NEW YORK—Players at the U.S. Open deliver a lot of aces. They also bang out a lot of unforced errors, shrieks and grunts, topspin forehands and backhand winners. They also leave a trail of sometimes intriguing, sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, and often bizarre quotes. So let’s look at yesterday, Day 4, through the prism of words.
She lost it in the Nike. . . Lacoste. . . Polo . . . Adidas. . .J Crew. . .lights
Commenting on the challenges of playing on Arthur Ashe Staiudm, Eugenie Bouchard (who survived a close one with Sorana Cirstea), explained:
“I was lucky enough to practice on Ashe at around 6:00 before the match. I got my bearings a little bit. But full of people, it's a different story. Usually when you toss up, you expect to see the sky sooner than you do (here). This is more people, more stands, finally you get up to the sky at the top. It's really cool playing in such a huge stadium. It's like nothing else.”
Whoops! I said what I was really thinking!
Commenting on the endless drumbeat about the decline of U.S. fortunes in tennis, Sam Querrey, who knocked off No. 28 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, was asked if he ever gets tired of addressing the topic.
“A little bit. I mean, question is fair enough, though. But at the end of the day it's an individual sport. I don't really care too much. I mean, I want all the Americans to do well, but I want them to do well for them. I don't really — you know, they are doing it for themselves. I don't really know where I'm going with this answer right now, to be honest.”
Time is a river, get over it, dude.
When Victoria Azarenka, who advanced with a good win over Christina McHale, was asked if she was building momentum—if it “felt like last year”—she refused the bait:
“It never will feel like last year. It doesn't even feel like yesterday to me (smiling). You know, it's as simple as that. I never look back at what happened.”
Novak Djokovic isn’t quite sure how this theme of ignoring his career as he enjoys the fruits and rewards of wedlock got started, but he wants everyone to know that he’s still a dedicated pro. It showed yesterday, in his demolition of Paul-Henri Mathieu (Djokovic lost just four games). Afterwards, he explained:
“Well, my focus is there. I don't understand how the people really got what I said, but I don't think there is anything wrong. Actually, I think it would be much wrong if my tennis is in front of my baby and my wife. I think there is no question about it.
Of course I'm doing everything that I can, respecting the same daily routines that I had for many years. I have big support from my wife, from my family, from my team. We are all on the same page. There is nothing significant that is going to change. But of course baby comes, and now when I'm married — if you were married, you would understand.”
Toto, I have a funny feeling. . .
CiCi Bellis lost a tough three-set match to Zarina Diyas, after becoming the sensation of the tournament with her upset of Dominika Cibulkova. How would she describe the 48 hours ending when the final ball was hit last night on Court 17?
A lot different than before, for sure.
These fans didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.
Hydrogen, an Italian apparel-maker, has come up with a novel and somewhat irritating idea. They put the stars and stripes on the sleeve of their official U.S. Open line—even though the shirts were going to be worn by players from Bologna, Italy (Simone Bolelli) or Warstein, Germany (Jan-Lennard Struff).
Both players wore Hydrogen shirts (which also have a creepy skull logo) in their matches. After John Isner beat Struff, he was asked if he thought it odd that Struff played with one sleeve composed of U.S. flag.
“I don't know what that is. Maybe he was trying to get some crowd support. Luckily they stayed on my side.”
Turning lemons into lemonade.
Reporters often tee it up for players, hoping to get a juicy quote that raises eyebrows and stimulates chatter. After Serena Williams lost all of one game in defeating Vania King, she was asked if she felt under or over-appreciated. She said:
“I feel really appreciated. I can attest to that. The fact is if I lose, it's bigger news than if I win. That is a test to how much people believe in my game and my skill and how much they appreciate the sport and how good they think I am. So, yeah, I think it's great.”
Early in his match with Peter Gojowczyk, Milos Raonic (who ultimately won) had words with the chair umpire after the official summoned ballboys to secure towels that were blowing around in the stiff breeze. Asked why he seemed angry with the chair ump, Raonic explained:
“The umpire told the ball boy to grab my drink and put it (on the flapping towel). I don't think you should be telling somebody to touch my stuff. That's just what I sort of told him.”
School's out . . . FOREVER!
Nicole Gibbs turned in a nice upset of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Court 17 yesterday afternoon. Her game seems to have risen a level since her dad, Paul Gibbs, formerly a high school English teacher at Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, Calif., traded his faculty lounge pass for tennis credentials at Wimbledon.
He’s been accompanying his 21-year-old daughter, recently a star at Stanford, on the WTA tour, and the results have been positive. Gibbs has made two ITF finals, she qualified for Cincinnati with wins over Yaroslava Shvedova and Francesca Schiavone, and now she’s in the third round of the U.S. Open with wins over talented Caroline Garcia and Pavlyuchenkova, the No. 23 seed. Asked if she attended Crossroads while her father was a teacher there—the ultimate nightmare of any red-blooded teenager—she replied:
“I did, yeah. It was weird.”
And did she have him for a teacher?
“No. Despite his best efforts.”
Why do they call them “dumbells?”
For all the talk about how “physical” tennis is now, at every level, Aussie sensation Nick Kyrgios made an interesting confession after his straight-sets win over Andreas Seppi. Replying to a question about how much he’s had to “upgrade” his training in the last two years, he said:
“Two years ago I don't think I was doing a gym session. Now I'm doing it, you know, every day, or every second day, just to get stronger at something. Even when you're playing, you're doing some body management here or there. All that stuff's very important.”
It doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother you.
Madison Keys had a terrific chance to advance to the third round, but she choked pretty visibly against Serbian challenger Aleksandra Krunic. Asked what it was about the dogged retriever Kunic that made it hard for Keys to find her A-game, she said:
“I just didn't play well when it mattered. I played okay at times. I played better in the second set. But then when it really mattered, I just didn't play well. Was that like a really depressing answer or something?”
Mr. Burgos rising
Cici notwithstanding, the most heart-warming story of the U.S. Open thus far has been the success of Victor Estrella Burgos, the 34-year-old qualifier from the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, Burgos added to his delightful story with a neat win over 17-year-old Croatian Borna Coric (another good story, best left for another time). When told that his fellow Dominicans are proud that Burgos came from “dust” and made it all the way to the third round of the U.S. Open, he remarked:
“This is very special for me, to be came from very, very long way, you know, very down. Nobody play (in the Dominican Republic) — I don't have any idea before when I have 18 years old about this tournament, this kind of tournament. But now I'm enjoy so much. This make me like every day, doesn't matter if I'm 38 whatever, make me strong. Every time when I get into the court, make me strong.”
His Airness and His Hairness
Did you see the headline at the ATP website yesterday, “Federer Meets Michael Jordan”? I know that Jordan is probably more famous, world-wide, than Federer. But I also know Federer is to tennis what Jordan was to the NBA, and both of those sports occupy places at the very heart of the sporting firmament. So if I’m the ATP (a tennis outfit), I’d be more inclined to write: Jordan Meets Federer.
Just a thought. And that’s all for now.