Fifty parting shots (cont.)
Everyone's favorite shotmaker, Fabrice Santoro, now places third on the all-time list with his 65th Slam played. And he intends to continue on in 2009. But he really disappointed here. Unable to summon the magic, he lost to Roddick. And he said this about Roddick's ace to the body. "If it was a mistake, then it was the biggest mistake of his life." Please tell me something was lost in the translation.
I'm told that the Human Growth Hormone (HgH) is now among the drugs for which tennis players are being tested.
As long as we're discussing dark topics, as Julie Coin was beating top-seeded Ana Ivanovic, I attempted -- for research purposes, of course -- to find the odds on this upset. All gambling sites had been blocked at the U.S. Open.
Next year pay special attention to the music being played (too loudly) in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The deejay has a wicked sense of humor. A personal favorite: blaring Footloose after Djokovic got treatment on his ankle.
Name the former U.S. Open champion who wasn't even invited to participate in the Opening Night Ceremony. Answer: Martina Hingis. Under her absurd ITF ban she is prohibited from even attending official tennis functions. (This was the same rule that kept the then-suspended Guillermo Canas from watching his girlfriend play several years ago.)
Remember Justine Henin? Talented Belgian, about yay high. She was the No. 1 player -- with a 1,700-point lead -- when she retired? Defending champ. She returned from a vacation to Greece and is beginning home schooling.
Speaking of Belgium, a sad one: Xavier Malisse, an exceptional talent who never quite got it together, lost in the first round of the qualies. Maybe he's next year's Gilles Muller.
One of Federer's best friends will be getting married next weekend in Mallorja. So Federer will be headed to The Land of Nadal in a few days.
Props to Maria Deignan, a 47-year-old Tennessean who took a 19-hour Greyhound ride to attend ballkid tryouts in June. She made the cut and worked matches last week.
Something to watch for: the graying of the "ballkids." I swear, for many matches, the average age of the officials was less those of the "kids" squatting at the net. Insert Kramer reference here.
A shame to see Lindsay Davenport go out so unpleasantly, serving abysmally in a loss to Marion Bartoli. If this is the end, it was a fine ride.
If I'm the WTA, I'm looking for a new title sponsor. Sony Ericsson's profit plunged 97 percent last quarter. Pretty hard to justify spending 10 figures on Svetlana Kuznetsova et al. On the plus side, the WTA -- Sony Ericsson WTA -- is making so much money from the year-end championship derby that the tour will be fine. Oh, if only Larry Scott had been CEO during the early '80s glory days ...
On the other hand, if you haven't thrown your proverbial hat in the ring -- or leaned on a journalist to tout your candidacy -- to become the ATP's new leader, you're in the minority. Regardless of who gets the job, let's hope the ATP board has the good sense to correct a fatal mistake from last time and hire both a president and chief executive.
Etienne deVilliers will not continue on after 2008. And in other news, the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. Still, we never quite understood why the guy triggered so much animosity, particularly among the players. He jacked up prize money during a global recession. He had a mandate for change, and he tried to shake things up. The biggest criticism was ... what? Too many Disney war stories? Too little communication with players who, in theory, have their board members? A failed experiment with round robin at a rinky dink tournament? Tinkering with Monte Carlo? That's one tough room.
For all the talk of the "Olympic effect," let the record reflect that all eight semifinalists competed in Beijing.
One of my great pet peeves is that U.S. Open Series bonus money. What an absolute waste. Your organization faces a budget shortfall. Thanks largely to fewer American players, television revenue is down. So what do you do? Cut fat checks to Dinara Safina, Marion Bartoli, Gilles Simon et al because they happened to perform well at North American events that were often mandatory to begin with. Juan Martin del Potro has a chance to win the "series" had he only entered the New Haven event. Yet he, commendably, refused a wild card. If he isn't seduced by the money to add more U.S. events to his schedule, do you really think Roger Federer will be?
Speaking of JMDP, good to see him living up to the hype and reaching the quarters. A friend of mine did however make this excellent observation: " I couldn't count the number of points Del Potro could've won easily if he'd just taken two more strides to the net. God gives you the wingspan of a 747 and you decide, 'Nah, I'll play as if I had Guillermo Caņas's body.'"
One of our moles got a glimpse of Serena Williams' stringing order: "Natural gut at 65 pounds." There's a pro that still uses natural gut?
We talk (relentlessly) about the globalization of tennis. But what do we make of the fact that when the rankings came out the first Monday of the tournament, only three countries -- Serbia, Russia and the U.S. -- were represented in the WTA top 10?
Speaking of Russians, it was good of Maria Sharapova to show up at the Open. A recurring rotator cuff/shoulder injury is serious business. We hear she's rehabbing in Arizona and will begin hitting in late September. We can only hope she's back strong in 2009.
A few of you asked why so many players retired midway through their matches. Obviously the conditions and the best-of-five have something to do with this. But consider the prize money. A player failing to win a game in either singles and doubles took home $23,500. Easy to see why a player -- particular one ranked between 50 and 100 -- would stay in the draw, even if they were in suboptimal health. Worst case scenario: you start to play, come up lame and get a nice check.
This came to me secondhand, but during Michael Llodra's second-round match against Murray, Llodra walked over to a fan and posed for a photo. He returned to the baseline and served two aces.
From the same match, Duncan of New York notes: "Hi Jon, I was at the Grandstand on Thursday watching the Murray-Llodra match and there was a heckler in the back of the stadium. At one point, after Llodra hit a shot, he shouted something to the effect of, "You make me want to gouge my eyes out." And a few minutes later, on a Llodra error, "Go back to France, Llodra." The crowd immediately booed him and a few games later applauded when he was escorted out by security at the changeover.
"The whole episode made me very happy because, despite what the rest of the world may or may not think of the U.S. and the politicization of sports in recent times (especially at the Olympics), it's nice to know that not too much of that has crept into tennis."
Love this line from M. NG of Vancouver, B.C.: "The qualifiers who had excelled -- Thiago Alves, Bjorn Phau, etc. -- remind me of the domestiques in Tour de France who tried hopeless breakaways. It gave them screen time and maybe some endorsement. And sometimes, a win."
Suicide Pool full disclosure. I was KO'd from the men's pool by Janko Tipsarevic, who was a non-starter because of injury. I lasted until the middle Sunday in the women's draw, but Marion Bartoli clipped me when she lost to Sybille Bammer.
One last Random Encounter with a pro:
Sri Sambamurthy of Short Hills, N.J.: "Last week as I was coming back with my 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, we spotted Rafa Nadal near the Will Call VIP section away from all the crowds and autograph seekers. There was a security guy with him. I took a chance and approached Rafa to see if my kids could take a picture. The security guy was trying to say no, but Rafs was generous and said yes. Rafa took a picture with my kids, waited patiently when my camera was acting up and high-fived my son. The picture has come out really nice and needless to say made the day (and rest of tennis season) for both my kids, who are avid tennis players, especially my son, who is also a huge Nadal fan. I can send the picture but don't know where to send it. In any event, to your point, little gestures could be so important and meaningful and do make a big difference."
HAVE A GREAT WEEK EVERYONE!