, so to see Blake prevail was huge for American tennis and the U.S. Open.
I’m sitting here just inches from an open can of Mountain Dew. It is the devil. So powerful that it wakes me up in a few sips, but also so powerful that it keeps me up forever.
Unfortunately for *James Blake,* I may need the boost tonight, because we both may be here for a long time. Blake’s currently in a battle with Fabrice Santoro, the little, old Frenchman, who will be hell in a fifth set if he takes Blake that far. Right now they are even in the fourth.
Perhaps I’ll post my thoughts for the match at 4 a.m. when I’m fighting off the caffeine high. I’m really enjoying this right now, even if it’s not a great sign to see Blake in such a battle this early in the draw.
Ever had a nightmare that your car breaks down at the top of the Whitestone? Well, I got to live the dream. The good thing was that my ’99 Beetle made it to the tennis center, with a dislodged splashguard acting like a plow in front of my car.
The bad news is that I wasn’t making it back to 287 that way. So I called AAA and they sent a tow truck. Let’s just say that you have to be real clear about exactly where you are, and security is so tight that it’s hard for them to get through. But the local tow trucks know the place and the guy who came for my car was terrific.
So be forewarned, and get a tuneup.