NEW YORK -- The main interview room in the press center under Arthur Ashe Stadium was hopping in the first week of the U.S. Open, with topics ranging from the health of American tennis, NBA Basketball legends, and...Quiznos. Thanks for that one, Sam Querrey. Here are some of our favorite exchanges from the dais.
Novak Djokovic says he's focused, but let's not pretend tennis is his No. 1 priority anymore. "I think it would be much wrong if my tennis is in front of my baby and my wife. I think there is no question about it."
Roger Federer on meeting Michael Jordan: "I think it's what you said, his longevity, the way he made it look easy, his will to win, wanting to be the best, delivering under pressure, being a superstar in a team sport, carrying his team for so many years. There's so many things that he did well and represented the game really nicely, I thought. That's why he also became my idol."
Maria Sharapova one-ups Federer on her Jordan meeting: "I met Michael Jordan a few years ago randomly, unexpectedly, at an airport. Usually I don't get very star struck, but he's such a powerful person and athlete. I think he has that aura about him. It's very special. He's like, Hey, you're that tennis player. I'm like, Oh, my goodness, Michael Jordan knows who I am. So, yeah, that was unique (smiling)."
Andy Murray on his season ticket status with the LeBron-less Miami Heat: "Status is the same. We don't do that. In the U.K. you don't change teams when someone leaves."
There was a time Nick Kyrgios told a reporter he didn't know what "swag" was. That time is no more:
Q. You hit a forehand winner at one point and it sounded like you said, Swag. Talk about that.
Kyrgios: Someone said before the point, 'You have to get your swag back.' So I just answered his question.
Sharapova on why it's important to have outside interests away from tennis: "That's always scared me. As I was youngster in my career, because you live and breathe tennis from such a young age, you're never really exposed to other things in life because you commit so much of your time without being able to educate yourself on another subject or have a proper school room education or work with other people in different areas. I have been able to do that and work around my career to really set myself up for things in the future. Because I certainly have the opportunity to do nothing, but that's never really been my character. I have always loved working."
Taylor Townsend on Serena Williams: "She's come through a lot of adversity. I think the most roaring time for me when I was watching her play was when she won that Australian Open, when everyone was completely doubting her, no one said she would win, she was totally out of shape, she was this, that, everything in the book. She literally fought and she beat Sharapova 1-0, 2-0, something ridiculous. But I've never seen someone so intense and so, like, driven to win, you know? I gained so much respect for her."
Aleksandra Krunic explains why she was rooting for Petra Kvitova over Eugenie Bouchard in the Wimbledon final. Krunic beat Kvitova in the third round in New York this year. "I like Petra a lot as a person. She's very down-to-earth and I respect her a lot. I like when I can say hi and talk to the players that are much higher ranked than me and I don't feel such a difference in our levels. Because still we're all human beings, you know, and that someone is doing a better job in tennis than me doesn't mean we're not on the same level as people, you know, as personal."
"It's bigger and it's more blue." That would be Simona Halep on the difference between Arthur Ashe Stadium and Court Philippe Chatrier.
Australia's Nick Kyrgios on his love of New York: "It's awesome. I'm going to get scorched in Melbourne, but it's my favorite Grand Slam."
Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm had to deal with a pesky bee in their first round match, yet somehow the bee came out unscathed. "Well, she has so much class she didn't swat it," Venus said. "So once it was my turn, then I think I would have been remiss to swat it myself. Kind of came up with a strategy to hopefully, you know, follow her example in that. Just let the fly land on the racquet and in the towel. I guess he's on his way now."
Everyone is questioning Venus' and Serena's commitment to doubles, but Venus says she doesn't see the distinction in titles. "I don't think that's wise [to withdraw], because the doubles is a title. When they say your name and they say so-and-so has X number of titles, guess what? Those doubles ones feel real good. For me the doubles is very serious. It's not, oh, let's play for fun. Those are Grand Slam titles that I am trying to win. So I never would withdraw from a Grand Slam competition, singles or doubles, lightheartedly." Admirable.
This is the level of access the British press corp demand of Murray. "I don't think I was that dehydrated, because I needed to go to the toilet when I got off the court," he said after his first round win. "And not to be too graphic, but it wasn't like it was like brown. You know, I was fine." TMI, Andy. TMI.
Caroline Wozniacki was asked what her reaction was to seeing the footage of her hair getting stuck in her racket: "I just laughed. We women keep it interesting."
Sharapova was asked what tennis rule she would change: ""I'd probably start charging for medical timeouts (smiling). I think we'd all see who really uses them and who doesn't. Yeah, I don't know what we put on it, maybe like 2500 or something. Yeah, I think we should do that. That would be fun." More about that here.
Ana Ivanovic in response to the same question: "I think some players take way too long between the points." Shots fired!
Sam Stosur, same question: "Maybe this new 20 second rule needs to be implemented fairly for all players on all courts."
Venus: "I would be against the rule for anyone named Williams to lose. That's very selfish "
Ernests Gulbis: "I would put that I could never lose (smiling)."
Q. You realize if you don't run a marathon you can't get a subway endorsement deal.Sam Querrey: I like Quizno's.
Ivanovic breaks down the highs and lows of the last six years, which saw her win the French Open, slump, and now build herself back up. "It was greatest moment of my life achieving that, especially I was only 20 at the time. In a way I maybe took it a little bit for granted, because I was always improving, I was always having better and better results. That was kind of natural progression. And once I achieved that, it was very hard to handle all the attention because I was very shy at the time. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I was very introverted. I like to spend my time with the books. That's who I was. All of a sudden, there was so many requests and so many other things that came with it. No one prepared me for that. Obviously it took me some time to get used to that and to actually embrace it and enjoy it. That's why only since few years I started loving New York, because that's about that. It's about emotions, crowds, and embracing that moment."
Lleyton Hewitt isn't sure if we'll see him in New York next year: "Don't know. I really don't know. Just wait and see."
Another sycophantic exchange in the press room for Federer:
Q. I'd like to ask you about Wimbledon. The last point, I turned off the TV and promised myself not to watch any match again.
Federer: But here you are. What are you doing here?
CiCi Bellis, 15, sets the record straight on Justin Bieber: "I don't know really where they got that [I was a fan]. I haven't posted that at all about Justin Bieber. Yeah, I used to like him when I was younger, a couple years ago."
You do you, Victoria Azarenka: "I'm my own toughest opponent. So I talk to myself. I curse at myself. I pump myself up. Whatever it takes to do, I don't really give a damn how it looks really because when I'm in the moment I need to be me and I need to do me."
What was going through Townsend's mind as she kept crashing the net against Serena? "Oh, my God, she's going to smack the ball at me in my face, so get ready."
Peng Shuai on the absence of Chinese No. 1 Li Na: "But this year I think also is one of the maybe the best to have like six Chinese like on the girl main draw. Three from quallies and also like they're like two, right, plus me in the second round? Also not bad because they are young. And then I prefer have the Na Li. They didn't watch me too much because there is more pressure. Not easy to handle that. I still want to like working hard and just focus and enjoy my tennis."
19-year-old Madison Keys gets the award for best answer in response to the "Death of American Tennis" question: "I think that it's definitely on the upswing. I definitely think we're one of the countries with the most people in the top 100. I think we're one of the only countries with as many people in Grand Slams consecutively. So when people say that American tennis is dead and things like that, you know, you kind of take it a little personal. Someone went as far as to say that Serena Williams is the only American player, male or female, worth talking about or watching or anything like that. So I took that a little personal. But I think Serena's amazing. She's out there, she's winning Grand Slams. She's going for her 18th Grand Slam now. I think you have to kind of put it in perspective that she's one of the greatest of all time. I think a lot of times people expect every American to live up to that standard, and that's not going to happen. You know, there's only so many Serena Williams or Chris Everts or Martina Navratilovas. I definitely think American tennis is getting better and there are more people in the top 100 and competing in Grand Slams. So I think everyone is kind of expecting a lot. But then they're also not giving us full credit. I think everyone is just a little impatient right now because there was definitely a lull for a while where there weren't many people, but I think we're definitely getting better. I think in the next five years there will be a big group of Americans."
No Fed Cup captaincy in the future for Venus: "I would maybe do it if Serena and I were allowed to co-captain."
The Ernests Gulbis philosophy of tennis isn't half bad: "You know when a lion is running behind many people, you don't need to be the faster than the lion, you just need to be faster than the last guy. Same here. You walk on court, you have one guy to beat. Doesn't matter what happened before. Doesn't matter. You have one guy to beat, and that's it. Simple. If you have that frame of mind, I think it's easier."
Gulbis being Gulbis:
Q: You may have more in common with Janko Tipsarevic than this but you both have reputations of being readers. That's one small thing. A few years ago he said he basically stopped reading things because he found it was interfering with his performance on court because he would start thinking about other things and it would be distracting.
Gulbis: So he tries to numb his brain.
Gulbis: That's good for him (laughter).
The post-loss press conference for Keys is always full of sad. "I just didn't play well when it mattered. I played okay at times. I played better in the second set. But then when it really mattered, I just didn't play well. Was that like a really depressing answer or something?"
Bellis after losing to Zarina Diyas in the second round: "Unbelievable. Like this whole experience has been unbelievable, like mind-blowing. It's been crazy. It's been like the best couple days of my life."
What's better, Slam titles or records? Federer isn't sure yet. "Maybe I can tell you once it's all said and done really, because right now -- I mean, everything was big in the moment when I it. In that moment when I did break a record or when I tied it, that was what was magical about it, not really like having it. I mean, I can walk around screaming, I have 17 Grand Slams, I have the record here or there. It was the moment when I passed something. "
"It's tough. I hated the situation." Dominic Thiem after beating his friend Ernests Gulbis in the second round.
Gulbis, who suffered through cramps during his match against Thiem, was asked whether he would have retired if he was playing anyone else. "I think it would be more clear that I retire against him, save his energy, because he's my friend."
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, after advancing to the fourth round of a Slam for the first time in 15 years. "I played quallies of every not-awesome 25 there is everywhere in the world. I worked my way back and I earned it. Then when I got to the stage, you know, to the Grand Slams, I wanted it so bad that when I would get my chance on a big court against a big player I wanted it so bad that I kind of was paralyzed. I couldn't do it. It was always like, Okay, how many more do I have? I have to do it now. I have to do it now. I finally relaxed I said, Just play tennis."