THE MYSTERIES OF THE GAME AND OTHER REFLECTIONS FROM A TENNIS TOURNAMENT IN NEW YORK

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SUNDAY SNAPSHOT: Sun setting, Isner rising. Aces booming. Fans in silhouette, New Yorkers dance, twist and shout. American hope. Labor Day tennis at its best. John wins in five. Onto the quarters.

A GOOD DAY FOR AMERICA: Serena, Sloane and John Isner all won their matches today to progress to the second week.

THE MYSTERIES OF THE GAME: Serena crushes her sister and seven-time Slam winner Venus Wednesday night, but five weeks ago in San Jose, loses to Jo Konta 6-1, 6-0 in less than an hour. Of course, the tournament was her first after a difficult defeat in the Wimbledon final, and she’d just gotten the news that the killer of her half-sister Yetunde Price had been released from prison.

NEW YORK AND SERENA SHOW KAEPERNICK SOME LOVE: Years ago, Donald Trump would come to the US Open, stand in his prominent suite and glare. And when he was pictured, there would be ample applause. Then, years later, he was roundly booed. Then he wouldn’t come anymore. Now he wouldn’t dare. BTW: Colin Kaepernick got a rousing round of applause at the Open during Serena and Venus’ match. Then Serena heaped praise on him in her presser. Did the President notice?

SERENA ON ARETHA, COLIN AND RANKINE: Serena offered her views on many a prominent American. Asked about Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, who were key in the anti-racism protests in the NFL, she said, “Every athlete, every human, and definitely every African-American should be completely grateful and honored how Colin and Eric are doing so much more for the greater good. They use their platform in ways that [are] unfathomable. I feel like they obviously have great respect from a lot of their peers, especially other athletes – people that really are looking for social change.”
When IT asked Serena her views on Aretha Franklin, she replied, “Wow, she was such a great person. Obviously I met her. She influenced pop culture, regular culture, black culture, so much…It was such a tough loss for the world, to be honest. She is the epitome of an icon and will always be that.”
Serena was also asked about Claudia Rankine’s award-winning book “Citizen,” that includes a lengthy chapter devoted to her. “I had a good conversation with Claudia,” she said. “She wrote a great piece…I love her writing. Again, she’s someone that I really look up to – I admire her work and the work she also does for social justice, social change and social awareness.”

SERENA ON CHILDBIRTH AND HER MAGICAL DRESS: After her fourth-round win, Serena spoke about her initial false ideas about childbirth – turns out they have an ironic influence on what she’s wearing at this year’s Open.
“Society puts it out there that you’ll just kind of snap back [from childbirth] and that’s a myth,” she explained. “It’s important for women to know that it doesn’t happen like that…In the real world, it takes a while for your body to come back. Especially after a C-section.
“And not only that – mentally and physically, dealing emotionally with providing for a child, a lot goes into it. I was living in this world where I thought it would just automatically come together. My dress, I kind of look like a magical fairy [on court], but it’s not happening. I had to realize and live in reality.”

WHAT DO HALEP, SOCK, MUGURUZA, WOZNIACKI, BERTENS, KERBER, ZVEREV, KVITOVA AND ANDERSON HAVE IN COMMON? All these top seeds lost on Louis Armstrong Stadium, which has now been dubbed “The Upset Court.”

HEADLINES:
‘Better Off Fed’
‘Keys Locks It Up After First Set’
‘Closing Roofs, Raising Games’
‘Sister of All Victories’
‘Serena Plays Her Best Match Since Becoming a Mom’
‘Mom’s the Word’
‘Volley Ball’

ALL ABOUT ISNER: John Isner has won in Atlanta five times and he adores the new Armstrong Stadium, where he says the crowd gives him such adrenaline. When IT asked him if all his US Open matches could either be played in Atlanta or at Armstrong, he said Atlanta was great but he would of course prefer Armstrong. Isner is into his first US Open quarterfinal since 2011 and says he’s a much stronger, wiser and better player. He gives tremendous praise not only to one of his coaches, Justin Gimelstob, but also another, David Macpherson, who he says is very much like him, knows the game really well and is incredibly underrated. By the way, Isner’s father Bob unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina in 2016, and there’s a women named Tabitha Isner running for Congress in Alabama. But she’s not related to John.

JUST WONDERING: How many more times will Venus and Serena play each other in a Slam? Who has a more fluid serve, Serena, Pete Sampras or Pancho Gonzales?

RAFA SIZZLES: Many consider Rafa Nadal’s two-day, five-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semis a top contender for match of the year and his four-hour-plus, two-tiebreak win over Karen Khachanov a top contender for the best match here in New York.

SEE SLOANE RUN: Sloane sprints desperately to retrieve a delicate Elise Mertens dropshot. Mertens then hits a dandy lob. Stephens retreats and dashes back eight steps, pivots and hits a flash cross-court forehand with athletic grace. It’s a winner, and the pumped defending champion celebrates with five double-fisted fist pumps.

STATUESQUE GIBSON TO GET A STATUE: In an era when some are calling for the removal of statues that celebrate the Confederacy’s war to leave the Union, the US Open is going in the opposite direction. Althea Gibson, who broke tennis’ fierce color barrier and is said to be the Jackie Robinson of our game, will be honored with a statue next year at the Open. Gibson, who died in 2003, couldn’t make a living in tennis, so she pursued careers as a pro golfer and a wonderful singer. Then she became a bit of a recluse in Newark and battled poverty.

SAY IT ISN’T SO: Richard Gasquet, who sported fluorescent blond hair in his straight-set third-round loss to Novak Djokovic, is 3-46 against Roger, Rafa and Novak. This prompted John McEnroe to ask, “What can he do except change the color of his hair?”

BELARUS BELTER: Chris Evert said the sensational Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka “overpowers Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova, and I never thought I would see anyone overpower Madison…She is right up there in terms of power with Serena and Madison.” Sabalenka’s super summer has included her debut title at the Connecticut Open (celebrated with a pair of huge pizzas), a semi run in Cincy that included wins over Keys, Caroline Garcia and Karolina Pliskova, and a win over Caroline Wozniacki at the Canadian Open. Currently 20 years old and No. 20 in the world, she’s surpassed Vika Azarenka as the top-ranked player from Belarus. And, not surprisingly, Evert is spot on – Sabalenka’s shotmaking is huge.

SUPER MARKETA: The youngest player left in the women’s draw, quick-to-laugh 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova, has a name built for headlines – ‘Super Marketa’ ‘Wondrous Vondrousova’ – and a nuanced game built to last on the tour. She knocked out Cincy champ Kiki Bertens 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(4).

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