By Jackie Roe, TW Social Director
Hey there, TWibe! Many thanks to those of you who wished me well as I was battling bronchitis. Thankfully, I'm feeling much better; your thoughful messages played a role in my recovery, no doubt. Today's Deuce Club is jam-packed to make up for my absence last week, so I'm expecting lots of participation from you guys! First off, I never got around to sharing my US Open experiences, as promised, so I hope you won't mind if we backtrack a couple of weeks and return to USO mode. (Apologies to those of you who would rather forget those two weeks.) I didn't think I'd make it to the USO this year since it was coming on the heels of a fairly exhaustive Cincinnati Masters trip, but a confluence of fortuitous circumstances led me to NY, where I'd be able to enjoy Grand Slam action for the very first time! I attended the tournament from Wednesday through Saturday of the first week, and each day was more thrilling than the last. I'll recap each day in just a bit, but I can't continue without mentioning the highlight of the visit - meeting so many TWibers, including Pete!
I spent time with several TWibers, both on the grounds and at the TW gathering Saturday night, and it was a thrill to see these folks in the flesh and get to know them better. As I noted after my trip to Indian Wells, everyone was just as I'd imagined, true to their online personalities ... except even more charming! A list of the TW all-stars in attendance at the Open (and if I forgot you, please let me know - and throw in a slap for good measure): jb, lpb (Susan), Tari, Sam, Arun, linz, jbradhunter, ptenisnet, Or - all the way from Israel!, MissTari, knownaim&, Bobby, GVGirl, ndk, Asad, Andrew F., Ed, and of course, Pete.
I didn't get many photos of the group, unfortunately, but we did manage a terrific one on the first day; to your right is a shot of Pete, me, lpb (Susan), and Andrew F. (from L to R), taken by Susan's husband Alex. That's definitely desktop wallpaper-worthy.Back to the tennis. On Wednesday, the first match I caught was Safin-Melzer on Armstrong (with jb). Funny enough, we watched only the first set - and it was the sole set Safin would win in the entire tournament. And his last in a Slam. (Maybe we were his good luck charm and should've stuck around, huh.) Then I moved to Grandstand for Zvonareva-Chakvetadze. After a slow start, Zvonareva ran away with the match, breadsticking Chakvetadze in the second and third sets. I noticed that while Zvonareva is such a skillful mover, the movements themselves often look labored ... like she's constantly off-balance. Maybe her knee ailment had something to do with it.The rest of the day, I watched bits and pieces of Ferrero vs. Santoro (oldies but goodies!), Bartoli vs. Clijsters (I was over the moon to finally see Kimmy live - thought the day would never come), Simon vs. Gimeno-Traver, and Fisher/Kerr vs. De Voest/Ram. During that doubles match, jb and I noted that doubles players execute overheads far more consistently than their singles counterparts. Interesting, we thought ... or maybe obvious.I ended the day watching Federer-Gruel - but on the big screen, since I didn't have Arthur Ashe tickets. Not that I minded; catching the match by the fountains among loads of other tennis fans and with a warm Indian dinner on my lap was the perfect cap to an exhilarating day.The next day (Thursday), I was fortunate enough to get my hands on tickets in Ashe - and in a box, no less. Being that close to the action was surreal; I thought players were supposed to look like ants in Ashe! I was present for the stunning upsets of Dementieva and Jankovic, and while both results were surprising, the matches themselves couldn't have been more different. Dementieva-Oudin was a spirited bout, and you sensed that both were playing their hearts out, while Jankovic-Shvedova was an error-laden, who-will-implode-first rollercoaster. Still, I enjoyed them both, especially that first match, what with the electricity pulsating through the stadium. I can't adequately describe it - but I'll never forget the feeling.
By the way, my perception of Ashe has changed a bit, having actually been in it. When you're close to the court area, as I was, it doesn't strike you as being different from any other center court; I expected the grandeur of a Court Philippe Chatrier and instead, it felt like the center court in Cincinnati. The minute you look up, though, you're distinctly aware that this stadium is like none other in the world.Other matches I attended that day: Youzhny vs. Chiudinelli; Kuznetsova vs. Sevastova (the match was over so quickly I never got a decent pic of Sevastova!); Blake vs. Rochus (I was pulling for the diminutive Rochus, who had numerous chances to take the lead in the match but couldn't capitalize); Djokovic vs. Ball (Djokovic seemed a little edgy and actually received a fair amount of boos, which surprised me - but he won everyone over with his post-match interview).Moving on to Friday, I continued my quest to catch as many different players as possible, particularly the gals, as I'd already seen most of the boys in Cincinnati. First on my agenda was Pennetta vs. Wozniak, which was over in a heartbeat. Then, del Potro vs. Melzer. del Potro started off slowly in that one, if I remember correctly - and then I left before he was able to sink his teeth into the match. I regret not seeing more of the eventual champion, especially since I missed him in Cincinnati (he didn't play).Azarenka vs. Schiavone was next (the ladies next to me were avidly cheering for Schiavone on the basis that Azarenka was too noisy!), followed by Simon vs. Bellucci (Simon played aggressive, confident tennis, so his retirement in the next round caught me off guard). Then came Li vs. Kirilenko, Lapentti vs. Istomin (this one ended in a 5th set tiebreak!), and Ferrer-Acasuso (another gut-wrenching 5-setter).The last day (Saturday), I decided to camp out on Armstrong, since the other TWibers warned me that hopping around could mean I'd miss out on a decent seat and/or be denied re-entry into the stadium later on. Not a problem, as the line-up included Djokovic vs. Witten and Verdasco vs. Haas - how lucky was I?! I feared the first match would be a blowout, but Witten put in a valiant effort and refused to fall away. While Witten was a delight, the "J-DUB!" chants weren't. (Were they as loud on TV as they were in person?) Verdasco vs. Haas, despite going the distance, was actually underwhelming. I noticed Verdasco's abdominal tape during the warm-up and had a feeling it'd be a factor during the final stages of the match. Turns out, it was (he had to take a MTO before the 5th set) and it wasn't (he won anyway).And that was it! Four whirlwind days and memories to last a lifetime.Some final reflections:
- Having only attended Masters-level tournaments, I found the USO experience to be vastly different. I can't speak for the other Slams, but the USO certainly "feels" large. In terms of size, crowds, and even energy. Not getting into a match on an "outside" court after waiting in line for 20 minutes was certainly a foreign experience! Yet my friends who had been to both Slams and non-Slams warned me that there would be loads more walking, and really, I didn't find that to be the case. Perhaps it's because I stayed put in one spot for longer, but I wandered far more and logged many more miles at both Cincinnati and Indian Wells than at the USO.
- Another important difference - at the smaller tournaments, I spent nearly as much time on the practice courts as I did watching matches. At the USO, however, I don't think I witnessed a single practice session. Logistics weren't in my favor - it's difficult to get a good view of practices, with how the courts are set up - and the abundance of exciting matches at all times meant there was never a moment where I even considered strolling around the practice area.
I hope I haven't missed anything important; if you have any questions, feel free to ask! And you can check out my USO photos here.I know plenty of TWibers were also at the USO, so now's the perfect time to tell us about your experiences. Stories, pics, anything! This should help you get started - linz has already sent me a link to her smashing photo album (click here), and I encourage you to follow suit!While we're on the subject of photos, pay a visit to our Facebook group, TennisWorld > Real World, too, where MissTari and SilentP have made some fantastic contributions to the photo album.Whew. I'd wanted us to do a "2009 Grand Slams" recap, but I think I'll save it for next week, given all of the above. Stay tuned ...
Have a terrific weekend, everyone! It's great to be back!