Aug. 31 has been a day for two of the most memorable matches in the past two tournaments.
Last year, it was Novak Djokovic beating Radek Stepinak 6-7, 7-6, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 in four hours, 44 minutes, just two games short of the maximum allowed.
In 2006, it was Andre Agassi beating a cramping No. 8 seed Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5 in the final win of his career.
Will there be another one this year?
Now’s a good day to have the TV package where you can watch feeds from multiple courts. On Ashe, I expect Federer to get pushed by Radek Stepanek, who beat the No. 2 seed earlier this season. And you never know with Roddick, who looked very beatable in the second round.
On Armstrong, there’s Marion Bartoli, who took out Lindsay Davenport, Austalian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and silver medalist Fernando Gonzalez.
On the Grandstand, I expect Fernando Verdasco-Igor Andreev to be a marathon. They played a five-setter here four years ago, and their other two matches went the maximum three sets, ending in a tiebreaker. Verdasco won all three.
Does such a TV package exist for the public? It should. The NCAA and NFL have them. We have it in the press center. Seems like easy moeny for the USTA.
The Jelena Jankovic-Jie Zheng match was not exactly a serving clinic. The players held serve just 10 out of 24 times. A big problem was that neither player could win on their second serves (combined 29 for 76), and yet neither could make a first serve.
It made for some exciting tennis with long rallies, not just service winners. But it was getting a little ridiculous by the end. Jankovic finally held to win 7-5, 7-5, though not before holding off six break points in a game that went to deuce 11 times.
Keep in mind that yesterday Ivo Karlovic had 42 aces and just two double faults â€” in a straight sets win! That was the second-most in a match since someone started keeping records in 1991 (Richard Krajicek had 49 in the 1999 quarterfinals).
Well that was anticlimactic. One game into the third set and it’s all over at Ashe. Steve Darcis of Belgium waved the match to an end, handingÂ James Blake a forfeit victory in their second round match.Â Darcis’s back locked up early inÂ the day until he felt he couldn’t continue.
I asked him what he would have done if he’d been leading the match in the third set.Â He couldn’t be sure but thought if he was up twoÂ sets to none heÂ probably would have toughed it out. He’d won the first set 6-4 — by his own admission because Blake was playing brutally. Especially at the net. Once Blake cleaned up his game and stopped hitting gimmes into the net he started winning. He took the second set 6-3, Darcis grimacing in pain allÂ the way.
When Blake won the firstÂ game of the third set, Darcis waved the whiteÂ flag. Â
Blake, the No. 9 seed, will face good friend and fellow American Mardy Fish in the third round.Â Fish beat 24-seed Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. BlakeÂ will be in Fish’s wedding party in September. At least that’s the plan. If Blake wins in straight sets Fish might find a way to lose his invitation in the mail. Â
There are plenty of big sporting events I’ve never been to. I’ve never been to the Masters. Never been to the Super Bowl. Never been to the World Jai Alai championships (if there is such a thing). But I have to say, the layout here at the Open is as impressive as I’ve seen anywhere.
The U.S. Tennis Center is like its own city. The place is an enclave, completely cut off from the rest of Flushing by a ring of orange cones that line every road around Corona Park. Security is intense. There are security people posted at every entrance to every gate and every door that scan the barcode on your media pass. As if someone could forge a media pass with a fake barcode that can only be caught by scan.
The media center has everything you could want. It’s a huge room lined wall to wall with individual workstations — maybe 350 in total. Each station has a TV where you can watch every court and every interview room. They bring you every stat and piece of info you could ever want. The interview room is 10 feet down the hall. You can basically be a quadripalegic and cover this event with 95% effectiveness. Not being a quadripalegic I hope to put in the full 100%.
For all the bustle of the day, though, the silence at night is deafening. I was here for James Blake’s five-set match against Donald Young on Monday night and didn’t end up leaving until almost 2 a.m. The parking is pretty far away — that’s the only bad part of the whole setup — so I was walking through the park looking for my car and got lost because everything was dark and no one was left to follow. Ended up wandering in circles around a dark NYC park for 20 minutes, praying I’d find my car before I got mugged. Keep in mind I had my laptop on me the whole time. I think I might have seen Novak Djokovic lurking behind a tree.
I’ve done my research. I’ve crunched the numbers, and it’s official:
The U.S. Open is the most impressive collection of good-looking people ever assembled at a sporting event (with a close second the late night pick-up hockey games I play during the winter).
This would obviously include the toned and tanned players; the coaches and assorted hangers-ons of the toned and tanned players (whoÂ are naturally toned and tanned themselves); and the fans, many of whom are either rich and famous, or just as important, simply resemble people who are rich and famous.
The exception, of course, is the rumpled media, which has the disadvantage of not only standing in close proximity to so many good looking people this week, but of having access to multiple Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bars. Needless to say, that’s a tough combination.
The USTA held a press conference this morning with Billie Jean King and head officers about the tournament’s “Green initiative.”
They plan on recycling 500,000 plastic bottles, 20,000 cans; use 90 percent post-consumer waste for the 2.4 million napkins; give away the 70,000 tenis balls and 20-25,000 tennis ball cans; and use wind power to supply all the energy, among many other things.
King said that after the tennis center was named after her, she wanted to do something that would make a difference within one year.
You’ll certainly notice the multiple Evian recycling centers on the grounds if you come for the tournament, and see the $5 reusable totes for sale.
It seems like a pretty smart, simple idea, so I wouldn’t be surprised if many more major sporting events start becoming environmentally friendly soon.
It would be a sweeping generalization to assume the star athletes of the same country all hang out together. Only in this case, it happens to be true.
Less than two days removed from his playoff loss to Vijay Singh in The Barclays in New Jersey, Sergio Garcia was on hand at the U.S. Open today to hit with Rafael Nadal on Practice Court 1.
Garcia spoke at length the other day about his active interest in soccer and tennis, both of which he sees as needed diversions from golf. And, of course, his interest in tennis extends to women seeing how he once dated Martina Hingis.
For the record, if Nadal is that hard up for practice partners, he should know that I have my racket in the car. Just give me the word…
Amazing moment from Marat Safin’s five-set win over Vincent Spadea this afternoon. Serving at 4-5, up two sets to one, Safin was called for a conventional foot fault on the first point. Later it was deuce, and Safin was called for another foot fault â€” this time from the linesman on the opposite end of the court.
Apparently, Safin had crossed the imaginary center line of the baseline with his back foot as he started to serve. He obviously wasn’t aware of the rule â€” neither was commentator John McEnroe, by the way â€” because he later told the on-court interviewer: “I was fighting with the chair umpire, the linesman, because they were wrong of course.”
Anyway, Safin yells, “What the” and thankfully doesn’t complete the thought. He then walks over to the sideline and sits down in his chair, refusing to get up. Finally he gets back on teh court and loses the next point, which is set point. Now, before the next set, he goes into the tunnel to argue with tournament referee Brian Earley.
Perhaps unlike in years past, Safin keeps it together mentally and defeats Spadea, the second-oldest player in the draw, to improve to 28-12 in five-set matches. I’ll be back later with some great quotes from the press conference.
California resident Sam Querrey is in the midst of a nice upset, taking the first two sets off No. 22 seed Tomas Berdych. Querrey lost 6-1, 6-2 to Berdych earlier this year in Miami, though the 6-foot-6 pro has had success lately, winning his first career title in Las Vegas and reaching the semis in Indianapolis.
Area fans might remember seeing Querrey in the Kennedy Funding Invitational at New City last month.