US OPEN BUZZ: Of Witch Doctors, Braided Memories and Center Court Curses

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Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

FORGET ALL YOUR JADED MEMORIES, HOW ABOUT BRAIDED MEMORIES? Semifinalist Karolina Pliskova said her first memory of the Williams sisters is when beads dropped out of Venus‘s braided hair at the Australian Open years ago.

THE CURIOUS ROLE OF WITCH DOCTORS IN TENNIS HISTORY: Years ago, the unique French player Yannick Noah was suffering a series of knee injuries. He finally went to an African witch doctor, who managed to heal his ailing leg by beating his knee with a panther tail.

Last night while reflecting on how three of Novak Djokovic‘s opponents either did not play or had to end their efforts mid-match, Jo-Willy Tsonga‘s coach, Thierry Ascione said, “Novak’s got a good witch doctor.”

BREAKING THE CURSE: Pam Shriver contended that since a foot fault was called on Roberta Vinci on set point during her quarterfinal match yesterday, there hasn’t been one good match on Ashe Stadium. Then Murray and Nishikori cranked up a sizzler.

QUOTEBOOK

“What a strange trip it’s been.” – Chris McKendry on Novak Djokovic’s trip to the semis, in which he’s played only two complete matches.

“Nobody has a better exit strategy out of the corners than Novak Djokovic.” – Jason Goodall

“She almost looks afraid out there. She’s tight…It’s the difference between being an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old.” – Chris Evert on young Croatian Ana Konjuh, who suffered a punishing 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Karolina Pliskova

“Some of these matches go until 2 a.m. We can’t have a 14-year-old on the subway at 2 a.m.” – the USTA’s Cathie Delaney on the value of older ball persons

HEADLINES:

BALL PERSONS DOUBLE AS ON-COURT CONCIERGES

SPORT NEEDED RIVAL TO WILLIAMS; KERBER PERFECTLY FILLS BILL

SWEET CAROLINE, MULLING END OF HER CAREER, CRUISES TO SEMIFINALS

OUI OUI! MONFILS RAZZLES AND DAZZLES TO SEMIS

WOZ WOWS ‘EM

ARMSTRONG PLAYS A FINAL TUNE

QUIET PLEASE: SILENCE BECOMING A THING OF THE PAST IN TENNIS

BALL MEN? AT US OPEN, CHASING DOWN BALLS HAS NO AGE LIMIT

DJOKOVIC’S ROLLERCOASTER SEASON TURNS INTO SMOOTH SAILING

GO FIGURE: No seeded player has won a junior Grand Slam this year…Since February 2004, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, or Novak Djokovic have been No. 1…The iconic musician Louis Armstrong once lived two subway stops from Louis Armstrong Stadium, which will be closing after 39 years…After Ana Konjuh lost her fourth round match, there were only three reporters in her press conference. After Murray lost the interview room was packed with about 200 writers…Caroline Wozniacki is ranked No. 74, and hadn’t won a Grand Slam match all year, but now has reached her first major semifinal in two years.

TIP OF THE DAY: “Don’t look up, because you will see 20,000 people in the crowd.” – veteran ballperson Justin Holmes’s advice to new ball boys and girls as they work at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

MARTINA AND MARTINA: The finesse artist Martina Hingis, who no longer is with power partner Sania Mirza, now has Coco Vandeweghe by her side. In discussing what she looks for in a doubles partner, she said she certainly would like a power player, because “playing with another Martina wouldn’t be the best.” But hold on, what if Hingis did in fact play with another Martina, Martina Navratilova, who arguably is the best women’s doubles player of all time? And Hingis isn’t far behind. What a potent duo they would make. One’s lefty, one’s righty, one’s a serve and volleyer, the other’s an adept baseliner, and the two Martinas rank among the best volleyers of all time. Hingis herself said that she has played with Navratilova in exhibition matches and that she considers her the best of all time.

By the way, years ago while musing on the loss of Martina Navratilova’s dog at the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles, Scott Ostler wrote: “Martina was beside herself, which, come to think of it, would make a hell of a doubles team.”

A NOISY COMMENTARY: Peter Bodo, reflecting on all the acoustic problems in the new Arthur Ashe Stadium, wrote, “It’s fitting that the assault on ‘quiet please’ is happening in New York. Noise is the distinguishing feature of the city. It’s inescapable, regardless of your race, creed or color. Rich and poor are equally subject to the wail of the police siren, the ‘thwock, thwock’ of the helicopter, the mournful horns of a thousand frustrated taxi drivers. Noise is the backing track of life in New York and now to tennis in New York as well.

It all makes you wonder if the players’ willingness to deal with the conditions will lead to a change in the habit of fans.”

After all, as Venus Williams said, ‘There’s something very special about tennis in the quiet. There’s the tension that everybody feels, the sound of the ball, the sound of the footwork is very special in sports. I do enjoy the quiet. Especially the more important the moments, silence says it all. Personally, I don’t think it should go away.'”

THAT PROFESSORIAL BALL BOY HAS AN ARM: Yitz Liberman was a college baseball player with a rocket for an arm. Now he’s 34, an adjunct professor of Judaic Studies at Yeshiva University, and a chief of one of the six-person ball crews at the US Open.

NOT JUST HAVING A LARK ANYMORE: Jon Wertheim referred to Gael Monfils as tennis’ Meadowlark Lemon and then added, “We all love Monfils, but at the wizened age of 30, he is marrying style with substance, sizzle with entrecôte.”

INTRODUCTION TO GEOMETRY:Greg Garber reflected on the Novak DjokovicJo-Willy Tsonga quarterfinal and said, “What felt like a prize fight at the outset devolved into a master class in geometry.”

CHANNELING THE RAH-RAH SPIRIT OF KNUTE ROCKNE: Andy Murray seemed well off his form in his 3:17 third round match against Paolo Lorenzi, so his coaches Ivan Lendl and Jamie Delgado gave him a pep talk. Murray reported that they told him, “Look, you’ve got a few days left here, give it everything you’ve got. Let’s be as professional as possible, work hard in practice and go out and fight, give everything you’ve got in the matches. There’s a break coming soon.”