Grounds Pass: September 5

by: Steve Tignor | September 05, 2012

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NEW YORK—Newspaper thief, newspaper thief, don’t you know that you’re making my job more difficult? I guess he—or I suppose it could be a she—wouldn’t care. Just because you steal someone’s New York Times every chance you get doesn’t mean you would also read my Grounds Pass every morning. I’d like to think tennis fans have more class than that.

Anyway, we haven’t done a news roundup here in a few days, but you already know the big story: The U.S. Open is turning, unfortunately, into the U.S. Open that we’ve come to know and dread the last few years. Rain—mist, really, it’s always that same maddening mist—has invaded Flushing Meadows and sent the tournament on another scheduling goose chase. Along with the precipitation, talk of a fifth straight Monday men's final is in the air. Worse, though, is the sight of thousands of fans on the grounds who haven’t seen any tennis. By 8:45 last night, everyone had found their seat for the Roddick-del Potro match, and the first set had reached a tiebreaker. The spectators near the press section were wearing their tennis-watching best—dresses and blazers and hipster hats (it’s been a good year for hats at the Open). But everyone knew what was about to happen. 
The rain came right on time, though I have to say I was pleased that only 54 minutes of the match were played. Six minutes more and, according to the Open’s “inclement weather policy,” none of those spectators would have gotten anything back. As it is, they can exchange their tickets for Armstrong today or the same session next year. But they won’t see Roddick-del Potro, who are scheduled for Ashe today—on the off chance that it doesn’t rain again, of course.
Here are a few of the non-rain related stories that have been going around in the meantime.
That's Just How Muzz Rolls
How did Andy Murray get himself ready for yet another huge event this summer? The Mail’s Mike Dickson has the scoop.
“When he first landed here ahead of the U.S. Open,” Dickson writes of Murray, “he took the unusual step of ditching everyone and spending several days as a relative hermit in the big city.”
Murray says that when he got to New York he “took three days off and just spent time on my own. I felt I needed some time away from the others because otherwise it can get a bit sterile."
What did Muzz do in the Big Apple? Museums, art flicks, discos, maybe a trek to Brooklyn? "I just did things like watch a lot of football on television and got my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the local Whole Foods store," the resourceful Murray said. "I had a massage in the hotel spa from a big lady with large hands. It was nice to relax and be on my own for a bit.”
Murray hasn’t been hanging out around the courts as much these days, something the Mail credits to the influence of Ivan Lendl, who was “always keen on outside diversions.”
Or, perhaps, Murray just needed a few days away from the Terminator himself?
Furious Comeback
The Italian website Ubitennis published a screed from Rafael Nadal’s publicist:
Rafael Nadal’s PR man, Benito Perez-Barbadillo, spoke to Italian journalists at Flushing Meadows. He vented his frustrations with some members of the press that spread false rumors about Rafa
The rumors, apparently, center around doping, and the reasons for Rafa’s recent absence at the Olympics. “He spoke once about Contador and all hell broke loose,” Barbadillo says. “When I told him what could happen if he spoke about Contador, he replied that he didn’t care what people thought of him."
Barbadillo goes on to say that fans in France and Italy prefer "Roger Federer’s tennis," and “that’s why they attack” Rafa.
Occupy Tennis?
That’s the question posed by Doug Robson in a USA Today story about the growing income gap between the top men and the rest of the field. Robson crunches the numbers and finds that over the past five years, the Top 3 have taken home between 20 and 26 percent of available prize money, more than any trio since the ATP was re-launched in 1990. ATP chief Brad Drewett chalks it up to their domination on court, but some lower-ranked players think it’s a trend that’s getting worse and needs to be addressed. 
Prize money has risen more quickly on the main tour than it has the Challenger tour. Roger Federer says that tournaments like the huge winner’s check because it’s “sexy”; last year Larry Ellison added $700,000 to the pot at his tournament in Indian Wells, but stipulated that it had to go to the players who made the quarterfinals or better. 
One player who defends the system is American Ryan Harrison. “People don’t love tennis because of Challenger-level tennis,” he says. “People don’t follow the Challenger players. It’s a stepping stone that’s a process you know you have to go through.”
An Interview...About Interviews
In the New York Times, Greg Bishop speculates that Roger Federer could be “the most interviewed athlete of all time.” Not only does he have to talk after every one of his matches, he has to do it in three languages, English, French, and Swiss-German. Bishop follows Federer through a typical round of questioning and finds that the interviews last longer than the match he just played. 
“Sometimes,” Federer says, “I’m a different character in different languages. I have different enjoyment from them. Sometimes, different answers come out of me. Like. I didn’t even know that about me. I get to know myself through different languages, actually.”
If It Ain’t Broke...
The Times also has a debate among six tennis followers about whether men should play three sets at the majors, or women should play five sets. Answers vary. If I were asked to give mine, I’d say that the Slams are more popular and lucrative than they’ve ever been, and they’re by far the highest-profile events the sport has, so they must be offering something that people like. The argument has been made that “television” wants the predictability of best of three; as it is, television has already increased its coverage astronomically over the last two decades. ESPN and the Tennis Channel have only had success selling ads during the Slams, the only tour events that include best of five. As for the "equality" issue between men and women, tennis players aren't paid by the hour or the set, they're paid to win matches, and the men's and women's champs each have to win seven of them. Why mess with the majors now? 
Most Surprising Quote
Q: How important is style in tennis? 
Sam Querrey: “It’s pretty important. I mean, like when I’m playing, if I have a cool-looking shirt or a hat that fits me right, I feel better on court. If I have an outfit on or something that looks cool, I feel better. I think it’s important. I was just watching Federer in the locker room. His shirt looks really cool. I just mentioned it to someone. To me, it’s pretty important.”

To read all of Steve Tignor's reports from the 2012 U.S. Open, click here.


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