Nuts and Bolts, 8/29: Late Afternoon Accoutrements
Daily dispatches on gear from the U.S. Open.
3:55 p.m. I’m out on Court 6 for some All-American dubs. It’s the veterans against the upstarts: Bobby Reynolds/Michael Russell vs. Dennis Novikov/Michael Redlicki, the latter team having won the 18s doubles title—and U.S. Open wildcard—this year in Kalamazoo. The kids’ bodies are smooth and spry; in comparison, R. & R.’S are thewier, more defined. I look for stencils indicating string sponsorship. Reynolds, Russell, Novikov, triple check. But Redlicki? His is without stencil. Besides me, K.T. Kim, of Solinco, sighs and shakes his head. “These kids,” he says. Redlicki’s a Solinco player, but apparently he’s forgotten his ink.
4:25 p.m., and it’s onto Court 4, where USC Standout Steve Johnson is taking on Rajeev Ram. Standing at the far baseline is Patrick McEnroe, who’s mic’ed up but looks to be doing more USTA than ESPN assessment. The crowd is large and susurrus. A few dudes, hats turned backwards, are vocally pro-Johnson. (“Let’s go Steviee!”) Stevie dances in place, waiting to serve. He’s decked out in Asics from head to toe, his shirt reminiscent of Andy Roddick’s in 2004. Call the look urban camouflage.
Meanwhile, Ram, fashioned all in pearlescent white, walks to the line. I don’t know if he possibly has shins splints, but thick white bandages are wrapped beneath his knees, which in conjunction with his Athletic DNA threads makes him look fragile and stork-like. Ram, strangely for a one-hander, starts with his left hand not on the throat but at the top of grip, as if he’s planning to return with two. Johnson tosses the ball with his right; Ram chokes up fleetly with his left. A few shots later, Stevie rips an inside-out forehand for a winner. P. Mac nods slightly.
4:45 p.m., Court 5. Brian Battistone, he of the eponymously named doubled-handled racquet, the Battistone Freestyle is practicing some quick volleys with the long and blonde and deeply tanned Nicole Melichar. Battistone’s face is thin, light-hearted, and all smiles. His shorts fall well below his knees, SoCal style. Battistone/Melichar, it turns out, are in the mixed doubles draw, having won the USTA National Playoffs a few weeks back in New Haven. It’s all very interesting, Brian’s habits with the racquet. Volleying, he starts with a handle per hand, though his right arm is clearly dominant; after a few shots, he’ll usually cradle the throat in his left. But still, he isn’t without surprises. Rat-a-tat-tat goes one exchange until Nicole puts up a floater. Brian left hands it away. He is graceful with both hands.
5:18 p.m., and Andreas Seppi is down two sets to Tommy Robredo on Court 7. The stands are sparsely packed. To my left, one highly tan woman makes sure not to move so that she maximizes her sun exposure. Seppi’s in his usual Fila garb, obscure ProKennex in hand. But I haven’t seen Robredo play in a while, and to my surprise he’s donned sunglasses. They’re a deep shade of red, frames and lenses alike, adding welcome color to his monochromatic togs (brand: Bike). Are these a prescription or something? Whatever they are, they’re working. Robredo rips an ace. Vamos! Fist pumps. Struts. Sits. Swigs. Evian. (“Live young, Tommy.”)
5:38 p.m., and I’m back to shady stands of Court 4, where the Brothers Bryan are whipping up on Belgium’s David Goffin and Steve Darcis. The Bryans are upbeat in their gestures and duds. They hop and skip between points in (K-Swiss) splash-orange shirts, waving (Prince Rebel) sticks painted a bright highlighter yellow. Prince green are their bags, which are stitched with Olympic-themed embroidery—i.e., “Go for Gold!” and “Citius. Altius. Fortius.” Darcis and Goffin, for their own part, make a cute couple on-court. Goffin is quick and diminutive, whooshing breath when he swings. Darcis is also rather small, and both have extremely sinewy and muscled legs. (Question: Are the European’s legs that much stronger than those of the U.S. guys? Or does it just look that way because of the whole shaving thing?) Both Belgians swing Wilsons, the colors of which match their bags. They look well put together. Then again, they’re getting their asses kicked.
6:39, p.m., and my concentration is majorly waning, but I force myself to tread across the grounds to Court 10 for some mixed doubles. Andrea Petkovic and Eric Butorac (German + American) are taking on Colin Fleming and Sania Mirza (British + Indian). The points are generally abbreviated, and the players are in pretty good spirits. (It’s mixed dubs., after all.) Butorac grins often and big, tapping Petkovic’s hand softly in a flirty kind of way. Petkovic keeps adjusting her Adidas kits, which are very yellow and very constricting. Really, they’re so tight, the ball beneath her skirt looks welt-like. I stare for a moment at the globular contusion, which vibrates and turns spheroidal shapes in the setting sun.
7:15, p.m., I manage to turn away from the welt, stumbling past the vendors and the Jumbotron and the USTA’s Polo-garbed, colonial-safari greeters who are welcoming the throngs into Arthur Ashe Stadium—until finally, I arrive at my appointed honeycomb in the media hive.