Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 3: Tennis Heaven and $8 Heineken

Greetings tennis obsessed lunatics,

It was an absolutely pristine day for tennis at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

While the night session centered around two grand-slam hoarders - Federer and Serena coasted to easy victories - the day session was an entirely different animal. It was a mixed bag of upsets, blowouts, and nail biters that kept the grounds buzzing with excitement, in spite of the fact that a Grey Goose cocktail was selling for $13 in the food court.

There were simply too many exceptional moments to fit into one blog post, so I'm going to do my best to consolidate the highlights of the day into an orderly and concise piece of tennis journalism:

1. Monfils took his compatriot Jeremy Chardy to the woodshed in the first match of the day on Grandstand. Simply put, the kid is a remarkable athlete. Up close and personal, it is just awe inspiring to watch the lethal combination of foot speed, quickness, and sheer imposing size that Monfils possesses. He was truly magnifique today, and Chardy, who played as if he was still asleep for the first three games of the match, was never given the chance to wake up by Monfils.

Throw in a little shadow boxing after Monfils drilled a winner off a short Chardy volley on match point, and the fans at Grandstand had already gotten their moneys worth before the shadows had made it on to the court.

2. Speaking of Grandstand, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a distinct pleasure it is to watch a match on this court. As far as I'm concerned it is THE PLACE TO BE when it comes to viewing the U.S. Open in person. Spectators can get so close to the players that they can practically read the grip size on their racquets. And if you want to go for the double whammy, you can walk up the stairs at Louis Armstrong and shuttle between standing with the photographers who are shooting the birds-eye view of Grandstand, and the larger yet still intimate stadium that is Louis Armstrong.

Either way you slice it, Grandstand lends a flavor of intimacy to the U.S. Open venue, with its trademark shadows encroaching on the playing surface as the day progresses, and the warm and cozy boxed in feeling that you feel when you are sitting in your seat, or standing and letting your arms dangle over the 4' high blue rails that the photographers use to rest their massive telephoto lenses on.

3. Kim Clijsters a.k.a. Kimpossible defeated Marion Bartoli on Louis Armstrong, just as the sun was beginning to sink toward the horizon.

Before we get to the glory of Kim's comeback, I would like to give some props to Marion Bartoli. She may not the prettiest or most conventional player on the WTA tour, but what she lacks in those areas she most certainly makes up for in heart and determination and courage - and these are things that the more athletically gifted players like Safina and Ivanovic could most definitely use.

But nonetheless Clijsters, behind the seemingly unconditional love and support of the N.Y. crowd, was able to continue her marvelous comeback after a 27 month absence from the sport, coming from behind to defeat Bartoli for the 2nd time in less than a month, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

It looks like Clijsters is headed for a 4th round match with Venus Williams, and the fact that the health of Venus' knee is in question makes this a pretty difficult pick. I'm thinking Clijsters, but I'd never be so stupid as to rule Venus out.

4. Victoria Azarenka was absolutely dominant in her straight set destruction of Barbara Zahlavova Strycova today. Is there any woman who patrols the baseline with the panache of Azarenka? She is an absolute phenom back there. That's the good news, but the bad news is that her first serve very rarely clocked out above 90 M.P.H. If she can somehow find a way to tack on another 10-15 M.P.H to that serve, she could be a potential No. 1, no doubt about it.

4-a. I heard two interesting comments about Azarenka while meandering on the Grandstand yesterday: A woman from Cape Cod (who I had a nice conversation with) said that Azarenka and Zahlavova Strycova sounded like "two porpoises." I think I agree, but I'm not sure.

Moments later, another well dressed and sufficiently tanned woman with big sunglasses and an alabaster-skinned boyfriend was imitating Azarenka as she headed for the exit. When she finished her imitation she stated that Azarenka was "so annoying" in very flippant manner. Again, I think I agree (though not flippantly), but to be honest, I'm was too awestruck by Azarenka's magnificent groundies to be annoyed by her screeching. And, to be quite honest, it's a lot louder and more annoying on T.V. than it is in person.

5. It can't be easy for a top-20 (and former No. 4) player like David Ferrer to head out to court 4 for his first round match, but that is where he was playing when I walked out to the court, which is located on the far west side of the Tennis Center, just to the south of the practice courts (where Andy Murray was enjoying a nice game of doubles footie with a few of his coaches).

Ferrer seemed uninspired by the very tame settings, and he quickly got behind his fellow Spaniard, Alberto Martin, 5-1 in the first set. Yet somehow the feisty (with a capital F) Ferrer found his game, and he stormed back to take the next 6 games against Martin.

The diminutive Ferrer showed why he is regarded as one of the best returners on tour, breaking Martin 3 consecutive times by getting deep returns and then hammering away on the backhand side of his opponent.

Even as Ferrer lost a closely contested 2nd set, he was still able to regroup and advance in four, securing 11 breaks of serve in the 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

It is a true testament that the players who are scheduled on the side courts can play the game at such a high level. There are numerous distractions out there, with the crowd constantly moving about in the tree-lined walkways between the courts, craning their collective heads to see over each other and generally doing all the things that they would be chided for if they were on one of the show courts.

6. Evgeny Korolev and Andreas Beck played a dramatic five-setter on court 7. It is the type of the match that you'll never see on sportscenter or even the tennis channel, but it was a gritty display by both players, with Beck blasting out to a two-set lead, and the determined Korolev playing out of his head to level the match.

At the conclusion it came down to a few larger-than-life points, and those were the points that Beck, currently ranked No. 40 in the world was able to use as a springboard to his 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 2-6, 6-4 victory (which netted him $12,000 in prize money, in case you're scoring at home).

And I haven't even mentioned the likes of Nadal (who pummelled a drug-free Gasquet on Armstrong) and Del Potro (who demoralized his compatriot Monaco, also on Armstrong).

It was a magnificent day at the U.S. Open! If I said it a thousand more times it wouldn't be enough to truly express the way I feel about the beauty of Grand-Slam tennis at a world class venue such as this.

Now it's time to shut down my computer, so I can get up early and head back to the place where the magic occurs.

Thanks for reading,
The Fan Child

No comments:

Post a Comment