Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 US Open Notes: Federer Express


Long South Gate security line
Arrival: By now, you've read about delays due to "tighter" security on day one at this year's Open. Our group arrived to see an unprecedentedly long line, all the way back up the boardwalk to the Number 7 elevated line.

It was difficult at first to tell what the line was for, but it turned out to be the "bag" line, which is always longer than the one for people who do not bring bags. But, this was truly weird.

Since one of us had a bag, we were in a quandary, but one of the few Open officials around recommended that we try the South Gate entrance, and we did. Luckily, we hit just before this long conga line formed behind us. Strangely, the bag line and no-bag line moved at the same pace; that is, very slowly. What did our bag-man do? He's an attorney; he cut the line.

After passing through security, we wondered why the USTA hadn't planned this much better, informed fans of possible delays in their pre-Open many ads, or had more people in place to explain what was going on? Had these been baseball or football fans, it would have been much more rowdy. All in all, tennis fans just took it in stride. Lucky for the hapless (on this day) USTA.

The actual security checks, once we got there seemed no more severe than any other year. Delay: 45-60 minutes, and a lot of first-match action missed.

Jamie Hampton
Names: Best name of a player: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, of Russia, seeded 32nd and ranked 33rd in the world. Prettiest sounding name: Lara Arrubarrena, of Spain, ranked 87th.

Court 17: As we reported last year, the USTA has a winner in the mini-grandstand, Court 17. It is everything Arthur Ashe Stadium is not: intimate, with a great view from every seat, with every fan happy, unlike those in the top section of Ashe, who rightly feel ripped off.

Jamie: What a Catch: The young American player Jamie Hampton is seeded 23rd in the Open and currently ranked 28th in the world.
She dispatched the afore -beautifully- mentioned Arrubarrena in straight sets, but not too easily.

Hampton is a gamer. She hits out, and, I'm not making this up, she goes to net, volleys crisply and accurately and is unafraid to hit big overheads. What's not to like about that! And, thank goodness for these eager young American women, who are all over the draw. There is now only a single American man in the world top twenty, John Isner (we saw him win in 75 minutes on Day 2) and, unlike the women, no group coming up to challenge the best anytime soon.

After the win, Hampton signed a few balls and hit the first one into the crowd and...right at this correspondent, who, it must be said, made a very nice one-handed catch while stretching in front of several other hands. Did I give it away to a younger fan at my friend's suggestion? Yes. Jamie and I had had our moment.

Day Two: One word: hot. Make that two: really hot. And, by arriving an hour later than usual, 12:15p.m., we breezed through security. One reason for that ease: the poor Number 7 line fans had two-hour delays getting to Willets Point station due to a breakdown. Welcome to New York!

Stom & Stommer
Heineken House, Stom Nerve: Most fans are well-used to the lines to buy food at the Open, and the lines were not bad, but we made a discovery this year: Heineken House, which sits atop the food stands and is easily accessible by a stairway around the corner.

The good news: Heineken, the Open's official beer (everything at the open is "official" something) has provided a large airy, shady, comfortable rest stop, with food, beer and soft drinks.

But, why would Heineken go to all the trouble of promoting its brand like this and then charge $13.50 for a modest cup of beer and a bottle of Diet Coke? Who is going to feel positive about a brand that rips them off like that for their own product. After paying a ton to the USTA to be there, why make your customers pay the whole freight? How do you say Duh! in Dutch? Stom! will do.

Still, if you split a Dagwood sandwich and a beer, it's a great place for a break, and maybe it's irrational to even think about money at the Open anyway. Just pretend you're in Moscow or London and pay up, comrades.

Federer, an Even Better Catch: I'm not much for early round stadium matches featuring top seeds vs. someone often playing the same role as the old Washington Generals did for the Harlem Globetrotters (lose, with or without grace).

Roger was looking very fit and like a player with something to prove to the suits who seeded him 7th in a tournament that might easily be named for him. Then, after winning the first two sets easily, he faltered near what we all thought was the end of the third set. Suddenly, we were looking at a possible tie-breaker and 4th set, when Grega Zemlja, the Fed of Slovenian tennis, pulled to 5-5, momentarily forgetting his role.
Federball Express

But, Fed recovered, and afterwards prepared to hit his first autographed ball high into the stands...that's right, fans, directly to me. Only, this time, Fed's aim was slightly off, down and to my left in the
stairwell, just out of reach; but, it ricocheted off a hand rail and popped up to my right a smack nto the outstretched hands of...the DG!...who reached up mightily to grab it to the delight of the crowd.

Two catches in one family in two days. We're buying lottery tickets today!

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