Saturday, August 23, 2008

US Open - Reporting Live for your convenience - Day 4 of qualifying rounds

Can you imagine walking to the grounds of US open and smacking straight into Youzhny! That was me today! That was also the first and the easiest autograph I got, I just couldn't believe my luck and I knew my day was going to be a good one. I was not disappointed.

Though much as I want to talk about the players I met and the autographs I got, as you already know, the qualifying singles began on the 20th and today was the fourth day, so lets talk first about a few matches that I saw.

I got to see a few qualifying matches including that of Bjorn Phau of Germany against Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania- it was a good match to watch and Bjorn made it through, though not too easily.
The match right next to theirs, was being played between Robert Smeets of Australia and Ginaluca Naso of Italy. Naso shows some signs of brilliance but had no answers for Smeets tough returns. Smeets looks really young and his tennis is very impressive.

On the women side I saw bits of the Shenay Perry (USA) mtach, that she won 6-4, 7-6 over, Olga Savchuk of Ukraine - actually it was a tighter match than the score shows but Perry managed to eke out the win.

In fact, qualifying rounds matches were much better than the practice games played by the top ranked players- Safin, Murray, Monfils, Moya, Ferrer, Mathieu, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Robredo et al.

On a personal front, the best part of the whole experince, was that I got to have autographs of Murray, Safin, Moya......well, everyone that I mentioned above. A bit disappointing part though, was that even though I saw Jankovic, Serena and Venus from close quarters, I couldn't get their autographs. Serena, I don't care because she acted like a diva but I would have loved to have Jankovic's signatures - the girl has a genuine smile and is very charming. Though we spectators were separated by a screened fence, you could see that she was enjoying the attention but very focused and practicing hard with her coach. I think her mom was on the side line and even though she was sitting close to the fence, I never got to see her (mom's) face since she had ber back to us.

One very interesting fact, I want to share with you is that, almost every player, looked much younger than what we see on the TV. Maybe there are a couple of players who don't appear young compared to their TV images, but everyone I saw at close quarters today, was definitely better looking in person.

I have to mention that, when Safin took off his shirt during his early practice on one of the practice courts, you could hear all the girls - young, old and very old, shriek and swoon with delight. He got almost all the attention, when he came in, even though, Venus was practicing on the left most court and Jankovic on the right most court. I think the court numbers were 8 and 10, but I wasn't really noting down the court numbers. It was too heady an experience to watch the players up close and personal and also too hot at that time ( around 10.30 am).

Before I ramble on, also worth mentioning is the fact that, when I asked Safin to pose for a picture as he was walking the tunnel in the grandstand after finishing his game with Mathieu, he was a perfect gentleman. More of that later though.

First for sightings and autographs - Ladies and Gentleman, I'm proud to announce that as of today, I'm the proud owner of autographs of;
Safin, Murray, Monfils, Moya,Mathieu, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Shahar Peer, and of course YOUZHNY!

NOT only that, I have the videos of everyone signing their autographs except, Youzhny - I didn't get to take my camera out at all when I walked to him- I had just walked into the stadium grounds and there he was, walking with his coach and a girl (friend, hitting partner, girlfriend???) .

Regrets - Serena, Jankovic, Ferrer, Gasquet - I was either too late in the tunnel or just missed them - excpet for Serena - she has too much of an attitude and lots of spectators were pissed at her for not signing their papers/hats/shirts - I certainly didn't appreciate her attitude.

As for watching the action, if I go just by the way all the players were playing their practice games, the only players who looked like they deserve the top ranks, were Andy Murray and Monfils.
Safin was playing so bad that I think he lost the set to Mathieu; 6-2 or 6-3, no one was really keeping the score except for the players and their tense looking coaches, who were on the courts and I mean coaches were right on the courts as the players played on. Safin was erratic, his serve was completely off and his volleys were not going beyond the net. As expected though and to the delight of the majority of watchers, he slowly started getting angry and then his frustration caused a mini explosion, he smacked a ball in anger, that sky rocketed to the big TV screen , bounced-off back towards the court and interestingly enough landed in the stretched hands of an off-duty ball boy sitting in the lower court side seats.

Everyone knew who was playing.

To me the surprising part was that as Safin finished the game and came out, I was hesitant to ask his autographs, thinking that his unhappiness could spill all over me, but Man, was I wrong! He smiled, stopped, signed and continued on his way. I was highly impressed. This man is so different than what I had imagined all these years, based on the TV coverages and expert commentators, that talk of his volatile nature. On-court he may be explosive but off-court, the man is a gentleman.

Honestly, I have to say that every player with exception of Serena was nice. Andy Murray was so nice that even though my camera refused to work as I chased him for the photo, he kept asking me - are you ready yet, are you all set - all this while continuing to walk, but he asked with a genuine care rather than just to parry me off. He is so mature beyond his age.
Monfils was another one who didn't hesitate to stop and sign and of course, with a great smile.

All in all, it was a great day for me and for the tennis lovers. I'll try tomorrow and see if I can put the edited video online for your viewing pleasure - the challenge is that I have never tried converting and putting a video from the camcorder to the computer. If I can put it together, I hope Sportingo has provision to host a video inclusive article, if not, you may be able to see it on my blog .

We'll see about that, but all in all, a great Tennis day for the thousands of the spectators.

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