A Saturday at the US Open

Written By: achangeofends - Sep• 07•10

Even though Nadal was able to take care of Istomin in 3 sets, it was still about 1am when I finally got back to my hotel. I knew Saturday was going to be a very long day of tennis viewing so I decided to head to bed…oh wiat, that’s what I should’ve done. What I actually did was take my netbook down to the ultramodern, very dark hotel lobby to use the free wifi so I could post some new material to the blog. See, I love you guys more than sleep. Plus, I’d already written everything out long hand so I just had to type it all up. Finally I was all done and went back to room and passed out on the very comfy bed.

I planned to get an early start on Saturday, but I realized that I could sacrifice an hour of tennis for an hour of sleep considering I’d be there all day. I arrived on site around noon and took another walk around. They charge you $4 for a schedule of play, so I wrote it all down before hand and brought it with me. This way, I wouldn’t miss any of the action on the outer courts. The grounds are quite spread out so there could be great matches happening without your knowledge.

While on my way around the grounds, I happened upon Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon in the middle of practicing on an outer court, not the fenced off practice courts. This meant it had bleachers and the fence was only about 3 feet tall, providing an unobstructed view. I’ve seen them both before, but it’s always a treat, so I stuck around to watch. Eventually Michael Llodra showed up with his practice partner and the four of them shared the court. These three are all great to watch, so I decided actual match play could wait. I had a real front row seat as I was standing at the gate. The gate was open and at some point a ball rolled right to my feet. It came right to me, so I’m pretty sure that means I get to keep it right? It may have been a grey area, but I discreetly bent down and pocketed the ball. Later, Llodra wiffed a ball over the short fence and a man tossed it back for him. Mikey responded with a heavily accented, “Thank you BRO.” Yes, Michael Llodra said bro. It made my day. At some point, Simon’s coach stopped to close the gate I was standing at, explaining that he hoped the wind would die down. I’m not sure how that’s an explanation for closing the gate or why he felt the need to explain anything to me, but he was very nice. Maybe he’s starting to recognize me or he was confused by the fact that I spent an hour standing at the side of the court, playing with my blackberry (I was a little twitter happy this weekend.) FYI, I really don’t try to follow any specific players, I just happen to see some players way more often than others.

Anyway, Llodra finished up practicing first and walked off court completely unbothered by any of the fans. I can’t stress enough that you should be watching this guy. He’s incredibly entertaining and has a great old school serve and volley game. Plus, he’s an absolute sweetheart with fans. Gilles and Feli finished up a little bit later and I got Feli to sign my stolen ball. Thierry Tulasne, Gilles’ coach, passed out all of the practice balls to kids watching from the opposite side of the court. I love when players/coaches think to do something like that. It means absolutely nothing to the player, but is a nice treat for the fans.

Next up, I stopped in to check out the real practice courts. There’s only one side that has a fence you can see through, which means that anytime there’s someone remotely famous practicing, it’s impossible to see. It turns out the large crowd had gathered to watch Rafa/Fernando practice on the nearest court. I took a couple photos when I got reasonably close, but I’m not a big enough Rafa fan to brave that mess for very long. Vera Zvonareva and coach Sergey Demekhine were also out practicing, as was David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro. Bethanie Mattek Sands had taken up the court vacated by Gilles and Feli. I had no interest in that so I decided to grab some lunch before the match I was waiting for: Robredo/Granollers vs. Reynolds/Ram.

I had a quick lunch and headed over to Court 4. The match hadn’t started yet, so I hang around to watch a little Sam Querrey practice on the court next door. He was practicing with a kid, possibly someone from the junior circuit. I arrived just as things were wrapping up. Sam walked off court and a kid asked him for his hat, which Sam happily handed over and signed. Sam hung around for a good 10 or 15 minutes extra signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. He didn’t act like he was in a rush and he’s super polite. I took a picture for some siblings and was rewarded with one of my own. I’m 5’7” and was wearing 3” or 4” heels. Sam is still about a head taller. The guy is a giant. Anyway, now I’ve seen Sam practice twice and I have to say I love the way he interacts with fans. It’s a real shame he’s out after a heartbreaking five setter with Stanislas Wawrinka. I wish him all the best. Also, Sam, if you ever happen to read this, and you are looking for a new intern, I am available. I am looking for a job and believe I would be quite capable. No joke.

So back to Court 4 for Tommy. It’s a small outer court and most people aren’t very interested in doubles so there was plenty of space. Reynolds/Ram are both American so there were probably more people watching than had Tommy and Marcel been playing some other team. So remember when I said that I don’t specifically follow anyone, I guess this was a small deviation from that. I’m a big fan of Tommy Robredo. He’s my favorite of all the Spanish players, including Rafa. It’s definitely a non-majority opinion, but I just find something really adorable about him. So, I embedded myself deep in the Spanish camp, right behind Tommy’s coach, Milene Rigue, and next to Marcos Rollan. Marcos appears to be the stats guy. He spent the whole match pouring over a draw sheet and listening to his radio, filling in all the scores, etc. He also seemed to be keeping track of how many players each country had remaining and a few other odds and ends. I can neither confirm nor deny whether Milene is Tommy’s girlfriend. Her badge said Player Guest: Tommy Robredo. I’ve since done some digging in an effort to bring you guys the most accurate information I can. It appears Milene is a Brazilian model. I couldn’t find anything to connect her to Tommy. I’ve given you the name, so you guys can do the extra stalking if you wish.

Anyway, it was a good idea for me to chill out with the Spaniards because I was definitely the only other person in the stands cheering for Tommy and Marcel. It was a very pro-American crowd. However, Robredo/Granollers won comfortably in two. A lot of people were confused, forgetting that the doubles is best of three with the super breaker instead of best of five.

So I had successfully cheered Tommy to the win and walked off towards the Grandstand in hopes of getting a seat before Melzer/Ferrero. I walked past Melanie Oudin practicing for her mixed doubles match. I took a few photos so I had some, but then kept going.

So, while I was in my happy Tommy bubble, Mardy Fish was battling it out on Louis Armstrong with Arnaud Clement, in what would be a five set match. Armstrong was actually full to capacity and they stopped letting people in so the Grandstand was extra busy. I waited in line for about 20 minutes and was hoping for a good seat. I couldn’t find anything in the first couple of rows, so I decided to be a little crafty. For those of you who don’t know, the Grandstand and Louis Armstrong Stadium are connected. Just walk around the left side of the Grandstand and you’re in Armstrong. The very bottom section of Armstrong is reserved for ticket holders, but the rest is first come first serve for grounds pass admission. I got extremely lucky and found a single seat in the front row of the non-reserved section for the fifth set of Fish/Clement. Fifth sets are always exciting and an American in a fifth set always provides some great crowd involvement. Fish finally put it away. In his on court interview, Mary Jo asked him about that night’s match between Djokovic and Blake. Fish responded that while Novak was a “friend,” James was a “best friend” and he would be cheering a little harder for James to win, providing us with a sickeningly sweet ending to the match. Unfortunately, Nole would go on to decimate poor James and proceed to take out Fish in the 4th round. I took over 300 photos this weekend and have no idea how I ended up with so many pics of Mardy Fish. If you check out photobucket, I look like a total stalker, but have no explanation. I think I was just so excited to score such a good seat.

By the time Armstrong was emptying out, it was already about 6:15pm and the Grandstand was pretty much full. I decided to take some more shopping time to see if I couldn’t reach the $150 mark before the night session started. I honestly believe half of the reason I was drawn to tennis was the adorable outfits, so I headed over to the Nike store and bought myself one of Masha’s practice skirts. I would’ve splurged on a dress, but I would look absolutely ridiculous playing tennis as poorly as I do in Masha’s purple night outfit. As not to completely monopolize your time, I am going to split this up and post my night time experience separately.

Overall, a very positive experience on Saturday of Labor Day weekend. The site was busy, but not unbearable. I got to see a lot of tennis and some practices up close and personal which is pretty much what I love about smaller tournaments, so getting to do it at the US Open was even better. For anyone considering a trip to the USO next year, I would recommend attending during the first week and buying grounds passes. They don’t kick you out at 6pm so you can continue to watch any of the matches that are running late on the outer courts and if you want you can watch the Ashe matches on the big screen. The grounds passes are cheaper and a much better value than any of the seats in Ashe. However, if you’ve never gone to a night session, I would suggest doing it once just for the atmosphere. If you can, splurge a little and get a reasonably good seat. Sitting in the rafters just isn’t worth it unless you get them for free, or $25 like I did.

Finally, if you’d like to see all 300 of my pictures from this weekend, they are available at http://s966.photobucket.com/albums/ae146/lubinskya/US%20Open%202010/

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