Ten thoughts through three days of play at the 2014 U.S. Open:
Tiger Woods has been to the U.S. Open. So has Derek Jeter. And the Mannings. And all actors worth their botox. But the event received special certification Tuesday night when Michael Jordan made an appearance. Even the most stoic players turned into fanboys and girls. And who knew Jordan took a “class” in tennis at UNC.
Right now, the best story on the women’s side is youth, specifically, CiCi Bellis, the 15-year-old from Northern California who beat 12-seed Dominika Cibulkova -- the Australian Open finalist -- in her debut. She has a decision to make. Does she keep her prize money, a minimum $60k, thereby precluding herself from getting a scholarship? Or does she preserve her amateur status?
The best story on the men’s side is age, generally and specifically. A full quarter of the players on the men’s side are 30 and over. Specifically, Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic, who made his debut at age 34. These are the stories that make the U.S. Open, the U.S. Open.
Few thought that Aga Radwanska would live up to her No. 4 seeding. But her expulsion from the tournament by lunch on Wednesday afternoon was a surprise. Radwanska fell in straight sets to Peng Shuai, creating a yawning chasm in what was already an open section of the draw.
Sloane Stephens continues to struggle, a stock in decline. On Wednesday afternoon she lost a match she had no business losing,falling in three sets to Johanna Larsson of Sweden. Stephens is such a fine athlete and ballstriker. But she becomes so frustrated to the point that her exasperation supersedes her desire to win.
On a brighter note, the buzz surrounding Jared Donaldson persists. The lanky teenager from Rhode Island -- now coached by Taylor Dent -- looked the part of a future pro, losing to Gael Monfils on the grandstand yesterday.
A year ago, the Bryans were going for the Grand Slam -- all four Major doubles titles. This year they are going for a Grand Slam, hoping to salvage a disappointing year by winning the U.S. Open. The draw did them no favors, as they face Mikhail Youzhny and Max Mirnyi in round one on Wednesday.
For better or worse, two of the Bryan brothers’ rivals have been eliminated from the singles. Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock -- who teamed up to beat the Bryans in the Wimbledon final -- were ousted in round one.
One expects this, given the prize money increases. But players in sub-optimal physical condition still took the court, reckoning that even if they didn’t last, there was a $36,000 check waiting for them after the postmatch handshake. A lot of players (including Marcos Baghdatis, who retired on Wednesday) were clearly in bad shape.
CiCi Bellis is playing her second round match against Zarina Diyas on Court 17 on Thursday. Watch for it.