1. Let's start by dispensing some credit to the USTA. This event was a happy confluence of great matches, great stories, great weather and great promotion. As a result, attendance records were shattered, ratings were up, the ineffable buzz was up. Just a great event if you're rooting for the sport to succeed.
2. Keep an eye on that Roger Federer. He may win another Grand Slam or two before he's done. We ran out of superlatives and ridiculous statistics long ago. But how's this: in the last two pressure-filled tie-breaks he played, he outscored the opposition 14-1.
3. If you have sense of karmic justice, you had to smile when Kim Clijsters finally won her first major championship. She capped a terrific summer of hardcourt tennis on Saturday night. Apart from her improved mental fitness, what really impressed us was her ability to prolong points with her scrambling. Like they say, defense wins championships.
4. For a couple of thirtysomethings, Andre Agassi and Mary Pierce did themselves proud. Let's hope we still more from both.
5. When he plays patient, Robbie Ginepri sure does a convincing impression of a top ten player, doesn't he?
6. Note to Maria Sharapova: Maybe every shot DOESN'T have to be a power shot. There's plenty to like about Sharapova's game, but you sure wish there were more variety and subtlety. (Speaking of Sharapova, she's lost to the eventual champion at all four Slams this year. Not to be outdone, Lleyton Hewitt has now fallen to the eventual champ in the last SEVEN majors he's played.)
7. Elena Dementieva is surely the first player credited with having superb footwork ... on her serve.
8. Mike and Bob Bryan won the doubles title beating Max Mirnyi and Jonas Bjorkman in the final. They are first brothers to win the Open since 1924. More important, they avoid a dubious Grand Slam of having lost in the finals all four majors.
9. For the latest on the ATP doubles contretemps, click here. http://savedoubles.com/
10. Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur won the women's title, beating Elena Dementieva and Flavia Pennetta in the final.
11. You hope James Blake recalls this U.S. Open for his terrific play, his defeat of Rafael Nadal and his usual gentlemanly comportment. Not for squandering a big lead against Andre Agassi. Now someone give the man a racket deal!
12. To take nothing away from Agassi, Blake, Clijsters, Pierce, etc. the story of the tournament might well have been Gary Bergmann Jr., one of the massage therapists in the men's locker room. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...ist/index.html
13. In an all-time Scrabble rack match, Daniela Hantuchova and Mahesh Bhupathi beat Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic to win the mixed doubles. Hantuchova's singles career may have stagnated, but she has now won the Grand Slam in mixed doubles.
14. From the "better late than never" department, let's give the USTA some props for putting the best players on the big stage regardless of nation of origin. The middle Sunday's night session pitted Clijsters against Maria Vento Kabchi and Federer against Olivier Rochus. More than 20,000 fans seemed to enjoy the tennis just fine. Far as we heard, no one asked for a refund on the grounds there were no Americans.
15. Note to Sania Mirza: We like your go-for-broke game. We like your candid personality. We love your potential for spreading tennis' popularity in India. But when you wear a shirt that reads "I'm Cute? No S - - -" you can't get indignant when asked about it.
16. Apart from the surging attendance and brisk concession sales, here's more good news for the USTA bean counters: For winning the U.S. Open series (tennis' answer to an equally meaningless "Good Attendance Award") Andy Roddick was entitled to twice his prize money, a potential seven-figure pay-out. As it was, Roddick lost in first round, earning him all of an extra $15,000. (This helps offset the $1.1 million Clijsters received.)
17. Had a fascinating conversation with Alan Ma, a longtime coach who has taken Peng Shaui and several other Chinese players under his wing. Remember how the Chinese players all skipped Wimbledon to play the qualifying rounds of the China Games? Here's Ma: "If [Peng] would have won the U.S. Open but doesn't win the China Games next month, her year will be considered a total failure."
18. Think a big serve is really that important in the men's game? Heading into the men's semis, the tournament ace leader was Ivo Karlovic, who had played all of two matches. The ace leader for the tournament? Agassi.
19. To the dismay of broadcasters, Novak Djokovic will make quite a name for himself.
20. I don't see much down side to electronic line calling and player challenges. Next year, perhaps. But it was nice that no matches were really marred by botched calls.
21. Note to Ralph Lauren: Can you guys make that horsie logo any bigger next year?
22. American Express may have swung for the fences and whiffed with the Mojo campaign. But a) at least everyone was talking about it. And b) the set -- up in Madison Square Park -- literally thousands of tennis fans sprawled on the lawn watching tennis on a big screen -- was one of the coolest sponsor events we've ever seen.
23. For all the talk of injury mania, only three of the top 100 ATP players were absent in New York. Joachim Johansson went under the knife. Marat Safin was an 11th hour pull-out with a knee problem. Guillermo Canas was AWOL on account of the anti-doping suspension.
24. Just when you thought Venus Williams couldn't be less gracious in defeat, she drops a three-set thriller to Clijsters and blames the loss on ... her opponent's poor play. "I think I was playing decent, you know. And she started playing like really bad, and it totally threw me off. She started hitting, like, these really weird shots and short balls and, like, just weird stuff. Just like it threw my game off." Riiight. Presumably, by "weird shots" she means "winners." And, gee, do you think Clijsters' vastly superior fitness had anything to do with the outcome? Even the Associated Press -- not known for editorializing -- weighed in: "[Williams'] lack of graciousness after the match equaled her lack of precision during it." Venus' stunningly tactless remarks after a defeat have devolved from old news into a comical game of Mad Libs. Here's a handy cut-and-paste. "I played (negative adverb.) Plus, I injured my (obscure body part) midway through the match. If hadn't played at (number less than 50) percent of my abilities I would have won." You'd think one of her toadies might explain to her the concept of losing with class.
25. Speaking of questionable sportsmanship, can the alphabet soups get together and make a firm policy on injury timeouts? Tracy Austin had it right: fatigue is not a reason the call a trainer and getting your body in optimal shape is a component of being pro. Gael Monfils was really victimized by the murky injury policy in his loss to Djokovic, but he was not alone.
26. Whatever happened to the quick serve? With all the stall tactics we saw, it was striking that not once did a player invoke the "play at the server's pace" rule and put a ball in play while the opponent was taking that 45-second towel break.
27. For someone so likable off the court, has there been a player that displays more negative and dour on-court body language than Lindsay Davenport? You can't help think she might have had a better shot at winning her quarterfinal match had she not looked so defeated the whole time.
28. Anyone else get the feeling Guillermo Coria is on the verge of unseating Hewitt as men's tennis persona non grata? His beef with Nicolas Massu was just the latest example of poor sportsmanship. A shame, because his speed-oriented game is appealing.
29. If Blake-Agassi was the match of the tournament (if not the year), the third round dust-up between Paradorn Srichaphan and Davide Sanguinetti was a close second. Two veterans battling their guts out, willing themselves to overcome cramps and attrition and then hugging at the end. When Sanguinetti finally won, you got the feeling he was as happy as any title winner.
30. Another memorable moment: the impromptu cheer of "If you like Fabrice Santoro clap your hands." Santoro fell to Federer in straight sets, but the score hardly mattered. Just a wonderfully entertaining match in which both players endeared themselves to 23,000 fans. For a night Santoro was no longer the Parker Posey of tennis; he was a bona fide star.
31. The USTA did plenty right. Not just a great tournament but a lot of buzz, a lot of nice touches, including the smiling greeters waiting at the gates. If I'm a sponsor or a ticketholder, I walk away with fond feelings for the event and for tennis in general. But here's one quibble: was playing Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely while Sharapova warmed up for her quarterfinal match really appropriate? And on a related note, can we pass some sort of fatwah banning Pat Benatar from all tennis PA systems? Blasting Hit me With Your Best Shot, is neither clever nor easy on the ears.
32. Congrats to Dominik Hrbaty. Both for reaching the fourth round and for wearing a pink, ventilated shirt that wins the "Most Hideous Fashion" Award. As Hewitt put it after beating Hrbaty: "It made it a lot easier for me to beat him today. I just couldn't lose to a bloke wearing a shirt like that."
33. As Nicola Vaidisova was conducting an interview after her first round win, a television cameraman in the hallway yelled, "Vaidisova? That sounds like a disease." Vaidisova played it straight but then smiled. "Hey, I heard that!" she said.
34. Donald Young has now played 15 sets of professional tennis without winning one. In New York he lost his first round match to Giorgio Galimberti of Italy, a 29-year-old ranked outside the top 250. There's still a lot of reason to be optimistic about Young in the long term. But until he grows physically -- and is no longer a boy competing against men -- the hype-meter ought to be dialed back. (As the top seed in the boys' draw, he reached the quarters.) On the other hand, we have to like Young's game: lots of angles, speed and shot-making. Say this for him: it's refreshing he's not just another basher.
35. A fond farewell to Randy Walker, PR
guru and Davis Cup historian, who is leaving the USTA. He will be missed.
36. Likewise, Maggie Maleeva announced that this is her final U.S. Open. Here's a nice piece from Neil Harman. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article...769964,00.html
Maleeva wasn't the only player to call it a career. Fabiola Zuluaga -- who has a special place in our heart if for no other reason than she married a journalist -- also announced that her days of playing professional tennis are no more.
37. Maria Emilia Salerni of Argentina attempted to secure a guest pass for her boyfriend. Ordinarily this is S.O.P. except that Salerni's boyfriend is Canas. One of the provisions of tennis' anti-doping protocol is that suspended players are not allowed on site at majors. So Salerni's request was denied. To Salerni's credit, she was candid and passionate talking about Canas' struggle and characterizing his state for media inquisitors. This despite the presence of a WTA minder exhorting her to "stick to questions about today's match."
38. Andrew Murray was denied a wild card when the LTA declined to swap a Wimbledon wild card with the USTA. Murray played three matches to qualify, then outlasted Andrei Pavel is a raucous five-setter. He finally wilted against Arnaud Clement in another five-setter. If his legs were fresher, might he have advanced?
39. The Brits have to be distressed about Tim Henman, who has looked old and creaky of late. Unless his back improves, it could be curtains on his underrated career. On the other hand, Murray is the real deal, an intelligent player with a sixth sense for strategy and mixing up his shots.
40. Back to the wild card controversy. If any good came of Mark Philippoussis' first round loss, it is this: an extra American will get into the Australian Open main draw. (In exchange for giving Philippoussis a free pass, Tennis Australia will give an American junior a main draw wild card. All of this wild card swapping seems awfully unfair to players from the 200 or so countries that don't host majors.
41. Many of you asked where I stood on Serena and Venus' reaction to Katrina. To me, this is a case where the sisters ought not to be seen as a monolith. Venus' response that she doesn't watch the news was obtuse at best. In the case of Serena, I think it's hard to criticize someone for an act of philanthropy, even if the dollar amount sounds puny. On the other hand, when Michael Barkann suggested that Serena's earrings were worth more than her opponent had earned in her career and Serena blithely responded, "Well, ya gotta have the bling," it was of questionable taste to say the least.
42. Madagascar's Dally Randriantefy won $25,000 for reaching the second round. The annual per capita income of Madagascar is $807.
43. Full disclosure: I did some work for USA Network during the Open. (Thanks to the many of you who wrote in critiquing my wardrobe, the assorted foodstuff in between my teeth, and the altitude of my zipper, etc.) But in all objectivity, you wish all the Slams were covered as thoroughly and honestly and as enthusiastically as the U.S Open. As for the Blake-Agassi "Heidi" gaff, here's an explanation.http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/09/sp...9sandomir.html
44. CBS did a fine job, too. But especially after the Carlos Moya-Todd Martin broadcasting debacle from a few years back (which has become legend in tennis circles), you'd think the network would recruit someone who actually knows tennis -- Mary Joe Fernandez, for instance -- to conduct the postmatch on-court interviews? (For the record, Hewitt was extraordinarily gracious when, after just having won a gutsy five-setter over Taylor Dent, he was, incomprehensibly, asked how it felt to have his weaknesses exposed.)
45. Congrats to Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle who won the print media award from the USTA.
46. Blake versus Ginepri for the second U.S. Davis Cup singles spot? Boy, don't envy Pat McEnroe on this one. Speaking of Davis Cup, Alex Clayton, 17, of Fort Lauderdale and Sam Querrey (for the Straight Guy) of Thousand Oaks, Calif. will be the hitting partners for the Davis Cup tie.
47. Speaking of juniors, nice to see Alex Kuznetsov back in action. The talented 18-year-old shattered his leg in an auto accident earlier this year. He returned to win a match of men's doubles and win a few rounds in the junior draw.
48. At the suggestion of one of you, I entered a "suicide" U.S. Open pool on-line. I encourage you play at the next Slam. It's a ton of fun and no money changes hands.
49. As we mentioned last week, tennis put on its best face with regard to Katrina. Players taped PSA's -- no questions asked. Unprompted, the USTA made a $500,000 donation (half what the mighty, mighty NFL -- an institution with a franchise in New Orleans, no less -- first coughed up!) And tennis players from both tours have joined up for an auction to benefit the American Red Cross hurricane relief efforts in the hardest-hit areas. The items are now on display at www.TennisKatrina.com
and the bidding will begin soon.
50. Please. Can we all make a pact to retire the word mojo from our lexicons?