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Tenaciously Tennis


US Open Qualifying: Day One

I just got back from the first day of the US Open Qualifying tournament at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. Although rain delayed play for a few hours, the tournament eventually commenced pitting former top players hampered by injury, rising young talents, and journeymen dedicated to the sport despite rankings hovering in the 200s, and more, against one another in the windy, rainy conditions.

A dog fight ensued, to say the least, and a lot of passion filled the New York City air — both on the court and off. Here’s what happened during my first day back at my favorite tournament of the season.

With the inclement weather, not too many fans showed up to see the inaugural action for the 2010 tournament. Those that did manage to get to the free event, however, embodied the die-hard fan, among a slew of officials, players, and media people.

You could feel the excitement in the air, the crowd’s energy was palpable. Almost everyone looked happy to be there, despite the annoying drizzle that hit the courts just enough to halt action. Personally, I’m always amazed by the energy, and the intensity around the grounds — the players fighting it out on court, players, trainers, vendors, and more rushing to courts, and other obligations, fans hurrying to get see matches, and other activities that fill the time in between.

After taking in the scene — and despite the rain — it was fun just taking it all in and people watching, eating a pretty good vegetarian crepe, and waiting for the rain to subside, workers took to the courts to start the process of drying. With squeegees and other equipment, matches resumed around 2pm.

The first match I watched presented one of the United States’ future hopefuls, Ryan Harrison against Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy of France. Harrison, currently ranked 219, looked sharp in his first round qualifying match. Despite a shaky season so far, the 18-year old played with a impressive variety from stinging slices, high topspin lobs, and wicked forehands that put the French journeymen on the defensive for most of the match.

Near the beginning of the first set, I looked to my left and saw none other than Sam Querrey, the fourth-ranked American after Andy Roddick, John Isner, and a recently resurgent Mardy Fish. The 22nd-ranked Querrey, who’s having a strong US Open Series leading up to the US Open, looked to be supporting the young American, which was refreshing to see.

Harrison, probably inspired by the New York City crowd that heavily on his side, and Querrey, closed out Dasnieres De Veigy 6-1, 6-4.

After taking in some of Katie O’Brien’s match against Lesya Tsurenko — she won in three sets — I got the chance to simultaneously view the end of Anna-Lena Groenefeld’s match against Rika Fujiwara and the start of Michelle Larcher de Brito’s versus Karolina Pliskova.

Groenefeld looked ready to close out the match easily in the second, she was up 4-0. Her serve, however, got shaky, while Fujiwara improved her play with compact swings and raw emotion. The former top 20 player Groenefeld, who’s now ranked 129 in the world, eventually regained her form with poise to close out the match 7-5, 6-3. Seeing Groenefeld brought me back a few years to watching her on television. It was the first tennis match I’d ever watched, and it was fitting I got the chance to see her again today after about six years of watching, playing, and writing about tennis.

In the other match, Larcher de Brito impressed from the start with powerful forehands and a Maria Sharapova-like intensity. After trading service breaks with Pliskova, Larcher de Brito grunted her way to a 6-4, 6-4 win. Near the end of the first set, however, I’d be remiss to forget mentioning another player-sighting — none other than crowd favorite Melanie Oudin, who wowed fans with her surprise quarterfinal run at last year’s event. I was star struck to say the least. Let’s see how Oudin handles the pressure at this year’s tournament with her less-than-stellar results at other events so far this season.

Other matches of note I caught bits and pieces of as the day of tennis continued included: American Bobby Reynolds’ win against Chris Guccione, Sloane Stephens’ victorious match over Anais Laurendon, and Kei Nishikori’s successful play after an elbow injury hampered most of the season versus Paul Capdeville.

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7 Responses to 'US Open Qualifying: Day One'

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  1. jcsnyc said,

    Awesome recap of the day’s events! I feel like I was there.

    Keep up the coverage!

  2. Diane said,

    Lucky you that you got to see some qualifying play–too bad about the rain. Larcher De Brito can really find the angles, but she has so many problems with her serve. Did she double-fault a lot?

    • Ben said,

      I didn’t notice too many service yips this time around. It was great seeing her play! If she can keep the serve on track, I definitely see her getting into the main draw.

  3. Elizabeth said,

    Ben:
    great read – thanks. Looking forward to the next post and today’s sunny!

    Check out this interactive link on the women’s power players – beautiful.
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/08/29/magazine/womens-tennis.html?th&emc=th

    • Shirl said,

      Deep thought! Thanks for coitunbrting.

  4. Stacyann said,

    if I had to choose a seaosn that I love in tennis it would be the grass seaosn. As someone who grew up on the stuff in Jamaica I love it. I was taught by teachers from the UK so that part of me will always remain loyal to that country and that includes its sport and literature, so in this case, I am glad clay seaosn is over and time for the grass. My eyes felt so good this morning looking at green grass and radiant sunshine. This French Open has been an eye opening experience for me as it was the first time I got a different perspective in terms of commentary other than the usual US media hype. I have to disagree with you in terms of whether media personnel took into account Nadal’s injuries last year. They have on many occassions on ESPNI and even moreso during the match. Federer, even though he is not loved around these parts, said without hesitation last year that Nadal’s injuries contributed to him being able to win both the FO and Wimbledon and regain the No.1 ranking. I understand that most people in the States only get to hear one point of view but many others all over the world who are fans of the game hear a different story. For what its worth I thought that Soderling has never been given his due in relation to beating Nadal last year. Everywhere you looked everyone mentions Nadal’s injuries as if that was the reason why he lost. That was not the case. Every player on both tours experience some form of injury and while Nadal’s may have been the most high profile on the men’s tour, there are others who are suffering as a result. In terms of the break outs during this FO, I have a new found love in Bellucci. I like his game, I like how he conducts himself on court and I like that he is not afraid. I hope that he gets his serve working much better than he did in his match against Nadal and that he will be a future champion of the sport. I think one thing that the ATP should really look at in terms of marketing is the fact that after Nadal/Federer, there is nothing. Apart from DelPo, there is really no one who can challenge these guys. Fed is on his way out of the game, only injury can keep Nadal down and DelPo we are not even sure when or if he will be back. It is like wait and see right now.

  5. Jason said,

    I think circumstances in life that are out of our coonrtl make happiness not a choice sometimes, but I think we can often, though not always, choose to IMPROVE our mood by changing our mindset and focusing on the positive. I would never say it is totally a choice and blame people who are unhappy, but with time, I think we can definitely improve things and if it’s a minor thing, choose to let it go and be happy.


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