This is the third and final day report of my trip to New York and the 2016 US Open. If you missed the first two posts, you can read Day 1 HERE and Day 2 HERE. There will be one final post to come which i’m hoping will be out before the tournament ends but this week at work has turned busyyy. My third day at the US Open was definitely my favourite! Read on for day 3 thoughts and photos…
As had become the norm, we headed straight to the practice courts when we arrived. Tuesday had been quiet but the hustle and bustle of blockbuster names was back on Wednesday morning. Serena and Venus were playing side-by-side; again, it was really difficult to get any pictures of Serena as the stand behind the first practice court was packed and she always stayed on the side closest to the stand. We had another good view of Venus who was practising returns and volleys. She looked quite frustrated during this practice session.
Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai were practising together on the third practice court, while Stan Wawrinka was with Magnus Norman on the fourth. It’s not the first time that i’ve seen Stosur and Zhang practise together and they seem to be very good friends. Not only were they playing doubles at the US Open this year but they went head-to-head in singles in the second round where Zhang came out on top in a surprise straight sets win. Stosur and Zhang shared a high-five at the end of their practice… Zhang’s smile is wonderful :-).
Caroline Wozniacki turned up at 10.45am and she was set to practice with Angelique Kerber according to the App. However, the German player never showed… I just kept missing Angie during this US Open trip which was a shame because I was really eager to watch her play and get some new pictures!
It was nice to see Timea Bacsinszky for the last time as she was not playing any matches on the Wednesday. She always looks so chilled and at ease in practice.
Serena and Venus soon headed off after their practice and we did the same as the time ticked over towards 11am. Choosing which match to go to first was a tricky one…
Another one of my favourites, Petra Kvitova was out on Arthur Ashe but I knew our seats weren’t great and the atmosphere never seems bouncy for the first match. As was documented, Petra didn’t practice much at Flushing and I didn’t see her once! Instead I opted to start on Court 17 for the first time for what looked like the best match-up on paper between Andrea Petkovic and Belinda Bencic. Although there isn’t any shade I was starting to get more accustomed to the weather and it wasn’t too hot. I’m fond of BB and I hadn’t seen her yet so my decision was made.
Bencic made a sharp start to the match, quickly going up a double break to lead *3-0. Petkovic missed a volley into the net to get broken in the first game and took some time to find a rhythm on her serve. Petkovic got on the board in the next game, breaking in a three deuce game as Bencic had a case of the serving yips herself with three double faults in one game.
Petkovic clawed her way back to level terms but had a worrying fall – my heart was in my mouth! With all the injury woes that Petkovic has experienced, I was fearing the worst. She stretched out her leg on the floor and then at the back of the court. Thankfully I think she was OK. Five of the nine games in the first set went to deuce and it was generally much closer than the scoreline suggested. The fall may have explained the next three games as Bencic won all three, breaking to 15 in the final game of the opener to win it, 6-3.
There were four holds of serve at the start of the second set with both players saving break points in their second service games. Bencic though, pulled away at this point to win the final four games of the match. Bencic hasn’t played much since Wimbledon and it was by far and away her best performance in this second comeback of the year. She was the more aggressive player and was very successful in stepping into the court and coming forward, winning 11 out of 13 points at the net.
Bencic is a lot of fun to watch live. She takes everything in her stride and you never go a match without seeing that smile. There was another edition of “Belinda and Hawkeye” which is always entertaining and she was giggling and doing faces on one trip back to the baseline after a crazy point up at the net.
For Petkovic, it just didn’t happen. Perhaps the fall in the first set had an impact, but she was second best against Bencic and aired her frustration after getting broken in the second set.
Petkovic and Bencic are two of the most respectful players in defeat so I knew it would be a good handshake… and it certainly didn’t disappoint with a high-five and a hug! These two are class and I was pleased that Belinda shared some of my pics of Twitter. All in all, it was a good match and I was pleased to see the court pretty much full. Court 17 is a great place to watch tennis.
Next up, I decided to introduce my Brother and work pal to the Yulia Putintseva experience… it had to be done! She was playing Carina Witthoeft on court 4 in front of very few people. We sat in the stands behind the court and since we could, we chose the front row and right down the centre line… it was awesome. Poots was already down a break and bounced her racquet as we turned up.
I was very impressed with Witthoeft who was playing patiently and choosing the right shots to inject pace on. I quite the enjoyed the set – there were a few funny moments as firstly, Witthoeft tried to react to a Poots lob but miscued the ball which the umpire caught! The German player also shanked a ball which not only went out of the court but also the grounds – Court 4 is right at the edge!
As good as Witthoeft was, Putintseva was pretty dire. She made some absolutely dreadful misses and was over it. After a 32 minute, 6-1 first set, Putintseva went off for a bathroom break… she’d had enough!
It was pure gamesmanship but it’s not against the rules so why wouldn’t you? Witthoeft had time to think and Putintseva came back to get the immediate break with some thoughtful points. Witthoeft’s tactics went a little astray but she did break straight back in a lengthy five-deuce game.
We headed off to get something to eat in Ashe at this point and i’m sad to have missed out on the drama that ensued. Witthoeft led *6-1 *5-2, missed three match points, lost the second set, but then rolled through the decider to win a crazyyy match, 6-1 6-7(1) 6-1. Poots also did this hahahaha!
We headed to our seats on Ashe for the second match of the day between Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova. My heart sank when I saw Wozniacki was down 0-4 in the first set. These were our best seats of the lot and the atmosphere was decent. It was nice to end my time on Ashe with a positive experience after a disappointing night session on Tuesday. This was a superb match with some brilliant rallies. Wozniacki rallied herself to win the first set with a virtual bagel, 6-4.
The crowd were definitely for Woz and there was a guy behind us who was passionately yelling support for the Dane. Wozniacki had a titanic hold at 4-4, recovering from a *0-40 hold, saving three break points in a four deuce game. Kuznetsova then crumbled serving with scoreboard pressure at *4-5 although Wozniacki brought her A-game, challenging a ball that was called out at 30-30 that Hawkeye showed to be in.
Wozniacki had the momentum at the start of the second set and powered into a 5-2 lead, playing some decisive and aggressive tennis. It was so encouraging to see her going for her shots. Wozniacki failed to serve out the match at *5-3 but this was mostly due to Kuznetsova who just relaxed and started to reach her early first set level. Kuznetsova had *30-0 serving to stay in the match but it all came tumbling down again as Wozniacki reeled off four straight points, winning on a cracking match point to seal a 6-4 6-4 victory.
It was so nice to see Wozniacki smiling at the end. She’s had a rough year and deserves some joy. She sang “Happy Birthday” to her friend in the post-match interview with Pam Shriver and has gone on to have a fantastic tournament in New York.
After a Ben & Jerry’s break (yum) we went out to see how Johanna Konta was faring on court 13. I’d read on Twitter that she had collapsed to her knees at the end of the second set of her second round match against Tsvetana Pironkova. While it wasn’t necessarily hot and the sun wasn’t even out, the conditions were so muggy and humid in the afternoon.
Court 13, as I said in the day 2 report, always seemed to be a magnet to the most unpleasant weather conditions. When we joined the match, Konta was in her chair and actually laughing! They were sweeping the court as it was wet after they had wrapped Konta in ice towels on the baseline. On the resumption, which happened to be a Pironkova set point, Konta served a double fault and it went the distance.
We went for a wander after Konta took a bathroom break but when we came back, to our surprise, Konta was a break up! The Brit was keeping things solid, trying to win points quickly and pulling Pironkova into the net. In a brutal three deuce game, Konta saved a break point to extend her lead to 4-2. This was the most vocal i’ve ever heard Pironkova and I wonder if she was pissed at the long delays at the end of the second set. Pironkova’s challenge faded rather dramatically at the end as she seemed to be struggling with a leg injury.
Konta looked mightily relieved and a little surprised when she converted her match point to win, 6-2 5-7 6-2. Konta had quite a bit of a support and I saw the Eurosport camera crew with Catherine Whittaker just by the entrance to the court. It was a super impressive and gutsy win from the Brit.
I really wanted to see Gael Monfils for the first time on Ashe (Novak Djokovic’s second round match with Jiri Vesely was no longer on the schedule after Vesely pulled out) but on inspection of the scoreboard, I spotted Angie! I went off to Louis Armstrong Stadium to watch the second set of her second round match against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. After having not enjoyed my last experience on Armstrong in the upper tier, I managed to get a seat on the opposite side and much closer to the action. It was muchhh better 🙂
The atmosphere was decent and the match was intriguing. Kerber led 6-2 *4-1 but lost four straight games as Lucic-Baroni started to roll. The Croatian is always a dangerous match-up and capable of catching hot streaks. I’ve noticed whenever I watch MLB, she’s always complaining! In fairness, she correctly challenged two points that went against her and she aired her frustration at the umpire. She also nearly hit the umpire with a ferocious mistimed return.
There were a couple of super points that ended with flashy Kerber winners that got the crowd going. This was not vintage Angie, but against Lucic-Baroni, it’s never going to be and it’s all about just surviving and getting through with the win. Kerber held twice with scoreboard pressure at *4-5 and *5-6. She saved a set point in the first of those games and was let off the hook in the second one by an error-strewn, Lucic-Baroni.
The second set ebbed into a tense and exciting tiebreak. Lucic-Baroni had her chances with two more set points, but Kerber did remarkably well to pull it out in straight sets. A year or two ago I think this would have gone the distance but Kerber kept her nerves under control. There was a nice reaction at the end.
I was pleased to finally see Angie and she’s easily my favourite WTA player to photograph. I do like to watch the matches but I found myself glued to my camera and taking lots of snaps!
After Kerber’s victory, I headed back over to the practice courts which were really quiet. I spotted the two Dasha’s playing together though and bounded up to the viewing stands. Unfortunately I caught them just at the end but I did get a couple of shots of them hugging at the net. These two are awesome :-).
I headed back over to courts 13 and 14; Kateryna Bondarenko was playing Zheng Saisai on court 13 and the Olympic gold medalists, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina were taking on Laura Siegemund and Mona Barthel. Doubles is always entertaining to watch live and this was no different. Siegemund got tagged at the net once and I liked her attire! It was pretty close but the Russian pair were class.
I soon switched attention to Bondarenko-Zheng, which turned out to be the highlight of the day… words I didn’t expect to write!
My bro and workpal had gone to watch Gael Monfils and I met up with them again on court 13 where they presumed I would be since it was one of the few WTA matches going on! Zheng failed to serve out the match at 7-5 *6-5 with Bondarenko fighting back to win the second set tiebreak and level up at one set all. The highlight was a passionate Saisai supporter who was out of his seat after every point… he was so animated haha
We went for a wander after the second set but failed to find another match to settle on so returned to court 13 where Bondarenko had developed a double break lead in the decider. We got a seat in the stands and I literally got out the popcorn… sweet and salty popcorn is the best.
Zheng recovered the double break with the match finely poised at 4-4 in the third set. The Chinese player was holding her ground well at the net and was throwing in plenty of moonballs. Bondarenko was dealing with them remarkably well, coming forward and taking them out of the air. This had third set tiebreak written all over it (I was hoping for it!) but Bondarenko did break to bring up an opportunity to serve for the match at *5-4.
Bondarenko hit two double faults, both on the Ad side, following what had been very positive points. Bondarenko won the next point at 30-30 to set up a lucrative match point. As another nervy first serve went into the net, I said to my Brother as a joke that she might try an underarm serve… I couldn’t believe it when SHE ACTUALLY DID. Bondarenko’s underarm second serve sailed wide on match point. I’ve never seen anything like it and the crowd went into hysteria! Bondarenko crumbled and Zheng promptly broke back.
This was one crazy, rollercoaster ride and the crowd was loving the drama! Bondarenko broke again with Zheng leaving a ball at 30-30 that caught the line.
I spotted Kateryna’s sister, Alona Bondarenko in the crowd who was continually pacing on the side of the court. I saw her in about six (!) different positions toward the end including joining members of the crowd in standing on the seats for the adjacent court.
As Bondarenko served for the match again at *6-5, she was able to bring up two match points, mostly thanks to Zheng’s poor play; the Chinese player hit one errant moonball and was lacking depth on her groundstrokes, perhaps through fatigue – this was a brutal match! On her first match point, Bondarenko took a ball out of the air that looked to be going long. Another crunching rally ensued on the second match point which this time Bondarenko converted. There was a nice, respectful handshake at the end.
There were mixed emotions for Bondarenko at the end – joy, relief, pain and some tears. She was shaking her head and seemed to be suffering physically. Bondarenko rinsed out her sweatband (urgh haha) and gave it to a kid. A guy shouted out “give us your towel”. Bondarenko did manage a laugh.
You may remember I mentioned about the passionate Saisai fan… the most dramatic moment didn’t happen until the end. He jumped on court at the end (with some persuasion from his friends) for a photo with Bondarenko. I think it’s worth mentioning that Bondarenko was not phased in the slightest and happy to take a photo with him. I’m SURE she knew who he was because you couldn’t miss his support for Zheng during the match.
However security immediately noticed and pounced behind, escorting him off the court. He was stupid for jumping on the court, but meant no harm. When I got back to the hotel, I read an article that said he had been arrested and banned from the US Open for ten years!
Zheng-Bondarenko was one of the memorable matches i’ve ever watched live… yes, the quality wasn’t always there but the drama was top notch. I’d wanted to end my US Open experience with a night match on Grandstand. The match I had my eye on, Madison Keys v Kayla Day, had been moved from that court to Louis Armstrong Stadium so we headed straight there. Keys was already 5-0 up when we arrived and was outclassing Day. It wasn’t a good match but as our last one, I was just trying to take it all in and saviour watching tennis under the lights. Keys won comfortably, 6-1 6-1.
It was a fabulous three days and I have so many great memories from visiting the US Open. I felt sad leaving the grounds but happy knowing we’d really made the most of our time. I think it’s always nice to leave wanting more 🙂
Watch out Melbourne, i’m comin’ for ya!