THE BATTLE OF THE SUPERBRATS RAGES ON: Just when you think Nick Kyrgios is the No. 1 bad boy in the game, his countryman Bernie Tomic makes a hefty comeback. No, there wasn’t a Wimbledon tirade this year. And he didn’t have a run in with police, like in Washington D.C., or a dust-up with the cops over loud music in Miami at 5:00 a.m. And there haven’t been any car chases relating to his Ferrari recently. But he did shock even hardened observers when he made a clever, but truly lewd remark to a US Open fan who had been heckling him during his first-round match. The Aussie later apologized.
A BOUCHARD DAY’S NIGHT: Tennis is a small, insular world. Friends, enemies, rivals and pals circulate in a movable circus that swirls and floats. It can get a bit ingrown.
Even noting this, Genie Bouchard‘s appearance at the Open drew interest. After all, last year at the Open she fell late at night on the allegedly damp floor of a dark, abandoned training room and suffered a concussion that took her four months to recover from and led to depression. She sued the USTA for what was said to be “millions and millions.” The USTA, playing hardball, counter-sued and the case is still pending. Depositions haven’t even been taken.
No wonder the New York Times told Bouchard, “It’s an unusual situation having a player who is suing a tournament playing in that tournament.”
“Why were these two at the same party?” mumbled one cynic in the press corps.
But where else is a tennis star gonna play in late August? Bouchard, ranked No. 39, said she was “trying to mentally block out” the experience. But it was “hard not to think about what happened last year.”
Bouchard brilliantly broke through in 2014 when she reached the semis of the Aussie Open and French Open and the final at Wimbledon. Things were good. She was the game’s next sure It Girl. Fans gathered in what was called Genie’s Army. Stuffed animals (and lucrative endorsements) were tossed her way. She graced the cover of many a mag. She was a blond, shapely young winner.
But she began to lose. She twice refused to shake a foe’s hand, and her highly respected coach Nick Saviano bolted.
Now she’s reunited with the Florida sage and says after their being apart they both appreciate each other more than ever. But today was another bad day at the office. She lost to No. 72 Katerina Siniakova, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
We asked the once so golden Canadian girl, whose highest ranking was No. 5, about the challenges of young women phenoms. We noted, “In women’s tennis a lot of times very young players have breakthroughs and life is sweet and good and flowers are thrown to the crowd, like Monica Seles did at the French Open. You had a wonderful period of breakthroughs…Then tough times came on. Could you talk about dealing with that evolution and whether you’re now playing with joy and happiness, or is it a much tougher road?”
Bouchard replied, “When I broke through I was the underdog. Players didn’t know who I was or my game…That’s an advantage for any young player…As for saying [I had a] sophomore slump, it’s hard to keep up results from year to year. It’s just the way it goes. It happens to a lot of players, and it’s something that happened to me…[But] every time I step on the court, I love playing tennis. The feeling of hitting the ball and competing and having that competition and trying to win…When I was out for a couple of months last year, I realized how much I loved it and missed it when I was forced not to play.”
NEW RULE: You can’t promote your tennis program as “Prime Time Tennis” if it’s 1:39 a.m.
WHAT MAKES MADISON FIERCE? Pam Shriver said Madison Keys was playing so intensely, late in her marathon match against Alison Riske (which finished at 1:48 a.m., later than any other women’s match in US Open history) because, “She wanted to get to bed by 4:00 a.m.”
FOR THE RECORD: Venus Williams set a record for most Grand Slam appearances – 72. And she is 18-0 in first-round US Open matches. Ivo Karlovic hit a record 61 aces against Yen-Hsun Lu.
GO FIGURE: Stevie Johnson saved five match points to defeat Evgeny Donskoy in the first round.
GRANDSTANDING FOR THE GRANDSTAND: After losing a five-set thriller to John Isner at the new Grandstand, 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe tearfully said, “It’s the best atmosphere I’ve played in in my life.” (Isner then said that Tiafoe was “just an incredible athlete. You can’t really teach that.”)
UNPLEASANT SURPRISE: After losing to Naomi Osaka in the first round, a “frickin’ pissed” Coco Vandeweghe remarked, “The fact that she’s won matches at Slams is a surprise to me, because I hadn’t, relatively, heard about her.” As for match umpire Fergus Murphy, who she refused to shake hands with, she said, “I don’t think he deserved to have my respect.”
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH: In the tradition of tennis players with phrases tattooed on their bodies, last year’s finalist Roberta Vinci sports this message on her right arm: “When you’re walking on the mountain, don’t think about the peak. Just keep going.” (PS: The superstitious Vinci told the Wall Street Journal’s Tom Perrotta that she is staying in the same hotel she did last year and eating at the same restaurant.)
A WALKING ADVERTISEMENT: Speaking of tattoos, US Open officials vetoed Madison Keys from wearing a temporary one on her shoulder promoting Orangetheory Fitness. “It is against Grand Slam rules to have signage on the body,” said the USTA’s Chris Widmaier. (BTW: The only sport where temporary tattoos are accepted and paid for is beach volleyball.)
PRESIDENT SOCK? Babolat has a marketing campaign that pretends Jack Sock is running for president.
“If you are not nervous [playing a Slam match], it’s time to say goodbye.” – Rafa Nadal
“I just looked up and it’s almost 2 [a.m.]. Who wants to go party?” – Madison Keys, after winning the latest-ever women’s match at the US Open