ONE IN A MILLMAN: With his victory over Roger Federer, No. 55 John Millman shocked the tennis world by scoring his first win over a top 10 player in 11 tries. One wise guy in the press room said that the odds of him beating 13-time Slam winner Novak Djokovic were “one in a Millman.”
WHY THE WORLD LOVES THAT TENNIS PLAYER FROM SPAIN: Jon Wertheim reported that he heard one security guard tell his partner, “There’s the guy who is always saying thank you.” His friend replied, “Yeah, that’s Rafa Nadal.”
TWO FOR TUTUS – THE BISHOP AND THE BASELINER: The extraordinary (ballet goes to the Open) tutu outfits Serena has been sporting at Flushing Meadows aren’t the only tutus to have impact here. In 1997, the South African Nobel Prize winner Bishop Tutu came here for the opening of the US Open, but officials didn’t want him to give the dedication for fear that he would go on too long.
LEST WE FORGET: On Twitter, Daniel Rapaport relays a “surreal exchange” from early in the tournament. A heckler told Nick Kyrgios, “Just leave, we want Genie [Bouchard, who was next up in the schedule of play]. The wickedly wicked and sharp Kyrgios quipped, “Well, you’ll never have her.”
SERENA ON SOCIAL ACTIVISM, LOVING EACH OTHER AND COLIN KAEPERNICK: Asked whether she would protest racial injustice like Colin Kaepernick has if given the opportunity, Serena replied, “Everyone has a choice…Whether they protest – a peaceful protest, actually – or not, it’s the choice of being American. It doesn’t make them less American…We all make up this world. Because we have different views on different things, that doesn’t mean we can’t be loving toward each other.”
As for Kaepernick himself, Serena said it was good that a big company like Nike was backing him and giving him a positive role in a big advertising campaign. She commented, “He’s done a lot for the African American community, and it’s cost him a lot. It’s sad. But he continues to do the best that he can to support [others]. Having a huge company back him could be a controversial [decision]…but they’re not afraid…That was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies.”
SLOANE STEPHENS’ SOILED SHEETS: After Sloane Stephens’ abrupt loss to Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in the noonday heat today, a reporter, perhaps looking for a bright side, brought up the possibility of her improving her ranking during the WTA’s upcoming Asian swing. “Well, considering last year after this tournament I s–t the bed for like 10 tournaments in a row, I definitely don’t have any points to defend,” Sloane responded. “Just looking forward to playing and competing and hopefully keep playing well and keep it going.”
WHAT ARE ROGER AND RAFA’S MOST IMPORTANT BODY PARTS? Inside Tennis posed a different question. We asked both Federer and Nadal to talk about which single part of their bodies – say their arms, wrists, legs or feet, but not including their minds – was most important to them. In other words what was the part of their body that set them apart? Their answers were intriguing. Roger said, “Maybe my feet…I feel like I have quick feet. I need to be explosive. Anticipation, all comes through the feet. [I] worked very hard at it with my fitness coach. Maybe some of it is also [has to do with] racket control, the feel, understanding, anticipation, all that stuff…The feet were something I always felt were really important.
Rafa said, “My body is how it is. I really never worked much doing a lot of weights…I do more prevention and other things…The body, for me the most important thing is to feel myself strong enough to hold the pains I normally have. That’s why I work every day, just to try to have the right body to hold [off] the problems that are coming.
For me, the most important, of course, the knees are so important. But if I have to choose one important part of the body, [it] is abdominal and back. That gives you the possibility to stabilize the rest of the body. [If you] have that part of the body strong and fit…[that] makes the right balance on everything.”
NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT: In an interview with the New York Times, Karolina Pliskova bypassed the reverence and deferential approach most foes take towards Serena. “She was screaming, and it’s like, what is she doing?” the Czech player said, describing Serena’s French Open comeback against Ash Barty earlier this year. Later, she added, “She has a big game, but sometimes she behaves bigger than her game is.” Pliskova’s bluntness is refreshing, but Serena’s game was big enough to best her 6-4, 6-3 tonight.
BOB BRYAN’S METAL METTLE: Currently healing from hip surgery, five-time men’s doubles winner Bob Bryan is not playing the Open for the first time in 20 years. Still, he can’t resist attending the tourney. But he’s setting off alarms at security checkpoints daily after his complicated operation.
ATTENTION MIKE BRYAN: Especially since America’s best male player, John Isner, very probably won’t be traveling to Croatia to play the Davis Cup just after the US Open, we are issuing this plea to Mike Bryan. Please come out of your Davis Cup retirement and play doubles with that darn good player you won Wimbledon with – Jack Sock.
GO FIGURE: Serena is the only Slam champ left in the women’s draw. She will meet the No. 19 seed, Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in the semis. In tomorrow’s remaining quarterfinals, Madison Keys plays Carla Suarez Navarro and Naomi Osaka faces Lesla Tsurenko…With Federer’s loss to Millman, Rafa is guaranteed to remain No. 1…ESPN noted that Rafa’s quarterfinal foe Dominic Thiem was the first top 20 player he’s faced at the Open since he won in 2013…With Isner’s loss today to Juan Martin del Potro, America’s hope for a Slam champion will have to be put off for another year.
‘When the Sport Gets Taller, The Smaller Learn to Adapt’
‘Young American Has the Keys to Victory’
HOT STUFF: Things got a little heated on the court during the round of 16 match between Ukrainian Lesla Tsurenko and Czech teen Marketa Vondrosouva – and almost as heated in the press room after the match. Early in the second set, a visibly woozy Tsurenko appeared to have trouble breathing in the stifling heat, but as shadows began to fall she found her game to score a 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 win. Asked about Tsurenko after the match, Vondrosouva waved off concerns, saying, “I don’t think she was struggling so much. She was just acting.” When Vondrosouva’s remarks were relayed to Tsurenko, she gave a calm but colorful response. “I was really dizzy,” she said. “I was asking nature and God to move the shade faster. I was two-love down [in the second set] and I saw the shade and I [thought I] needed another five minutes to fight and then I will feel better.”
BEST-OF-FIVE BEST FOR THE GAME? Should men’s Grand Slams still be best-of-five sets? Traditionalists love it, with all its twists and turns. Most all of the classic matches in the men’s game are five-setters: think Nadal–Federer or Borg–McEnroe. Kevin Anderson’s landmark summer includes four five-set wins and Taylor Fritz has remarked that it’s the ultimate test. In particular, Brad Gilbert is adamant about the drama-guaranteed value of five-setters and said they would be changed “over my dead body.” Dick Vitale said the best-of-three format should be used for the health of the players, to give underdogs a chance to strike fire in the shorter format, and to cut down on marathon battles that go deep into the night and are hard for kids to watch. Novak Djokovic has also voiced interest in switching to best-of-three, and Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer, who retired due to heat exhaustion in the fourth set of his first-round match, remarked afterward, “I think we should no longer play five sets. That’s my opinion, I think that’s the past. They won’t stop until someone dies. It’s incredible — matches become ugly. The only way [to solve this] is to shorten them.”
BEST COMMENTARY ON AGING: Noting that Serena was taking it easy on the very first serves of her match against Pliskova, Chris Evert said, “That’s what happens when you get old. You have to warm up slowly.”