Monday, August 26, 2013

Day One of the US Open Gets Off With Sadness

The Outer Courts arrived today at the US Open, ready to take on the world and visit our first Grand Slam here in New York City. This area is a great place for tennis and the history of the sport reeks out of the premises as strongly as the odor emanating out of the riders we encountered on the #7 train on our way to the event. We were eager to find our way into the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, get our media credentials and begin blogging at a pace that would make you, Tennis Channel readers, proud.

Unfortunately, like all great stories of triumph, this one began with a rough patch. As we walked towards the area where our credentials were to be given, a man in a yellow shirt with the logo "Security" on it, told us in no uncertain terms, "YOU CANNOT GO THIS WAY WITHOUT CREDENTIALS!" I assumed that his tone was possibly due to a difficult morning and then proceed to explain to Mr. Yellow Shirt that we had such credentials, but we needed to pick them up at the stand 100 feet behind him and if he would so kindly let us walk by, I would get the credentials and all would be fine. He then looked at me (wearing sunglasses on an overcast day, a perfect compliment to his hyper-aggressive arrogance accompanying his small modicum of power) and said, "If you want to PICK-UP credentials, you must enter from the other side, which can be accessed by walking around the facility." He then pointed to a path that would require us to walk all the way around the circular USTA grounds, a direction that would probably include just under a mile hike. I pleaded to his sanity by saying, "the entrance is 100 feet behind you, why make us walk that entire way when we could be there in 5 seconds." He smiled with a smarmy grin and said, "it is policy."

So there you go, the US Open of 2013 begins with adherence to rigid "policy" as the overriding theme. I am not sure what "policy" suggest that one can only enter an entrance from one side of a parking lot as opposed to another, but now with blisters on my feet and frustration in my mind, I am ready to give a small overview as to what Day One of the US Open has given us so far.

--- The big news of the morning is the announcement of the retirement of James Blake. Many saw this coming, as the American has been hounded with questions for the past few months about when he would cut the cord on his tennis career and enter the game of tennis commentary, where he will most certainly succeed (this is a particular hazard of being an athlete as the implication that comes with such questions is that you are no longer fit to proceed with your career. I would not take well to such questions). Blake says that this tournament will be his final run, a fitting end for a player that has seen his best moments here in New York. He laughed, cried and reminisced during his press conference and explained that he hoped to have one more glorious run over the next two weeks. As American tennis struggles to find players outside of John the Giant, losing Blake, probably still the most marketable current male American, is a huge blow. However as his play and fashion choice (he is the last player I have seen refuse to conform to the dry-fit tennis wear revolution, causing his cotton shirts to get weighed down with so much sweat that a woman in Cincinnati two weeks ago said to me, "I simply can't look at him with all that moisture everywhere"), have faltered, it became clear it was time to make the tough decision. We here at The Outer Courts wish him the best and while we aren't sure what to do in his first round match (he plays the funniest player on tour, and Outer Courts favorite, Ivo Karlovic in Round One), I am hoping he finishes with one magical day/night where he gets Arthur Ashe electric again.

--- Venus Williams won in dominating fashion, taking out the #12 seed Kirsten Flipkens (6-1, 6-2). It was an old-school Venus day as she controlled the match from the opening moments and never looked back, taking out Flipkens, who beat her in three sets just three weeks ago. The win leaves open the possibility of a Round of 16 match against Serena, which could result in a similar conversation as the one I had with my grandmother when the two played in a US Open final many years ago. My grandmother said to me while flipping channels (the match was on, but tennis isn't her normal focus), "those women are both named Williams, maybe they are related." I then said to her, "yes Granny they are...they are sisters." She got a puzzled look in her eye and then said, "well that isn't nice then. They shouldn't play each other. What would their mother say?" It is a good question...what would their mother say?

--- We spent most of the afternoon learning the lay of the land and at the US Open, that means roaming the underground halls below Arthur Ashe Stadium. More than any other stop so far on our travels, the US Open offers a great opportunity for the media to just casually run into players, a highlight for The Outer Courts. Thus far today, we have passed Novak Djokovic (he posed for a picture with two girls, which I then proceeded to photo bomb), James Blake (I am not going to say that Drew mumbled under his breath that Ivo Karlovic might pull off the win...but I am not going to suggest he didn't) and a random female player I didn't recognize, crying in the hallway. After we passed her, Drew and I debated as to why she was shedding tears...I thought it was because of a loss, Drew believed an injury, but we both regretted not taking the time to comfort her. There is nothing sadder than the sight of a lone woman crying with no one around to help ease the pain. So if you are the player we saw weeping in the hallway, we apologize. Next time we will adhere to our Southern, gentlemanly ways and make it better.

More as the day goes along, as we move towards Roger Federer's debut under the lights.