Monday September 5th, 2011

Sam Stosur won two historic matches in the first week of the U.S. Open. (EPA/Landov)

Observations from the weekend at the U.S. Open with a look back on the first week, when the ladies ruled.

Week 1 belonged to the ladies.

You could say I'm slightly biased here considering I just sat through the three-set battle between Sam Stosur and Maria Kirilenko on an overflowing Grandstand, where their 32-point tiebreak was the longest in women's Grand Slam history. But Stosur's 6-2, 6-7 (15), 6-3 victory wasn't even the match of the tournament on the women's side. In fact, it could very well be the third best of the first seven days.

Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka played the best set of women's tennis for the year on Saturday, when Williams prevailed in a tiebreak 8-6 7-5. Meanwhile, Stosur is well on her way to establishing herself as the Drama Queen of New York. On Friday, her three-hour, 16-minute epic against Nadia Petrova was the longest women's match in tournament history and almost went the full 39 games, with Stosur winning 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5.

On top of all that we've had big-name upset victims in third-seeded Maria Sharapova, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and French Open champion Li Na, along with a number of hotly contested three-set comebacks (from the likes of Andrea Petkovic, Francesa Schiavone and Lucie Safarova). It all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable week for fans. If people want to keep arguing that women don't deserve equal prize money, this week isn't going to help their cause. The women more than earned their keep during Week 1.

OK, boys. It's your turn.

Now that all the "warmup" matches are over, I'm ready for the men to bring it in Week 2. The fourth round matchups are tantalizing, and I'm particularly excited about Gilles Simon-John Isner, Donald Young-Andy Murray, David Ferrer-Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfired Tsonga-Mardy Fish. Can we get a high-quality, tight, five-set classic at night this week? This tournament won't wake up until we do.

Donald Young credited the New York fans for helping pull him through his fourth-round victory. (EPA/Landov)

Kiss and make up.

Young swore (literally) that he'd never take anything from the USTA again after feeling slighted in the spring. But the USTA offered him a wild card to the Open and, low and behold, he's into the second week of a major for the first time, thanks to a straight-sets victory against Juan Ignacio Chela on Sunday. Winning can heal all wounds and Young is going a long way toward restoring his reputation as a young man who is something other than a self-entitled brat. He's been embraced in New York. The crowds absolutely love him. Maybe that's what he needed to see. Positivity never hurt anybody.

"Without them, I wouldn't have won," Young said of the fans after defeating Chela. "I don't think I would have had a chance because I was kind of getting a little fatigued.  The energy was kind of going away.  They definitely pushed me through."

Asked about dealing with high expectations for so long, Young, a former top-ranked junior who is now 22, said: "It was tough because I wanted to win.  I was used to winning.  When you're used to winning and you start losing, it doesn't feel good.  Then I was looking at myself at 15 playing grown men 25 to 30.  If I look back at myself, even at 22 I would hate to lose to someone 15, so I would try a lot harder anyway.  And I really can't see myself losing to someone 15.  So it was a learning experience.  I think those things I did helped me now.  It's better late than never."

USTA oddities.

I'm not going to go off about scheduling oddities as it seems like a broken record at this point. OK, fine. I will say this: Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian played a standard three-set match. Andy Roddick and Julien Benneteau played a standard three-set match that ended at 4:39 p.m. ET. Yet the third match on Ashe, between Stosur and Kirilenko, had to be shuffled around and didn't start until around 7 p.m. on the Grandstand, and Ashe was left empty until the night session began at 7 p.m. Obviously, the organizers didn't want the women's match to bleed into the night session. But the lack of communication with the players and the fans left much to be desired.

"We knew if it was 4:30, there's a chance we weren't going to play on Ashe," Stosur said. "When they finish at 4:39 and nobody comes up to tell you that if the [third set] finishes, you're still not going to be on the court, and then you might have another three- or four-hour delay after a men's match, I think that's pretty disappointing."

That aside, I was a bit shocked that the closed-circuit television feed wasn't immediately shut off when Nadal cramped up in the interview room. We could all see and hear what was happening, which I'm obviously pleased about from a reporting standpoint. But by the time the USTA realized that it might be a problem, Nadal was fine. They cut the feed the minute he walked off screen. If I'm a PR person, the feed is the first thing to go. And if I'm Rafa's agent Benito Perez-Barbadillo, I'm doing everything I can to make sure that the video doesn't go up on the official tournament website. Which it did.

Lastly, how about this tweet from the U.S. Open Twitter account to ESPN's Bill Simmons? Did they see his previous two tweets? Not saying it's wrong, but it just seems odd to publicly endorse a guy who just spent two tweets blasting the face of American tennis.

The kids are all right.

The U.S. Open junior tournament is underway and that makes me happy. I genuinely enjoy grabbing a seat on the outer courts to watch the next generation of wannabes duke it out. It's inspiring to see what these kids are capable of at such a young age. You might just find "the next big thing" or a player who will become one of your favorites for years to come. And, of course, it's entertaining as all get-out. Kids are kids and their temper tantrums can be hilarious.

Some names to get you started:

Girls: Caroline Garcia (almost beat Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros); Eugenie Bouchard (top-ranked Canadian junior, just won a tournament on Saturday); Madison Keys (16-year-old American made a splash in the women's event last week); Taylor Townsend (15-year-old American); Yulia Putintseva (an emotionally explosive Russian); Irina Khromacheva (another emotionally explosive Russian); Ashleigh Barty (pint-sized Aussie Wimbledon Girls' champ). Boys: Jiri Vesely (No. 1 seed from the Czech Republic); Liam Broady (lefty Brit and occasional hitting partner for Nadal); Bjorn Fratangelo (French Open junior champion from the U.S. with, let's face it, the best name in the biz); Adam Pavlasek (a Czech who is Kvitova's boyfriend).

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