Welcome to my home town – and welcome to a Grand Slam unlike any other in the tennis universe.
A unique Slam
This is the US Open, where for fourteen days, in a city that’s oblivious to shut eye, the drama of tennis gets amplified to infinity. Maybe it’s that New York City automatically makes everyone louder, braver and brasher. Or maybe it is that New York City makes us all more human – strong, vulnerable, energetic, fearless, and, above all, honest.
We are now into the second week of this major and if you are a player that has made it here, well, you know how the song goes. Yes, you have the grit and the guile us New Yorkers admire, and frankly, require, but do you have what it takes to ride this subway ‘til the last station stop – championship weekend?
Either you love it here, or you hate it. Petra Kvitova has never been a fan of the humidity or the intensity, but with milder temps and a feel good story, she hung around until the quarter-finals. Garbine Muguruza, who had previously taken issue with the proverbial hustle and bustle, performed exceptionally well until she departed stage right after the fourth round, albeit without the French Open finger wag.
Veterans like Venus Williams are rightfully treated like royalty in this city; as are Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Yet even such stature can’t get almost 24,000 people in Arthur Ashe stadium to hush. The roof, whether closed or open, has apparently now created a structure prone to exacerbate crowd chatter to a volume that can only be rivalled by a World Series game in Yankee Stadium. The noise even annoyed the always affable Federer, who refused to admit as much, and almost drove Nadal into a tirade.
However, the clamour didn’t put a dent in the show on opening night, nor did it take any of the shine off Maria Sharapova, who came dressed for the occasion in a black dress with leather trim and Swarovski crystals that twinkled like the lights of Broadway. It was the perfect ensemble to woo back the US Open crowd. Let’s be serious, we New Yorkers love a good come-back-from-a-drug-scandal story.
Who makes the New York crowd tick?
We also love the players who are bold, brazen, and don’t mind breaking a racket or two.
Take Nick Kyrgios – he may be the devil from Down Under, but the arrogance of his on court brilliance, coupled with his off court antics, make him a fan fave. If only he could have controlled his shenanigans long enough to see week two.
Another fan favourite, from our friends to the North, was one Denis “the Menace” Shapovalov, who captured tennis fans’ hearts long before he was subjected to the qualifiers. His teenage exuberance was infectious. His love for tennis as all-consuming as a childhood crush; many of us truly believed this Peter Pan like fellow could fly his way into the finals.
Karolina Pliskova, the ladies number one until her loss in the quarters, has two Maori-style tribal tattoos; one very visible on her arm, and another on her leg elevating the cool quotient on tennis tenfold. Then we have the opposite of cool, at least temperature-wise, and that is the force of nature we call ‘Coco.’
Coco Vandeweghe, back in her birthplace, lets her roots rip every time she steps on a Billie Jean Tennis Center court. With every racket she bashes, with every berating of an umpire, she grows more endearing to us borough dwellers. Her swagger, her confidence, her bravado – Coco is a bicoastal player made for the Big Apple. And it’s taken her all the way to the semis.
The west coaster Sam Querrey abandoned his usual chilling stature to play lights out tennis in his round of 16 match against a stunned old school serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev. Unfortunately for ‘Yosemite’ Sam, it wasn’t enough against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, who got the better of him in the quarter-finals.
And what’s a high profile NYC drama without a diva? Jelena Ostapenko, aka ‘Queen of the Eye-roll,’ accompanied her round three exit with a hand swat to Daria Kasatkina at the net – her face saying everything we all heard in our heads. Bye Felicia.
So who is going to have what it takes to stick around ‘til this weekend?
You may be ambitious, sure. You could be the very best, maybe. But to make it in this town you need more than skill, more than game, more than heart – you need balls.
What’s your favourite thing about the US Open? Let us know in the comments below!
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