Rain delayed the start of Friday’s quarterfinals, but the action got underway just after noon and the opening matches weren’t particularly close. Jennifer Brady and Katerina Stewart both tortured each other with drop shots until Brady prevailed 6-3, 7-5. Brady faces 4 seed Mariana Duque-Marino in today’s semifinal as Duque-Marino won her third match in straight sets in 26 hours, a 6-4, 6-1 drubbing over the listless Grace Min, who played well yesterday.
The afternoon quarterfinals matches offered a little more action for the fans. Mari Osaka was a tiny giant awakened after losing the first set and down two breaks in the second set against Anhelina Kalinina. The Ukrainian, a former US Open Juniors finalist and an Australian Open Girls Doubles Champion, had a powerful forehand that started to stray, but she found her game long enough to get through the third set and the match, 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-5.
Sesil Karatantcheva raced to a 6-3 first set against Roland Garros Wild Card leader Taylor Townsend, then watched as the Houdini in Townsend made another appearance. Townsend took the second, 6-4, and then the two traded breaks in the third. By the time they were playing the third set tiebreak, the American crowd had little doubt as to who would win. Taylor won the tiebreak at 2.
—S. Fogleman, Tennus Atlantic
When the weather cooperates, the Boyd Tinsley Women’s Tennis Classic in Charlottesville, VA, is one of the best tennis experiences in the world. I’ve been through monsoons here and I’ve been through beautiful spring days. And Thursday was a beautiful day on the Har-Tru at the Boar’s Head Sports Resort. 16 first round matches and 8 second round matches were on order due to Wednesday’s rainout. It was perfect for the fans and for the dogs. I saw more dogs today at a tournament than I have ever seen before. It’s called “growing the sport.”
Conditions were a little doggy for the players in the early going. For the first players on the courts on Thursday, the surface played very slow. After Allie Kiick beat Louisa Chirico before 11 a.m., she told me that “we were both hitting” dropshots and that “for two whole games, we had nothing but dropshots.”
Jen Brady and Allie Kiick needed three sets to open the day, with both staging comeback wins over Irina Falconi and Louisa Chirico respectively. In the 2nd round, it was all Jen Brady from the start and she advanced to a quarterfinal match today against Katerina Stewart.
Camilla Rosatello needed little time to dispatch Olga Ianchuk, who immediately went behind the court and sobbed into a phone call after the match. Cheer up, Olga! Mariana Duque-Marino spoiled my debut of Iga Swiatek 7-6(3), 6-3, and in the nightcap, Duque-Marino proved the tougher competitor in a 6-2, 6-3 sweep of Rosatello. She’ll face the plucky Grace Min today for a spot in the semis.
As for Min, she beat an error-prone Jamie Loeb yesterday morning before taking out Sophie Chang in the nightcap. Chang continued to impress since Charleston with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Victoria Duval earlier in the day.
Top seed Madison Brengle looked out of form, in all of her talking to herself idiosyncratic ways and plaintively looking at her mother in the stands all day. She wasted little time taking out American Maria Sanchez in straights in the first round and then completely fell apart in the round of 16, losing 6-2, 6-1 to Mari Osaka. Osaka plays Anhelina Kalinina later today.
Speaking of dogs: Ashley Kratzer celebrated with her dog, Koa, after a win over Lizette Cabrera in the morning. In late afternoon, she faced Sesil Karatantcheva. That’s when Krasher’s real dog days began. Karantantcheva advanced to play Taylor Townsend, 6-2, 7-6(5).
And then there’s Taylor Townsend. Inching ever closer to the Roland Garros Wild Card, she made another big step forward yesterday to make the quarters at this $80,000.00 event. The window is closing on other Americans to step up and make it a race. With Brady, Stewart and Min the only other Americans still standing at Charlottesville, a semis showing here should nearly wrap it up for Townsend. She showed yesterday that she is heads above the talent field at this level and it’s good to see her succeed.
—S. Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
US OPEN UNVEILS NEW SCHEDULE
New Louis Armstrong Stadium to Have Dedicated Night Session for First Time
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., February 6, 2018 – The USTA today announced that the 2018 US Open will introduce a new daily match schedule for the tournament, made possible by the completion of the strategic transformation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and the opening of the new 14,000 seat Louis Armstrong Stadium.
In 2018, both Arthur Ashe Stadium and the new Louis Armstrong Stadium will hold dedicated day and night sessions. This marks the first time that a second stadium will feature a night session at the US Open. With the new Louis Armstrong Stadium also being equipped with a retractable roof, making it the second court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to utilize this technology in addition to Arthur Ashe Stadium, there will be a larger number of matches played on schedule, regardless of weather conditions.
In Louis Armstrong Stadium the day session will begin at 11:00 a.m. for the first nine days of the tournament and will include three matches, with the night session beginning at 7:00 p.m.and showcasing two matches for the first six days of the event. Approximately 7,000 of the seats in Armstrong will be open to all US Open ticket holders for both the day and night sessions, while the remaining seats will be reserved for those with a dedicated Louis Armstrong Stadium ticket for the respective session.
In Arthur Ashe Stadium, the day session will now begin at 12:00 p.m. and include two matches. The night session will continue to be comprised of two matches, and will begin at7:00 p.m.
The move to two matches during the day session in Arthur Ashe Stadium helps to establish a greater certainty of start time for the night session, with a lesser chance of a delayed start time, a benefit to players, broadcasters, and fans both attending the US Open and those viewing from home. The possibility for congestion on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the changeover between the day and night sessions should also be alleviated, due to more time for egress and ingress.
“We are incredibly excited to shine a light on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium at the 2018 US Open, featuring a night session in a second stadium for the first time in the tournament’s history,” said Katrina Adams, Chairman of the Board and President, USTA.
“Night tennis and the US Open are synonymous; truly some of our most memorable matches have been under the bright lights at night.”
Strong Field for an ATP 250 @NewYorkOpen
LONG ISLAND (January 3, 2018) – The New York Open ATP World Tour tennis tournament will make its debut Feb. 11-18 with a player field highlighted by four of the world’s top-25 ranked players, the No. 1-ranked players from South Africa, Japan, Korea, and Israel, and nine Americans who have been accepted directly into the singles main draw.
Kevin Anderson, South Africa’s top ranked player and No. 14 in the world, has committed to play. Anderson holds three career titles and made it to the finals of the 2017 US Open. He also reached the quarterfinals of the 2017 ATP World Tour Masters 1,000 in Montreal, as well as the finals of the Citi Open ATP 500 tournament in Washington, DC.
Early commitments for the singles draw included top 50-ranked players Sam Querrey (No. 13); 2017 BB&T Atlanta Open and Hall of Fame Open champion John Isner (No. 17); four-time Memphis Open champion and world’s former No. 5 player Kei Nishikori (No. 22); 2017 Memphis Open winner Ryan Harrison (No. 47), and 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung (No. 58).
American players Steve Johnson (No. 44), Jared Donaldson (No. 54), Donald Young (No. 61), and Frances Tiafoe (No. 79), and former junior Wimbledon champions Noah Rubin and Reilly Opelka round out the strong U.S. field for the New York Open, the first U.S. stop of the year on the ATP World Tour.
World No. 28 Adrian Mannarino of France, Israel’s No. 1 player Dudi Sela, Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy, who defeated Roger Federer at the 2017 Dubai Tennis Championships, and Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic, who is one of Latin America’s top competitors, are just a few players to watch in the tournament’s international field.
The 2018 New York Open will mark the return of the ATP World Tour to the New York metropolitan area and Long Island since 2005. GF Sports, a live events and sports media entertainment company, acquired the former Memphis Open in 2015 and partnered with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment to move the tournament to Long Island. The event is one of the longest-running American tournaments on the ATP World Tour and the only indoor championship contested in the United States.
“One of our biggest goals for the New York Open is to continue the development of American tennis by providing a chance for young hopefuls, and veterans alike, with an opportunity to play and succeed,” said Josh Ripple, Tournament Director. “It’s really exciting to have a strong player field, and U.S. representation, for the tournament’s debut on Long Island.”
“We’re excited that NYCB LIVE will be the next stop on tour for an impressive field of the world’s top 100 ATP World Tour professionals, following the Australian Open,” said Brett Yormark, Chief Executive Officer of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment. “The tournament will mark a new beginning for professional tennis on Long Island when it hosts Grand Slam champions and finalists, nine Americans, including the country’s rising stars, and a strong pool of international players next month.”
On Feb. 11, guests who purchase an evening session ticket will have a chance to see tennis legend and honorary New York Open ambassador John McEnroe play U.S. Davis Cup champion James Blake, followed by a match between 2017 US Open women’s tennis champion Sloane Stephens and Canada’s No. 1 Eugenie Bouchard. All four players will take part in a mixed doubles matchup after singles play. All matches will be eight-game pro-sets.
—B. Borsanyi, NY Open
Newly Minted Pro Chris Eubanks Back to Winning Ways at 2017 Charlottesville Challenger
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
(Charlottesville, VA–October 31) Eight days ago, Chris Eubanks announced that he would give up his final season of eligibility at Georgia Tech to turn pro. Not much else has changed for Eubanks in that time, as the 2016 Charlottesville semifinalist simply returned to his winning ways here in a tight two-set victory over Canadian Samuel Monette, 7-6(9), 6-4. He had plenty of praise for his opponent after notching pro victory Numero Uno.
“I knew that (Monette) going in, it was going to be a grind to play him. He fights as good as anybody out there. He makes you play,” he said of the young Canadian. “I had a very slow start and my legs weren’t working. I don’t know what it was, but luckily after I got a couple of holds I kind of found my legs,” he continued.
As is so often the case, the long tiebreak would prove momentous in this match as well. “The breaker was a battle, a really big momentum shifter,” Eubanks said. “Whoever got that breaker was going to have a little extra juice and I was fortunate to save a couple of set points and come out on top of the breaker and give me some momentum.”
Eubanks gained that momentum and served first in the second set.
Like most players, Eubanks refuses to use numerical rankings toward his near and short-term goals. “Just to be be better every day,” he said. “I don’t want to put certain numbers or quantitative benchmarks on it. I just want to continue to progress and say ‘Hey, I think I’m a better player than I was two months ago’. When the end of December comes and I can say that I’m a much better player than I am right at this moment, then I think I had a successful year.”
You know you’ve got a Georgia Tech engineer on your hands when “quantitative benchmarks” come up at a tennis court. Eubanks will face Next Gen contender Michael Mmoh in Round 2.
Misadventures in Ball Boy Land: Don’t Try to Catch a Pro’s Serve @ATPChallenger
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
(Charlottesville, VA–October 31) Getting destroyed by tennis pros on court while competing for the US Open National Playoffs five years ago wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more, and yesterday I did something I should have done 40 years ago: I was a ball boy. I don’t want to sugarcoat it by calling myself a ball person, because I was a boy out there.
I’ve been to the Charlottesville Challenger every year since 2012, and I guess I wanted to mix it up a little for my seventh installment of the tournament. I responded to a call on the Challenger’s Facebook page for ball people and noticed that they had very few volunteers during the school week. I signed up and watched a couple of YouTube videos about how to be the best ball boy ever. The only thing I remember from the videos was how to hold the towel on the edges so the players don’t have to touch your hands. It turns out that was wasted knowledge in a Challenger. I donned my red ball boy shirt and no sooner that I had, I ran into top seed Tennys Sandgren. After we greeted each other, he said, “So you’re chasing down balls all week?’ I told him it was, sadly, a half-day gig. Then I went down to the court and got a comprehensive crash course from Ball Person Coordinator Maureen O’Shea. The biggest two rules were: do nothing between a first and second serve and always keep looking at your fellow ball people and the player on your side. She explained that with so many college players in the ranks of the challengers, these guys were just happy you were retrieving their balls. And they could care less how you held a towel out to them. And as you may already know, the bulk of the “work” for a ball person occurs when the player on their side of the court is serving. Then you’re expected to do towel work and ball retrieving, which is more challenging than it sounds.
I was served the Frederik Nielsen-Edward Corrie qualifying final. As a forty-eight year old, there was no way my knees were camping out in front of the net for a few hours, so I opted for the baseline. The first thing I noticed was when my player was returning serve. The balls are headed for your own private orbs at 120 miles per hour and the first several times a serve was headed my way, I flinched and moved, forgetting that the player in front of me was going to intercept at least 90% of those shots for an attempted return. I learned to dodge the balls that got through. During the second set, I decided to stop dodging the balls and try to catch them instead. Less bending over would be nice. That was a mistake. I caught a Nielsen first serve that had to be over 120 mph. I immediately felt a pain in my hand but tried to ignore it. I made sure to never try to catch another one.
I’m sure many a 9-year-old could teach you like a pro at this, but it was a sensory overload for me. You’re handing the player the towel while balls are rolling at you from all directions as the player on your side of the net prepares to begin his service game. Nielsen was a big ball-checker. He wanted to examine all four balls before each serve and then he’d kick back one or more. The players will not make eye contact with you before tossing the unwanted ball back, so, once again, you’ve got to pay attention. And in a tournament like Charlottesville’s, it’s even more difficult because you have matches and practices going on all around you. I heard the crowd gasping during a long rally on the adjoining court and kept looking over before realizing that I would get beaned in the face if I didn’t pay attention to my own match. With my short-attention span, this was invariably the toughest part of the gig.
Another difficulty I noticed as a tennis fan was controlling the urge to clap after a great shot. I had to stop myself a few times. No one was closer to the action with some of these great returns and I was happy I’d left my phone off court because I would not have been able to resist the urge to tweet during my on court duties. I love the front row and I’ve been in the photographers pit at other tournaments before, but this was a ridiculously good view. You’re making eye contact with the players every 30 seconds. You get a better view of the players than their opponents do.
Another strange distraction was finding myself rooting for the players to finish the match. The Chair umpire sits all match. The linesmen get to sit down occasionally. The players get their Hollywood Producer folding chairs for changeovers. But no, the ball people have to stand all day. The breaks between sets never seemed so long in my life. I mean, it seemed like they could have run 100 commercials in between those sets, if that were actually a thing and fans were watching a challenger qualifying final on a major television network.
Nielsen won the first set, 6-4 and went up a break in the second. I started thinking the end was near. Corrie was in a bad mood, and cursed at the people walking on the catwalk above his opponent as he prepared to serve. But then Nielsen blew a couple of match points and Corrie had squeaked through the second set tiebreak at 6. I remember feeling relieved when the chair announced, “final set”.
Now Corrie had a swagger and Nielsen, who had been even-tempered throughout, started losing it. He talked to himself, yelled at no one, and when he gave up an early break in the third, he smashed a racket 3 feet away from me. This wasn’t a toss or a smack: he spiked it into the court with hundreds of pounds of thrust, as if to make sure it was dead and never coming back to life.
After Corrie was issued an obscenity warning, Nielsen fired back, “I already thought he got one earlier!” The chair indicated that Corrie had only been “accosted” for the first one but that didn’t seem to be any solace for Nielsen. Nielsen himself dropped some F-bombs in the third, but quietly enough to only treat the ball people into the demons in his head.
When it was over, Nielsen put the racket in the little trash can behind the umpire chair and strutted off as mad as hell. It must feel like such a waste to win two qualifying matches at an ATP Challenger, only to blow a lead in the final and walk away with nothing. As for the smashed racket, tournament organizers quickly removed it from the bin and took it away from plain sight, as if not to encourage such further behavior to those who would witness the mangled mess.
I always love to hate on the players when I hear of ball person abuse at the majors. I could find no such mistreatment in my match. They were good to us, even during the low points of their endeavor.
I didn’t get a chance to think about my hand again until after the match, but when I did, I found a big bruise on my thumb. From a tennis ball! Well, not just any tennis ball, but one served up by a Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champion. Wow, I’m so out of shape, I thought, I can even get injured doing ball boy work. It feels fine a day later but I felt it yesterday. No big whoop. Honored to serve. And it happened in the line of duty. The tonic my physician prescribed at the brewery down the road made it all better.
All I know is this: ball kids, you’re awesome. You have to be laser-focused at all times on court or else you’ll get a dirty look from someone, or worse, you’ll get hit—hard. I will never look at you the same way again. You make it look easy. And like most things in life, it’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks.
UPDATE: And oh, yeah, everything anyone ever does ends up on the internet now.