Saturday, September 03, 2022

US Open 2022 - Day 3 - (So Much) More Tennis

We started our second day of tennis spectating by taking a chance. We once again showed up to the grounds at 9:15am, rather than the hour earlier we'd normally get there. We had no line at security and waited a few minutes for the gates to open and our tickets to be taken. That's two days in a row of showing up a few minutes after the gates open and not standing in line; looks like we have a new arrival strategy.

Yesterday was all about bouncing between stadiums catching snippets of interesting matches. Today, our plan was to plop ourselves down in Armstrong and watch a number of matches in a row.

We started the day on the shady side of the stadium, opposite the umpire chair. In hindsight, it would probably have been better to start on the sunny side and suffer for a bit. The sun would have passed in relatively short order and we'd have been left with awesome seats for the day. Maybe we'll try that next year.

The first match of the day was between Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza and it proved to be an outstanding starter. Kvitova and Muguruza each took a set and it came down to 3rd set tie break to decide the match.

There's something delightful about watching such a balanced match. Both players were hitting their shots and neither showed any signs of letting up.

Next up, we watched Victoria Azarekna take on Petra Martic. Azarenka steam rolled Martic, 6-3, 6-0. This was quite the contrast to the even match up we'd just seen. There was a bit of poetry to this lopsided match: the last time we saw Azarenka play, she was on the receiving end of a 6-0, 6-2 defeat. Did she know that her career wasn't over at the loss? Did she appreciate that soon enough she'd be the one with the overwhelming win?

And finally, we watched the match we'd been waiting all day for: Frances Tiafoe vs Diego Schwartzman. We've enjoyed watching Schwartzman play for years, but we were clearly rooting for the DC area native Tiafoe.

What struck me about Tiafoe's play was that it was an impressive mix of power, accuracy and patience. Sure, he hit some amazing shots, but he also found himself in tights spots. For most of the match he couldn't hit first serves to save his life. He missed a chance to close out a set before a tie break. What was impressive was how he handled these setbacks: he just seemed to push forward. Ultimately, having ice water in his veins let him win the day.

As we closed out the Tiafoe / Schwartzman match my thought was: dang, if Tiafoe could figure out his first serve and continue to keep this laser focus, he could win the whole tournament. He was playing that well. C'mon USA, you got this!

After the Tiafoe / Schwartzman match we finally left Armstrong and headed over to Ashe to watch Rafael Nadal take on Richard Gasquet. Gasquet got off to a slow start and it looked like it was going to be another blood bath of a match. I had the sense that Gasquet would eventually put up some kind of fight (which he did!), but we were just too exhausted to wait it out. We decided to call it a day.

On the way out of US Open Grounds we couldn't help but poke around a bit and see what was going on. We saw that court 17 was absolutely packed as an overflow crowd watched some sort of match finish up. On one of the no-name side courts we caught former US Open Champ Marin Cilic close out a match and then sign autographs for adoring fans. We even watched the first few games of the Jule Neimeier vs Qinwen Zheng match, soaking in the fact that we could be watching pro level tennis from the second row of a tiny court. This 30 minutes of wandering the grounds really captures one of the features that make the US Open so amazing: there's so much tennis and most of it is amazingly accessible.

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