Okay, I’ll stop my bitching now, seeing that it’s both a downer and
less warranted after my second day at the Open. Prepared now, for the
dearth of matches (unless I suddenly became a hard core juniors fan) I
lowered my expectations, hoping not so much to match-hop as to
match-squat. Wawrinka vs. Chela was on in Armstong, a very-poorman’s
Rafa vs. Roger showdown that was virtually guaranteed to go the
John and I went directly into the stadium upon entry to the
grounds (which were noticibly depopulated from yesterday) and took a
seat near some people in blue and white futbol jerseys. There were
dipping one-handed backhands, multiple breaks (and broken racquets,
cries of “Vamos Flaco! (skinny)” and “Allez les Suisses!” John and I started
our own line of commentary and cheered when someone hit a winner. Hey,
this was fun – I got confused for a moment and thought
I was at Indian Wells.
Our good spirits continued when we moved into the Mothership for the
conclusion of Moya vs. Gulbis (Gulbis???) At the end of a spottily
attended day-session, it appeared that the ushers were off duty, leaving
the Loge section open for scrappy seat-squatters like my husband. We
found seats in the second row behind the baseline (above the luxury
suites) and camped out there until the thrilling finale of the
Djokovic vs. Monaco match.
Now this was the kind of big-stakes, best of five-sets match you could only
watch at the US Open (sorry Pac Life.) The scrappy Argentine tested
Djokovic, who had seemed to emerge with Sharapova-like quickness into
the consciousness of the American tennis public. His victory in
Montreal was so impressive, he now had his own five-minute video
clip airing prior to his walking out onto the court. “Bad Ass!”
read a caption about halfway through the montage of backhands and
goofy off-court poses. What a contrast to the piece from the previous night that showed Roger playing soccer with South African orphans.
Dojokovic wasn’t quite at his “baddest” during the match, partially
because of a tweaked back but mostly because of Monaco’s gritty play.
There were some incredible shots from both players – lunging volleys,
screaming down-the-line backhands, and unbelievable gets from all over the court.
One flying leap by Monaco during the end of the second set ended up
costing him the tie break but adding to the drama. Both guys called
the trainer after that, Djokovic lying face down while being poked in
the lower back and Monaco getting a freshly sprained ankle taped and
icing a scraped elbow. When the battered Argentine was broken in the
first game of the third set, he looked about ready to retire, but an
equally miserable game followed off of Novak’s racquet, boosting
Monaco’s outlook and giving hope to all of us in the crowd.
Monaco ended up winning the third set in yet another dramatic tiebreak. The play was sometimes sloppy, sometimes brilliant, and when Monaco lost a point because a ball fell out of his pocket (it was the second time it had happened during the match), the crowd joined him in lamenting his seemingly inevitable fate. But after some cheers of “Mon-a-co! Mon-a-co!” let by John and myself, of course, the straggly-haired, crucifix-sporting Argentine came back and won the set! The whole stadium was buzzing with the hopes that he’d take to a fifth, but Djokovic managed tocalm both his nerves and his back spasms, showing a champion’s determination to get off the court successfully.
The match ended at 7:30, concluding Tuesday’s day session and our second season at the US Open on a happy note. As we followed the river of people onto the 7 line back to Manhattan and a dinner with friends in the East Village, we talked excitedly about the highlights of our visit. How lucky were we to score such great seats in Ashe? Wasn’t that match one of the most exciting we’d seen? Weren’t the free American Express radios so cool? Could Djokovic really go all the way to the final? And beat Roger in a best of five-set match?
Oh, and when do the tickets go on sale for next year?