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U.S. Open marathon man (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday August 30, 2006 6:20PM; Updated: Friday September 1, 2006 1:47PM
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If Bethanie Mattek looked like a pirate, Daniela Hantuchova's 7-5, 6-3 victory made her say,
If Bethanie Mattek looked like a pirate, Daniela Hantuchova's 7-5, 6-3 victory made her say, "Arggghhh."

10) 5:51 p.m.: Monaco-Blake, Armstrong

"Where is Juan Monaco from?" an usher asked me as I awaited the changeover before making it over to my seat. Wasn't sure. Lemme double-check. Argentina, says here. The usher seemed let down. "Wouldn't it be funny if he was from Monaco?"

Gisela Dulko warned me about this. A couple of weeks back I had asked, Dulko, at No. 37 the highest-ranked Argentinean women's player, for a piece for SI Latino about the high volume of tennis talent her country seems to be exporting of late. She assured me I haven't seen anything yet. There are a ton of 'em back home just waiting, she said. Once they get the sponsorship money to travel? Hold on to your straw hat.

Monaco will do nicely in the interim. So far he's underwhelmed in his four years on the ATP tour (some had touted him as the next big thing). But against James Blake he showed flashes of the potential within. Even more impressive than Monaco's shot variety (his touch, in particular, at net was the best I'd seen all day) was his knack for choosing the right one at the right time. The tail end of one second-set exchange saw Blake (on the retreat) lob another well-hit Monaco shot high in the air to stay in the point, then Monaco, instead of slamming home the return (as Blake was bracing), dropping the shot just over the net for the winner. Soon it was 3-3 in the second, time for the (fractured) J-Block -- two aisles off of the north JumboTron -- to make themselves heard:

"Wake up, New York!"

"Here we go, Jimmy Kid!"

"What's the matter with those people?" a woman behind me wondered aloud. "They're crazy."

11) 6:24 p.m.: Golovin-Harkleroad, Grandstand

Quite the contrast in scene from Monfils-Russell more than four hours earlier. Tatiana Golovin is up 6-3 and there is more trash here than people. A pair of pigeons pulls up some pine a few rows up and over from me behind the south baseline. They strut around for a while -- like most Open patrons -- then fly away just before Golovin goes up 2-0 in the second. I try casting off with them only to be stopped by an event staffer who insists I wait for the changeover. But there's nobody here, I plead. I wish I could fly. (Curse these featherless arms!)

12) 6:50 p.m.: Hantuchova-Mattek, Court 10

American Bethanie Mattek is my early favorite for Outfit of the Open. Get this getup: short-sleeve cream pirate shirt, lace bandana, brown napkin-length mini, matching cream, knee-high socks, rimmed with a white ribbon tied in a bow at the top. The sequins on the front of her shirt wouldn't come into view until the changeover. (And, boy, did she sparkle under the lights!) Not surprisingly this isn't Mattek's first fashion offense: At Wimbledon last June she rented out her bosom at a Belgian chocolate maker and Web-based travel review, both of whom had paid $1,000 to display twin patches on the 21-year-old's white tube top. At last year's Open, she was fined for wearing a cowboy hat to her first-round match.

A hoop earring would've finished off this year's look nicely. (Maybe she could've borrowed one from Serena.) Jack Sparrow took a 2-1 lead in the first before I decided it was time to move my booty to another court.

13) 7:05 p.m.: Kendrick-Murray, Court 11

Easily my most anticipated match of the day. I've been silently man-crushing on Andy Murray since he put away Andy Roddick at Wimbledon earlier this year. He's got all the shots and now Roddick's old coach, Brad Gilbert, whose job it is to help Murray put all those strokes together. I watched him wow the crowd with a few of the on the way to a 5-2 lead in the first set. The matched seemed in control. I'm off to find a tighter one.