NEW YORK—Howdy. The second week of the final Grand Slam event of 2012 is underway, so it’s a good time to cherry-pick some of the comments and thoughts that were expressed as the first week came to a close.
Let’s start with the great Russian patriot Maria Sharpaova, the No. 3 seed at the U.S. Open, who put into words what so many other players—great and small—fail to do when they’re asked to be a little more specific about what they mean when they say it so “special” or “awesome” or “amazing” to play a night match in New York.
“When we describe all the different Grand Slams, 'energy' is the word I think of when I think of the U.S. Open. Just from the tunnel and the bright lights there, then you walk out, and then the fans are kind of right there in that little tunnel.
“They're screaming. They want your autograph before the match. They're putting their hands out. Then you walk out and it's this massive stadium. When it's filled up, when it's night, you have the lights on, it's just so special. It's so unique to be a tennis player in that atmosphere.”
Yes, but how did the U.S. Open affect your Davis Cup preparation?
Thirty-one year old, battle-scarred Lleyton Hewitt’s
strong if brief U.S. Open run was ended yesterday by David Ferrer
, but the veteran was pleased with his ball striking—not least because Australia has a Davis Cup tie coming up (at Germany) the weekend after the Open ends.
Some players, fans and pundits are indifferent to Davis Cup; all I can say is that when guys as good—and tough—as Hewitt assign it such a high priority, the critics are missing something. Imagine a player looking at his U.S. Open result in terms of how it might affect the upcoming Davis Cup tie! Here’s Hewitt, going off on that tangent as if it were the most important issue at hand:
“So in terms of Davis Cup wise, I think there were a lot of positives to come out of, you know, backing it up against quality players. Yeah, today's match (with Ferrer) was kind of like a clay-court match, as well. You know, obviously Pat (Rafter, the Aussie Davis Cup captain) and Rochey (one of the Davis Cup coaches) will set sit back and we will have a chat about it.”
Germany will be a tough opponent, especially on a clay court in Hamburg, now that resurgentTommy Haas is back in the mix. Even Hewitt admits that the Aussies will be underdogs. Hewitt was asked if he’s going to take a few days off before flying to Germany. He replied:
“I don't know. Obviously some of the boys have been hitting on clay already. Yeah, I will speak to Pat and Rochey and I'll doing the exactly the same as what everyone else on the team is doing.”
Forgive and forget? Not if we can help it!
The media never forgets a controversy, particularly when it pits player against player—even when the principals have long moved on. So it was hardly surprising when some ball-point hero reminded Novak Djokovic that while he said some flattering and respectful things about Andy Roddick upon learning of the American player’s decision to retire, it wasn’t so long ago (in fact, it was in 2008 at the U.S. Open) that the two of them had a public spat (it was over some snide remarks Roddick made about Djokovic’s suspiciously frequent citation of injury to explain a loss or poor performance) How was that resolved, the inquiring reporter wanted to know?
“Well, yeah. We had that situation. . .,” Nole said. “We might have been through some misunderstandings and arguments. It was very emotional I think for both of us, playing against each other quarterfinals, and it's a very important tournament.
“So it happens, you know. You learn from those experiences. You know, we have been in a very good relationship ever since. And even before that. It's just that period, you know, that situation. It happens. You know, he was actually one of the few top players that was very nice to me when I started playing professionally. He has all my respect.”
It’s how you play the game—on and off the court.
WTA No. 44 Sloane Stephens, on the amount of crowd support she received during the U.S. Open, and the degree to which this heavily promoted—and obviously talented—American player is already somewhat familiar to fans:
“There's a lot of American players. I just happen to be plastered all over the U.S. Open site and on the subway. As your tennis grows, your fan base grows. . .that just comes with the territory. I enjoy it. I love seeing little kids, they're like, ‘Oh, my God, I saw your picture on the whatever.’ I'm like, ‘Oh, that's awesome. ‘
Smart girl. Honest girl.
I hope Brian Lynch didn’t see that!
Bob Bryan was on the court with Kim Clijsters for her last match as a WTA pro, and he said: “It was a lot of fun. We had some great laughs, had a couple chest bumps. I'll leave this tournament, this is really the highlight of the tournament. Even if we win the doubles, this is the highlight, playing with Kim.”
But let’s leave those chest bumps out of it for now. In addition to being half of perhaps the greatest doubles team in tennis history, Bob Bryan has also been partner to the superstars, performing as a mixed doubles partner for a number of icons, including Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis and, most recently, Clijsters—the latter in this, the final tournament of her career. He said of his role, and the match they ultimately lost out on that intimate, limited capacity Court 17:
“I've been lucky to play with a lot of great champions. Kim is no exception She's a legend. You know, the fans out there, you could see how much love they have for her, you know. I didn't know 2800 people could be so loud. They just didn't want her to stop. They kept willing her.
“I was just blown away. I was just trying to stay out, not mess the point up, let her do all the beautiful stuff. It was really an honor for her to even ask me to play mixed doubles. I was nervous. I didn't want to let her down and let all her millions of fans around the world down.”
Words for all you junior hotshots to live by.
Milos Raonic revealed last week that his temper wasn’t always as well-harnessed as it is these days. When he was asked if he was ever a “racquet smasher,” he replied:
“I think I did once or twice. But it was more me shooting my mouth. That not only got me in trouble with coaches, parents, everything, but it just didn't help my tennis.”
And how and why did he change?
“When you fail too many times doing it, you don't keep banging your head against the wall, you try to find a way around it. I figured out that's when you have to do, or I wouldn't be in the position I am today.”
Play all day, sleep all night, leave the rest to the women.
New father James Blake has a new respect for a mother’s job, partly because both he and his infant son Riley need their rest, leaving fiancé and mom Emily Snider with plenty of work on her hands:
“Sleep. Sleep is the priority. They tell first-time moms, ‘When the baby sleeps, try to get some sleep.’ The moms are the ones that are working so much harder. It gives me so much more respect. I know why my dad used to get pretty upset at me if I ever disrespected or talked back to my mom. Seeing what they go through makes you appreciate what your mom did.
So I got it easy. I get to sleep (because) that's important out here on tour. You need to be rested. . .I couldn't be luckier that my fiancée does a lot of the nighttime stuff. She does everything she can to not wake me. I've been on a pretty good sleep schedule.”
Roger goes, “Duh!!!!”
Sometimes, a player fields a question that just doesn’t need to asked, but you’d be surprised at how often the really silly, or redundant, or bizarre question brings out the best and most quotable response. That was the case when Roger Federer was asked if he feels as much “pressure” to win a Grand Slam title now as he did before he bagged his first one (Wimbledon, 2003):
“No. This is way less pressure. This is. . .I don't know how to explain it. You don't even explain because it makes so much sense. Before you're trying to break through, make your move, you realize it's so hard. You still have Agassi, Sampras, the older generation you saw from TV. Not so easy to come through that one.
“That's not even talking about your generation that also are pushing, trying to make their move. I remember I felt an awful lot of pressure because I was very talented and people always said, ‘He's going to be the next No. 1, next Grand Slam champion, but it seems like there's something missing.’
“You're like, ‘Yeah, I agree. I agree I could maybe make it, there is something missing, but I haven't figured it out yet.’ So you do feel that pressure. Yeah, you panic a little bit. It's not so simple at times. Today obviously everything you have achieved, nobody can take it away from you. By virtue of that, you are much more at peace with everything that goes on in your life.”
It was dark outside, and that counts for something, right?
Top-seed Victoria Azarenka, on playing her first night match on Arthur Ashe stadium:
“Yeah, I was really looking forward to it. The other day I played really late on Armstrong my first match, but it wasn't really the night session, you know.”
The numbers don’t lie . . .
Federer is Roddick’s nemesis, and the standard press room joke (with Roddick’s blessing) has been that no press conference with Roddick can go too long before someone brings up the (once) painful subject of Federer. After Roddick beat Bernard Tomic (like a drum), he was asked, after the obligatory Federer reference:
Did it give you a certain amount of satisfaction that you maybe didn't have the gifts of a few of the players, but you were right in there fighting and getting every ounce out of it?
Roddick replied: “Well, that's what I had to do. I think as an athlete, for me, you know, a lot of times it was as clear to me as it is to you guys when you watch sometimes. You know, I knew staying back and playing cute shots and stuff against Roger probably wasn't going to work.
“You try different things knowing that you have to execute perfectly, so sometimes you look stupid if you miss a couple. We can all see it, but the hard part is executing, otherwise everyone would do it.
“You know, obviously my record against Roger's not good, but I did take a certain amount of pride in hearing about how good this guy is and how good that guy is, this guy looks so nice and he's got the sweetest one-handed shot or two-handed shot, and I would look and I pretty much sucked at everything. But then I looked at the rankings and I was 15 spots ahead of him, so I always liked that part of it.”
Just let it go, Laura. Just let it go. . .
When sassy Brit Laura Robson was asked about having been the subject of a fan tweet by British soccer mega-star Wayne Rooney, she got a hearty laugh when she smiled and reminded her interlocutor, “He called me Robinson. I saw that when I was stretching.”
“He blamed it on predictive text,” she was told.
“Can you blame that on predictive text?” she replied. “I'm not so sure.”
But surely it was great that he saw her match?
“Yeah, it's great that he watched, even though he got my name wrong.”
In all honesty, though, she was just playing along, devilishly refusing to let Rooney off the hook.
She later added, “I think James Cordon was watching me today, as well. I spotted him midway like first set, and then spent the rest of the time trying not to wave.”
Cordon is a British television actor and presenter, and his name is actually spelled with just one “o.”
Okay, just kidding.
Enjoy this Labor Day, and pray that the rain spares us tomorrow and Wednesday.
To read all of Peter Bodo's reports from the 2012 U.S. Open, click here.