Five thoughts on U.S. Open Day 2: Wildcards del Potro, Donaldson both advance
NEW YORK – Five thoughts from Day 2 at the U.S. Open through the day session.
• Men’s tennis is the embodiment of “top heavy.” One of our favorite stats: Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, and/or Federer have won 42 of the last 46 majors. But eventually they will surrender the stage. And while their heirs might not bring a comparable level of concentrated excellence, talent will follow. On Monday we saw Frances Tiafoe come within a few points of beating John Isner and Taylor Fritz pushing Jack Sock to a fifth set. Today Sascha Zverev—the stars’ favorite young talent—put his potential on vivid display, beating Daniel Brands handily.
• With remarkably little fanfare, Monica Puig, darling of Rio, lost in round one. (She was already eliminated when New York mayor De Blasio touted her chances.) Another darling of Rio fared better. Dialing in that forehand, Juan Martin del Potro beat countryman Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3).
• When del Potro received a wild card, it meant that a young American was getting kicked to the curb. Or the qualies anyway. That player was Jared Donaldson, a hard serving Rhode Islander (what Rhode Islanders aren’t hard-serving? you rightly ask) with a bright future. Donaldson may have seethed but he took it out on his opponents. First, three guys in the qualifying draw. On Tuesday, in the tournament’s biggest upset so far, he took out No. 12 David Goffin in four sets. Great win. Say here: this time next year Donaldson will need no special dispensation.
• Lots of chatter today about Novak Djokovic’s match to kick off his title defense. Though Djokovic prevailed in four sets, his first match triggered more questions than it answered. His left wrist is clearly an issue. The right arm received treatment. He radiated no joy and smiled for the first time once the match ended. These matches can be like a mini series with a seven-episode arc. For all we know Djokovic got wrist treatment and will return to pay Jiri Vesely—one of only men to beat him in 2016 incidentally—looking like a champion. But right now, he looks little like the world-beater who entered July tipped to win the Grand Slam.
• Enough with the wild cards. They are antithetical to merit. They are unfair to players who—by accident of birth—don't come from countries that host Slams. But the worst may be the “reciprocal wild cards,” traded cartel style among France, Australia, England and the U.S. Here Virginie Razzano (France) lost 6-1, 6-2 while Ellen Perez of Australia lost 6-1, 6-1. Enough already.
These Day-Glo hunting colors are giving me a headache.
• Nice. To me, they look like particularly profound passages in need of highlighters. My gripe is that these shirts distract players from the ball. Very unsporting. In baseball, for instance, fans in straightaway centerfield can’t wear white, lest is confuse the batters. Why can one tennis opponent wear a shirt the same shade of chartreuse as the ball?
I don't know if Wozniacki losing would be considered an upset considering her year to date. That said, two points from victory.
• We all love Wozniacki. But this letter to herself had a tinge of sadness, no?
WTHIGOW Sabine Lisicki?
• Good one. Some niggling injuries, but that applies to everyone right about now. After losing yesterday she’ll drop out of the top 100, a long fall for a player not far removed from a Wimbledon final.
You may have seen this excellent New York Times article about Saketh Myneni, who qualified for his first Slam main draw at 28. (If I counted correctly, one of eight male and six female qualifiers to be making their first Slam main draws.) I saw the end of his first-rounder, with the irony that after all that perseverance, he pulled up lame up 4-1 in the fifth set, valiantly limping through the remainder (even having a match point) before falling 7-5. Cruel sport, this tennis.
—Noah Baerman, Middletown, Conn.
• Cruel sport is right. So many of these stories at the top, too. Monica Puig wins Olympics gold and, 15 days later, is dispatched from the next major. Novak Djokovic rules tennis’ roost and, in the span of 60 days, looks dispiritingly vulnerable.
Snapshots from Day 2
• Congrats to Joel Drucker and John Barrett, named "Historians-At-Large" by the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
• Bob of Brooklyn has our reader rant today: Love your observations as always. What’s your take on all of the U.S. Open facilities upgrades so far? Here’s my assessment:
1) Roof: A+. I haven’t bought an Ashe ticket since oh, about 1997—until this year. I still hate the distance to the court for the average non-millionaire fan like me, but at least I know I won’t get rained on if I shell out 130 bucks to watch those specks of humanity duke it out down yonder.
2) New Grandstand Court: A. It’s a pretty oval. The shaded bleachers on the west side of the court were most welcome when Isner-Tiafoe were tied at 6 apiece in the fifth set. Slight miss: it’s not as intimate as the old Grandstand; this arena is flatter and less vertical.
3) Covered gallery along the practice courts: B. I don’t remember this being here in years past. I was startled to peer through the mesh fencing only to encounter Feliciano Lopez about six inches from my face during his practice session. I’m guessing this fan proximity must be a little creepy for the players—not that they have a choice. It would be nice if there could be a more comfortable way to view the practice sessions without feeling like a voyeur, although some probably dig this particular setup (Judy Murray, for example.)
4) New promenade between new Grandstand and Court 17: C. I’m sure the layout is much better than last year, but there is something unresolved about this area of the campus. You could miss it entirely walking back and forth between Ashe, Armstrong and the new Grandstand. Which brings me to:
5) Getting around the grounds: D. I asked at least five people working at the Open how to find a restaurant or a court and none of them had any clue. No one could point me to a map directory (like those you see in a shopping mall) and there weren’t enough of those around. Not everyone has the phone app or the visitors’ guide with the map on it, and in any event the map is hard to follow because the overall campus layout is non-linear and littered with kiosks and fountains and such that break up your path. Suggestions: a) way more large, visible signs and maps with bright red YOU ARE HERE dots on them; b) court numbers and names that are illuminated and that you can see from 50 yards away; and c) better trained seasonal staff who are looking out for people who look lost.