Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2005 5:29PM; Updated: Wednesday August 24, 2005 5:49PM
United Nations Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor draws the first women's seed for the 2005 U.S. Open.
Submit a comment or question for Andrew.
The two-week tennis party that is the U.S. Open kicked off soberly inside an auditorium this morning. In the audience were some 20-30 brave journalists, who had crossed foreign soil and at least three security checkpoints to witness the drawing for the tournament's men's and women's brackets at the United Nation's headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday.
As the marquee names were being filled in, 128 other athletes were having it out on blue courts at the USTA Tennis Center in Queens vying for 31 qualifying spots.
The tournament drawing itself would attract its share of dignitaries -- perhaps none more esteemed than Vijay Amritraj who, after a two-decade reign as one of Asia's top players and a cameo in the movie Octopussy, is enjoying a third career as a UN Messenger of Peace. It was his idea to bring the U.S. Open drawing to the UN three years ago. "I've always thought that the U.S. Open, being the greatest international event in New York City, should have even more of a profile," says Amritraj, fresh off a goodwill trip to the tsunami-effected regions of Thailand. "And there's no better international home site than the UN."
As for the process itself, it seems too primitive for conspiracy. It begins with two brackets and 28 empty slots on each. Showcased center stage are trophies for the men and women. Before each draw, a trophy is filled with 28 green chips, each with a player's world ranking. The trophy is passed around the room where some lucky scribe or UN staffer draws a chip. The chip is handed over to a USTA official, who calls down the number to head U.S. Open referee Brian Earley, who announces the name over the PA system to hushed oohs and ahhs in the audience.
Earley: Line 105 USTA: Number 24 Earley: Seed No. 24, Mikhail Youzhny. Line 105, Youzhny.
Picture your grandmother at a church bingo tournament, with color commentary from CBS's Mary Joe Fernandez and Patrick McEnroe. Fernandez dressed in a baby blue blazer, while McEnroe donned a blue suit and the family sneer. Some of their more memorable exchanges: McEnroe on Kim Clijsters' chances: "I keep picking her to win majors and she keeps choking." Fernandez on Lleyton Hewitt landing the fourth seed: "I bet he's already mad."
Earley: And for line 120, seed No. 19 Tommy Robredo.
Soon after the final seed is set, Fernandez and McEnroe make a beeline for the door (there was a tournament to staff in New Haven), leaving politicians and tennis heavy-hitters to gather for a little glad-handing on stage. Former New York mayor David Dinkins -- introduced earlier as one of tennis' "greatest fans" -- tried to cut out before the flashbulbs started popping, but to no avail. "I have to tape a radio show at 2," he said before being guided onto the stage.
It'll be another five days before he sees where the chips fall.