August 27, 2002

U.S. Open Day 1 Diary

U.S. Open Day 1 Diary

Me, my cousin Carmela and our friend Patrick went to the U.S. Open yesterday for a fun-filled day of tennis spectating. We started off the day by checking out Anastasia Myskina's match. Myskina is the chick who whomped Martina Hingis last week at the Pilot Open in Toronto. She has a flat serve and wicked angles off her forehand. I tried to focus on the match but I kept getting distracted by one of the ballgirls, this short plump Asian chick whose arms flailed around every time she ran. I'm surprised the players weren't distracted by it. I couldn't even concentrate on watching the game, I don't know how they could concentrate on playing it. Myskina's coach was sitting right in front of us and he scribbled on a notepad the entire game. I thought it might have been a letter to his mother... "Dear Mama, I am at the U.S. Open now and having fun. Wish you were here." Then I thought it might have been notes, like "Get new second serve. Bend knees more." But I looked over his shoulder and it was actually game statistics of some kind. At least I assume they were game stats, I don't speak Russian. They might have been other statistics like "Number of times Anastasia made the crowd go 'Ooooooh'" or "Number of people wearing green."

Around this time we got hungry so we went to go eat. The tournament organizers are super smart. They schedule the first matches at 11:00, which is too early for people to eat lunch before they get there. So everyone watches a game for like 45 minutes then goes and drops $18.00 on a cheeseburger and some fries. Or in my case, $12.00 for a hot dog and some water. After lunch we strolled over to the practice courts to scope out Pete Sampras. We couldn't really get a good view of his court so we went to another court next to it that had high bleachers, so we could watch over the fence. We watched him for a few minutes and then I got curious as to who was actually playing on the court we were actually on. It was Andy Roddick. Hooray!!!!! Carmela got super excited because Mandy Moore was sitting right near us. She went to go get her autograph while Patrick explained to me who she was. When Carmela got back giddy as hell, I was like "Are you 29 or 12?" which she naturally didn't appreciate. Roddick kept hitting balls long, so I think he was nervous because Mandy Moore was in the crowd. We thought maybe they were a new couple and he was nervous because he wanted to impress her.

Patrick and I had been playing "I spy a dork" all day, but I think I won when I spotted the Spanish guy with dyed yellow hair, wearing a lavender tank top. He was standing by Roddick's service line, trying to make eye contact with him. Three people to his left, there was a gaggle of tennis groupies. I didn't even know there were such a thing as tennis groupies, but lo and behold there they were in all their Banana Republic sale rack glory. Incidentally, "I spy a dork" is as easy to play at the U.S. Open as shooting fish in a barrel. I never noticed this before but tennis fans are kind of dorks. It's like they go to tennis tournaments and try as hard as possible to look like tennis players. The only exceptions to this rule were uh the members of my party and Mpip's entourage. Of course.

After lunch we watched the end of Roger Federer's match. I think it would behoove him to bathe more often... he's one of those people that just looks unclean. Also, courtesy of my cousin's displeasure at her seating location, Federer shushed her. And thus by association, shushed me. Good Lord. It's good I am singularly unembarassable.

By this time it was mid-afternoon so we rolled over to the Louis Armstrong stadium to watch Anna Kournikova play. I'm sorry, let me revise that.... to watch Anna Kournikova get fucked up the ass by some young Indonesian chick named Angelique Widjaja. We had arrived during the 4th set of Yevgeny Kafelnikov's game and the stadium was fairly empty. It's kind of sad for the sport of tennis to think that this guy is seeded number 4 in the tournament and the only reason people were there were to get good seats for Kournikova's game. We were sitting in the nosebleeds and Carmela wanted to move to the bottom, so I told her to go ahead and move down without me. It's not like we were about to watch scintillating tennis. If Hingis or the Williams sisters were playing, it would have been a different story. But I wasn't about to hike 5 minutes down into the bowels of a stadium to watch mediocre tennis. That's like waiting in line for 5 hours to watch Fred Hoiberg shoot free throws.

Patrick: I wonder if she even still has a trainer, or if she just has a hairstylist.
Me: Her make-up artist is not going to be pleased with all this sweating.
Patrick: "More foundation to the Louis Armstrong stadium please."
Me: Oooh I hope Widjaja wins... she needs to put Indonesia on the map, and not just as the place where they made my shirt.

I've never really seen Kournikova play a full singles match and it was pretty painful to watch. She was so bad I was embarrassed FOR her. I felt sorry for her until I realized that she was going to go home and wipe away her tears with her millions. Sympathy became difficult at that point, especially after watching her double fault about 20 times in the first set, hit 50 mph first serves and hit over 40 unforced errors. Imagine being one of the worst tennis players ever to play a grand slam event and yet still being the highest-paid and most famous, just because you have a tight ass.

Patrick was most upset that everyone was cheering for Kournikova. He felt it was bad enough that Widjaja had to make her first-ever U.S. Open debut in front of thousands of people, but those thousands of people weren't even applauding when she hit a good shot. I pointed out that every foreign player usually has some sort of entourage (even if it's comprised of 4 people) but that this chic didn't appear to have one. I figured the two of us would more than suffice. So we started applauding and cheering loudly. After noticing the increasing number of pointed stares our way, I told Patrick everyone thought we were her friends just because we're two Asian people cheering for her. So we started yelling shit like "Yeah Angie!!!!" "Just like that Angie!!!" and making comments to each other like "She looks tired... we shouldn't have kept her out so late last night." After the match which Widjaja won in straight sets (6-3, 6-0) people were turning to us and congratulating us. We accepted it as our due, as her best friends and all, who sit up in the nosebleeds in the first round. The match time was 43 minutes. I've taken pisses longer than that.

After the bloodbath, we hurried on over to Court 4 where some half-Filipino chick was playing. She was playing Tatiana Panova who is 5-3 and "built like a bull terrier" to quote Carmela. I tried to focus on the match but (again) I kept getting distracted by another ballgirl who was a little too ungainly to be in her current "profession." She seemed to agree with me too, because she let the other ballgirl do all the work. The players picked up more balls than her.

Patrick: Now you KNOW that ball girl has some sort of in connection here. Like her father donated THAT court.
Me: She just let that other ballgirl run all the way across the court to pick up a ball that was two feet away from her.
Patrick: She's like over there eating ribs or something.
Me: I think she wants some cole slaw.
Patrick: "A little help here please..."

We were laughing so hard I thought we were going to get kicked out of the stands. Yes, I realize that we're both going straight to hell. I couldn't even look at the court anymore. People were looking at us because they thought we were finding the Filipina chick getting her ass whooped funny. I think all the Filipinos at the U.S. Open were at that court. Patrick was surprised they weren't serving food courtside, like a buffet table loaded with rice, pancit, lechon (roast pig), lumpia (eggrolls) and sinigang (tamarind soup with pork or fish). Okay I just made myself hungry. I hate it when that happens!! So... after that last match we headed back to the subway for the trek home. All in all, it was worth my $40.

MPip's U.S. Open Day 1 Diary

For the 3rd straight year I went to the U.S. Open. I love that tournament. Tennis kicks ass. Here are my thoughts on what I saw at the Open this year:

I bought my tickets via 866-OPEN-TIX, a not-so-clever front for Ticketbastard. I hate that company. Talk about a monopoly. So I called them last week and bought 4 "nosebleed specials" for $44 each. Oh wait, there's a $6 per ticket "handling/convenience charge", upping ticket prices to $50/each. When I said to the ticket girl, "Convenience charge? Convenient for you, maybe" she laughed a sarcastic "Yeah, never heard that one before" laugh. My tickets would be waiting at Will-Call.

So there we were, my wife and I on the notorious #7 train that John Rocker railed against, on Monday morning at 9:45 a.m. I personally didn't feel like I was "riding through Beirut" as Rocker so infamously declared. Damn rednecks.

When we first got off the train their were actually scalpers trying to sell Open tickets. Scalpers for tennis? I'm convinced these guys believe that the U.S. Open is a tournament-style gang bang featuring the best porn actresses in America.

We arrived at the US Tennis Center and found my friends and certified tennis nuts (they know every ranked player ever) Eric and Rich and headed for Will-Call. The Will-Call experience is supposed to consist of me walking up to an unoccupied window, showing I.D. and snaring my tickets. Not this time.

There were about 7 million people in one line, the "ticket buyers, will-call and people who just like standing around in line" line. Everyone that had will-call was freaking out and yelling at the harried employees in their shiny new U.S. Open polos by Fila. "We're not supposed to be in this line. We have tickets!" they whined.

Some crazy chain-smoking Lady In Red finally came by and diverted a bunch of us Will-Callers to the opposite side of the line to wait for our tickets. Good idea. Until we had to merge with people who had been waiting in Will-Call for an hour. They yelled at us, we yelled at them and the Lady In Red was nowhere to be found. Some old guy that was about 90 started screaming how it was "bullshit" that we were horning in on their line. I was waiting for someone to deliver the "hey old man river zip it or i'll break your hip" line from Big Daddy. The Lady In Red was hiding behind some bushes smoking cigarettes. Seriously. I'm not making that up.

No melees ensued and after about 40 minutes in line I got my tickets. This disrupted my plan to get front-row seats for the Michael Chang match.

No matter. Our seats for Chang were pretty good anyway. Michael Chang is fun to watch. He plays every point like his life depends on it. Maybe it does, I don't know much about Asian cultures. He was playing "Spaniard clay court specialist with too-long hair and lame bandanna" # 42, 612 Francisco Clavet. Michael Chang versus a clay court guy had all the makings of a 5 hour match. Naturally the first set went to a tiebreaker.

I remember watching Chang years ago and his whole family, known by the media as "The Chang Gang" was always on hand. Now that Michael's ranked #130, it's down to just his brother and coach Carl, known by me as "The Chang Link". We left early in the second set, with Chang leading. He won in 4.

Now, we saw a lot of tennis afterwards and I don't remember the order of who I saw when, so bear with me.

We wandered to a side court to watch Federer play some guy Jiri Vanek. Eric and Rich wandered into the stadium part of the court for a better view while Isabel and I sat in the little bleacher. Turns out we were seated next to Vanek's girlfriend. Quite an attractive young lady as Isabel even observed. Her and Jiri would make eye contact and she'd offer encouraging words in Czech. My favorite, after most Jiri points was her clucking "pawt pawt pawt". I think it means "Beat this guy and you get to tap me all night long". But it probably doesn't mean that since he lost in 4 sets.

Federer's another of those "long hair with ponytail and lame bandana" guys. Isabel was impressed that a guy that looked like Vanek had such a good-looking girlfriend. I wondered if "Jiri Vanek" and "Jiri Novak" were the same guy. They must be. How can 2 guys have the same first name and similar last names? Implausible.

We then went and saw angry Andrei Pavel play Harel Levy on another side court where you're practically on the court with guys. Pavel cursed in Romanian and seemed to look our way every time he sprayed forehands 6 feet long. Frightened, we left. Pavel lost in 4 sets. Wish I'd seen the end of the match, he must've really flipped out.

We were hungry and felt like we had way too much money in our pockets so we went to the food court. The food court was guilty of ripping us off. Rich got 2 buckets of chicken wings, a bottle of water and french fries for $29. I got a hot dog and 2 Gatorades, courtesy of Marissa's desirable spot in line at "Hot Dog Row" for $13 and a dry ass chicken sandwich for $7.75. I nearly choked. First at the prices and then on my chicken sandwich.

With our wallets considerably lighter we quickly moved along. We got to see some players practice. First we saw one of my favorites, Todd Martin. Todd's great, a 6'6" 32-year old guy who looks like the dad from a 60's family sitcom like "Father Knows Best". I think Todd's actually 32 squared years old. He looks like a guy that should be wearing a sweater with leather elbow pads, smoking a pipe, wearing slippers and reading an evening paper. But he's a nice guy and I root for him feverishly.

From a "catbird" seat we also watched Jennifer Capriati and Marat Safin practice. That Capriati is a cutie. Isabel wondered how bad her body would be if she wasn't a professional athlete. If you've ever seen J-Cap (I can't believe I called her that) in a tank top and spandex shorts you'll understand that Isabel's question sends the mind racing.

Rich and Eric then bolted to watch some other foreign guy play while Isabel and I used our reserved seats at Ashe to see James Blake play a little bit. He's a young black kid that came out of a Harlem youth program. I'm down with introducing tennis to the masses. Next we need a good young Hispanic-American player to come through the ranks. Blake was playing some guy named "Habathy" or something, who turned out to be American. And there I was rooting against this "damn foreigner". Wait, I'm a foreigner, too!

Arther Ashe stadium was so quiet that Isabel dozed off.

We then ran into Marissa and friends again, who told us that they saw Pete "I used to be really good" Sampras practicing. Eric almost fainted with excitement and dismay at having missed Pete.

We all ended up going to Armstrong to see Kafelnikov play. Actually we were just waiting for the Kournikova show to begin. Personally I don't think she's that good-looking but Eric and Rich were like 3-year olds at "Rugrats on Ice".

The stadium was packed, waiting for Kafelnikov to finish off a guy whose name was almost as long as "Kafelnikov". Dirty old men and horny teenage boys were everywhere. Curious women (likely praying for Anna to break a leg while losing 6-0, 6-0) filled out the crowd.

Rich and Eric got very antsy as Kafelnikov, up 2 sets to love dropped the 3rd and puttered through the 4th set. I think he was intentionally banging the ball into the net to get the pretty ballgirl to run out. Angry, Eric declared "If Yevgeny loses this set, I'm rooting for the other guy". Rich dropped the bill of his cap over his eyes and said "Wake me when it's over". Never has a crowd so lustily cheered for Yevgeny Kafelnikov. If the stadium had a roof it would've blown off when Kafelnikov won. I don't think anyone even knew that he's a Top 5 player.

And then....she walked in. The tannest, crappiest female player ever. Cover girl on all those "they're real magazines, not porno magazines" rags like Maxim, et al. When she was introduced the crowd was louder than when Kafelnikov won. It was insane.

The match started and Isabel began to realize why I'm so frustrated with all the Anna-loving that goes around.

"She's not very good" she commented.

"I know!" I nearly screamed.

"She hits the ball into the net a lot"

"I know!"

When Anna pulled a Mike Pipercic "blow a wide open lob 10 feet long" shot, I knew she was toast. She went down quickly in the first, 6-3.

We escaped the carnage. It was like a train wreck and I had no interest in watching. Anna hit the ball into the net so many times, I'm sure they had to replace it before the following match. She got bageled in the second. She sucks. Nice 52-mile/hour serve. Are you kidding me? I'm actually getting mad, so I'll stop.

Rich and Eric went to watch Krajicek play. Isabel and I went to the Grandstand to watch former #1 and known jackass Marcelo Rios play Jonas Bjorkman. Despite his name, Bjorkman is no Bjorn Borg. He's more like the singer Bjork.

Rios lived up to his reputation within 10 minutes, first bitching out the umpire for saying "4th set" when he was about to serve and later bitching out an usher for letting fans walk behind Bjorkman as he was about to serve. For the rest of the match a nervous usher standing near us would practically tackle people that even approached Marcelo Rios's field of vision.

As an aside, I don't understand why in hoops you can hold up pictures of a free throw shooter's mother having sex with a goat, but in tennis you can't even wander behind a player without disrupting their concentration. Anyway....

Rios cruised. Bjorkman's play was an insult to the word "feeble". Rios even signed autographs for a few people. Good thing he won, I think I saw a semi-automatic in his bag.

We never saw Eric and Rich again. Krajicek ended up quitting (in tennis they call it "retiring") so we couldn't find them. We went back to Armstrong to wait for Todd Martin to play. But the damn delay was so long that we went to the top of the stadium and looked into the Grandstand to see Dr. J's illegitimate daughter Alexandra Stevenson and Stephanie Foretz play. Now those women can hit! 100 mph serves all over the place.

Todd was warming up so Isabel and I ran to get a good seat on the baseline. We had second row behind the empty reserved seats. Todd held serve in the first game and than Gaston Gaudio fired off 4 aces in his first service game. The pro-Todd Martin crowd groaned. The stadium was full of den mother types pleading "Come on Tooooddddd!" Todd played like he really was 132 years old. He dropped the first set 6-3. My expert opinion is that Todd should've played that set from the baseline, but he kept following his shots and Gaudio kept passing him. My dad would say Gaudio was hitting passing shots "like a robot", but I don't know what that means so I'll just say he was kicking Todd's ass. With Todd struggling to take a 2-1 lead in the second set at around 8:30, we made our way out. Isabel's favorite part of the Martin match was declaring that the woman in the front row of the reserved seats was Mrs. Todd Martin because her 47 karat ring was sparkling so much. We were far away from her, but we were almost blinded.

During the first set, in Arthur Ashe they were having some ceremony with Marines and stuff and suddenly fireworks exploded overhead. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in Armstrong thought a bomb went off. We all turned and saw red, white and blue fireworks. Memo to the U.S. Open: if you're going to shoot off fireworks, you might want to warn people in other stadiums. I nearly crapped my pants when I heard the explosion. I had planned an escape route for me and Isabel by the time I saw that it was just fireworks.

Exhausted and slightly hungry but not willing to sell our blood for food at the Open, we got on the "John Rocker Express" and went home.