Fourhand: Players to Watch at the U.S. Open
As the final Grand Slam event of the season is upon us, here's a quartet of interesting stories to watch play out on the courts of the (deep breath) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows:
Venus Williams: The elder, now-lesser Williams sister faced down No. 12 seed Kirsten Flipkens, her vanquisher in Toronto two weeks ago, in the first round Monday—and looked good doing it. Spin friend The Slice has a zoomed-in look at the details of Venus's outfit, including not hoop earrings or a few bracelets and watches, but a big bow on her fingernail. Beyond her accessories, Venus is staring down history (herstory?) in Flushing this week—and maybe next. James Blake is retiring, and Andy Roddick did so a year ago here. Time must be on her mind.
Ronnie Schneider: The 18-year-old Bloomington, Indiana, native is diminutive in stature but packs a punch with his consistency and court speed. In winning the USTA Boys' 18 Doubles National Championship, he netted the chance to square off against fellow Hoosier Rajeev Ram in first-round doubles action. Thus the tennis draw gods remain crafty in their ways. Note: Ram is also in singles action, facing No. 16 seed Fabio Fognini in round 1.
Roger Federer: Thirteen years Schneider's senior, with a lot of genius baggage in tow, the largely acknowledged greatest player ever in men's tennis played a creaky violin this week but also owns a creaky instrument in his oft-aching back. He has 17 Grand Slam singles titles to show for his efforts since 2003, but has fallen to No. 7 in the ATP World Tour rankings. That throwback-classic quarterfinal bout with Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati earlier this month was heartening for his chances, but he still lost—and Rafa looms again in the quarters in Queens.
Jelena Jankovic: Yes, she's worth talking about. After a semifinal showing in Cincy, The Artist Forever Known as JJ turned in a fine 6-3, 6-4 first-round performance against upstart American Madison Keys, that on the teenager's home turf. Always so photogenic, JJ appears to have recovered her near-best form—and she's been to the final in New York before, where she stepped in front of the Serena Express. Next she gets sentimental favorite Alisa Kleybanova, who ousted the summer-hot Monica Puig in round 1.
Who in the men's and women's games are your eyes on this first week?
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