US Open diary: A touch of poignancy, a dash of quirk

Diary remembers getting free courtside view tickets, getting amusing statements from the organisers and Francesca's musings after her retirement.

Italy’s Francesca Schiavone announced her retirement at the U.S Open this year.   -  Getty Images

Francesca retires

It was a poignant moment for Diary when Italy’s Francesca Schiavone announced her retirement at the U.S Open this year. Diary remembers Schiavone not only for her transcendent points during the French Open final in 2010 but also because she was the first player Diary interviewed on her first Grand Slam assignment last year. Schiavone had just lost to Kaia Kanepi in the first round, a match Diary and just a handful others witnessed from the hot bleachers on Court 17. Diary remembers thinking, “She is 37, just like Venus Williams. And also a Slam winner. Why isn’t anyone watching her play?” A year later, when she made her way out of the press conference room after announcing her retirement, several media persons followed her. She said, “I never knew so many people loved me!” You will be missed, Francesca.

Freeloading Diary 

David Foster Wallace once wrote, you haven’t watched a tennis match until you’ve watched it live. Watching it on television isn’t a patch on the real deal: the speed at which the ball zips through and the equal speed at which the players run towards it. Diary was fortunate enough to experience this the entire tournament, but even more so when she unexpectedly got tickets to watch the women’s semi-final courtside view. As she was waiting to get to her designated press seats, two unassuming men who were leaving in a huff thrust two tickets in her hand saying, “Take it!” Diary looked down to find tickets worth $950 each and wondered why anyone would give up seats like that. She watched the rest of the semifinal courtside view... only for ‘story purposes’, of course. 

Late-night matches

Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal after their US Open quarterfinal   -  Getty Images

 

Late-night tennis is a 40-year-old tradition at the U.S. Open, and a fitting one considering the all-hours, find-anything-anywhere culture of New York City. Perhaps the most famous: Jimmy Connor's first-round comeback, from two sets to love in 1991, against Patrick McEnroe, that ended at 1:35 a.m. and sent the soon-to-be 39-year-old Connors to his last U.S. Open semifinal. In 2005, Andre Agassi defeated James Blake in a quarterfinal that ended at 1:09 a.m. 

A classic example this year was the quarterfinal clash between Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, easily the best match of the tournament. It was 2:04 am when the players finally hugged. 

Early-morning finishes can be exhilarating for players and the fans who stick around. But is it for journalists? Probably not, considering the many matches lined up for the next day from 11 a.m. For journalists, the best matches are the ones that are exciting and  let you go home soon.  

An Open of statements

It would seem this Open was all about damage control for the United States Tennis Association, at least going by the amount of statements that were released to the press. Diary found it difficult to keep track of all them. Some of the statements she’d thought she’d never hear: 

'All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair.’

‘He [Mohamed Lahyani] came out of the chair because of the noise level in the Stadium during the changeover to make sure he could communicate effectively with Kyrgios.’

‘Millman approached the chair umpire to note his excessive sweating and the moisture it was leaving on the court. The chair determined that the surface was dangerous enough to invoke the 'Equipment Out of Adjustment' provision’

But her favourite: ‘Alison Hughes, of Great Britain, will chair Sunday's US Open men's singles final between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro'