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Around the Grounds: Day 1 at the 2019 US Open

Robert Cole/ALOST

 

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

 

NEW YORK – The biggest flashpoint during last year’s US Open happened toward the very end of the fortnight, as the women’s singles final — and the happenings during the match — eventually spawned a national debate about double standards and sexism that overshadowed the actual winner of the tournament. One of the centerpieces in that controversy also is the main headliner as the latest edition of the United States Open Tennis Championships begins today.

For the sixth consecutive year, A Lot of Sports Talk will roam around the grounds during the the next two weeks as part of our live blogging experience at the US Open in our effort to consume more tennis than one’s eyeballs can possibly take in for 14 consecutive days. Unlike past years, the start of the tournament will feature temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s, perfect conditions to take a few strolls around the grounds in taking in as many of the 64 singles matches on offer in each of the first two days!

Day 1 features Serena Williams’ latest chance to tie Margaret Smith Court’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles, a pursuit that ended one win short last season as she lost in the final to Naomi Osaka in a match that will not soon be forgotten, given all of the happenings between her and chair umpire Carlos Ramos. The biggest star of the women’s game ended up drawing the person who probably is the second-biggest attraction on the WTA Tour, five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, in a hard-to-believe first-round match. Both have dealt with injuries in recent months, including Serena having to retire during the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto against Bianca Andreescu a couple of weeks back.

Other players to feature on Ashe include defending French Open champion Ashleigh Barty on the women’s side and past US Open champions and legends Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the men’s side. Djokovic begins his title US Open title defense against Roberto Caraballes Baena of Spain while Fed takes on Sumit Nagal of India in the nightcap.

Along with the matches, one of the highlights of Day 1 will also be an unveiling of a statue in tribute to Althea Gibson, the pioneering tennis great who broke the color barrier in the sport of tennis and who win 11 majors in a three-year span from 1956-1958 — including singles titles at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. It not only is a well-deserved honor, it is one that is long, LONG overdue at the National Tennis Center. We actually caught a sneak peek of the statue earlier in the week, but we felt uneasy putting those pictures that we took of it before its actual public unveiling today. See how considerate we are?!

We probably will be at Ashe Stadium some time today but, as most of you know, we usually like to do our live blogging away from Ashe to be part of the lovely experience that is walking around the outer courts to find some great action involving players that you might know…as well as players and storylines that you might not know as of yet. As we said, we’ll be in the borough of Queens throughout the entire tournament, so 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.

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10:30 PM EDT:  Fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka struggled to close out Jannik Simmer, but he does so in four sets. Madison Keys now up next on Armstrong. Back out onto the courts shortly, as it looks like there’s still action on Court 4.

10:18 PM EDT:  Fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka struggled to close out Jannik Simmer, but he does so in four sets. Madison Keys now up next on Armstrong. Back out onto the courts shortly, as it looks like there’s still action on Court 4.

10:15 PM EDT:  Federer is in a spot of bother, like the match two years ago in the first round against Tiafoe. Can he turn it around like he did back then?

Federer on the back foot right now! Can he turn it around?

10:12 PM EDT:  Federer holds for 1-0 to start the second set and now just broke for 2-0!

10:09 PM EDT:  Stat from ESPN: Federer has a losing record (38-41) in Grand Slam matches all-time when losing the first set, 10-8 at the US Open.

9:57 PM EDT:  Stat from ESPN: Federer has a losing record (38-41) in Grand Slam matches all-time when losing the first set, 10-8 at the US Open.

9:54 PM EDT:  First set to Sumit Nagal! This is not a misprint! Just when I thought that going to Ashe wouldn’t be in the cards, this happens! A couple of years ago, Federer was pushed to five sets against Frances Tiafoe and, somehow, this match has the same tenor. The five o’clock shadow look definitely worked better for Djoker than for Roger at the moment!

9:53 PM EDT:  SET POINT FOR NAGAL! NO, NOT NADAL! NAGAL!!

9:51 PM EDT:  Both Americans previously mentioned lose. Another American, Serena Williams, takes just 59 minutes to put Maria out of her misery (6-1, 6-1). Now, on Ashe, it is Sumit Nagal of India, a qualifier, that has just broken Roger Federer and is now serving for the set at 5-4. Didn’t get to Ashe for Serena, but definitely will be in Ashe if Nagal were to close out this set!

8:38 PM EDT:  Looks like two Americans are receiving medical timeouts at the same time: Marcus Giron on Court 5 and Taylor Fritz on Court 17. Fritz, who is down two sets to one and up 4-3 (on serve) in the fourth, looks in some major discomfort with his left knee. Giron, a wild card who is tied one set apiece with Yoshihito Nishioka, is having his upper right leg/groin area stretched out.

8:15 PM EDT:  Serena is on cruise control, winning 6-1 in the first set. Not sure I’ll make it out there at all. Looking at TV screen in media room and seeing a fifth-set tiebreak between Grégoire Barrère of France and Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. There also is Stan Wawrinka on the court on Louis Armstrong against a person that I’ve been told is an up-and-comer, Jannik Sinner of Italy. (Was told he was from the northern part of Italy, hence the name sounding more Austrian than it does Italian.) Haven’t been to Louis Armstrong,so might have to head there now.

8:03 PM EDT:  Siegemund holds for 2-0, then Frech holds for 2-1. The Serena/Maria match has just started, so we may peek in there for a little bit. 

7:56 PM EDT:  From Court 17, we wander across Court 11, where a third set has just started in the women’s match between Laura Siegemund of Germany and Magdalena Frech of Poland. Sadly, Siegemund is not wearing the high socks/knickers that she had been known for. (It’s a pretty cool night, so would have been the perfect time to break them out!) At the moment, Siegemund just broke to begin the set.

7:48 PM EDT:  Lopez holds for 2-1 in the third. Time to go…

7:42 PM EDT:  It’s back to Court 17 for more Americana, as Taylor Fritz is up a set but is in trouble on his serve in the second, as Lopez is up 5-4. Aaaannnndd…..SECOND SET LOPEZ! Fritz backhand goes wide at 30-40 and we’re at one set apiece. Thinking we will stay here for the first few games of the third set, then bounce!

7:37 PM EDT:  We just did out first interview of a player this tournament, 37-year-old lucky loser Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, who defeated 16-year-old American Zachary Svajda, the USTA Boys’ Nationals winner. Lorenzi had to come back from two sets to win on Court 5, and we are probably going to do a feature on lucky losers who end up winning in the main draw. Lorenzi came across as very humble and grateful to be playing the game of tennis still! Love that! OK, more on that later. Time to head back to the courts!

6:09 PM EDT:  What a point to end the match, as a near 30-shot rally ends with a forehand winner down the line from Svitolina! At the end, the scoreline looked rather routine: 6-1, 7-5. But definitely a much tougher match than the scoreline indicated for sure! 

6:04 PM EDT: A long rally at 30-15 goes to Svitolina, a point where Osuigwe had a couple of chances to come to net to put the point away but was/is not comfortable in doing just that. Now Svitolina holds for 6-5 and Osuigwe, who has had trouble on serve all day (eight double faults), will try to hold serve to stay in the match and force a tiebreak.

5:59 PM EDT: Our fourth consecutive breaks looks imminent now, as it’s 15-40. Now a backhand from Osuigwe is dumped into the net and we’re back on serve at 5-5.

5:57 PM EDT: Osuigwe starts her service game to try and win the set with a double fault…her EIGHTH!!

5:56 PM EDT: We’re here on 17! And, from the time we left the media room to the time we arrived, there were back-to-back breaks of serve! Svitolina broke for 4-4, then Osuigwe broke back and now, is serving for the set.

5:38 PM EDT: Sorry for the lag. Had to take care of some other blogging duties involving crossword puzzles! Anyways, Opelka did see off Fognini in four sets on Court 17. Right now, another American is on the same court looking for an upset. Whitney Osuigwe, the former No. 1 junior player in the world and former French Open girls champion, is taking on fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina. Right now, the Ukrainian is up after winning the first set 6-1, but Osuigwe has the break in the second set. Osuigwe has held to make it 4-2 in the second set. Tine to jet out there, right?!

4:08 PM EDT:  Opelka has long stated that he’s not a “serve bot,” the derisive term for the extremely tall, hard-serving players who, apparently, turn out to be one-trick ponies on the tennis court and don’t bring too much else to the tennis court. Seeing a few of his matches now, I tend to agree that he brings more variety to the table on the court than the likes of Isner, Karlovic, etc.

4:05 PM EDT:  Looking at the stats of the match right now, Opelka has 20 aces to Fognini’s eight, has had 14 opportunities to break Fognini’s serve (and has converted four of those break opportunities) and his average serve speed is 126.7 MPH. Yowza!

3:56 PM EDT:  Rested, fed, recharged and, probably, off to Court 17, where No. 11 seed Fabio Fognini is in a fight with hard-serving American Reilly Opelka, losing the first two sets before winning a third-set tiebreaker 8-6. Fognini has taken a bathroom break, but I’m sure Opelka is not giving him a break with his serving.

2:39 PM EDT:  Garín holds on! 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3! OK, time for food and a laptop recharge!

2:37 PM EDT:  Running forehand from Eubanks hits top of the tape and back to his side of the court. DEUCE!

2:36 PM EDT:  Two big serves from Garin and it’s 30-30. Now break point as Eubanks did well to return another well-placed serve before Garín dumps a forehand into the net!

2:34 PM EDT:  Eubanks holds at 15 for 3-5. It’s break time…well, it has to be break time now for Eubanks to stay in the match! And Garín starts off his service game with a double fault. Now a forehand from Garín goes wide and it’s 0-30!!! Things are getting interesting!!

2:32 PM EDT:  Garín holds at 15 after an ace. The Chilean is one game away from the match. Looks like members of the tennis academy that Eubanks played in in Atlanta are up here supporting Eubanks. Can tell by the smattering of bright orange shirts in the stands with the tennis ball and “ATL” in the middle of the shirt.

2:30 PM EDT:  Doesn’t look it at the moment. 30-0 to Garín. Now 40-0.

2:29 PM EDT:  What was looking like a routine service hold has gotten tricky, from 30-0 to 30-30. Now a Eubanks backhand volley winner at the net gives him game point. Eubanks puts game away with a forehand winner down the line. 4-2 Garín now in the fifth set. Can Eubanks break now?!?

2:25 PM EDT:  Players exchange holds and it’s now 4-1 to Garin. After a point on Garín’s serve, the Chileans in the stands broke out a “CHI! CHI! CHI!…LEY! LEY! LEY!…CHI-LE! CHI-LE!” chant that’s very popular during Chile soccer matches.

2:19 PM EDT:  Tight game that goes to deuce, but Garin does hold for 3-0.

2:15 PM EDT:  Garin breaks on a Eubanks double fault. 2-0 Garin, though two Eubanks winners has him in position to break back.

2:13 PM EDT:  We’ve made it to Court 7, and it’s not looking great for the American now. Garin holds to start the set and now it’s 15-40 on Eubanks’ serve.

2:08 PM EDT:  Fourth set to Fucsovics! Basilashvili dumps a backhand into the net and we have five sets on Court 6! Time to head to Court 7 for another fifth set, with Eubanks and Garin!

2:05 PM EDT:  A long rally between the two ends with a Fucsovics forehand volley winner at net, and the Hungarian is two points away from the set. 30-15. Now it’s double set point for Fucsovics. There’s a chant of “FU-CHO-VITCH!” from a few supporters here in the upper deck of Court 6.

2:03 PM EDT:  Fucsovics breaks at love, and now is serving to force a fifth set at 5-3. We will stick with this match for now and, if Fucsovics holds and wins the set here, we’ll then head over to Court 7.

2:01 PM EDT:  Fucsovics holds for 4-3 in the fourth, but we are trying to find out where raucous cheers are coming from. Looking at the live scores, it must have been from Court 7, where American Christopher Eubanks just won a fourth-set tiebreak to force a fifth set against No. 31 Cristian Garin of Chile! Time to go to Court 7 to watch the American and see if he can pull off the comeback.

1:59 PM EDT:  Right now, we’ve just made it to Court 6, as No. 17 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili is up 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-3 against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who have Novak Djokovic quite the scare in last year’s US Open. If I remember correctly, it was Djokovic and Fucsovics who took ice baths side by side during the 10-minute heat break!

1:57 PM EDT:  Here’s what these wins mean for a burgeoning tennis professional. Before today, Brooksby had earned $78, 504 in prize winnings to date in 2019. After qualifying for the US Open main draw, he guaranteed himself $58,000. And now, after today’s win against Berdych, Brooksby is now guaranteed $100,000 in prize money.

1:55 PM EDT:  The American breaks Berdych to win the match! Wha t an accomplishment for Brooksby! We get to the court right as he clinches the match, and have video of him signing endless autographs! That post is shortly!

1:30 PM EDT:  Have made my decision on the first non-Ashe court of the day to visit, and it’s…Court 13! American qualifier Jenson Brooksby, born two months after I first moved into my college dorm at Syracuse University (Oct. 26, 2000), is taking on the veteran Czech Tomas Berdych. Right now, it’s Brooksby who is one game away from the match, leading 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 5-4. Berdych serving to stay in the match!

1:25 PM EDT:  FINALLY about to go out onto the courts now! Some results have become final, including Anastasija Sevastova dusting away Eugenie Bouchard on Court 5. Our first seed to fall on the women’s side was No. 27 Caroline Garcia, upset by the Tunisian Ons Jabeur, 7-6 (8), 6-2.

12:41 PM EDT:  Here are a couple of pictures of the statue that I was able to snap last week during qualifying while it was still being situated. A friend of mine, Glenn Gilliam, who has been a tour de force in pressing the USTA to make sure Ms. Gibson gets her due on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, told me last week that, initially, the statue was going to be a life-size one showing Gibson’s entire body while playing tennis. Obviously, that’s not the case here.

11:56 AM EDT:  Still in the media room, and just saw Angela Buxton, Althea Gibson’s former doubles partner, arrive in the room. It was such a pleasure being able to talk with her for a few minutes a few years back, and once again have goosebumps knowing her presence is being felt here.

11:20 AM EDT:  Done with the “brackets,” though that means I now have to race out for the Althea Gibson statue unveiling. Though, once again, we already know what it looks like. Guess I can put the picture up now since the unveiling is nigh.

10:45 AM EDT:  We are here!! And, right as I’m getting ready to go out onto the courts, I forgot one thing: I HAVE TO FILL OUT A BRACKET! Umm, err, I mean I have to let people know of my predictions of this tournament on the men’s and women’s side and sharing it with a group of like-minded people who might want to keep track of one’s selections! *Wink, wink.* 

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Tags : Grand Slam TennisU.S. OpenUnited States Open