Around the Grounds: Labor Day at the 2018 US Open (Day 8)

Robert Cole/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


NEW YORK – Once more, on another Labor Day, let us do all of the work for you!

We have currently hit the business end of the 2018 US Open, as well as the business end of A Lot of Sports Talk‘s live blogging experience at the 2018 US Open. The past few days have focused on feature stories on players who had played matches on outer courts earlier in the tournament, including Kaia Kanepi and Taylor Fritz, and we have a couple of more features on the way. But, for today, we are going back to our roots and will be roaming the grounds once more – all while trying to beat the heat, which did cause us to not be so nomadic during the middle of last week. But there is so much to take in today, and there are a few intriguing matches that will take place outside of Ashe Stadium.

To begin action on Louis Armstrong Stadium, 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori looks to make it back to the quarters when he takes on Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. Nishikori has made it to the quarterfinals in two of his last three appearances in New York, but still is rounding into form after a right wrist injury forced him to miss the US Open last season, along with the rest of the season.

An unseeded player in the women’s draw is guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals, as Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who took out No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round, will take on Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova, who dazzled in her three-set victory over No. 13 Kiki Bertens, a match that ended in a third-set tiebreak.

There are also some amazing players and action on the doubles side, and a few of the top women’s singles players will be in action in doubles; Elise Mertens, CoCo Vandeweghe, Ashleigh Barty and Anastasija Sevastova will all be on the court today taking part in doubles.

We will make sure to keep downing liquids so we are able to blog for the long haul today. Or, so we hope! Stay tuned and keep hitting the refresh button for our updates from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Like always, we absolutely encourage you to contact us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram and let us know where on the grounds we should blog from. We always love your feedback.

Let’s have some fun, shall we? Latest entries are at the top of the page.


6:10 PM EST: Some good news and some bad news. The bad? No Sevastova interview. The good? We have pictures! They’ll be placed at the top of the blog, and the first pics will be of the Vondrousova-Tsurenko match, which Tsurenko managed to pull out after looking as if she was going to pass out during the first set. The shade did end up rolling in on Grandstand and Tsurenko needed the reprieve from the sun. The Ukrainian makes her first-ever Grand Slam singles quarterfinal, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-2.

4:50 PM EST: Now we have to leave! Anastasija (Sevastova) and Anastasia (Pavlyuchenkova) just won! Time to get re ady for a possible interview. Oh, and Tsurenko just broke to get things back on serve in the second. 2-1 Vondrousova, who won the first set.

4:47 PM EST: It’s now 30-30 with Vondrousova serving at 2-0. Now 30-40 after a double fault from the Czech. Hey, where’s the “Lesia’s The Best!” chant?!?!?!?

4:46 PM EST: Vondrousova breaks for 2-0 after a Tsurenko double fault. Oh, and the annoying yeller has left the building. Woohoo!

4:44 PM EST: We said we were going to leave. We haven’t. Guess we can wait for the first changeover. Vondrousova hels to start the second set. Tsurenko serving and it’s now 15-30. Now 15-40 after a Tsurenko double fault.

4:41 PM EST: Looks like a Czech family has just parked right behind us here in the media seating. At least I can learn some Czech, but, as tennis pro and fellow Czech Denisa Allertova told us a couple of years ago here at the US Open, the Czech language is so hard to lean that even she, born and raised in the Czech Republic, isn’t perfect with the language.

4:39 PM EST: Time for us to head out now…and, as we say that, Tsurenko emerges. Still, we’ll head out. We need to check out the doubles match involving Anastasija Sevastova right now on Court 17. If she and her partner, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, win the match, there’s a chance we will interview Sevastova! That will be fun!

4:36 PM EST: Vondrousova wins the tiebreak. Tsurenko is taking a bathroom break, and is slowly walking off the court. To be honest, I’m not sure she can make it two more sets, which she has to if she wants to advance to the quarters. We definitely won’t make it two more full sets in this heat; Unlike Armstrong, where there was enough shade, the sun is BEATING DOWN on this court! Vondrousova, for her credit, is just sitting in her chair with the ice towels draped around her neck. She wants to go back out on the court ASAP! And why not? She has all the momentum.

4:32 PM EST: Over the past few days, there is a fan roaming around the grounds and chanting, “WHO IS THE BEST? ______ IS THE BEST!,” with the blank filled in with the last name of the person he’s cheering for at that moment. It. Is. Annoying! So much so that the chair umpire, gold-badge holder Juan Zhang, just called him out on the public address. Thank you!!

4:31 PM EST: Players change ends with Vondrousova leading 4-2 in first-set tiebreak.

4:31 PM EST: Vondrousova with the minibreak at 3-2 after an overhead smash winner.

4:30 PM EST: Server holds first on four points. Tsurenko serving at 2-2 in tiebreak.

4:27 PM EST: Tsurenko breaks back! First-set tiebreak coming up!

4:26 PM EST: On set point, a long rally ends with a Vondrousova forehand into the net. Both players doubled over afterward. Vondrousova tried a couple of drop shots, but Tsurenko was up to the challenge each time.

4:23 PM EST: Tsurenko is making a game of this Vondrousova service game, and now has a break point at 30-40. Now a Tsurenko backhand goes long, and it’s deuce.

4:21 PM EST: Now we’re at the Grandstand, where either unseeded Lesia Tsurenko or unseeded Marketa Vondrousova will make it to the quarterfinals. As we come to the stadium, Tsurenko is breathing heavily during the changeover while accompanied by a trainer. Already saw that Tsurenko has had to take a medical timeout. Oh, the score…Vondrousova has the break at 6-5, and is serving for the first set.

4:00 PM EST: “Even if I broke a leg, I had to get to every ball.” – Osaka, describing what she needed to do to pull this one out. Well, she won and did not break a leg at the same time! Everyone wins!

3:59 PM EST: The magic runs out for Sabalenka as she throws in a double on match point! Osaka moves on to the quarters, as Sabalenka’s racquet is hurtled to the ground in frustration. A few murmurs from the crowd, but I can definitely understand her frustration. Tough match, and Osaka moves on to the quarterfinals.

3:57 PM EST: Back to deuce now. A fan in the stands just made everyone chuckle by yelling, “PLEASE, NAOMI! PLEASE!” And now it’s match point once again for Osaka!

3:56 PM EST: Now it’s game point for Harry Houdini, err, Sabalenka.

3:56 PM EST: For now, that answer is YES! A forehand return into the net from Osaka and it’s deuce!

3:55 PM EST: Sabalenka wins next two points. Still match point. Can Sabalenka once again pull this out of the fire?

3:54 PM EST: DOUBLE FAULT! Triple match point for Osaka!

3:53 PM EST: Guess what? A forehand into the net and a backhand going wide, both from Sabalenka, and it’s 0-30. Sometimes, I should just shut my mouth.

3:51 PM EST: I blink a couple of times and BOOM! Service game over. Osaka holds, throws in two aces during service game. It’s 5-4 to Osaka, and she has had a couple of good looks at Sabalenka’s serve, including holding triple break point a couple of games ago. Sabalenka has gotten out of trouble most of the time, but she cannot afford to get down in her service game now since she has to hold to stay in the match.

3:49 PM EST: Four straight points from Sabalenka and she holds for 4-4 in the third set.

3:47 PM EST: Some of the Japanese written press have made their way into Armstrong now and are sitting next to me. I would say “hello” in Japanese, but I cannot. At least I can say “arigato” for not minding sitting next to me. Arigato means thank you.

3:46 PM EST: Sabalenka in trouble once more on her serve, as a terrible miss on a backhand at the net and it’s 0-30.

3:43 PM EST: Osaka with another routine hold, and it’s 4-3 to the Japanese in the final set. Lets’ get to see a final set tiebreak in person!! Come on, ladies! Make it happen!

3:41 PM EST: Forehand winner that catches the sideline from Sabalenka and she indeed does dig her way out of deep trouble! 3-3 in the final set.

3:40 PM EST: Sabalenka fights back and wards off all three break point chances from Osaka. Now an Osaka forehand goes long, setting up game point for Sabalenka.

3:37 PM EST: How quickly momentum has shifted in this match! Sabalenka was up a break about five minutes ago at 2-1, and now, after getting broken back and Osaka holding afterward, Sabalenka is down 0-40.

3:34 PM EST: Osaka up 40-15 in her service game, and is really trying to get herself going with a couple of fist pumps after points won. And another fist pump as an ace completes the service hold.

3:31 PM EST: Osaka breaks back!! 2-2.

3:31 PM EST: Osaka now with a break chance after a Sabalenka double fault and a forehand error. 30-40.

3:29 PM EST: Though not a surprise, especially given the Japanese press following Osaka, the camera well is packed!

3:26 PM EST: Now a shriek from Osaka as she dumps running forehand into the net. It’s 15-40 and Sabalenka has a couple of looks at a break…and Sabalenka breaks!! A two-handed backhand volley winner at the net and Sabalenka is up a break in the third at 2-1.

3:25 PM EST: A return winner from Sabalenka and an unforced error on Osaka forehand and it’s 0-30. A couple of racket taps to the ground from Osaka as she’s under threat at 1-1 in the final set.

3:24 PM EST: Sabalenka also holds at 15, closes game out with a running forehand that smacks the sideline.

3:21 PM EST: Osaka loses the first point on her serve to start third set, then wins four straight to hold.

3:19 PM EST: Heat break over and the third set is underway. At the moment, most of the spectators and media are in the shade, and there’s a nice, cool breeze that we’re feeling right now. I’m not moving.

3:11 PM EST: What we can do now is tell you that I just came across this story earlier today from Business Insider about the popularity of Sabalenka’s Instagram account. Yup, definitely would want her life right now…well, except for all the endless hours of training, of course.

3:10 PM EST: Chair umpire announces a 10-minute heat advisory break. Hmmm…to stay in the building or head to another court?

3:08 PM EST: We have made it to Armstrong, where, at the moment, Aryna Sabalenka is one point away from forcing a third set against Naomi Osaka. And an ace seals it for the Belorussian at 6-2. Osaka won the first set, 6-3.

1:26 PM EST: Serving for the match at 5-4, Nishikori is broken. Good fightback from Kohlschreiber to even things at 5-5. Now I need to show some fightback and make it outside! This air conditioning is sucking me in!

1:08 PM EST: Nishikori breaks, and it’s 4-3 in the third.

12:50 PM EST: We might head to Louis Armstrong first, as Nishikori is up two sets on Kohlschreiber, and on serve in the third.

12:07 PM EST: …and that was to change out of my jeans and into my basketball shorts. I would not make it an hour if I were to be walking around and sitting on sun-baked seats while in jeans.

11:45 AM EST: We are here and are doing our best to try finish setting up here and head outside, even though it feels like 95 degrees outside. Actually, there is something I really need to do first…

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