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Around the Grounds: Day 5 at the 2016 US Open

After roaring back to win his first-round match against Frances Tiafoe in the first round, John Isner had an easier time on the court on Wednesday. (Photo: Robert Cole)
After roaring back to win his first-round match against Frances Tiafoe, John Isner had an easier time on the court on Wednesday. He plays Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund on Armstrong today. (Photo: Robert Cole)

Summertime, and the living is easy. Making it into the fourth round at a Grand Slam never is easy.

Day 5 of the 2016 US Open will obviously provide high drama, but this is when, usually, the business end of Grand Slam tournaments starts, with many of the winners in singles making it into the Round of 16. Looking at the schedule of matches, there’s a lot of intrigue with players looking for landmark victories against players who have been at or near the top of the Grand Slam mountain. Here’s what we are talking about:

The first match on Louis Armstrong pits German Carina Witthöft, who has never made it past the third round of a major, takes on last year’s finalist, Roberta Vinci. After that, on the same court, Jack Sock is looking to make just his second-ever Round of 16 appearance at a major. All he has to do is defeat the 2014 champion, Marin Cilic, who is playing his best tennis and is coming off a win at the Cincinnati Masters 1000 event. Then there’s the second match on Court 17, where once highly-regarded American prospect Ryan Harrison, who had to qualify just to get into the US Open main draw this year, takes on Marcos Baghdatis. That might not seem like a huge deal, but don’t forget that it was 10 years ago when Baghdatis made his surprise run to the Australian Open final, even taking the first set off of Roger Federer in that match in the process before succumbing to the Fed Express. Harrison’s win over Milos Raonic on Wednesday advanced him to the third round, already marking his best-ever showing in a Grand Slam. Just imagine if he was to pull off the win today?

Also, stay tuned for our Day 4 photo gallery from yesterday! And, after the afternoon wraps up, we’ll have a Day 5 photo gallery from play during today’s day session.

Less talking and more walking…and then more talking after we walk. Again, the most recent blog entries are on the top!

 

9:42 PM EST: We’re going to call it a night and maybe catch the last express “A” train back to Bed-Stuy. As much as we love doing this everyday and staying on the grounds until the wee hours of the night, I wouldn’t mind getting somewhere 6-8 hours of sleep one night during the two weeks. Take care, everyone! Again, stay tuned for photo galleries and on-cam interviews.

9:32 PM EST: Second, I was able to snap this picture of Jimmy Connors, as I was involved in a conversation with Jimmy, his daughter, Aubree, and American tennis legendary figure Dave “Koz” Kozlowski.

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9:30 PM EST: A couple of good notes to end on. First, today was a record-setting day in terms of attendance, as the combined attendance of 65,286 set a new record for combined attendance in a single day. Also, the evening session attendance of 25,006 sets a new evening session attendance record. It’s a good thing I don’t mind walking around in crowded spaces, being a native New Yorker.

9:26 PM EST: We’ve touched all of the courts that we said we were going to hit, but our laptop didn’t want to cooperate with logging on to the Internet. Quickly, Pouille took care of Bautista Agut on Court 17 in five sets, taking care of business in the final frame at 6-1. On Armstrong, Kyle Edmund, a man who my photographer, Robert, described as “he looks like he’s 10,” was a grown man is blunting John Isner’s serve, especially in the fourth-set tiebreak to defeat the American in four. We saw part of the second set involving the men’s doubles match between the Italians (Fognini/Seppi) and Americans (Johnson/Querrey), which the Americans won after an early break in the set. But it was Fognini and Seppi that came away with the win in three sets, 6-3 in the third. Oh, and I talked with Jimmy Connors for the first time!!

7:05 PM EST: I JUST MET JIMMY CONNORS! I JUST MET JIMMY CONNORS!!!

6:16 PM EST: Spare a thought for Naomi Osaka. Only a couple of hours after her most disappointing loss in here professional career (yes, she’s only 18, but still), she has to take the court again with her doubles partner, Kurumi Nara. Another problem? They’re taking on the No. 1 women’s doubles team in the world, Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia. As expected, the Frenchwomen are doing the job so far, up 6-3, 3-1 right now on Court 13.

6:05 PM EST: And right before we leave, Evans and Kyrgios complete their win (6-4, 6-2) and Steve Johnson/Sam Querrey team take the court on Court 5. OK, time for dinner.

6:00 PM EST: Time to recharge. Sorry, Fritz/Paul (a.k.a. Prince Paul) and Evans/Kyrgios, but we have to charge this laptop, eat some wings and then go back out onto the courts. Our plan, after wings, is to head to Court 17 (Pouille/Bautista Agut), then Armstrong (Isner-Edmund), then back to Court 5 for the doubles match of Fognini-Seppi and the Americans, Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey. .

5:58 PM EST: Game. Set. Match. Makarova/Vesnina close it out. Stosur, one of the nicest people on tour, still signing lots of autographs, even in defeat. She’ll always be a champion here in New York.

5:54 PM EST: Going to stay until the end of the match on Court 5, and it’s 15-15 as Vesnina is on serve, looking to close things out.

5:51 PM EST: Zhang winner forces deuce, Makarova error then Stosur forehand winner keep the team of Sam and Shuai alive. Ah, I now have a new nickname for that team: Sam Shuai and the Pharaohs. “Wooly Bully!!”

5:50 PM EST: Zhang butchers a forehand put-away volley at the net and it’s match point for Makarova/Vesnina at 30-40.

5:49 PM EST: Stosur’s serve has been vulnerable since coming to the court, and she is down 0-30 as she’s trying to keep her team in the match down 3-5.

5:48 PM EST: Makarova/Vesnina are able to hold for 5-3. Kyrgios goes from playfully being upset to being somewhat chafed, as another questionable call draws his ire.

5:46 PM EST: Three straight points for Zhang/Stosur and they have a break point…which is saved by the Russians. Sorry, other courts, you’ll have to wait. Even though out vantage point for Court 5 is the absolute pits.

5:44 PM EST: Makarova/Vesnina still up a break at 4-3 and now up 30-0 on Makarova’s serve. Evans/Kyrgios take the first set. Kyrgios, after a disputed call, kneels at the area where he thinks the ball was out and chats with the line judge on the far side. After that, serves an ace and has another chat. He’s a funny guy, isn’t he?!

5:38 PM EST: Despite the pictures and (somewhat) detailed reporting from Court 5, do know that we have the worst seats on this court. There’s a thick light post right in our sight line. Before walking upstairs, I looked up to see if there were any seats in the upper deck. I saw two at the end of the row open amidst the packed upper section. Let’s just say that there was a reason these seats were empty…

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5:37 PM EST: Quick hold for Makarova/Vesnina for 4-2. Kyrgios makes crowd laugh once again with something he says. (Inaudible to my ears, except for the ensuing laughter.) Hmm, should we leave now?

5:35 PM EST: Every time I hear the chair umpire say “Fritz/Paul,” I think of the legendary rap producer and singer Prince Paul. If you’ve heard of Prince Paul before today and know who he is, you’re awesome!

5:33 PM EST: Here’s Kate and Elena, which, I believe, would be the renaming of the TV series “Kate and Allie” if it was televised in Russia.

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5:32 PM EST: Still on 4/5 because it’s been fun. Makarova/Vesnina have triple break point at 2-2 on Stosur’s serve. Two points later, a Vesnina backhand is too much for Zhang at the net, and Russians now up a break at 3-2.

5:24 PM EST: Nice ovation after Stosur/Zhang hold for 2-1 after a long game. Crowds on Court 4 and 5 are jam packed. As exciting as this is, we might head over to Court 17 soon, where there’s a singles match between Lucas Pouille and Roberto Bautista Agut.

5:21 PM EST: Foes yesterday, teammates today. Stosur and Zhang in a battle on Court 5…

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5:16 PM EST: …or maybe not, as long as you, your partner, and your opponents all shop at the University of Oregon athletics store! I definitely shouldn’t have left my shades at home – both for the sun and the shirts!

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5:12 PM EST: Just a few feet away, Nick Kyrgios is hitting volleys at the net in the most casual fashion…then hits a backhand volley winner and poses for a few seconds after the shot. Crowd beyond amused and amazed. OK, Nick, I’ll watch you more in doubles then, too!…

5:10 PM EST: She’s also not afraid to tattoo you with a ball at the net, as she did just now in hitting Stosur with a forehand volley (unintentionally, of course) to give Russians 7-6 lead in tiebreak. Then a Stosur errant forehand gives the Russians the set! Third set on Court 5.

5:09 PM EST: This seems like the perfect time to put up our interview from a couple of days ago of Elina Vesnina after she won her second-round singles match. She’s a funny lady!


 

5:07 PM EST: Three match points to be exact, and the Russians have staved off the first two match points. NOW THE THIRD! 6-6. Great fight back!

5:06 PM EST: It’s now 5-3 to Stosur/Zhang. Yes, Makarova and Vesnina are a great doubles team, but Stosur is also an accomplished doubles player. Now, the Stosur/Zhang team has match point.

5:03 PM EST: But we have gotten lucky, as we now are in between Courts 4 and 5, and an interesting match going on here on Court 5. We have the gold medal winners in women’s doubles, Ekaterina MAkarova and Elena Vesnina, taking on the team of Shuai Zhang and Samantha Stosur. Stosur and Zhang were on opposite ends of the court yesterday, as Zhang defeated Stosur in singles play. Now, they’re up a set and 3-0 in the second-set tiebreak against the Rio gold medalists.

4:45 PM EST: So by the time we get to Armstrong, Kvitova is able to close out her match against Svitolina. Just our luck.

4:15 PM EST: OK, we NEED to make it over to Louis Armstrong again. It’s getting neglected. Unintentionally, of course, but we need to make it over there. After Sock’s win over Cilic there, it’s two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova against the woman who eliminated Serena in the third round of the Rio Olympics, Elina Svitolina.

3:53 PM EST: Finally, Jo Konta is all smiles after her win over Belinda Bencic…

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3:49 PM EST: But Maddie persevered, winning the third set in a tiebreak (7-3) and coming back from a 2-5 deficit in the final frame…

Keys' forehand is one of the best on the WTA Tour, and she needed it to bail her out of trouble today. (Photo: Robert Cole)
Keys’ forehand is one of the best on tour, and she needed it to bail her out of trouble today. (Photo: Robert Cole)

 

3:47 PM EST: Here’s Madison, and we all have had this look before when it feels like it’s not going to be your day…

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3:46 PM EST: It’s photos time! And it couldn’t have come at a better time, given the thriller we were all treated to between Naomi Osaka and Madison Keys. Thanks once again to Robert Cole for the great shots! First off, here’s Osaka serving during the first set…

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3:45 PM EST: Good job, Jack Sock! He’s on to the Round of 16 for only the second time at a major after a straight sets-victory over 2014 champion Marin Cilic. Definitely looks and sounds like he’s healthy!

3:33 PM EST: Here’s another photo of Feliciano Lopez from yesterday, just because I want to…

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3:25 PM EST: We’re next to Ashe, but not watching any matches. We’re watching practice on the practice courts. As of now, I’m sitting right above Jared Donaldson, who’s alive still after winning three matches in qualifying, then defeating No. 12 David Goffin and Viktor Triocki in the first two rounds of the main draw.

3:22 PM EST: From the sounds of Ashe Stadium, I think the match is over. And OMG, Keys won in a third-set tiebreak! 7-3 in the tiebreak. Man, that’s heartbreaking for Osaka: up a double break in the third set (4-1) and not able to close it out. Keys, like in Rio, able to wiggle out of huge trouble to get a victory.

3:13 PM EST: Here is last year’s women’s singles finalist, Roberta Vinci, in the press conference after her win.

Vinci, always radiant. (Photo: Robert Cole)
Vinci, always radiant. (Photo: Robert Cole)

 

3:11 PM EST: Rob and I have made it to the New Grandstand, where Johanna Konta, two days after her harrowing experience with the heat in her three-set win against Tsvetana Pironkova, is putting a beatdown on No. 24 Eelinda Bencic. And a forehand winner gives Konta the match and an appearance in the Round of 16. Good job, Jo. Wow, and she won in only 52 minutes!

3:03 PM EST: It’s a good thing Osaka had a double break. Gets broken, and now Keys up 40-0 on her serve. 5-3 Osaka in third set.

2:55 PM EST: Well, look at this?! Actually, we’re not on Ashe actually looking, but Naomi Osaka has turned it around and is just a game away from upsetting No. 8 Madison Keys. It’s 5-7, 6-4, 5-1 to Osaka. When seeing her earlier this year in the Australian Open (made third round, defeated Elina Svitolina in second round), I thought she was going to be something special. A Round of 16 appearance in New York would definitely be something special.

1:50 PM EST: Some rock solid serving from Sock and he takes the first, 6-4.

1:50 PM EST: Sock with the break! It’s 4-3 to the American.

1:38 PM EST: About to make my way out to Armstrong – FINALLY! – to start talking about Sock and Cilic. After Novak and Andy, I believe Cilic is my No. 3 option to win this event, even ahead of some other strong candidates. We’ll see if the Armstrong crowd can carry Sock to a big win. Sock looks to be fine after his bout with walking pneumonia while in Rio.

1:23 PM EST: Tuning in to Armstrong on our monitor, we also just saw Roberta Vinci wrapping up her tough match against Carina Witthöft (or Witthoeft, if you’re not about putting in umlauts), winning 6-0, 5-7, 6-3. Impressed by Witthöft, and her height and ball-striking ability will, I believe, lead her into the Top 20, maybe higher. Vinci on to the Round of 16, and if she somehow is able to make it back to the final for a second consecutive year, that would be an astounding achievement. Also, I’ll take up learning Italian!

1:11 PM EST: We’re here, after a nice long rest last night/this morning. Just came in to see Caroline Wozniacki on the verge of wrapping up her match against Monica Niculescu. Caroline might be sliding down the rankings, but New York definitely seems to bring out the best from the two-time US Open Finalist (2009, 2014). Also, she’s a fan favorite here, and that definitely won’t hurt as she tries to recapture her form which once saw her sit atop the WTA Tour rankings.

 


[Cover photo (Feliciano Lopez) courtesy of Robert Cole]

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