Just a quick celebration of Day 5 at the US Open. Old Earl kept a low profile on Friday, and we were treated to some really entertaining tennis. I loved the night match between Rafael Nadal and Denis Istomin – a three-setter with some crackling tension and cracking shot making. How about this new 134 mph serve that Rafa brought out on Arthur Ashe like a shiny new toy? He was asked about this borderline-shocking display of pure service power, and gave a typically low-key answer (via the LATimes):
“I started to serve well a week before the competition,” Nadal said. “I changed my grip a little so I could win some easy points. I’m going to try to keep playing like this.”
Yeah, can you describe that grip change a little more, Rafa? I could use a little extra pop, myself.
The biggest match of the day was the second round vs. 18-year-old American qualifier Ryan Harrison and the scrappy Sergiy Stakhovsky, ranked 36. The match went to five sets out on the Grandstand, with Ryan Harrison’s Cinderfella run coming to an end after failing to convert three match points in the final set tiebreak. The rising star spoke to the press afterwards: “I’m a tennis fan, a tennis freak. I follow when I’m not even practicing. I love watching it, and I love just being a part of it.”
You had me at tennis freak, Ryan.
Sam Querrey and John Isner also advanced, capping off a successful first week for the American men. . .uh, with one big exception. By the way, Querrey’s not so happy about the way the American men have been scheduled at the US Open so far, complaining to the press after his win on Friday (via NBCSports):
“We have a lot of Americans here,” Querrey said. “None of us play on center court. If you go to the French Open, they have (Frenchmen Richard) Gasquet, (Julien) Benneteau, (Gael) Monfils; they’re on center court every day.”
Besides Harrison, there were two other five setters on the men’s side on Friday: Gilles Simon beat Philipp Kohlschreiber (!) and Feliciano Lopez beat Benoit Paire of France. And Llodra’s through! Allez!
Jamaican player and instant fan favorite, Dustin Brown, lost to Andy Murray in straight sets: 5-7, 3-6, 0-6, but that bagel didn’t seem to hurt his confidence:
Q. Are you as popular as Usain Bolt?
DUSTIN BROWN: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, there’s more tennis tournaments than he runs in a year, so hopefully I’ll get to that status sooner or later.
Ana Ivanovic is chomping on confidence like Ms. PacMan right now – she beat Virginie Razzano 6-5, 6-0 in her third round match. Fist pump!
Actually, all the women won their matches in straights on Friday. I feel like it’s really sinking in around the grounds that Serena Williams is out of it, though she did make her presence known on Friday night. She watched from the friends’ box, resplendent in red, as her sister beat qualifier Mandy Minella 6-2, 6-1.
Venus’s spangly dress was a lot more interesting than the match. She may have a different dress for every match she plays – we’ll have to wait and see.
Her opening night number. This one was my fave:
The action on the ladies’ side may have been a little routine on Friday, but it sets up some exciting Round of 16s for this weekend, including Stosur vs. Dementieva and Clijsters vs. Ivanovic. I think Peer vs. Venus could get interesting, too, and not just because of Venus’s fashion.