US OPEN BUZZ: Sunshine Gets Stormy and the ‘Taro’ Cards Read Struggle

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

SUNSHINE GETS STORMY ABOUT SHARAPOVA: Caroline “Sunshine” Wozniacki has shot arrows at Maria Sharapova before. On the eve of Sharapova’s return to the game, Wozniacki opined that Maria shouldn’t be getting wild cards after being suspended for drugs. But the heat went up a notch on Wozniacki’s criticisms after the Dane lost in the US Open’s second round. She took aim at the Open’s scheduling and Sharapova’s stints on Ashe Stadium.

I understand completely the business side of things,” said Wozniacki. “But someone who comes back from a drug sentence – a performance-enhancing drug – and all of a sudden gets to play every single match on Center Court [Sharapova’s played there three straight times], I think that’s a questionable thing to do. It sets a bad example.”

Wozniacki also had some complaints about her own scheduling. “Putting out a schedule where the No. 5 in the world is on Court Five, fifth match on, that’s unacceptable,” she said after her loss to Ekaterina Makerova. “I think someone who has fought their way back from injury and is five in the world deserves to play on a bigger court than Court Five.”

We understand Caroline’s point of view – we’ve heard her,” said USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier. ”We always want to do the best we can. We’re sorry she’s disappointed.” Widmaier noted that former champions Martina Hingis, Lleytn Hewitt, Juan Martin del Potro and Kim Clijsters all received US Open wild cards in the past. “Now Maria Sharapova is the fifth,” he said.


I was actually, like, flying in the cockpit. When I saw the red carpet out of the plane, I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t really want to step off the plane.” – Jelena Ostapenko on her trip back to Latvia after winning the French Open

“Roger Federer can bend time, but there is going to come a day when he shows his age.” – Chris Fowler

“Memo to you, you are playing great tennis.” – Brad Gilbert to Denis Shapovalov

This is the most open draw I think I have ever seen.” – Darren Cahill on the men’s bottom half of the draw

What is it that Lenny Kravitz sings about the American woman? ‘Stay away from me?’ Surely the opponents of a few of the US women felt that way Thursday.” – Lisa Alobelli, ESPN

THE  “TARO CARDS” READ STRUGGLE: The first couple of rounds at the US Open used to be all about unsparing domination. Remember the good old days, when Lindsay Davenport would dismiss a virtual unknown 6-1, 6-0 in 49 minutes? Take that!

These days big names are either back home or finding their back up against the wall. Roger Federer didn’t lose a set at Wimbledon. Here, he’s lost four. Go figure. In two matches he’s had 124 unforced errors, he’s been broken eight times, and he’s toiled on court for 5 hours, 45 minutes. Headlines read, “Even As Federer Wins, Something Seems Off.”

As for Rafa Nadal, he may have returned to No. 1, but the bull’s charge was far from ferocious last night. Against the No. 121 Taro Daniel, Rafa seemed stunned. He was down a set and a break before Daniel’s “Taro” cards turned on the Japanese blaster, who was born in New York, educated in Santa Cruz, and trains in Spain.

As for the women, eight players came into town hoping they’d leave the Big Apple as No. 1. Already No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 7 Johanna Konta and No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova have had their hopes dashed, and No. 1 Karolina Plitskova, last year’s finalist, had to struggle big time in order to beat No. 127 Nicole Gibbs. Last year’s winner, Angie Kerber, suffered the indignity of being the first defending champ to exit in the first round in 12 years.

SOCK IT TO ‘EM, OSAKA: Despite her youth, Naomi Osaka, with her hilarious dry wit, is the funniest woman in tennis since Li Na. Often whimsical, Osaka can be counted on to say something enchanting you don’t expect. After her marathon second-round win at the Open, it was this soliloquy about where her mind wanders during matches and practice sessions:

Once I was practicing, right, and my whole practice – you know, there is that commercial that says, ‘If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma’? – that’s all I could think about for the whole practice. I was, like, why do I keep thinking this?

Then, during the breaks, all I could see was that commercial where this woman is running in a field. It was a good practice, it’s just my mind wasn’t there…That was a weird day.”

Or just another day in the life of Naomi Osaka. In addition to mesothelioma, the 19-year-old spoke about breakthroughs by her peers (“Oh, you mean, like all the other girls my age and stuff?”). She expressed doubts about the on-site salons at Slams (“I don’t think they can deal with my hair”). And while one could argue there’s something uniquely American about Naomi’s open, spontaneous and offbeat personality, she told IT that she still very much identifies as Japanese.

Well, I’m fine here [in the US], for some reason, if I’m talking to a group,” she explained. “But if it’s a single person then I get really shy and stuff. And then my head, I do this sometimes [nodding] because that’s the Japanese hello. [People] are, like, ‘Why do you keep doing that with your head?’ I’m, like, ‘Sorry!’ Also, I don’t really talk a lot. I know I’m talking a lot now, but normally I don’t talk that much.”

GO FIGURE: Maria Sharapova, who is coming off a drug suspension, and Alexandr Dolgolpolov, whom some have wondered about possibly being involved in match fixing, are doing just fine at the US Open…Paolo Lorenzi, at 35, is the oldest player ever to make his first fourth-round Slam appearance.


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