Hurricane Irene First, Now Hurricane McHale

I had to apologize to our great editor and founder, Marc James, for not getting this out to you all until today. As you all know, I'm here on the Jersey Shore, yes that one, and after three days without power, I finally have the ability to power up my computer and send this in.

I survived, as did most of us here. The U.S. Open survived, as well, with the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center staying high and dry. Few know that the NTC is right on the Long Island Sound, and is in one of the largest flood plains in the area. The dire predictions for the hurricane had the NTC right as a target. Fortunately, the storm turned out to be less then expected, and the U.S. Open got off with a two-hour late, but still great, start.

The storm put NJ and the word devastation together. Seems fitting, as at the U.S. Open, with two rounds done, NJ resident and local girl Christina McHale have swept through like Hurricane Irene taking out Aleksandra Wozniak in the first round and No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli in the second round. McHale has been the lone bright spot for U.S. women's tennis this year, and her steady improvement has been a welcome sight here in Flushing Meadows.

Her victory over Bartoli marks her second huge win of the summer, the previous one coming just two weeks ago in Cincinnati with a stunning victory over WTA Tour No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. Her confidence clearly got a boost from that win, and she has ridden it like a storm surge into the third round here.

Born in Teaneck, New Jersey and hailing from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, you would be hard-pressed to find any resemblance between McHale and any cast member of MTV's "Jersey Shore." While I am sure she has visited our area, which of course is also home to 2009 and 2010 women's champion Kim Clijsters, her sights and feet are firmly planted at the NTC and aimed at a run for the title. She doesn't have big hair, a deep tan, or the "smokey eye," but what she currently has is killer shots, consistency, and the mental tenacity just like the hurricane she follows.

At the time of this writing, the draw has clearly opened up, giving some hope that McHale can move deeper into the draw and give the local crowd and the U.S. some excitement in week two. Venus Williams has withdrawn, French Open champ and Aussie Open runner-up Na Li was eliminated in the first round, and the always-dangerous 21-seed Daniela Hantuchova is also out. There are still plenty of big champions still here, including Maria Sharapova and Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, but maybe that Cinderella story is ours again with McHale.

The finals this year will be on the 10th anniversary of the attacks here in NYC of 9/11. Wouldn't it be something if our local NJ girl managed to be playing on that Sunday?

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