By Neil Schlecht, USOpen.org
Nike dresses all its male players exactly alike, so it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. Thankfully, Feliciano Lopez is tall, fair and blonde, and Donald Young is not.
The Food Court’s lobster and shrimp salad approaches the price of a three-course prix fixe meal during NYC Restaurant Week.
Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands, undefeated in a singles match in more than four years, once again rolls through the women’s singles division of the Wheelchair Tennis Competition.
Roger Federer, the Esther Vergeer of men’s tennis, glides into the men’s final, his fourth Grand Slam final of the year, likely on his way to a fourth consecutive US Open championship.
Andy Roddick plays as well and hits as hard as he possibly can against his nemesis King Fed. The American hits 42 winners and commits just 24 unforced errors. He averages 130 mph on his first serve. He loses in straight sets.
Serena loses in straight sets in the quarterfinals to Justine Henin, including a second-set throttling, 6-1. In her press conference, Williams states that Henin “hit a lot of lucky shots.”
Venus loses in straight sets in the semifinals to Justine Henin. In her press conference, Williams cites dizziness as a factor in her loss.
Richard Williams seems to be reading from Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body as he offers a litany of health-related excuses for his daughters’ losses to Henin. He says Serena should never have played the tournament, due not only to her thumb injury but an undisclosed hamstring pull and swelling in the knee.
Rafael Nadal, hobbled all tournament by patella tendonitis in the knees, loses to 15th-ranked David Ferrer in the fourth round. In his press conference, Nadal says, “I prefer don't speak about my body right now because always if I speak something about my body, later someone thinks about is an excuse. So I don't want to put any excuse. He play very good, and he beat me. Maybe another day we can speak about the injuries.”
James Blake shows again that he has the shots and the speed to go deep in a major; once again, he demonstrates that he may not have the self-belief or heart to go all the way.
Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, the No. 9 seed, again demonstrates conclusively that he has neither the heart nor the head to live up to his potential. He pulls out of his fourth-round match against Andy Roddick, unable to name or describe the illness that prevents him from continuing beyond the first set.
Novak Djokovic routinely bounces the ball more than two dozen times preparing to serve.
Week One sees a spate of great, down-to-the-wire men’s matches on fan-friendly outer courts. Donald Young wins his first-ever match at a Slam on Court 11 over the Australian Chris Guccione in five sets; Feliciano Lopez survives a fifth-set tiebreak over Igor Andreev on Court 7; Fernando Verdasco comes back from two sets down to defeat Paul-Henri Mathieu, the No. 22 seed, in the first round on Court 8; Arnaud Clement upsets big-serving giant Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in five on Court 11.
On the women's side, not so much.
Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, the 34-year-old magician who has befuddled plenty of great players over the years, including Marat Safin and Pete Sampras, whips out the wizardry yet again in a brilliantly entertaining match against James Blake.
Serena and Justine meet for their third consecutive quarterfinal in a Grand Slam match this year.
New York is dazzled by the fresh faces and smiles of the young Serbs Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Novak Djokovic.
Maria Sharapova takes the court in an eye-catching, glittery evening dress, looking like an ice skater decked out with Swarovski crystals,. Her outfit makes a more lasting impression than her tennis.
It does not rain for a solid two weeks of play, and the worst that can be said weather-wise is that there were a few clouds one day in the first week and heat and humidity at the tail end of the second. Other than that, pure perfection.
Anna Wintour is to Roger Federer as Barbara Streisand is to Andre Agassi. A little creepy.
The women’s draw is unusually top-heavy, with five of the top six contenders for the championship, including both Williams sisters, Henin, and the two top-five Serbs, Ivanovic and Jankovic, all in the top half. By the time the quarters roll around, one side looks like the final weekend of a Slam, while the other looks more like the Tier II Slovenia Open.
Richard Gasquet, the 13th seed from France who made it to the semis at Wimbledon, withdraws and cites a lame excuse: a sore throat that made playing and winning against unseeded youngster Donald Young “impossible.” As in, c’est pas possible.
Novak Djokovic trots out his comic impressions of fellow players Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal on national TV after his quarterfinal triumph over Carlos Moya, and he brings down the house.
Justin Gimelstob, in his final Slam singles appearance, grabs the mic and interviews Andy Roddick after losing to the top-ranked American, turning it into a late-night talk show in Ashe Stadium.
Andre Agassi drops by the announcer's booth and proves, with his adroit and relaxed commentary, to be the most formidable of tennis analysts. Network executives pray Agassis soon gets bored with foundations, furniture and real estate.
The Spanish Armada, consisting of a legion of indefatigable clay-courters who habitually swarm in Paris every spring, make their presence known on New York asphalt, with four players reaching the round of 16.
Sharapova, who looked to have a cakewalk of a draw to the final, is upset in the third round, losing to a fearless 18-year-old, braces-wearing Pole, Agnieszka Radwanska.
Other Eastern European teenage girls – not from the usual suspect tennis farms like Russia and the Czech Republic – make a huge impression. The Hungarian Agnes Szavay and the Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, in addition to the Pole Radwanska, all make the fourth round.
The snappy, candy-colored striped shirt Fabrice Santoro wears against Blake is vintage Lacoste, pulled from the Frenchman’s closet and not available in stores, including the branch at Flushing Meadows. Frustrated hipsters trawl eBay in vain.
Two young Americans make a surprise dent on the men’s side: Donald Young, who’s been talked about forever but hadn’t won a pro match until the week before the Open; and 6-foot-9 college graduate John Isner, whose blistering serves from on-high got him to a third-rounder against King Federer.
Rather than wilt under the whiff of a betting scandal, Nikolay Davydenko of Russia plays his best tennis, sailing into the semis as though without a thought on his mind.
Old guys make a last stand: Carlos Moya, 31, resurrects his career with a nice, quarterfinal showing; Hyung-Taik Lee, also 31, upsets 20-year-old Andy Murray and makes it as far as he’s ever gone in a major, the fourth round. American Justin Gimelstob, better known as Gimel, makes his last stop at the Open and goes down in entertaining, crowd-pleasing style against his buddy Roddick.
The Bryan brothers, holders of five Grand Slam doubles titles, flame out in the quarterfinals against Aspelin and Knowle, the 10th seeds.
American Express trots out nifty, hand-held TV screens to its card members. The “L-Vis” units have clear 4 3/8-inch screens that allowed tennis fanatics to keep a watch on five courts at once, audio commentary included.
A traffic jam ensues on Tuesday, Day 9, when the Djokovic-Monaco match goes long, and day-session fans and throngs of night ticket holders waiting to enter Ashe Stadium for the 7 p.m. start time of Henin vs. Serena make it a sea of people out on the South Plaza. No injuries are reported.
Donald Young proves he’s a man and pulls out of the junior boys’ draw, based on his newfound pro-level success.