Friday September 2nd, 2011

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens is into the third round of a major tournament for the first time in her young career. Susan Mullane/US Presswire

Observations from the fourth day of the U.S. Open, where a ticket to Arthur Ashe Stadium seemed like a waste of money and the American ladies kept on rolling.

Sloane Stephens throws her hat in the ring.

What exactly are the American women eating in the player restaurant this week? Wheaties soaked in Gatorade sprinkled with miracle dust? Stephens may be small (she admitted that she's not 5-foot-8 like her driver's license says she is), but she packs a big punch with some nice potential. Taking the first set 6-1 over 23rd-seeded Shahar Peer was great, but not impressive. What was impressive was how composed she stayed through the tight second set, eventually clinching the match on a thoughtfully constructed point that she secured with a confident forehand winner in the tiebreak.

There's a lot to like with Stephens, from her huge serve (she fired a 119 mph ace) to ebullient personality. The 18-year-old is a star in the making. Her next challenge is a rested Ana Ivanovic, who advanced via a walkover, on Saturday. With Vania King beating Jarmila Gaijdosova, another seed, that's five American women in the third round. Who had that in their bracket on Monday morning?

Buyer beware at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first week.

Francesca Schiavone, 53 minutes. Roger Federer, 77 minutes. Serena Williams, 49 minutes. Caroline Wozniacki, 63 minutes. Novak Djokovic, 90 minutes. If you bought a ticket to Ashe for both day and night sessions, you got to see less than six hours of tennis.

I never advise people to spend their hard-earned cash on Ashe tickets in the first week unless they are hell-bent on seeing a certain player. A grounds pass would have gotten you a seat at the match of the day on Armstrong between Gael Monfils and Juan Carlos Ferrero, which lasted almost five hours alone. Throw in Andrea Petkovic's three-setter with Zheng Jie or Stephens' great upset over Peer on the Grandstand, and you would have left in good spirits and with some extra cash for those overpriced, but very tasty Honey Deuces.

You should need to pass an "idiot test" to drive on the Information Super Highway.

I will never understand why people who call themselves "tennis fans" feel the freedom and need to hurl invective at players on Twitter. Gaijdosova was already down after losing 6-2, 6-0 to King. She probably didn't need to come back to her phone and see some of the horrible things tweeted at her by alleged fans. As a result, she announced that she'll be deleting her Twitter account, which is a darn shame because she was a fantastic tennis tweeter. Her TwitPic stream was worth it alone.

This isn't an isolated incident. Sam Querrey and Dinara Safina shut down their accounts because of the same negativity, and if you look through the "@ mentions" for some of your favorite players, particularly the women, you'll see some pretty mortifying stuff.

Here's a simple test: If you wouldn't say it to their face, don't tweet it at them. It's really not that hard.

No back-up.

Alexandra Dugheru took out Petra Kvitova on Monday and then lost listlessly in the next round. Monica Niculescu. Simona Halep upset Li Na on Tuesday and lost to Carla Suarez Navarro on Thursday. I love a good upset, but if you're going to pull one off at a Grand Slam, you better back it up. Early upsets create chaos in the draw in the second week and deprive fans of the marquee matchups that we all want to see.

The Accidental Exo.

What in the world was going on in that Djokovic-Carlos Berlocq match? The last match of the night, Djokovic steamrolled to a 6-0, 6-0 lead before Berlocq began to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. From there the match (or "light hitting session" rather) took an exhibition-like turn, as Berlocq began smiling wildly and gesticulating toward Nole in futility. Djokovic, taking Berlocq's cue, starting throwing in intentionally comical fist pumps at the most inappropriate times. It was fun and entertaining (and probably the easiest $30,000 Berlocq's ever made), and it added levity to what was an otherwise very awkward situation. It's a good thing for Berlocq that Djokovic has that air of invincibility these days. Otherwise the Tennis Integrity Unit, which has questioned players' "lack of effort" in the past, might come knocking at his door. Oh, and Berlocq did end up winning two games, drawing a huge reaction from the crowd on the first. And Djokovic finally hit a successful "tweener" to set up match point. Because really, that's the only way this thing could have ended.

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