Tennis Prose



All In A Day At US Open

Jenson Brooksby – Courtesy Uomo Sport and Steve Siebert.

By Scoop Malinowski

After the Wilson Ultra Play Test I was given a ticket for the US Open and the first observation was how crowded the grounds were at 5 pm. It may have been the most crowded day I ever experienced at the BJK National Tennis Center.

The first match that arrested my attention was Jenson Brooksby on court court 6, looking splendid in the Uomo Sport ensemble of a red Henley top and classic white shorts (and yellow Wilson Rush tennis shoes).

Brooksby was a ruthless assassin, showing no mercy in destroying Serbian veteran Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-0 3-0 ret.. Something about US Open brings out the best in Brooksby, who pushed world no. 1 and 2021 CYGS hunter Novak Djokovic to his limits a year ago on Ashe. I still feel Brooksby’s unexpectedly physical fight drained Novak for the later rounds of the tournament. Brooksby made 4R last year and beat Fritz in a marathon.

While Brooksby was giving Lajovic a lesson on ball control, variety and pinpoint placements, Andrey Rublev, the 9th seed, was needing five sets to survive another Serbian Laslo Djere 6-4 in the fifth.

Though I didn’t see any of it, Sam Querrey finished his ATP career with a four set loss to Ivashka on court 7. Sam said after he loved his career and was proud of being able to beat Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. He also said he made the decision about five or six weeks ago.

“This one feels like the right one just because it’s the Grand Slam in America. … This one feels like the right place,” Querrey said. “I feel like my game isn’t what it used to be, but that happens to everyone with age, besides Rafa, Novak and Roger [Federer], it seems like. I haven’t enjoyed it as much since I’ve got the two little kids, like I mentioned. I mean, I want to be home with them more and I just want to go do other things. Tennis has been a great part of my life and I’ve been a pro for 17 years. I played junior tennis since the time I was eight years old, so it feels even longer than that. I want to go explore something else and test my mind in another field of some kind.”

“I feel like I was consistent. I was essentially in the Top 100 and a lot of that in the Top 50, Top 25 for 15 years,” Querrey said. “I feel like I was a pretty good big-match player. I feel like I played my best against the better players.

“And then I just feel like I’m a good person. I feel like I have a great relationship with pretty much all the men’s players, all the women’s players and tournament directors. I feel like I’ve made so many good friendships and relationships over the years that I can call any one of these people or they can call me, and continue to be friends and hang out for the rest of my life.”

My most memorable Sam memories were seeing him beat Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2017 and doing a Biofile with Sam early in his career when he was still a teenager and later updating it.

Luckily one of my favorite ATP tickets was on court 13 in a battle with Aslan Karatsev. The Russian led 6-1 7-5, crushing the Italian’s second set rally from a break down. Fognini angrily pulled off his turquoise blue green Armani shirt and then hit his Babolat on the chair six times to earn the point penalty to start the third set. Fognini tossed the ruined racquet behind his chair and an industrious adult fan then reached over and grabbed himself the memento. Then he put on a white shirt which seemed to change his fortunes. Somehow the 60th ranked Fognini battled back and won in five to set up a second round clash with Nadal.

Fabio Fognini forehand.

The best match of the day was on court 12 featuring the first fifth set tiebreaker of the tournament, David Goffin vs Lorenzo Musetti. It was a packed house and Goffin had the lead but Musetti stunned the Belgian with two good drop shots and won 10-8. Goffin tossed his racquet after the final miss. Goffin is ranked 62, Musetti 30. Musetti also beat Goffin in three sets at 2021 Roland Garros in their only other meeting.

During the drama of Goffin and Musetti, on the adjacent court 11, Katerina Siniakova held a 5-0 lead on Taylor Townsend in the third set and after blowing serve and the next game for 5-2 the very annoyed Czech woman looked ready to lose control of her emotions. But Townsend missed a return long on the first point and could never get ahead in the game, finally losing on a long backhand. One fan said her partner Barbora Krejcikova was watching the first set on the bleachers which is very accessible for fans watching and walking by. You rarely see a Grand Slam champion or a marquee player roaming the grounds anymore or watching a match.

An interesting match at night on court 14 was Spanish showdown of Jaume Munar vs Roberto Carballes Baena. The 29 year old and four years older Baena had won both of their previous matches on clay in Bastad and Chile – both very close three setters – and the pattern of baseline superiority continued last night with Baena leading 6-1 6-3. After both took bathroom breaks, the long rallies continued. It seemed every point exceeded ten shots each. Each point was a ferocious baseline rally of hard hitting, patience and whoever took the bold initiative with a shot, would win the point. To see how much work and patience was needed to win a single point in this grindfest was intriguing and stunning. Munar won the fourth set 6-4 but then Baena regained control with a 4-1 lead in the fourth set before rain stopped the match.

One of the guys next to me is a friend of Baena, who is from Argentina and met him at the 2014 ATP tournament in Argentina. He was a good junior and college player at Chattanooga and is now a banker in NYC. He was also a good cheerleader, spurring Baena on with positive verbal reinforcements, like “Way to stay…” When we got the news that Rafa Nadal lost the first set to Hijikata, he was not surprised at all. With a smile he said, “Rafa likes to give the crowd a show. Losing the first set gives the crowd a better experience…”

The last match I saw was Jack Sock vs Diego Schwartzman on Armstrong. It was the heavyweight vs the middleweight and the more powerful American established his superiority by narrowly winning the first two sets 6-3 7-5. Though Sock was ahead when I left the venue, there was a sense that Sock’s advantage was fragile and the indestructible Schwartzman could turn the tables at any time. And that’s what the world no. 16 did, winning the second set by bagel against the world no. 107. For some reason, Sock retired down 1-0 in the fourth.

One of the appeals of the US Open is the unexpected factor you’re bound to encounter amid all the furor and frenzy. One such memorable moment of the day was seeing a photo shoot conclude on practice court shared with two doubles players Federico Coria and Cristian Rodriguez. It was for a new female tennis attire company based in Korea called “And Then We Dance.” The co-owner, Jiyoon Park, asked me how I liked the style and if the designs looked feminine, which I could not dispute. She also said she wanted to create a traditional brand that celebrates the “Golden Age” of tennis and the outfits worn by Chris Evert. I’m intrigued by the name of the brand and the inspiration and energy behind this endeavor which I was told is very popular in Korea. Hoping to do an interview with Jiyoon soon.

Shirt of the day worn by a fan: A dark blue FREE NOVAK t-shirt which is available at amazon for $13.99.

Quote of the day: “I just think it would be ridiculous if they hold him (Djokovic) to that 3-year ban.” (Cahill to Fowler).

To which McEnroe replied: “It is ridiculous that he’s not here NOW!” (via ESPN)

Sightings: Marcos Giron in sleeveless shirt, walking back to Ashe Stadium from court 17 after his three set loss to Frances Tiafoe… Putintseva and Anisimova escorted by security to grandstand before their match. One ambitious youngster attempted to get Anisimova to sign his ball but was shooed away by security. Putintseva won in two sets… Boris Sobkin leaving the court where Karatsev lost to Fognini… I only recognized one tennis reporter out watching the matches on the outer courts.

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