U.S. Open Buzz: We're Zingin' In the Rain

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28magcover-082811-sfSpanYOU’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE: Teen Jack Sock confided, “When you play on Ashe [Stadium] at the Open, it feels a lot different than playing at Blue Valley North in May at the high school state championship.”

MUCH ADIEU ABOUT NOTHING: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga said, “My game is very good when I have nothing in my head.”

QADDAFI’S COURT: When Libyan rebels stormed Muammar Qaddafi‘s headquarters they found two tennis courts next to a Bedouin-style tent where he entertained guests in a compound that’s been described as “a pleasant place, with the security of a prison but the facilities of a country club.”

CURIOUS QUESTIONS: After she said she was climbing a mountain at the Open, Serena Williams was asked, “Is it more like Mt. Everest or Henman Hill”…Karen Crouse asked, “If the Romans could put a roof on the ancient Colosseum, why can’t the USTA add a roof to one of its show courts?”…Following his lopsided 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 win over Carlos Berlocq, top-seeded Novak Djokovic was asked, “How hard was this butchery that you did on the court?”…Mary Carillo wondered whether the WTA would move to curtail grunting. She asked “Are you going to legislate it?” Our nation turns its swollen ears to you.

LIKE TOMBSTONES IN A RAINY VILLAGE CHURCHYARD: Gerard Baker (who’s not exactly an Anglophile) asked, “Is Andy Murray British? What sort of question is that, you ask? With those pallid, hairy legs and teeth like tombstones in a rainy village churchyard, what else could he be?”

GO FIGURE: Six months ago, Serena wasn’t sure she would even be standing at the U.S. Open (let alone reaching the final)…Williams gets called for shouting “C’mon!” but Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and a zillion others shriek on…Before the summer, Roger Federer owned a 178-0 record when he was up by two sets in Slam matches. Now, after losses to Tsonga and Djokovic, he’s 178-2…There are no teens in the WTA’S top 50…Four different women — Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur — won Slams in ’11…Stosur is the first Sam to win a major of an individual sport since golfer Sam Snead won the Masters in ’54.

LET US NOW PRAISE THE JOY OF UNPREDICTABLITY: Jon Wertheim noted, “Unpredictability is one of the great virtues of sports. Want scripted endings? You go to the theater. Want choreography? Go to the ballet. Then there are sports, the best reality TV going, virtually limitless in their capacity for surprise.”

DOZEN TOP U.S. OPEN STORYLINES

1. Djokovic’s win cements wonder year.

2. Hurricane Serena.

3. Hurricane Irene, rain reigns, courts bubble up and there’s psycho-babble about roof envy.

4. Aussie Sam rules!

5. At long last, a mini-American flurry.

6. Say It Ain’t So: Venus Williams’ malady.

8. Serena returns (but why the low seeding?).

9. Novak’s shot heard ’round the world.

10. The top four men again reach the Final Four. Women champions Clijsters, Li and Kvitova are non-factors, and No.1 Wozniacki again fails to Slam.

11. Andy Roddick sounds off on the media and joins a player rebellion.

12. Withdrawals, walkovers and Rafael Nadal’s scary cramping.

JUST WONDERING: Does any other family in entertainment (this side of the Jackson clan) attract more controversy then the Williams clan?…Will Venus or James Blake retire first?…Once the Bryan Bros. are gone will doubles fade…Who on this earth picked Stosur to win?

HEADLINES

Serena Makes a Mess of Everything

You Can’t Cramp Nadal’s Style

Fading Tennis Empires Cling to

Their Andys

Feisty, Outspoken Roddick Is Starting to Look Like the Sport’s New

Ugly American

Bright Sun, Dark Moods

Disorder On the Court

A Rain of Error

ACCESSING AMERICA: The New York Post said, “It’s a terrific story, this American men’s tennis resurgence.” The New York Times countered, “The truth is, American tennis is not back, not back by a long shot.” Roddick put it this way: “There’s a healthy jealousy going on right now, which is good. It’s only going to help. If Donald Young sees Ryan Harrison play well…he’s not going to fall behind. That’s what you saw with that golden generation. They pushed each other. It’s a great thing to see. You feel there’s a little bit of momentum…a snowball effect.” Jim Courier was less upbeat. Looking at the big picture, he said, “Americans have become fat, dumb and happy.”

SOME IDEAS THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN: Reflecting on all the multisyllabic names in women’s tennis, Dick Enberg said, “I think there should be a limit to three syllables in tennis.”…Wozniacki has won three times in New Haven, so some of her fans would like the entire WTA Tour to be played at Yale.

FEDERER TO BE RE-INCARNATED IN TOPEKA?: Player development chief Patrick McEnroe said, “You can always just sit around and pray that Sampras or Serena will fall out of the sky, or that Federer will be born in Topeka next time. Until then, what we can control are the players we have.”

BLOOD, SWEAT?AND?WAFFLES: Roddick said his stay in Cincinnati was “a lot of blood, sweat and Waffle House.”

PROBLEMATIC PARENTING: After a baby cried out at 11:25 p.m. during the women’s semi, broadcaster Mark Ernay said, “That’s just bad parenting.”…Told that there was a man on top of the fence and a baby crying during his match on Court 13, Roddick quipped, “At least there wasn’t a baby crying on the fence.”

IN AN ERA OF WHINERS, CAN WE CALL THIS AN HEROIC SILENCE?: No. 4 seed Azarenka didn’t once complain about drawing 28th seed Serena in the third round.

A COOKED STORK STAGGERING UNDER THE BROILING SUN: Nobody lumbers about a court like the perpetually exhausted/on the brink of collapse John Isner. Lenox Rawlings described him as “a cooked stork staggering under the broiling sun.”  Carillo said, “You have the sequoia effect.” Brad Gilbert noted, “It seems that he’s gassed…[He] takes an eternity. It’s a thing of beauty.” Isner himself explained, “I feel I expend more energy than anyone else. Even Shaquille O’Neal in his heyday wasn’t running up and down the floor with point guards. When it’s really hot, I do kind of struggle.”

THE CORONA CONNECTION: When told that his coach Marian Vajdic stopped drinking beer, Djokovic said, “If you don’t count Corona as a beer, he’s not drinking beer.”…Wayne Coffey said Roddick left the Open “looking as lost as a schoolkid in Corona Park.”

GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN: In Australia, Wozniacki interviewed herself and claimed she was kicked in the leg by a kangaroo. At a pre-Wimbledon press conference, she pretended to be a reporter and lobbed questions to her fellow Monte Carlo resident Djokovic. At the Open, she mocked Nadal grimacing in pain in the interview room.

GIRLS JUST WANNA TO REMEMBER THE WORDS TO THE NATIONAL ANTHEM: Cyndi Lauper mangled the words of the Star Spangled Banner.

NUMBERS

4: American men — Roddick, Mardy Fish, Isner and Young — made it to the second week of the Open.

1: Woman who this year has reached three Slam quarters — Germany’s Andrea Petkovic.

32: Points played in a tiebreak between Stosur and Maria Kirilenko, making it the longest ever in a Slam women’s singles match.

30: Straight quarters reached by Federer.

1: No of English questions Jurgen Melzer and Phillip Petzschner were asked after they won the men’s doubles championship.

2: Career titles won by Stosur prior to claiming the U.S. Open.

270: E-mails and text messages Stosur got after her victory.

OF ROACH MOTELS AND SLEEPING IN TRAIN STATIONS: Dimitry Tursunov tweeted, “Winston-Salem better have cockroaches in the hotel. The swanky life is easy to get used to!”…Explaining that she did all the hard yards, Stosur said, “I’ve slept in train stations and stayed in dodgy hotels.”

WELL, SCOTS DO KNOW A THING OR TWO ABOUT BAGPIPES: Andy Murray tweeted, “On way into courts and all traffic has been stopped as there are men playing the bagpipes with american flags on top of them….Weird”

BACKTALK: After Nadal collapsed, Doug Robson noted, “You don’t often see Rafael Nadal flat on his back — unless he’s winning Grand Slam titles…To watch the physically imposing Spaniard grimace and slide down his chair offered a public window into how physical the game has become and how crippling the athletic scourge known as cramping can be.”

CRIP WALK, CRIP TALK: When asked whether she makes a concerted effort to intimidate her opponents, Serena said, “Yeah. I walk out there, do the Crip walk and try to intimidate them. No, I don’t try. I am who I am. I don’t know whether that’s intimidating…I am just me.”

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL: Serena complained that she doesn’t have room for anymore trophies. “In L.A., I created a karaoke room, so I can’t put trophies in there. The other area, the gentleman’s lounge, is kind of packed with vintage things I got in a flea market. In Florida, forget it…I would love to keep winning them. But we’re like, ‘Oh, what are we going to do with this one?'”

THOU SHALT NOT SNOOP: Serena’s prime relationship advice to Wozniacki was, “Never look through the guy’s phone.”

THAT’S WHY THEY CALL HER ‘SUNSHINE’: Tom Perrotta noted, “Wozniacki doesn’t inspire dread in her opponents…because she’s too busy smiling at them, befriending them and rooting for them on Twitter.”

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, JUSTINE?: Chris Evert asked, “Where have you gone, Justine? Look what you could have done with these girls. You could have done some damage.”

SEEN BY FEW: Only 584 fans (plus hangers on) saw the Roddick vs. David Ferrer fourth-rounder, which was moved to tiny Court 13 when the Louis Armstrong Stadium court began to bubble…The Stosur vs. Kerber semi was played on the 6,000-seat Grandstand Court. The move, a logistical one, wasn’t as bad as Serena’s regular relegation to Court No. 2 at Wimbledon or the women’s quarters regularly being played on the second show court at the French Open.

SAMBERG AS A ‘GAY THOR’: SNL funnyman Andy Samberg, who dressed up like McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi, Connors and Borg for a New York Times Magazine photo shoot, said, “There’s no one funnier on a court than McEnroe. He’s a bit of a man-child.” Samberg also noted Agassi’s “wounded,” “puppy dog” eyes, and said his Borg makeup made him look like “a gay Thor.”

THE EASIEST JOB IN THE WORLD: Roddick told ESPN’s Chris Fowler, “Tennis analyst is the easiest job in the world because whatever the person does, if it works you just say that’s what’s good, and if it doesn’t work, you guys go, ‘He should have done the other things.’…It just doesn’t take much thought. If I’m grinding and I’m winning, you guys are like, “‘He’s reinvented himself.’ If I’m playing like crap and pushing, then, you know, ‘He’s horrible and he needs to hit the ball.'”

NOT A THING OF BEAUTY: Tom Perrotta called Roddick the Open’s new “chief moisture bubble inspector.”

PUH-LEEZ DON’T SAY CHRIS FOWLER: Who will take over for Dick Enberg as CBS’ lead announcer? And could Ted Robinson wiggle away from his 49er duties to get the gig?

TAKING STROKE ANALYSIS TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL: After Svetlana Kuznetsova blasted a winner, Brad Gilbert said “That might have been the biggest non-Serena forehand I’ve ever seen.”

FEDERER MATTERS: Federer means “trader in feathers”…Roger has been compared to so many, from Leonardo da Vinci to Baryshnikov. Music impresario Clive Davis compared him to songster Billy Joel…During the Open, Fed spoke with his struggling friend Tiger Woods, who he said “was not very happy now.”…The best T-shirt at the Open was “Roger That”…After being destroyed by Fed in the quarters, Tsonga said Fed was just as good as ever. But Jeremy Schaap said that during the Fed-Djokovic semi, “Everyone in the [U.S. Open] stadium could feel the winds of change in the air. For all his greatness, Federer had clearly moved into the autumn of his career.”

CAUTION — PROTECT YOUR YOUNGINS, THESE BITS ARE X-RATED: After losing to Simone Halep, Li Na said she “played like s–.”…In her farewell address at an awards breakfast, the saucy Aussie Pat Freebody, long a revered USTA administrator, told the well-heeled throng, “You’re the most loveable bunch of dumb s–s I’ve ever known.”…Deep into his five set struggle against journeyman Robin Haase, Andy Murray turned to fan and said, “I’m trying my nuts off, man. I just feel awful.”

BEST NEW NAME: Grace Min, the 17-year-old Georgian, who won the USO girls’ championship.

BEST ACTIVE PLAYERS TO NEVER WIN A SLAM: Wozniacki and Murray.

PRESIDENTIAL PERSPECTIVES: Federer says he watched the ’08 U.S. Presidential race “quite closely…I couldn’t believe the length and the brutality of it. I felt like every president should be extremely tired becoming the president.”…When the politically oriented Germany’s Andrea Petkovic was asked when she was going to run for prime minister, she replied, “That takes a while, like another 10 years.”

MOST DISGUSTING COMMENTARY: Mary Carillo said, “All this illegal coaching is just disgusting.”

SOCK IT TO ME AND MELANIE: Teen angels Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin teamed up to top Eduardo Schwank/Gisela Dulko 7-6(4), 4-6 (10-8) to win the Open mixed title. “We kind of can’t believe that we actually won a Grand Slam,” said Oudin, two years removed from her Cinderella surge to the USO quarters. Like, I have a title now…We didn’t even know if we were going to be able to play because we didn’t know if we would get a wildcard.”

HONORS: Hall of Famer Pancho Gonzalez was inducted into the Open’s Court of Champions…Gustavo Kuerten, Nick Bollettieri and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were nominated for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. (Our two bits: all should get in.)

FOREVER YOUNG:

•En route to the fourth round, Donald Young explained his breakout performance, saying “Everyone’s light turns on at their own time.”

Wayne Coffey noted that Young “was a prodigy at 15, a washout at 20, a poster child for the perils of premature celebrity for most of his life, the emotional extremes leaving him on the brink of quitting the sport before he was even of legal age.”

•Roddick says Young’s biggest improvement is that “he’s not focusing on what’s going wrong…He’s a nice kid…[who’s] gotten a…bum rap because he does have a temper and has been reactionary with his words…He is a sweet, sweet kid. He’s shy. I think he might be coming out a little bit.”

•When asked to reflect on Young’s emergence, late bloomer Mardy Fish conceded, “I’d be a hypocrite if I said that he should have been doing different things sooner in his career.”

MY SWEET (AND?WE?DON’T MEAN?RYAN) HARRISON: The September 15 issue of Rolling Stone featured incredible photos of George Harrison and Bob Dylan playing tennis in jeans on the Isle of Wight in ’69.

DECORUM DEBATE: During his loss to Marin Cilic, 19-year-old Ryan Harrison continually heaved his racket and kicked at the ball. His behavior prompted this debate:

CARILLO: “Mr. Cranky Pants…I don’t know why he hasn’t at least been warned, because he’s acting like a brat. You don’t think so? You can defend what he’s doing?”

GIMELSTOB: “He’s competing hard. It means a lot to him.”

CARILLO: “It means a lot to a lot of people.”

GIMELSTOB: “It’s inherently tied to why he’s going to be an excellent player – his competitiveness, because he cares so much. Does he have a lot to learn? 100 percent. He’s 19. I’m not saying it’s okay. I’m saying it’s something for him to learn from, to use his emotions in a positive way.”

DUTCH ECSTACY, DUTCH HORROR: U.S. Open wheelchair champ Esther Vergeer won her 439th straight match and her 19th straight Slam title…Her countrywoman, Holland’s Elise Tamaela suffered severe injuries after being attacked by her Danish foe Karen Babat‘s father during a German Challenger. The scene prompted memories of Monica Seles’ ’93 attack in Hamburg.

OH, NO, NOT AGAIN: With five German women reaching the second round, Petkovic joked, “We’re going to conquer the world soon.”

GRUNT WORK: Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price called Sloane Stephens an “anti-grunter.”

UNIVERSAL GESTURE: When asked whether her friend, mime master Djokovic, had imitated her distinct fist pump, Ana Ivanovic admitted, “Even the guys at Starbucks do it.”

OUR FAVE RAIN DELAY TALE THIS YEAR: Cliff Drysdale recalled that, when he was playing the U.S. Nationals at Forrest Hills, he went to the bottom reaches of the stadium to lay down during a rain delay. He fell asleep, and then someone tapped him on the shoulder. “I wake up and I’m looking at the face of Senator Robert Kennedy He just wanted to introduce himself.” That year Drysdale took the subway to the finals. Drysdale explained. “I had my rackets but nobody even asked me for an autograph.”

UNDERAPPRECIATED: Jimmy Connors told Tennis magazine, “The people – the establishment and maybe a lot of fans — really didn’t know what to make of us because we were so different. Our attitudes were different; our games were all different; nobody played the same. Everybody plays the same now. We had variety and we had charisma. I hate to say it, but we had it all, and they didn’t appreciate it.”

CURIOUS DIALOG

REPORTER: “Why the delay between the first and second set?”

SANIA MIRZA: “I went to change my clothes.”

REPORTER: “Why did you change clothes?”

MIRZA: “Do I have to give a reason why I changed clothes?”

NOT-SO-SUPER-SATURDAY?: Informed that Federer was not in favor of back-to-back matches on Super Saturday at the Open, Isner asked, “Super Saturday? What’s that?”

THAT’S ONE WEALTHY UNCLE: Asked what she would do with her $1.4 million in U.S. Open prize money, Serena said, “I give half to my favorite uncle, and then the rest I probably save it, hopefully. Pray that the banks don’t go down.”

MY WEEKEND WITH PEACHY: Andre Agassi recalled hanging out this summer in Newport, R.I., during his induction into the Hall of Fame with his fellow inductee Peachy Kellmeyer. Then, at the Hall’s Gala in New York, he recalled that he never would have imagined how great tennis would be for him. After all, he said, it “allowed me to spend a weekend with a chick named Peachy.”

QUOTEBOOK

“I am gluten tolerant.” — Janko Tipsarevic

“We don’t have nothing to do.” — Flavia Pennetta on the rain delays

“My skills are very questionable.” — First Lady Michelle Obama, who visited the Open, on her tennis

“It’s the same old thing, all you think about is the money.” — Rafael Nadal, who felt perhaps incorrectly, that officials rushed players on court in unsafe conditions

“Losing six times affects me, for sure.” — Rafael Nadal

“Never corner a lion” — Cliff Drysdale on Federer

“You can’t keep barking in the middle of a point.” — Mary Carillo

“Serena needs to learn the rules.” — Martina Navratilova

“I didn’t think I’d ever play another guy from Nebraska in my career.” — Andy Roddick on Jack Sock

“You don’t get credit for being [in the top 10]. You only the get credit for not being there.” — Andy Roddick

“I think I should not listen to her or Venus.” — Caroline Wozniacki on the relationship advice she received from Serena

“It’s not going to stop her.” — Oracene Price on her daughter’s Venus’ autoimmune disease

“I don’t need my twins to put life in perspective or my tennis life. I’ve always been at peace with the game or without the game.” — Roger Federer

“It’s called tennis.” — Maria Sharapova on dealing with her third-round loss to Flavia Pennetta

“Tempers bubbled. So did the court.” — Doug Robson

“The top players are members of the ATP, but care almost exclusively about their own careers, about their endorsements…In tennis, the stars never stay aligned for long.” — Filip Bondy

“I wake up last night and I was thinking, ‘It’s a dream or it’s real?'” — U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber of Germany

“I haven’t always been known for my competitiveness.” — Sam Stosur

SAM STOSUR: SURVIVAL AND TRIUMPH: She was dismissed as a mere doubles specialist. She survived a wretched bout with Lyme disease in ’07 and a devastating upset loss in the ’10 French Open final to Francesca Schiavone. But fit and armed with a potent inside out forehand, an imposing high kicking serve and a surpisingly adequate backhand, she survived the longest women’s match of the tiebreak era and the longest Open tiebreak en route to the final. Then she weathered Serena’s storm and key break points to shock the slow-starting, lethargic American 6-2, 6-3 on 9/11 to become the first female Aussie U.S. Open champ in 31 years, in part because she left her fragility behind and played the big points well throughout the Open.

GORDON SMITH’S U.S. OPEN REPORT: This year was different. During IT’s annual post-mortem chat with USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith, the Georgian’s mood was more of relief. He and his team had had been tested sorely, having navigated a hurricane, regional rains and floods, frustrating delays, bubbling courts, swipes at the media, wobbly withdrawals, player insurrections, hints of terrorism and a somber anniversary. It got so bad that some were expecting pestilence or a plague. But a resilient Smith put things in perspective, saying, “We started with an earthquake, followed by a hurricane, then a tropical storm. But in the end, we had the most compelling men’s final in recent memory, a new women’s champion, and we persevered. It was a fabulous fifteen days. It takes months to put this site in place, but as the hurricane came we tore it down in hours, and then put it all back together in less than a day. We opened the gates Monday at 10:12 a.m. just as the big lifts that had been working went out the backside. Operations manager Danny Zausner is my hero.” Smith also applauded the flurry of good play by Americans and said, “We’re making significant progress. You don’t develop a Chang, Courier, Sampras, Agassi, overnight. But the players we work with are getting better. That’s our job.”  As for the Open’s fourth straight Monday final, Smith noted that he had gotten many emails saying it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to tennis, “But obviously, we’d love to play the final on Sunday, as it’s scheduled.” As for a roof, Smith said, “With Ashe Stadium, it’s all but technologically impossible. It’s five times bigger the space than Wimbledon and if it could be done, it would be prohibitively expensive.”  Smith added that down the line, when Ashe Stadium has run its useful life, there’s a possibility of a new stadium. Never mind that it was almost midnight, Smith was beaming. “I’m so proud. We have a great team that’s out there tirelessly promoting