After last year's fiasco, I was really wary about attending the Open this year. However, I knew there had to be something special about an event the drew the world's top players and offered a million dollar purse, so I did a few things to ensure not being bummed:
1. I went alone. As a tennis fanatic, no casual watching friend of mine would understand wanting to sit in the hot sun and watch match after match. Like Mrs. G at Washington, I wanted to go at my own pace and get the full enjoyment of the experieince.
2. I didn't get advanced tickets. Did I really want my day in the hands of the USTA? After seeing all the rain, I can say clearly, "hell no".
3. I avoided Ashe Stadium like the plague. Why pay $50+ for shitty seats to obverse ants runs around a green court???
I was a bit concerned about getting on-site tickets, especially after viewing the US Open website which stated that the box office was closed on Sundays. I called the box office and asked them if they were open. A man answered, "Yes, from 9 am to 9 pm". Hmmm. Who's in charge of the website???
I was also concerned after hopping on the 7 train and being smothered by suburban moms in khaki shorts with their snotty nosed Roddick happy kids tossing big yellow, autograph balls as their tough, redfaced army dads yelled at them to stand still. Hmmm. Is the the representation of the US Open crowd???
After a 30 minute ride, I ran off the train for my life. I was immediately halted by a half-mile line that snaked around the concession stands to the ticket counter. This didn't look good, folks. Scalpers were on the hunt and there were many a precious victim to be found in the face of desperate 16-year-olds.
Fortunately, the line looked worse than it was. I got a ticket after an hour wait, and just in time as their were only about 100 left for that day.
So I went through the "security checkpoint" where an officer checked and saw the appointment book in my bag and waved me on. Hmmm. Who but I knew what lurked in the dark recesses of its corners??? If I were a player, I would be very concerned about measures passing as security.
Anyway, I didn't get on the grounds until 1:30, but the Moya-Massu match was just in the second set at Armstrong.
Boy was I happy from my $45 grounds pass! For that money, I had access to all courts, except for Ashe Stadium. Let me tell you Ashe Stadium has nothing on Armstrong and the Grandstand for viewing and court access! Because the stadiums are smaller, there is a feeling of intimacy among the crowds that you just can't get from the big wind-tunnel Ashe. Plus, the seats are unrestricted and since the stadium was half full (who's Carlos Moya???) I was able to get a row or two behind the box seats.
I never had much opinion on those new sleeveless shirts but in person I can see why Wertheim and co. snicker about them. Carlos looked like a has been-porn star, not the sleek playboy he's was going after. Massu definitely had a clean-cut tennis look in his Wimbledon whites.
However, his game was n-i-c-e. He strikes such a clean ball and has a beautiful backhand. Massu played well also, but Moya is just one level above him.
El Aynaoui v Novak
The cheers from the Grandstand overtook the sparse claps at Armstrong, so after Moya won the match I crossed the skyline (the two courts are connected) and watched the tiebreak between El Aynaoui and Novak. Since I really don't like both players, I didn't get care who won (actually I wanted Novak to win because El A. took out Nadal
) but the crowd's cheers for both players was infectious. There were a group of Chileans who adopted El A. and stood up chanting after his every point.
Elena L. v. Paola Suarez
After that match I went back to AS and watched these two play. The stadium was really sparse and some guy on his cell waiting for the Philippoussis match was unimpressed. "Two chicks playing" he said drably to the caller on the other line.
Even I thought this was going to be a sleeper. Instead I was treated to a very tight and engaging match.
In person, Paola looks taller than she is (until she passes by 6 foot Elena). She has beautiful, long silky legs. She must have the best legs on the women's tour. It's weird because these towers stretch into a truncated body with no neck and a big head! She still is a cutie though. Elena was your typical athletic tomboy with nothing that stood out.
Paola is a beautiful striker of the ball and has a great return game. She was down a break in the third set, but went on to win because she is the superior player. Now I'm a Paola Suarez fan! (Edited to add: Why did she let Linday bagel her in the 2nd
Philippoussis v. Nalbandian
The stadium filled up quickly to see the Wimby runner-up in action. I was shocked when I saw Scud in action--this guy is a big as a house. They say TV ads 10 pounds. Well, not in his case!
This match was all about Scud--and his UFEs. How many times did he hit his BH long??? David did nothing but keep the ball in the court. He played very good defensive tennis (Edited to add: same tactic he used against Federer, El. A and almost--Roddick). Scud should have won that match--if his head was still not at the Wimby final!
Anyway, the Aussies wearing their green and yellow wigs tried to keep Scud in the match after he won that exciting tiebreak that went 12/10. They called out "Flip. Flip" (What does that mean??? and "Womp. There it is!" A woman cheering for David beside me said they were "nauseating".
Anyway I watched and cheered the match with a Justin Leonard lookalike who'd come to town just to watch the USO. After Scud's loss he said David, who was decked out all in white, "was that guy you hated to play against because he always wins". (Federer probably saying this to himself)
Scud disappeared shortly after grabbing his racquets but David signed for the kids and raised his hands to the crowd, no doubt happy he had a victory over Scud.
Malisse vs. Tursonov
By the time these two got going the sun was down, the lights were on and it was desert cold!
The crowds had cleared, some of them no doubt on their way over to Federer/Blake at Ashe, but I was eagerly awaiting to see the qualifier Russian who took out Kuerten in the 1st Rd.
Before the match got started a few heads turned to see a lizard walk in with shades and a smirk on his face. He shooks some hands. Why, no one else but Nick Bolliteri himself
As soon as Tursovov served the first game, I was very impressed! This guy is good, and he showed it by going out to a 5/1 lead. Unfortunately, he couldn't hold on to it and lost the set 7/5. In fact, he blew his leads in all three sets, although he clearly was dominating.
Maybe he was tired, or better yet, couldn't believe he could actually get to the fourth round of the Open. Anyway, it's easy to see that his mental game is his weakest, but he's made a fan of me! I was not impressed by X-man at all.
I didn't watch that whole Tursonov/X-Man match as it was too cold to stay in the stands and I wanted to see Federer larger than life on the Ashe screen before I headed home. I actually met an Englishman who had come to the Open and we remarked on the match together. At first it seemed to be a blowout for Fedex but somehow, amazingly Blake broke back in the 2nd set and took it to a thrilling tie break.
However, Blake was working hard for every point and Fedex was hardly breaking a sweat. The Brit said that Blake would be done in a few years, but Fedex plays so compactly that he could go on forever. Sadly, I have to agree.
I wanted to buy souveniers for some friends of mine, but why couldn't I find anything under $20????
Wertheim has it right on this score!
Well, I went home with a case of sunburn and a lot of memories, some of which I'm sharing with you.
Glad, I went on the best day of the week!