I went to the US Open on September 1st and 2nd. I had a glorious time, and when I get around to downloading my photos, I will challenge myself to come up with some creative way of expressing this.
For now, let me tell you about my polka-dotted face. It had everything to do with the hat I borrowed from my daughter. It was one of those fancy summery floppy straw hats with minute lattice openings in the brim. I should have made the time to buy a proper hat to handle the New York sun, but in my haste to make it to Flushing Meadows, I went with borrowed headgear. And now I have a polka-dotted face to show for it. The New York sun was hot, blazing really, on both days. There was as yet no hint of the downpour that would wash out play mere days later. There was no sign that Gustav, or Hanna, or Ike were about to make their presence felt and challenge the USTA to consider buying a roof.
We arrived early on Labor Day, and managed to score free radios from the American Express booth before they decided that you had to show an Amex card in order to qualify for them. That turned out to be a godsend because we could not get tickets into the Arthur Ashe stadium, not even after I begged, pleaded, and momentarily considered selling my first born. I jest. Really.
It was clear that we were not going to see Nadal, Serena, or Monfils that day. They were all scheduled on Arthur Ashe. I bristled at first, and then it occurred to me that minus James Blake and his overachieving backside, the better matches were all scheduled at the Ashe stadium. Race seemed both relevant and irrelevant. I decided to make sure that I had Ashe tickets for the following day. I was not taking any chances.
We located our horribly overpriced seats in the Louis Armstrong stadium. I followed the matches next door on my new Amex radio. I still have not recovered from paying over $200. to watch Lindsay Davenport and Daniela Hantuchova pretend to care about losing a doubles match against Ai Sugiyama and her partner. They were spectacularly horrible.
It did not help when later, as I was minding my own business and heading towards the Heineken stand to cool down from all that scorching sun, I heard this gruff voice behind me demanding that I step aside now, step aside! And I turned around to see tall-ass Lindsay and old-ass looking Hantuchova being escorted out of the stadium by a big beefy Black bodyguard. It was all I could do to restrain the thought of pelting my beer at them. Mind you, it was an easy decision since I had not yet purchased said beer.
There were a few redeeming aspects to being relegated to Louis Armstrong. For a start, I finally got to see Dinara Safina in the flesh. Except she was not looking good at all. Sure she beat Groenefeld, but she was all twisted up and frustrated and tired. No way was she going to win her first USO. I wish I could say that the ensuing Mauresmo-Pennetta match made up for this but Mauresmo sucked so hard that I walked out midway. Strolling the grounds and taking photos of some of the upcoming Juniors was a far more productive use of my time. Although I do plan to find and buy Mauresmo’s sexy outfit; she won the fashion contest hands down. Finally, I got to see Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Kei Nishikori, both of whom are promising talents. Nishikori is a plucky player who needs to learn how to pace himself. He has a go-for-broke style that reminds me of James Blake. That is not a compliment. No surprise he lost in straights to the Argentinean.
Tuesday was a much better day. The sun continued to blaze, scorching me through the fancy straw hat. I plastered myself with sunscreen but knew that it would make no difference. It was another brilliant New York day. But thank goodness we had tickets for the Arthur Ashe party stadium. It turned out to be almost like being in the North Stand for Carnival. There was music, laughter, dancing, and friendly strangers who did not know each other from Adam but who connected easily – and not only because of being in a collective drunken stupor. Never again, I told myself, not me and that stale old Grand Stand. I mean Louis Armstrong stadium. It’s Ashe or nothing from now on.
The first match up was Dementieva-Schydner. I had told my daughter the story of Patty’s scandalous past so she was agog about seeing the former orange-juice drinking cult member. The match disappointed. I went for beer.
I came back for Djokovic-Robredo. It went to five sets, much to the dismay of the Serbians who had suddenly materialized around us. Many of them wore T-shirts emblazoned with words about Kosovo being a part of Serbia with comparisons to the US losing Texas to Mexico. They didn’t just root for their “Nole”, they lectured him loudly. And, to my surprise, Novak would pause between points and look up to the crowd to acknowledge their words. Why doesn’t he just focus on the blasted match, I kept asking myself. I could not believe that he would allow himself to be so distracted. Then again, this is a player I have previously criticized for being emotionally needy. Seeing this played out live was quite disconcerting. When he finally won the match, he puffed out his chest and punched it in pride. He looked like a buffoon. The Serbians departed en masse. They were not interested in anyone else.
Next up was Federer vs. Andreev. The crowd was openly, unashamedly, enthusiastically pro-Federer. Hats off to Andreev for handling this and taking him to five sets. Hats off to Federer for eventually winning. It was touch and go for a few moments there. We left the stadium at 9:00pm. The Federer match had started in the blazing afternoon sun, but had ended under the lights. Federer later blamed this for his difficulty closing it out.
Several days later, and I now have a polka-dotted face, thanks to all the tiny openings in the straw hat that let the sun through. And I find myself reflecting that this is fitting as it is actually as polka-dotted as the year that both of my faves have enjoyed. It’s been an up and down year for both Serena and Federer. A dot of a win here, an embarrassing loss there, injuries and illnesses galore. But now they are both champions again.
Serena is again the #1 player in the world – a hard earned result against a finalist whom I previously dismissed as a boring retriever. In truth, Jankovic played the match of her life. Kudos to her. And congratulations to Federer for finally winning his 13th Slam. One more and he equals Sampras. But I’d prefer to see this record crushed. It would be worth every unasked question from my coworkers about the bizarre state of my polka-dotted face.