Sunday, September 9, 2007
I didn't buy my tickets from the USTA this year. I did re-up with them but until they stop their practice of making only the nosebleed seats available to members no matter how early you call in I'll take my chances elsewhere.
The seats I got for Super Saturday were in the lower promenade and with the mark up cost a fortune. Haruka and I weren't sure if we wanted to go and decided to at the last minute so we took what we could get.
As I posted earlier I wasn't keen on going yesterday but once out of the house and on the 7 train sitting across from two guys discussing Federer and Roddick the same way some sports fans discuss A-Rod and Jeter (Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter of the NY Yankees for those who don't follow baseball)I was back in the mood for tennis. The Federer fan was going on about the pursuit of perfection and how he sees Roger as someone who is doing that. The Roddick fan was saying that Andy is just trying to play good tennis and seemed to be back on track. Two Catalonian men, father and son, were talking next to them and stopped in mid sentence when the conversation turned to Nadal and his schedule. Seeing nothing bad was being said they went back to their own conversation.
I was eavesdropping on the pursuit of perfection conversation so it took awhile for me to realize there were a heck of a lot of people wearing NY Mets shirts in the same car as us. They weren't too happy when we got to Willets Point that the doors opened first for the US Open fans. Whatever.
It was brutally hot in New York yesterday, one of those 3H days we have here in the summer - hazy, hot and humid. I stopped and bought an umbrella at the US Open stand. It was pink. It was the only color they had. It came in handy later.
While there I saw the actor Joe Morton currently of the television show "Eureka" and famous for his role in "Brother From Another Planet". I'm a New Yorker. He looks like himself. No need to call out to him or anything. He and his date were looking for stuff to buy just like I was. No biggie.
It felt funny walking to Ashe past the silent Grandstand and Louis Armstrong stadiums. There was no churn of activity on the outer courts, no clusters of fans poring over the daily what's going on booklets that cost three dollars trying to decide who to go see first. There was only one game in town and it was in Arthur Ashe stadium. There were fans at the picture wall and fans getting their pictures taken at the Lexus stand but when all was said and done everyone ended up in Arthur Ashe stadium. When we sat down there was a decent breeze blowing. When that breeze stopped it was hell. Broiling hot hell. There is only one section of the stadium that stays in pretty constant shade and that is under the Olympus clock. If you are buying Promenade seats and intend to see day matches make sure you're in section 303 or so. You'll be hot but at least you won't feel like a frog in a pot of water that's getting gradually hotter. I felt sorry for the men who were going to play on the asphalt stadium floor.
The first match was Novak Djokovic vs David Ferrer. I had watched Ferrer beat Rafa the other night and follow up that victory with a win over Juan Ignacio Chela that got him to Super Saturday. That David Ferrer did not show up.
I have to admit I haven't followed Ferrer's career so I'm not sure how often he's played on the big stage. Yesterday he played like a guy who had wandered in off the street and maybe didn't belong on center stage. It didn't help that the match did not appear to be called fairly. Many of Djokovic's shots that were clearly out were called in. Many of Ferrer's shots that were in were called out. It didn't appear to me that Ferrer challenged any of the bad calls. Instead he kept playing and getting more and more frustrated. Maybe he was afraid to say anything because he does not speak English well. I don't know. But that match would have been much closer and less predictable if Ferrer had opened his mouth.
As for Djokovic I'm still underwhelmed by his tennis. His shots aren't all that. He makes them well but they're not spectacular. In person his game is pretty mundane. But he's getting all kinds of help from John McEnroe and I'm sure others in the American tennis establishment who now seem quite vested in his success. When asked after his victory yesterday what he was going to do next he said hit a few balls with JMac. Nice move Novak. He did go into his "I'm sick" routine by the way. Maybe it was in honor of Robert De Niro who was in the stands. I'm sure Mr. De Niro was unimpressed.
The true believers in both players were in the Promenade section - the blue seats. Young men and women wearing tee shirts with "Serbia" emblazoned on them were everywhere. Across from us were the flag wavers and other Serbian fans, old and young. Ferrer had good support as well in the nosebleed section and when he took that quick lead everyone was prepared to battle the sun as long as the match was good. When it became obvious that it was not going to be it was time to get relief from the sun.
I went on a water run and found out that lots of people were kicking back on the stairs or leaning over the railing watching the girls match going on on Court 11. It looked like a good match too. The reason everyone was out there was because the breeze was fantastic. It actually bordered on cold so needless to say I spent a more than a few minutes out there watching the girls play and enjoying the relief from the sun.
When I went back into Ashe the match had just ended and they were interviewing Novak who made his "I'm hitting with John McEnroe" statement. The Serbian flags were flying and Novak fans, including the middle aged woman who, though seemingly with a date had been screaming at Novak to go out with her, were celebrating. It's always good when your favorite wins. There was a Serbian couple next to us but they were pretty laid back except for the end of the match.
Needless to say the stands emptied- Federer's match would start at about 3:15 or so, and I put up my umbrella. We'd tried to put it up before but the matrons behind us said they couldn't see the court with it up. Another reason to go for the expensive seats next year we decided. There were some retrospectives for the past American greats, Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, and another twelve year old came out to sing "America the Beautiful" which the fans treated as the singing of the National Anthem.
I don't know if I mentioned the twelve and thirteen year olds who would sing just before what was considered the main event. One thirteen year old girl we saw the other night would not have been carded at any club in NYC. I wonder what they're feeding kids these days. This young man started out nervous but finished strong. We all stood in honor of our country and then the players came out on court. Those in the tunnel interviews are seen on the jumbotrons in the stadium. When Fed came on his fans gave a big cheer.
The support for Davydenko was not as strong. He's number four in the world and yet most fans would probably trample him to get to other members of the top five. He too jumped out to a quick lead but as Yogi Berra said I felt like I was having deja vu all over again. When Roger got it even and then took the lead in the set I headed for the shade. It seems others felt the same way and there were people standing in the walkway watching. Guys with camera lens the size of small children muscled their way past us. They were followed by one of the Staff who began to ask for tickets and tell people they couldn't stand and catch the breeze there. It was a gazillion degrees in the sun. There was no one complaining. I guess she had her instructions but she could simply have said you're not allowed to stand here instead of coming on like gang busters.
So I went up the stairs and found tons of people standing there watching. That was more of a hazard than standing in the much wider walkway but the storm troopers didn't care if you stood there. Go figure. Anyway the breeze was just as good if not better than it was by the food stands and I stood there for awhile watching Roger take over the set and win.
If it had been less hot and there was shade cover somewhere I would have stayed and watched the entire match. Since I'm not a fanatic for either Roger or Kolya I decided it was time to leave. It seems like a lot of fans agreed with me.
I wondered about the decision to start the matches at high noon. I understand why they did it - the Women's final was that evening and CBS would want everything on time - but it is cruel and unusual punishment for fans and players alike. While it has been pretty cool most of the last two weeks that is the exception not the norm. It would make better sense to start the men's matches at 3p in my opinion and play both Finals at night. I know that won't ever happen - I read last night that the WTA is resisting any plan to start the US Open on Sunday, something that might allow a later start for the mens semi's - but to attend on Super Saturday you're shelling out a minimum of $100 American for a seat in the nosebleed section. You're paying to see tennis not shoot the breeze outside the court eating an overpriced hot dog and drinking tepid bottled water. I'm sure the ITF/USTA would prefer the fans to be in the seats too. The officials were telling people to take frequent breaks out of the sun which meant there were very few people in the blue seats, the home of real tennis fans.
I'll be watching the mens final today from the comfort of my own home, probably with the sound off. I expect history to be made.