August 22, 2007, 3:45 pm Live From the 71st Floor, It’s Tennis!
By Kathleen McElroy
Of course, there were no jokes about the high drama of the United States Open draw even though the United States Tennis Association held it in a small conference room of the 71st floor of the Empire State Building. A view of the Statue of Liberty was framed by oversized photographs of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.
But today’s draw, which started at about 11 a.m. and was over about an hour later, was a relatively tame, polite affair because only 30 seeded players — not the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and the other 96 — are drawn out of an Open trophy. Placed near the door were two already printed draw sheets for the men and the women, with those selections having been made the night before with representatives of the International Tennis Association and the men’s and women’s tours.
Before the draw began, Davis Cup captain and tennis commentator Patrick McEnroe, looking quite spiffy in a pinstriped suit, was already speculating about a potential matchup between 6-foot-9-inch John Isner and 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic. Now that would be taking tennis to new heights.
Alas, we later learned that Karlovic will face the significantly shorter Arnaud Clement in the first round, but he is in top-seeded Roger Federer’s quarter of the draw. Before the ceremony, Federer’s drawsheet read like this:
- Federer, Roger (1)
- WC: Isner, John
When Novak Djokovic was drawn to No. 2 Rafael Nadal’s side, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated said under his breath, “Federer just went back to sleep.” The No. 8 spot was filled with Jarkko Nieminen, the 26th-seeded Finn.
Deitsch was also sitting next to The Times’ Liz Robbins, and the two traded comments and quips about the men’s draw as it continued. The question is, of course, who ends up on whose side? The draw works like this: No. 3 and No. 4 are chosen for one side or the other. Then 5-8 are decided, next 9-12, followed by 13-16. The last seeded players to be positioned are 17-24, ending with 25-32. So instead of facing Nieminen in the third round, Federer could have faced Marat Safin, seeded 25th, a former Open champion.
Everyone was buzzing after Andy Roddick was put in Federer’s quarter. If they both get that far, it’s a safe bet that USA Network will ensure that match will never see the light of day (wink).
Actually, the first night match will honor Althea Gibson in an evening dedicated to “Breaking Barriers.” Fifteen African-American female pioneers are expected to attend and Aretha Franklin is scheduled to perform. (However, might it be refreshing to celebrate this moment without having the Williams sisters play that night, just as a small way to prove that African-American successes aren’t just for African-Americans?)
By the way, all the cleverness didn’t come from journalists. A U.S.T.A. video about the progression of the United States Open garnered laughs with its then-and-now morphing: among them, young, long-haired shirtless John McEnroe into suited, graying, trimmed John McEnroe in the booth; green courts turning blue; and McEnroe this time ranting at the umpire, with a switch to players patiently watching Hawkeye, all to David Bowie’s “Changes.”
Some things never, well, you know, change. David Dinkins, who will always be THE mayor to New York tennis fans, sat next to Tennis Channel commentator Katrina Adams during the proceedings. He wasn’t interested in talking about first-round matchups or seedings:
“Do you play?” he asked me pointedly.
“Yes, but I’m not very good.”
“You should take lessons.”
“Well, sir, I have …
“Look at me– I’m 80 and I play tennis five days a week!”
Soon, he was pulled away to take pictures with an eight-year-old boy who helped conduct the draw because he will sing the National Anthem during the Open.
Adams enthusiastically pointed out some little-heralded women’s matches that might be worth a look: Meghann Shaughnessy vs. Vania King — “Old vs. new,” Adams said; No. 22 Katerina Srebotnik vs. Alicia Molik: Aleksandra Wozniak, a 17-year-old Candaian, vs. No. 31 Anabel Madina Garrigues; Nathalie Dechy vs. No. 24 Francesca Schiavone.
When the qualifying names are drawn, we’ll take another look at the draw, and update with any withdrawals, reseeding, etc.