Thursday, September 3, 2009

Out and About

by Savannah

The American tennis establishment has caught Oudin fever. Melanie Oudin, the seventeen year old from Marietta, Georgia has shown potential for awhile now but whenever you talked juniors you heard other names that didn't begin with the letter "O". No more. Sure she beat Jelena Jankovic a few short weeks ago but until recently Jelena was looking as if she were headed in the wrong ranking direction.

Elena Dementieva is a different story.

Elena came into the US Open as the hottest woman on the summer hard court swing. She had played one of if not the best Women's match of the year against Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. There was no reason anyone would suspect her momentum would come to a screeching halt when she took the court today.

I know Elena is a loose cannon, that when she opens her mouth there is absolutely no telling what will come out, but with all of her crazy statements she is one of the old guard. Along with Venus Williams and Serena Williams she is in her late twenties now and is arguably playing her best tennis after having worked hard to fix her serve which was her major liability. In my opinion she is the best player never to have won a major.

I thought that Oudin would take a set but that in the end Elena would win going away. Instead Elena, like many of us, looked befuddled as she contemplated the young woman across the net from her. Elena was never allowed to establish her presence, was not allowed to settle into her preferred style of play. Not that she didn't try. It was just that Oudin had the answer for every thing she tried.

Up next for young Melanie is Maria Sharapova who all of a sudden looks as if she's got a cakewalk to at least the semi's if not the Final.
It's going to be interesting to see who makes the final from the top half of the draw since her country woman, top ranked Dinara Safina has struggled mightily with herself and her game during her first two matches.

While on the subject of Safina what is it with the hate directed towards Dinara's coach? He wouldn't be my coaching choice but I remember Dinara saying when they first started working together that he is an emotional person like she is and that she needs to have someone in her corner who understands what she needs. You know that couple down the block that fight like cats and dogs day in and day out and yet are still together after all the divorces and separations of their neighbors? Different strokes for different folks. Yes it makes us all uncomfortable to watch their interaction on court but that is their business. Some are talking about Marat maybe taking over coaching his sister. Yeah. I'll bring the popcorn.

With all the excitement over Melanie not much was said today about the woman who really scored the first big upset. Vania King was not considered a major obstacle for Samantha Stosur and so it was with surprise that I saw Vania won the first set before I left BJK. To find out that she won once I got home was an even bigger surprise. Congratulations to Vania. Trust me that was a big upset.

James Blake rode the emotional wave handed him by the fans on Arthur Ashe Stadium to a victory over Olivier Rochus.

Anastasia Rodionova got a surprise victory over Sabine Lisicki who injured herself on the last point of the match and had to be wheeled off the court. Wishing Sabine the best.

My sympathy to Jelena Jankovic and her family. Jelena's grandmother passed away yesterday in Serbia.

Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan advanced to the next round. By the way her name is not that hard to pronounce. It really isn't.

Savannah's Big Adventure

It's hard to put into words the emotion I feel when I step off the #7 subway train at Willet's Point during the US Open. So many people from so many places all come for one reason - to watch tennis. Whether you came with a grounds pass or had court side seats at Ashe everyone was talking tennis and it's exhilarating.

Unfortunately I couldn't wander arund the way I wanted to so I can only report on what I saw and heard in Ashe.

It is impossible to describe how horrible Ashe is for watching tennis. It is simply too big. By comparison the old center court, Louis Armstrong Stadium, is intimate and the Grandstand makes you want to kick off your shoes and stretch out as you would at home. When I got there the lines for the Grandstand and Armstrong were very very long so even if I had wanted to stop and take a peek It would've meant a very long wait in the sun.

I walked on stopping to grab a fan and to browse the US Open store. I wasn't going to buy until I was on my way home. I liked both the Jay-Z shirt as everyone was calling it and Venus shirt. I don't know who manufactured Venus shirts though. I picked up what I thought was a small or petite and it was labeled "XL". Not sure on what planet that shirt was XL.

But that was on my way home. I sat down in front of Ashe watching Gael Monfils play Jeremy Chardy.
"Looks like he's having an easy time," a man sitting next to me said to me. On the other side a man was telling his wife that "...the screamer is on Court 13 but it looks like she's a goner." I was scoreboard watching - yes I did that at the US Open - and was surprised to see that Aleksandra Wozniak sent Amelie Mauresmo home with a bagel. Not one person commented on it.
Once that match was over I made my way inside past all the bright young things who smile and wish you well. I refused to go into the Ralph Lauren shop having decided that $250.00 tennis sweaters were not part of my budget. They did have cute bags but I resisted.

Once at my seat I prepared to be baked by the sun. I had on my straw hat so I rolled up my cargo pants and lathered on sun screen waiting for Venus Williams and Bethanie Mattek-Sands to take the court. Venus dress makes much better aerodynamic sense in person. The skirt manages to catch any and every passing breeze which must be a relief to her playing on that concrete. In person you can't really see all the details. That was a good thing. Unfortunately that doodle on the back kept everyone guessing.

This is not the first time I've seen Venus play singles live and I'm always struck by her deliberate style. Maybe because it was so hot in the sun it was more obvious but in the end she is my favorite Williams sister. I like her style and how she saves up her speed for when her opponent starts to think that just maybe she has a chance. I can also see how that approach gets her in trouble. The best line of the day came during this match. Mattek-Sands hit the tennis equivalent of a pitcher hanging a high fast one over the plate. "Merry Christmas" said one wag behind me as Venus sent that one right back across the net.

I also realized what drives me nuts about the women's game. It's the pace. Sure they're hitting the ball hard and there is court coverage and strategy (well sometimes) but every time I watch a woman's match I doze off. Both Novak Djokovic and Lleyton Hewitt have the same affect on me, sun or no sun.

At any rate the next match was Rafael Nadal against a returning Richard Gasquet.. I had never seen Gasquet play live before so I was really interested in how the match would go. Gasquet has a beautiful game and plays absolutely sublime points and makes beautiful shots. But like one man who was sitting behind me said "All that and he still finds a way to lose the point."

I also don't understand why you would pay an inordinate amount of money for a cocktail and sit it on the stairs for someone to kick over. I mean there are cup holders in front of most seats and common sense would dictate that is where you put your drink with three melon balls on a skewer. When that particular idiot tried to get huffy with the guy who kicked over her drink the guy, who did apologize, gave her a look, looked down at where she'd placed her drink, gave her another look that said "Really?" and then smiled before walking away.

There were also the women who showed up in those cute little print dresses they're trying to force down women's throats for fall. There is a breed of person ( I would say woman but I'm guessing there are men out there who do the same thing) who change into their fall attire as soon as August rolls around. I had a friend like that. Never understood it. Some had on long dresses too. Amazing.

There is always interesting conversation about tennis to be overheard during the day. You just have to be willing to put up with the sun. At night you have to be willing to put up with the drunks and know nothings. I'm going again tomorrow night. That should be it for me out at BJK this year.

End Notes

The US Open live stream is really really nice. Now that it's working that is. I love the PIP feature and instead of showing you random yellow dots signifying shot distribution they show "balls" with the percent of shots that were directed to that location.

My only problem is the commentators. Virginia Wade, normally a favorite, weighed in on the ranking situation in the WTA and ended all conversation temporarily by reviewing matches played and saying that a player "has to support the tour". It was a little harder for that line of thought to hold by the end of Dinara's match but I still find it odd that when Pete Sampras did the exact same thing at about the same age as Venus and Serena there was no criticism to be heard.

Then there are the announcers who don't seem to have a clue about any player from Europe. Kind of odd isn't it? I also failed to get the humor in one team's inability and/or unwillingness to pronounce Ms Shvedova's last name. They thought it was the funniest thing. I didn't.

The Fashion Disaster

Citing Bethanie as a disaster area when it comes to clothing is redundant so I'll just leave her alone.

Stella McCartney dressing Caroline Wozniacki in some kind of pouf is unforgivable. Stella needs to make up her mind if she's designing clothes for women to play tennis in or to hang out at the club in.


rabbit said...

Thanks for that writeup! Loved it! :)

skivvy said...

Fun piece Savannah!!

Sweet Caroline, that dress... not working boo boo.

pat said...

stella mccartney clothing looked amazing on mariki (kirilenko), i know she loses early in pretty much every tournament and that isn't a good deal for adidas, but they should find someone other than caroline, nothing against her, but those clothes don't really look good on her....
and seeing mariki in the same clothes safina wears, kinda killed me this open, heh.-