2010 U.S. Open Prequel

Ever been stung by a bee? How about many? Well, I am writing this for you after having had an encounter with a nest of bees. It was a close one, but after being rushed to the ER and getting acute allergy treatment, I would have to put the score at 7-6 bees, first set. I'm doing better now, but not sure I'll be making every day of the upcoming U.S. Open tournament. I'm hopeful that I will.

Speaking of the U.S. Open, with the qualifiers going on starting today, the U.S. Open has officially started. For tennis fans, the qualifiers are free and open to the public. You won't necessarily see many huge stars, but you will see well-known players, such as Nicolas Mahut, Karol Beck, former women's top-10er Jelena Dokic, Lilia Osterloh, and Marta Domachowska.

You will also get a chance to see a new "USTA U.S. Open fan enhancement." This year, the USTA held a series of pre-qualifying tournaments for the regular tennis public known as the U.S. Open National Playoffs. The winners of the playoffs got automatic entry into the U.S. Open qualifying tournament. Blake Strode of St. Louis, MO and Alexandra Mueller of Abingdon, PA were the champs and will be in action at Flushing Meadows this week.

Probably the two best new "fan enhancements" are the flying cameras in Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadium and the addition of microphones to the players' boxes. I've always wanted to hear what Richard Williams was saying during a match. This year, I will get to hear it, assuming they let him in the box. I am not sure what the flying cams will do, but I look forward to some different camera angles.

I've said it before, the U.S. Open Championships offer a lot for the dollar. A one-day grounds pass during the tournament gives you access to all but the most popular matches, and those are carried on screens throughout the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and also on the major broadcasting channels. You have your choice of over 14 regular courts and two sets of practice courts where you can see just about every pro in the game. Usually, the best matches of the tournament are found on the grandstand court or court number 11, all accessible with only the grounds pass.

If you go to see the stars, maybe the best place to hang is near the practice courts, where you can watch the best practice and often get a few minutes to talk with them through the fence. One of my fondest memories is watching Martina Hingis signing two dozen balls, then lofting them over the fence to watching fans.

This year, the practice courts will be a little lighter of the big stars. Juan del Potro, the reigning U.S. Open men's champ, will be out due to his wrist injury. It is safe to say that this year there won't be any controversies like last year, as women's number one Serena Williams will also be missing. She she is still recovering from a foot injury suffered earlier this summer at a restaurant in Germany.

There are several player's nursing injuries, as well, so hopefully the practice courts will still be hosting Mardy Fish, John Isner, Kim Clijsters, Andy Roddick, and Ana Ivanovic, all nursing either fatigue or injury. Mardy Fish has been the most consistent U.S. Men's player this summer, winning at Newport and Atlanta, as well as runner-up to Federer last week in Cincinnati. He withdrew from New Haven this week due to fatigue, so hopefully he will be there for us to cheer on next week. Look for him to finally go deep in the tournament and give the American populous something to cheer about.

This Thursday, the official draws will be entered at a grand event in NYC. The favorites are easy to pick even without the official draw, as it seems that Roger Federer has the edge for the men, followed closely by Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. I'm giving last year's women's finalist and current world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki the edge for the women. She is riding the momentum of her victory in the Rogers Cup last week and a very consistent hard court season overall. Maria Sharapova has had a great summer, as well, along with the currently injured Clijsters. Sharapova seems to shine at Flushing Meadows, so she is my outside favorite. Clijsters is "50-50" at the current time.

With any luck, and a lack of bees, I'll be adding commentary frequently during the tournament, so stay tuned.

Comments and Conversation

September 3, 2010

Jeff Odom:

Why are there lighter balls at the US Open?

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