Some news before the write up about last night.
Spare a thought for up and coming American junior Sloane Stephens. Her father, former NFL player John Stephens, died in an automobile accident this week. The story is tragic, with a twist that makes it even more so for the young woman. See Karen Crouse' story for the details.
So the Eye network has made sure that the only coverage available other than what it wants to show us is a grainy feed from overseas. No online coverage, not even via USOpen.Org's live stream, is available until tonight. Not only that but Dick Enberg is commentating. I guess it could be worse and Al Trautwig could be in the chair. Or Ted "Mr America" Robinson.
Sabine Lisicki is said to have suffered a bad sprain. I've heard it said a sprain can sometimes be a very bad thing.
I wonder what the US tennis scene would look like if guys like Jesse Witten got the support others seem to think so little of.
A Night At The Open
I treat the US Open like my vacation. It is expensive, and I try to make sure I have the money available to see it the way I want to. Sometimes it's good. As I said in my other post the day session crowd tends to be a more knowledgeable group regardless of where one sits. At night the equation changes. All the suits who are there on their companies dime proceed to drink themselves into drunken stupors and feeling no pain don't hesitate to loudly vocalize their ignorance of the game by cheering hard hit balls that go out, and starting fan cheers for players they never heard of before.
Needless to say I was at the night session last night. The night started out well since I got a chance to meet briefly with some tennis friends I originally met online. I have to say upfront that I dressed wrong. During the day match when the sun pattern changed so that I was in shade it was downright cool. I figured it's night, in a large stadium, I would dress warmly. Bad move on my part. I had to stand up on the way in - fortunately I got an express - and by the time I reached Ashe I was totally soaked. Humidity and me do not get along. I still enjoyed my brief meeting with my friends. They're out there today and I know they're having a good time.
Anyway once I got inside -Venus match had already started - I stood with the small group waiting to get in on the next changeover. That was when I met my first douche of the evening. Everyone in the group has tickets. An assigned seat. It makes no difference what the order of entry is, your seat will be there. If someone is in it they have to move. Typical tennis etiquette. Mr. Douche yelled at his wife/girlfriend "you made us lose our spot" so everyone could hear as he made his way towards the front of the group. He rushed ahead when we could finally enter and I was amused to see him just being seated as I took my seat.
I should mention that as I came in Richard Williams passed by on his way out of the stadium. I said hello to him and he spoke back. As it turned out we were six rows behind him and his wife. The rest of Venus Williams entourage was on the other side of the court.
Meanwhile I think my daughter and I were the only ones not drinking to get drunk. She had fish and chips and a beer. Everyone else was drinking with not much food involved. I had brought my own food again so I was good.
Venus fans are well aware of her second set walkabout's. Let me tell you that it's worse seeing one in person. You live and die with each shot. I should also say that Venus knee is still not good. She and her sister are still scheduled to play doubles. We'll see.
I have to say it was great to see the crowd pull behind Venus. New York has not been a Williams friendly place to say the least and at the end Richard was up cheering with the rest of us. As he and his wife left I told him "Congratulatons" and he said "Thank You".
By the time the men's match started the crowd was well lubricated and the crazy stuff started. Many thought it would be an early night after the first set. That was when "Kiefermania" started. Kiefer rode the wave and thanks to some WTF play from his opponent took the second set. I'm not sure how it appeared on television but I can tell you that after the "Kiefermaniacs" left, hopefully for the LIRR or one of the jitneys, or passed out the way one gentleman did near where I was sitting (I have no idea how his girlfriend was going to get him home since he was passed out cold and she wasn't feeling any pain either) things got a little calmer. The people from the nosebleed seats came down and the match ended peacefully. I doubt if any of the Kiefermaniacs knew who he was.
We got to see Pam Shriver up close when she came to interview someone I'm guessing was Kiefer's coach. There was a cameraman in the way so we couldn't see clearly.
I have to say that it was amazing how many people were on the grounds last night. It's beautiful to see so many tennis fans from all over the United States and Canada come together to celebrate the best in the business.
I don't think I'll be out there again this year though.
Venus Williams faces Kim Clijsters next.
The Monogram will play the winner of James Blake vs Tommy Robredo the featured men's match tonight.
Melanie Oudin (that's ooo-dan Dick Enberg) is facing Maria Sharapova today. Big match for both women for different reasons. Oudin is not expected to win. Nice to see the #29 seed on Ashe during the day while the #1 is playing tonight during what some fans are calling the worst night session ever.
Serve and volley isn't dead. Taylor Dent and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez used the tactic with disparate results yesterday. Dent will play Andy Murray next.
There will be an on court tribute to Ricardo Alonso "Pancho" González this evening at 7p. Self taught, he revolutionized tennis.
In 1969, however, it was Gonzales's turn to prevail in the longest match ever played till that time, one so long and arduous that it resulted in the advent of tie break scoring. As a 41-year-old at Wimbledon, Gonzales met the fine young amateur Charlie Pasarell, a Puerto Rican younger than Gonzales by 16 years who revered his opponent.
Pasarell won a titanic first set, 24-22, then with daylight fading, the 41-year-old Gonzalez argued that the match should be suspended. The referee didn't relent and thus the petulant Gonzalez virtually threw the second set, losing it 6-1. At the break, the referee agreed the players should stop. Gonzalez was booed as he walked off Centre Court.
The next day, the serves, the volleys and all the prowess that made Gonzales a fiery competitor surfaced with trademark vengeance. Pasarell, seeking to exploit Gonzalez's advanced years, tried to aim soft service returns at Gonzalez's feet and tire him with frequent lobs. Barked Gonzalez on a changeover, "Charlie, I know what you're doing -- and it's not working!" Gonzalez rebounded to win three straight sets, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9. In the fifth set, Gonzales won all seven match points that Pasarell had against him, twice coming back from 0-40 deficits, to walk off the court from the 5-hour, 12-minute epic.
The final score was an improbable 22-24, 1–6, 16-14, 6–3, 11-9. Gonzales went on to the fourth round of the championship, where he was beaten in four sets by Arthur Ashe. The match with Pasarell, however, is still remembered as one of the highlights in the history of tennis and has been called one of "The Ten Greatest Matches of the Open Era" in the November/December 2003 issue of TENNIS magazine. But it was not this match alone which gave Gonzales the reputation, among the top players, of being the greatest long-match player in the history of the game.
Take the time to read his biography