The 81 degree heat (27 Celsius) may have even claimed a victim or two, my wimpy relocated Northern self among them. I had just the tiniest bit of heat exhaustion, I think. I stayed away from the Andy Roddick common-cold-and-cough press conference (remember when he listed those 16 ailments in all the US Open Novak Djokovic verbal jousting a few years back? Hilarity.) and I still felt unwell afterwards! Lame, I know.
Anyway, at 11am play began, with top seed Blaz Kavcic trying to advance to the main draw over eighth seed Donald Young (who, not coincidentally, was also trying to advance to the main draw. Funny that.). I was expecting a tough contest, but it didn’t turn out that way. Kavcic got an early break at 1-all, when Young sandwiched a double fault between two missed forehands, and the 23-year-old Slovenian converted his first break point on a forced error from an angled Blaz backhand.
The crowd tried to get behind The Donald throughout the match, but to no avail. Young was a picture of anguish throughout the encounter, seeming ultimately frustrated, downcast and dejected. Serving at 1-3, he was broken again thanks in part to a couple of netted backhands and a missed forehand sitter. He tossed his racquet to the chair, down a 1-4* double break. Kavcic was just superior in every way on this day, especially with his trademark scrappy movement, running forehands and offensive backhands from defensive positions. The top seed closed out the first set 6-2.
Young started anew with serve in the second, but it was more of the same. A netted backhand, a Kavcic running-forehand-down-the-line passing shot, a Young racquet toss, and a couple of missed forehands. Broken again in the first game of the second frame. “I’m playing like a girl,” Young opined. Blaz was constantly catching Donald out with serves to his lefty forehand as leaned to anticipate the righty serve to his backhand, resulting in a lot of service winners for the Slovene. Kavcic extracted himself from a 0-30 hole serving at 3-1 with a couple of those. “That’s the fifth time now!” Young shouted after the second one in the game. Well, Donald, my notes show a few more times than that, but at least you’re onto him!
Of course, Kavcic heard Young shout that bit of revealing information, so what did he do next time he was in trouble on his serve? That’s right: service winners to the backhand. Keep your cards a little closer, Donald. Jeez. Kavcic saved two break points serving at 3-2 and held. Donald comported himself in a lengthy, thoughtful squat after that game.
Serving at 3-5, Young all but gave up: after a huge Kavcic crosscourt pass with extra gruntage and a follow-up fist, the 21-year-old American still-hopeful hopelessly shanked a forehand, double faulted, and then sayonara. Kavcic over Young 6-2 6-3.
A poor effort from Donald, but guess what? Due to three withdrawals (not only Roddick, but Julien Benneteau and Radek Stepanek also bailed), Young advanced to the main draw anyway. Last night he tweeted: “Sometimes God puts you in the same circumstances over and over again until you learn from it and change! Make the most of the nxt chance..” I hope for his sake he rights the ship in his second-chance first-round match against fifth seed Kevin Anderson in the first round. It’s a tough ask, but at least we’ll hope for a more positive effort.
I was able to run over and catch the final set of seventh seed Marinko Matosevic’s comeback 1-6 6-3 6-3 upset over second qualifying seed Igor Kunitsyn. It was an impressively mature effort from the heretofore (and probably still) combustible Aussie. Serving at 4-3 15-0 in the third, an overruled call went against him. But instead of losing his shiznit, as was his previous method of handling such situations, he just mildly made his case, visibly collected himself, and fired a service winner. “Ajde!” the transplanted Bosnian-Herzegovinian shouted, looking over at coach Mark Woodforde, who is no doubt a stabilizing influence. Or at least trying to be.
There were two such instances in the final set where Marinko was able to gather himself and use his anger as fuel in his shotmaking instead of ammunition in a tirade. He made 79% of first serves in that final set, after being below 50% in the first two. All of this is very encouraging for his future prospects, I think, since his talent shines so brightly. He takes Roddick’s place in the draw and will play Dudi Sela in the first round. I like his chances.
I quickly headed back over to Court 1, where American still-hopeful, the fifth-seeded Ryan Sweeting was aiming for another FQR upset, playing the third seed, Jan Hajek. Sweeting was really on his game in this match, breaking the 27-year-old Czech in the seventh game with a forehand volley and then consolidated for a 6-3 first set win.
The second set got a little contentious, especially as Hajek was serving down at 2-3 down break point after Sweeting had ripped a backhand pass past him. Hajek hit an obviously over-the-baseline ball that was called in. The entire crowd protested along with Ryan, who said to the chair ump, “That ball was eight inches out. You’re supposed to catch that. You’ve got an 80-year-old lady calling the line – how’s she supposed to see?” Somewhat classless, but I’m giggling.
Incidentally, I watched the match next to Ryan’s very proud and genial grandfather. I told him how some people were ranking on Sweeting’s serve against Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open. He was not amused by you, people! In any event, the 23-year-old American was firing down the firsties today – 10 aces, and many more service winners. He won 89% of points off his first ball, and 79% off his second delivery.
Anyway, Hajek held and then in the very next game, with Sweeting serving at 30-0, the same line judge called a foot fault? Hmm. Did she hear the “80-years-old” comment and was thus out for revenge? The evidence is merely circumstancial, for sure, but notable nonetheless. Things went pretty easily on serve from that point, until the final game.
With Hajek serving at 4-5, Sweeting carved a perfect backhand drop shot, putting the Czech at 0-15. Then Ryan came to net on the next point, the wind kicked up, and a Hajek lob was carried way long. At 15-30, Sweeting blasted a backhand second serve return up the line for two set points, and he converted on his second opportunity. A strong and convincing win for the Bahama-born man, 6-3 6-4. He now will play Igor Andreev in his first round main draw match.
And from one Ryan to another Ryan we went, just by being lazy and staying on Court 1 – the next match on after Sweeting featured American very-hopeful Ryan Harrison against Frenchman Florent Serra in a main draw first round affair.
Things started well for the 18 year-old, though he looked a little pekid and was griping a lot (“Turn the microphone off” “See that? See that?” pointing to a mark. “So you don’t agree that that one’s it?”). Very Roddick-like.
But with Serra serving at 1-2 40-15, the Frenchman made two groundstroke errors to deuce, and Ryan ripped a handcuffing forehand crosscourt pass to gain a break point. Serra saved it with a service winner out wide, but then hit a forehand out and wide to bring up break point #2, which Harrison squandered with a wide forehand of his own. Finally after a beautifully played point that culminated with an off forehand passing shot from Harrison to bring up break point #3, Ryan converted with a fine forehand chip and charge off a second serve. Great play.
The young man from Louisiana, who now trains in Bradenton, had to fight off some exasperated moments (hurling his racquet into the backstop at one point), but he ultimately made that one break hold up, taking the first set 6-3.
He fended off another break point at 0-1 in the second but couldn’t stave off Serra’s sixth opportunity in the match, at 1-2 with the Frenchman converting after Harrison hit long with his forehand (and then hit a ball about a hundred yards, over the fence, over the players’ lounge, over the media center, and probably someone among the vending tents got a nice souvenier – or, possibly, a nice bruise).
Two more serves were held, and then – after Serra held for 5-2, Harrison hurled. Stuck his head in a garbage bin for about 45 seconds and made throwing up noises. Intrepid reporter though I may be, I did not check the bottom of the bin for verification of discharge. No thank you.
One of the weirdest medical time outs I’ve ever seen soon followed, as Ryan got something swabbed on his face with Q-tips, was handed some gum and tablets and got a jaw massage and a breathe-rite ™ strip on his schnoz.
Suffice it to say, Harrison was definitely sick. But still fighting – Serra, himself, the ch/ump – still fighting nonetheless. But Serra made his break hold up as well, taking the second set 6-3.
In the final frame, Harrison really battled, very impressively. Fought off four break points as a toughed out serve hold after serve hold, looking like he was about to die.
Meanwhile, Serra encountered far less resistance on his serve, fending away just one BP in the first game and never letting Ryan past 30 in any other.
Serving at 4-all, Harrison threw three double faults into the mix and a lot of grousing: “That’s the latest call I’ve ever heard in my life!” (it was pretty late), and a funny moment – after screaming “That’s not out!” he went toward the net to check the mark and said, “Oh, it is out – I can see it!” Everyone laughed – a nice moment of levity amongst the tension of the final set.
Harrison dug his way out of that game with a clutch lob after a second Serra volley, the lob landing right smack on the back of the baseline, an ace, and a couple of Serra errors (Serrors?).
But at 5-all, after such a gritty fight, the wheels game off for the young American. After missing a groundie long to go down 0-15 (and angering one of his supporters, who shouted, “C’mon!” like “You can do better than that! Jeez! Stop wasting my time!” It was a strange show of support, for sure), Serra scored with a forehand pass up the line for 0-30. Another Harrison double fault (he finished the match with six), and a missed forehand long, and Serra had the crucial break. From there, the Frenchman held easily and Ryan walked off queasily. Final score: Serra over Harrison 3-6 6-3 7-5.
And then I was feeling faint and my phone battery had died along with my energy, so I went back to the hotel and was asleep by seven. Such a hearty, party man I am. Standouts for the day were definitely Matosevic and Sweeting. And disappointments for Harrison and Young. I didn’t get to see any of the other final qualifying round match between sixth seed Alejandro Falla and Canadian Frank Dancevic. Falla won 6-4 6-2 but I don’t know why or how. (I do know where, though! Court 4! So there’s at least some information on that match. You’re welcome).
Tune in tomorrow, for sure-to-be-amazing recaps of del Potro vs. Berankis as well as Kavcic vs. Przysiezny, Sweeting vs. Andreev and some interesting doubles matches too, Jack Sock and Donald Young among the pairs competing. Should be a great day! I hope you have a great day too.