My US Open: From Jelena, to Safin, to Vinny Ice
I have to say that I didn't enjoy this US Open as much as I did the last one in 2003. I think it was partly due to anxiety, but also due to the boorishness of the crowds, and I'm not talking about people booing double faults. The Open seems to attract two major groups of people--the clueless surbanites and the knowing young foreigners. It doesn't take a wild guess for MTFers to figure out who were the nasty ones. I don't expect Wimbledon-like etiquette, and so if you are so anxious to be two seconds ahead of me to get through the gate, but all means cut me. However, if I already have my entrance ticket checked, let me pass--don't extend your arm as a barrier so that you can get your ticket checked before I can go through the turnstyle.
What is it with surburban husbands and their Bergdorf Blonde wives? One of these got mad with the manager at the hamburger stand because the hamburgers had run out. Yes, the wait was long but what was the rush? You probably didn't even know who was playing at the Open besides Agassi anyway! The manager told them, "I've served 10,000 handburgers today. You need to get a better attitude." Okay, maybe he shouldn't have said that, but the couple had already turned away with their waffle fries.
Then there was the surburban couple with their teen kids. They made an appearance after their know-it-all teen boy and his sister.
"Is anyone in that seat?," the teen asked me of the seat gapped between me and another spectator. The Jelena-Svetlana match was in progress and people had been coming and going. There were three empty seats to my left. Although he failed to say why I needed to move down, I guessed it and said, "You need four seats?"
He nodded. "Uh huh. Yeah."
I then became witness to his motormouth conversation about who was playing, blah blah. Games in process didn't stop him and he jumped up and clapped like he was at a hockey match any time Jelena won a point.
His sister seemed more interested in text messaging and at one point he berated her in his authorative voice, "Don't whine Jillian. Don't whine."
At one point he and his sister and Bergdorf mother left, leaving behind the pink skinned father who berated a woman for asking about an empty seat in a middle of a point. "You know the rules," he grumbled.
Later at Armstrong during the Sharapova-Li match I had to hear people grumble about others sneaking in without paying for a ticket. Heck, I didn't pay the Armstrong price, why should I when I'm let in directly from the adjoining Grandstand?
While watching the match some suburban guy asked another about an empty seat. When he learned it was already taken he climbed over seats to get to a vacant one.
"That's rude!" said the other man.
With rudeness permeating a nice, sun-filled Labor Day, I have to say Jelena Jankovic has replaced Monica Seles as my favorite tennis player. This girl is going to be No. 1. That match with Svetlana was fantastic and the way she got so low and sliced the balls over the net. Beautiful! I became a fan as soon as she walked onto the court and (referencing Myskina) touching the towel to her face here and here. Pictures just don't do justice to how beautiful this girl is. She struck the ball so beautifully in practice, and Svetlana so raggedly, that I knew, even after she lost the first set, that the momentum was hers. She worked Svetlana's backhand, which was useless, and soon was her forehand. Svetlana, the adept net player, hit everything into the net and could not hit an overhead to save her life. Svetlana slammed her racquet into the ground, and at another time, flagellated herself with it. She probably has a nice bruice on her thigh now. Jelena had completely rattled her. All Jelena needs now is consistancy and a stronger serve.
TV just doesn't to justice to how giant these girls are and how big their quads are. Very few are slender like Sharapova, even if they do appear thinner on television. Lindsay is a huge girl and I got to see her practice a bit. She signed autographs afterwards and as she left security asked the crowd, "And what do you say?" The crowd of mostly kids replied, "Thank you, Lindsay!" to which she turned back around and gave a big smile. Other players practicing at the same time were Jarkko Nieminen and Tommy (Top 5) Robredo.
Speaking of giants, no TV screen can do justice to how massively huge Marat is. No wonder he lumbers side to side when he walks. That was the second thought I had when he came out for his match against Ollie. The first was, my gawd this guy needs to stay out of the sun! Could Marat's face be any redder? Funny thing was that the rest of his body was tan. It was only as the match wore on that his face began to match the color of his body. TV also doesn't show how wooly his hair is. He could let it go and it would grow like a Rastafarian's. His choice of outfits was ugh. White with big black shoes. The back of his shirt had these funny red streaks that looked like drip stains. Although I argued on MTF that Marat really wasn't Ollie's bitch, Marat looked raggedy in his warm-up while Ollie looked great. Uh-oh, I thought. But then the match started and Marat (working almost exclusively backhand) rolled winner after winner. I was like, this is the best I've seen him play since 2000 US Open final! I couldn't believe it! I thought if I ever saw Safin, it would be in a match he loses. Of course, he was helped out by Ollie who was just hitting everthing wide or into the net. "I've never seen Ollie play this bad," said a guy in a preppy jacket and flip-flops next to me.
Marat was a rumbling storm through the match, never happy and ready to go off at any time. He even had to talk with the umpire. The only positive showings he gave were quiet fist nods after breaking Ollie or winning the set. On the other hand, it was Ollie who hit the ground with his racquet.
The scoreline was completely umbelievable. All the kids ran up to Marat for his autograph and I found myself besides some guy who looked like a Blake. Obviously it couldn't have been James, but maybe Thomas? The guy did have credentials but nobody bothered him.
I came in on the second set of the Anna Chakvetadze/Tatiana Golovin match. While waiting to get in a man and his young son were debating about standing in line. "Who are these girls? You don't even know who they are?" "So?" he son replied. "Come on. Let's go to the Safina match. At least she's a known player." They left, but two minutes later were back. I looked at the father and told him the two girls were really good. "Tatiana Golovin is like the French Maria Sharapova," I said.
He must have thought I ment the ponytailed Chakvetadze because the other girl I didn't even recognize. Gone was the blonde with the butterfly clips and buttcrack shorts. In her place was some dark haired chick in a tennis version of a nun's outfit--black and loose fitting dress with a black visor. Her legs were huge. She must have spent the time before the match in a tanning salon because she was deep dark. I had a hard time believing that was Tatiana. Anyway, she was overpowering Anna who was just throwing in errors left and right; she was on the verge of tears in her self-destruction. It was a bad match but she had the public's side.
I watched also parts of the next match with Martina Navratilova/Bob Bryan match. Only then had the Grandstand filled (heck who were Jelena, Tatiana and Safin anyway?) Martina was very strong even through 49-year-old sun-damaged skin. However, I have to say that she was being carried by Bob, both in the serve and net play.
I moved over to watch the 2nd set of Maria/Na match at the fully-attended Armstrong court. This is my other bold prediction--Na Li will also be No. 1. Beautiful game. She was doomed by the wind and inexperience. It was interesting to see that 1/2 the crowd was on her side. Maria is a great retriever but her game is ugly to watch.
Two other doubles matches ended my day. On the very accessible Court 10, the crygirl, Chakvetadze and Elena Vesnina were losing the 3rd set to Suarez/Rauno-Pascal. Elena tried to keep Anna positive but Anna was falling apart, hating herself, putting in error after error. Soon it was too late. She left crying, but Elena gave an autograph on her way out. Anna, I think, doesn't have the power to really play higher than Top 20, but I really was impressed with Elena. I think what's holding her back is her size. Both girls are relatively short.
Last, but definitely first, I got to watch VINNY ICE! He was finishing up a mixed doubles match with Vania King against Cyril Suk and Na Li. When the group first strolled past me I saw Vania, Na and Cyril surrounded by these security guys. Where's Vinny?, I wondered. It was only after they took court that I realized Vinny wasn't one of the security guys! He has a really old face, graying black hair that flapped in the wind like puppy ears and big white hat and big, loose white clothes that didn't even look like a tennis outfit. He looked ridiculous, especially compared to the tall, lean Suk who was dressed in an athletic, orange and black tennis outfit. "His hair looks like a cat!" one woman exclaimed.
After the umpire called time for the warm up, Vinny ran off the court, disappearing into the bushes leaving his partner sitting in her seat. He appeared about 5 minutes later. It was pretty bizarre. Maybe he really did have a case of the runs.
Despite his awful get-up, Vinny is a pretty decent doubles player with some good net instincts. He and Vania (who is never going to be that great) had good communication between them to their advantage. Li and Suk seemed as if they had never played together before and this is probably why they lost.
As I left, I saw on one of the screens that Serena had lost in 3 sets. The crowd watching was dumbfounded. How could Serena lose?
Finally, I took the LIRR back to Manhattan as I had taken it there. It's 8 bucks but only 2 stops, much better than taking the never ending 7 train. I did okay at the Open--while two hamburgers cost me $14, I avoided the $3.75 large chocolate cookie. Who would spend that much?
Tell next time.