Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Live at the US Open

So the title is a bit of a misnomer. I'm not currently Live at the US Open, but I was..........a week ago.
Anyways, I'd like to review my experience at one of the biggest sporting events in America.

Now, this was my first time at the Open. I spent 3 days at Wimbledon (days 2,3, and 10) in 2005, so I do have something to compare it to. Oh, and one of my life goals is to make it to all four Grand Slams. Half way there! And this is saying something, because I really only have 3 life goals. Big day!
I headed out to Flushing Meadows on Thursday, day 4, with 4 friends of mine. We had a the grounds pass - allowing us access to all courts but Ashe Stadium. After getting my bearings, we headed to the side courts. The side courts are truly the beauty of first week Grand Slam tennis. Many times you can sit in the first row. You instantly know these are professionals. The best is getting between two courts so you can move back and forth between the two. Let's take a quick look at the matches I saw.

Match 1 - Michael Llodra vs. Kevin Anderson - Court 6 - I wanted to see this match because Llodra is a serve and volleyer, but he was overmatched by Anderson, so we quickly turned around and walked about 5 feet to court 7.

Match 2 - Kaia Kanepi (23) vs. Silvia Soler-Espinosa - Court 7 - Kanepi made the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year. She is a large Estonia with some power, but inconsistency. I had never heard of Soler-Espinosa before, which is not surprising. It was a good match. There were probably only about 20 people watching when we got there and we took u seats in the 2nd row. It's one of those "Yes I am here" moments. You can isolate the player's coaches. You can hear the players and even better, they can here you. You see the power, the pace, the spin, the sweat, the difference between the 1st and 2nd serve. You can't get this stuff on TV. SS-E, as we'll call her from now on, is pretty fit, a nice looking young Spaniard and her guest was sitting next to us and she wears Joma, so we were in her corner. The first set was close, lots of good points. SS-E broke late in the set and was able to hold her final two service games. She won the match and made her furthest progression in a Grand Slam.

Match 3 - Carla Suarez Navarro (32) vs. Simona Halep - Court 4 - The best part of early round tennis at a Grand Slam is the court hopping. I thought I'd check out another match and walked to the next court over. This match probably had the best points we saw all day. Both players were fast, good recoverers, and had real clean groundstrokes. Lots of nice long, back and forth points. Halep was a grunter, pretty loud and long in fact. Navarro was stone cold silent. Halep, a nice looking young Romanian, beat 6-seed Na Li the previous match, took the 1st set, lost the 2nd in a very close set, and kind of lost it in the 3rd. Court 4 was kind of odd. It had a large section of bleachers on one side which were pretty empty. We could talk loudly, walk around, drink gin and also see the practice courts from our high vantage point. We saw Serena, Sharapova, Hantuchova, and Radwanska warming up.
Oh, one last note, apparently Halep is best known for getting breast reduction surgery. It kid you not. This comes straight from wikipedia - "In a bid to boost her game, Halep underwent breast reduction surgery in the summer of 2009, which reduced her cup size from 34DD to 34C". You can't make this stuff up! Google "Simona Halep before and after" if you don't believe me!

Match 4 - Tommy Haas vs. Alejandro Falla - Court 13 - By this time of the day it was getting busier and we had to wait a bit to get onto court 13. We were rewarded with Legend Tommy Haas. He was looking strong and fit, impressing the ladies with a few shirt changes. We got to see the second and third set and sit in the first row and it was pretty cool. First serves from these guys are huge. Tommy was on his game and won easily as the clear crowd favorite.

Match 5 - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (17) vs. Petra Martic - Court 17 - We were able to catch the last half of the third set in this match. I was hoping for a 3rd set tiebreaker, but Martic could not break back. Pavly looked good from what I saw.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is actually the first year of court 17. It is a nice lowered court with a bowl of stands around it, seating 2,500 and eventually 3,000.

Match 6 - Marin Cilic (27) vs. Bernard Tomic - Court 17 - I was excited for this one, hearing good things for Tomic and Cilic, but it turned into a snoozer. Multiple people fell asleep. Tomic looked horrible, ill-prepared, even scared. Stayed for the first set which lasted 21 minutes. Boo.

Match 7 - Marty Fish (8) vs. Malek Jiziri - Louis Armstrong Stadium - Yes, we stepped are game up in the evening. I did not realize how much of Louis Armstrong is open for general admission, at least 4/5 of the stadium. So we got to see the American #1. It was cool being in the big stadium. There is a buzz about getting in there after queuing up for a while. Again, you feel like you are at a big event. Unfortunately, the match did not match the buzz. Easy 3 set win for Fish. Some nice cheers and some nice points. He was looking good.

Match 8 - Victoria Azarenka (4) vs. Gisela Dulko - Grandstand - Another unfortunate was that this match was moved from Armstrong to the Grandstand due to match times. By the time we got to the Grandstand it was already the 2nd set. This was the last match of the night, so lots of people were trying to get in. It's a cool atmosphere, especially at night. Azarenka won the first set and the crowd was totally behind Dulko, hoping to extend the tennis. She was up 0-40 midway through the set on serve until now, but could not get the break. You kind of knew it was over then, one of those tennis things, and on cue, Dulko was broken the next game. A few notes, Dulko is very hot. Vika isn't a bad drink of water either, but she has got to cool it with those screams.

Alright, there you go, a nice full day of tennis. A great time. I recommend it for everyone. I wish we would have been able to see a great match, but we saw a lot of very good tennis. The only player still alive that I saw is Pavlyuchenkova, so I got root for her now. But you don't get a ground pass to see the best of the best. You go to get close up views of great athletes. Best bang for your buck in sports. You see a few ranked players and some young potential. At Wimbledon I saw a young Ana Ivanovic and an unranked Gael Monfils. Who knows, maybe in 5 years we'll be talking about the time we saw Simona Halep and Silvia Soler-Espinosa?

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