Monday, August 25, 2014

Day One at the Open Wrap: Bee-lieve in Krygios

The US Open got underway today with a bang as a gorgeous day in Queens led to large crowds and a festive atmosphere at the opening day of our nation's championship.  For those of us here at the Outer Courts, it was our return to the world of tennis coverage and we were happy to be back. The US Open greeted us by, for the second year in a row, denying our attempts to sit in the media center and telling us we would have to take up residence in the cafeteria. As we made ourselves comfortable amidst the journalists chowing on their per diem, we had wifi problems (it didn't work) and seat problems (we had no chairs) that got us a late start. But like champs, we persevered,  got out onto the grounds in time to see a future star (Nick Krygios) and a guaranteed meltdown (the Donald Young volcano).  A great first day it still would be. There were no major upsets and the day lacked a real defining match, but there were some fun moments that got the tournament on the sporting map (all of you who had Kimiko Date-Krumm as the first US Open player to go viral on the national sports blogs, cash in your chips now). With that in mind, here is what you missed if you missed it:

Venus Wins the Golden Girls Matchup

When I was a kid, my favorite television to watch on the down low was "The Golden Girls."  While most of the sexual double entendre jokes went over my head at the time (in hindsight, that was a pretty risqué family show), Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and the girls were still twice as entertaining as women half their age and certainly worth my eight year old interest. Unfortunately, the same level of entertainment wasn't exactly available today on Arthur Ashe, where Venus Williams (age 34) held off  Kimiko Date-Krumm (age 43) in three sets in somewhat of a snoozer. But while Krumm's age never ceases to amaze (her footwork is legitimately better than 50% of the players I have watched here), the story of the day was the bee that plagued the matchup. For two minutes, one lone bee took hold of the proceedings, irritating Venus and causing Kimiko and a number of the US Open staff to shuffle their feet quickly. The resulting video went viral and is probably the lasting image of Day One

It is once again proof of the old adage of comedy, there is little funnier than watching people run away from animals that scare them (I believe there was a "Golden Girls" and maybe even an "Empty Nest" episode with this premise). After the bee attack Date-Krumm's game went South, suggesting that if she really wants to have an edge, before Venus takes on Tamia Bacsinszky in the next round, she should look into what animals that may terrify the Swiss player (my guess is a spider would do the trick).

Nick Krygios Gets It Done

If you are a tennis fan, by this time you know the story of Nick Krygios. His massive amount of hype after his Juniors success, followed by his run at Wimbledon this summer has made him the "next big thing" for virtually everyone that follows the sport. Beating Rafa Nadal will make sure everyone wants to see your next performance, but as anyone who has ever watched a comedy movie sequel can attest, the second act is always the hardest. For the third straight Grand Slam, Krygios drew a seeded player and once again he gave a solid performance, taking down 21st seeded Mikhail Youzhny in four sets. Krygios completely overpowered the Russian, blasting his serves up to 138 mph and running him around the court for the vast majority of the match. Krygios struggled a bit with returns, but his service game was on point, as was his ability to move a crowd. Court 17 was raucous for the young Australian, showing near unanimous support for the entirety of the match. If tennis needs a new star for the next generation, Krygios has the charisma to make it happen and with a draw that looks favorable (only Andreas Seppi and possibly Tommy Robredo stand in the way of a Round of 16 berth), this could be the second consecutive major where Krygios becomes must watch television and the future of men's professional tennis.

American Males Take Off With a Thud

If you are an optimist about the state of male tennis (and if you are, you must be an optimist about everything in life), then you saw the Draw for this year's Open and thought, "there are some places for some Americans to make some noise."  Two of the players with the best shot to inject some Red, White and Blue 'Murica! noise were Donald Young and Bradley Klahn, who were both blessed with winnable opening matches and seeded players in the 30s on the horizon in the second round. With so much promise in the NYC, it was thus even more disappointing to watch both players crash and burn on Day One. Klahn's loss wasn't a complete disaster as he gave Andrey Kuznetsov a battle for four sets and simply missed opportunities to pull the slight upset. But Donald Young's (the second highest ranked American in the world...a sad fact in and of itself) performance was a complete train wreck, losing in straight sets to Blaz Kavcic, while embarrassing himself with his antics in the process. Drew has already written below about the match and I agree with most of what he said. However I find watching Young in situations like today simply depressing. He is completely unable to go through any adversity without spewing F-bombs and cursing in the general direction of his family. His loss culminated today in a rant (aimed at his mother of all people) in which he said, "I can't play with this f***** bitch ass racket." Whether the racket was bitch ass or not, the play certainly was and it helped culminate a day one for Team America we would like to forget.

Seeded Women Struggle But Get Through

Three top ten seeded ladies dropped a set in Round One, but found a way to get the victory. The biggest upset was averted early, after #2 seeded Simona Halep overcame a first set tiebreaker loss to young American Danielle Rose-Collins to win in three. (6-7, 6-1, 6-2). Rose-Collins threw Halep off with her power, but wore down in the end, to keep the bottom half of the women's draw from crumbling before our eyes. While they won the first sets, poor performances in the second caused Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki to have to go three in first round matches that should have been much easier. Both women found their footing in the third (with Wozniacki being helped by an injury default from Magdalena Rybarikova), but their shakiness was still evident. The day ended with 25th seeded Garbine Muguruza as the only seeded casualty, but it was very close to being a much worse day for the top of the women's field.

Andy Murray/Robin Haase

It was awful and I have already written about it once below. Let's just never speak of it again.

Biggest Surprise: Matthias Bachinger

If you are the type of person who religiously follows the US Open Qualifying Tournament (and my hope is that you are not), then you would have likely been surprised to find out that 235th ranked Matthias Bachinger qualified for the main draw with three straight set wins. The 27 year old German has never won a Grand Slam match, had not qualified for one ATP Tournament this year and has watched his ranking steadily slip since making the Top 100 in 2011. However Bachinger put forth one of the best performances of the day, taking out Radek Stepanak in straight sets. With many suggesting Stepanak could be an upset pick over Andy Murray, Bachinger's win raised quite a few eyebrows, giving the German a chance to truly shock the world when he plays the man with the golden urine later this week. We will learn more about him later this week, but for now salute Matthias for a job well done (pictured below in a contemplative state)

Biggest Disappointment: Vasek Pospisil

This was supposed to be the week that the Pospisil exploded on the scene. With a very favorable draw and a hot streak like no other, the 19th ranked player in the world was supposed to find his form, get to the round of 16 and give Stan Wawrinka all he wanted in a match that announced another top 20 player was here to stay. False. Instead, Pospisil lost to Simone Bolelli in five and gave up an open side of the draw that had his name written all over it. Pospisil may have been tired after his magical summer, but this question still lingers. While his Wimbledon Doubles title win is special, his streak with Jack Sock impressive and his trip to the finals in Washington DC important, when it is all said and done, how do we rank a player as rising who has lost in the first round of the last two Grand Slams?  Vasek that was not one crunchy pickle.

What's On the Horizon

Tomorrow the first round continues with a few matches of note. Roger Federer takes the court at night versus Marinko Matosevic who may or may not reach eight total games in the match (I will take the over...slightly). The Grandstand will be rocking for Gael Monfils/Jared Donaldson, as the Tour's most entertaining player takes on the 17 year old phenom looking to make a name for himself. That match will without question have the best crowd and likely produces the best chance at excitement on Day Two. The women get going with Serena Williams/Taylor Townsend in a match that won't be close, but is still worth your time if for no other reason than to realize how charming young Taylor can be. And we at the Outer Courts are excited about the debut of our man Ivo Karlovic, seeded 25th and ready to take on the Jarknado, on Court 4.  We will be here to take you through all of it (hopefully with working Wifi and a place to sit down) tomorrow.  See you then.