FAREWELL PETER HERB: Peter Herb, a beloved, longtime Executive Director of the USTA Northern California, has passed away. He was a giant in Northern California tennis. A quiet, inspired leader of modern tennis, he was knowing and fair, and helped so many. In the years of the tennis boom and the era that followed, he, Dick Gould and Barry MacKay shaped and advanced the game in the region. First hired in 1963, under 21 different administrations he led the tennis association as the section modernized and began to focus on community involvement, league play and player development. His staff grew from one employee to 24 and his budget grew to $3.2 million. A former Marine, he had a delicious sense of humor.
He will be missed.
RISING SUN RISES: Almost every US Open has a breakout story, whether it’s the all-American women’s semis last year or the all-Italian women’s final of 2015. This year the breakthrough belongs to Japan. Thanks to Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka, for the first time since 1995 Japan has a man and a woman in the quarterfinals of a Slam. In fact, Japan’s presence at this stage is stronger than a lot of tennis mainstays, like Russia, France, England, Australia and Italy.
THE ZEN MASTER VALLEY GIRL: Tennis’ favorite zen master valley girl, the spontaneous and open Naomi Osaka, again dazzled us with her press conference answers. A reporter told Osaka that all her answers in her presser today were short and then asked if she is that way with friends. Osaka replied, “What friends? Oh, my God, I literally only have, like, one friend that I’m actually completely, like, myself with. I feel bad for her sometimes…And then the other person is my sister. I don’t really count that as a friend.”
The other day Osaka confided that she has fights with herself. So Inside Tennis asked her to give an example of such a battle. Osaka went into great detail. “I would say it’s, like – okay, for example, it happened not this match, the match before. She hit a second serve, right? And in my mind, right before she hits the second serve, I’m thinking, ‘Do not hit this down the line.’ Don’t go for it, right?
“And then there is another part of me that’s, like, ‘But if I hit this down the line, there is a 50/50 chance it will be a winner and you could win the point easy.’ And then when she’s serving the ball, it’s like ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, and I’m arguing with myself. ‘Do it, don’t do it, do it, don’t do it.’ And then the ball comes and I hit it down the line and it goes in the net. I’m, like, ‘Why did I do that?’
“Yeah, that basically happens a lot.”
THE CHALLENGES OF MARIA SHARAPOVA: Maria Sharapova’s incredible “glitz-happy” streak of winning 23 straight Arthur Ashe night matches ended when she lost in straight sets to Carla Suarez Navarro. Afterward, she was asked if she’s going through the most challenging period of her career. The Russian, who was seeded No. 22, said, “What’s challenging is when you’re a teenager and you have a few hundred dollars and you’ve got no sense of the future – you don’t know where you’re going to end up. You just have a dream. I think that’s a lot tougher than being 31 years old and having the opportunity to do whatever I want in my life.”
EARLEY RETIREMENT: Brian Earley, the longtime USTA official who has been the US Open’s tournament referee for 37 years, is retiring. The popular, tall, trim Connecticut resident we’ve seen so often go on court with a certain mix of gravitas and calm has overseen countless issues at the Open and has resolved many a problem, from bubbling courts and flooded facilities to really hot temperatures and tempers.
ONLY PERSON TO BE AT THE FUNERALS OF ARETHA FRANKLIN AND JOHN McCAIN – AND AT THE OPEN: Former President Bill Clinton.
USTA LOVE: It’s easy to grumble about the USTA. It’s a daunting organization with lots of money and plenty of rules. Like every sports ruling body, and come to think of it like every bureaucracy, there are things to criticize. But going to the annual USTA awards breakfast during the US Open is a truly inspiring experience that opens the heart. This year, awards were given out to big names such as Chris Evert and inspiring no-names. Honors this year went to the unsung heroes who created the happening Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, which draws over 50,000 each year in Tulsa, and volunteers like Jonelle Smith and Tom Gray, who have given their entire lives to tennis. Also honored was the Mach Academy in Augusta, Georgia and the Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina, which does incredible work to empower and give hope to disabled players of all ages. They may not be Mother Teresa in Calcutta, but their work is just extraordinary.
THE ULTIMATE JOURNEYMAN: One of the ATP’s most gifted “journeymen,” Philipp Kohlschreiber, is 1-13 in fourth-round matches.
“You would not want to be playing Agassi or Lendl on a day like this.” – Brad Gilbert
“Serena will ask me why did we lose and we will have a little talk.” – Patrick Mouratoglou on what will happen before Williams faces Karolina Pliskova, who beat her en route to the 2016 US Open final
“Just remember her name. She is heading to the very top of the game.” – Pam Shriver on Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka
DIALOG OF THE DAY: Pam Shriver noted, “There is nothing worse then a let on a serve that would have been an ace.” Chris Evert replied, “I wouldn’t know about that.”
JUST WONDERING: With temperatures and humidity over the top, why would players like Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka come out in all black?
COURT SMARTS: Croatian Mario Ancic and Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu both have PhDs, and German Andrea Petkovic is the WTA’s nerd in residence. But Sara Ruth Choy, a Stanford-bound student of Byron “Flash” Nepomuceno, is no slouch. The Palo Alto resident – who won the USTA’s Bill Talbert Junior Sportsmanship Award – in high school took AP classes in Literature, Language, French, Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Calculus.
WAKE-UP CALL: When Serena improved her play in the third set of her match against Kaia Kanepi, ESPN said, “Serena woke up, and when Serena wakes up, good luck everybody.”