The Koz with Jameson Corsillo

Nine year old Jameson Corsillo of Boca Raton, FL is a “Rising Star” recently winning the Little Mo International.

He already has had a life time of mind-boggling tennis experiences from playing in exhibitions with John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and also with Bob & Mike Bryans to being featured in Sports Illustrated sports kid and doing a photo shoot on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Nicknamed “The Bullet” because of his incredible speed, he has massed nearly 100 trophies for Tennis, baseball, soccer, basketball & BMX Bike racing.

The fearless tike has a dream to ride every single roller coaster around the world when he’s on the ATP world tour!

Dave “KOZ” Kozlowski caught up with the young champion for a phone interview.

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Sportsbeat – 9/3/12

No matter who wins the 2012 US Open on the men’s and women’s side, the biggest story of the tournament was Andy Roddick’s surprise announcement that he would be calling it a career at a hastily called press conference at Arthur Ashe Stadium last Thursday.

Roddick kept his composure as he explained that he no longer felt that he had the energy and desire to compete on the pro tour any longer. He will now use the time to concentrate running his foundation and youth tennis center in Austin, Texas where he now makes his home.

When asked what he will miss the most about competing, Andy quickly replied, “All of you!” The media quickly laughed at the joke because it’s no secret that he has never been fond of the fourth estate. More often than not, he has acted peevish when asked legitimate questions that he would have preferred not been raised.

I remember asking him after he won his first round match in 2008 if he felt any regrets about taking part in American Express’s bizarre “Who stole Andy’s mojo?”ad campaign three years earlier. In 2005 Roddick lost his first match at the Open to the little-known Gilles Muller of Luxembourg in straight sets creating instant embarrassment for both himself and AmEx. “I never think about that!” snapped Roddick. I doubted the veracity of that statement then and my opinion hasn’t changed now.

It was hard not feel a bit sorry for France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who got bounced after losing his second round match despite being seeded fifth on the men’s side. I asked him if there is a big talent gap between the top four male players (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray) and himself. “I would have to be say that there is,” Tsonga candidly replied. He then gave a variation on the late Rodney Dangerfield’s “I get no respect” line by saying that no matter how hard he works on the court, “he never gets rewarded” at the Grand Slam tournaments.

I asked James Blake, who made it to the third round at this year’s Open before being eliminated, if it was good for his sport that one per cent of the male tennis players win 99% of the big tournaments. “Actually, it is. When I first became a professional, the prize and endorsement money for golf and tennis was pretty much the same. Then Tiger came along and the interest in golf skyrocketed at our expense. “Novak, Roger, and Rafa do a great job of marketing our sport to everyone,” he said.

Starwood Hotels, whose lodging portfolio includes Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien Four Points and W Hotels, made fans at the Open by offering complimentary pedicab rides along the boardwalk between the Willets Point #7 train stop and the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

Bravo to the Queens Economic Development Corporation for having a kiosk at the Open promoting all that our borough has to offer.

Tennis players are always aware of their corporate benefactors and they love it when the press queries them about their endorsement deals. Up and coming American tennis star Sloane Stephens was gushing over the fact that her likeness was plastered all over the boardwalk linking the #7 train and Flushing Meadows Park. James Blake, who normally, wears a Mets cap to his press conferences, sported instead a short and hat that read “Travis Mathew.” Blake informed us that Travis Mathew is an L.A.-based sportswear company that has signed him and golfer Bubba Watson to be their spokesmen.

Roger Federer has long been one of the more accessible superstars. When I passed him in the back hallways of Arthur Ashe Stadium last week I told him that I enjoyed his television commercial for Mercedes-Benz. The money shot has one of his young twin daughters throwing a stuffed toy at him right after he fastens his seat belt in the ad. Of course not a hair ever gets out of place and the smile is perfect since this is, after all,  suave and debonair Roger. He beamed and thanked me for saying that I thought that it was worthy of Clio consideration. (The Clios are advertising’s answer to the Oscars.)

Every year American Express hires MSG sports anchor Al Trautwig to interview current and former players at the Open. The nice part is that patrons get a chance to ask questions. Last Friday Al was talking with the recently retired Taylor Dent. The handsome and articulate Dent has always looked as if he came from Hollywood central casting. It’s a shame that he, like his good friend Robby Ginepri who is still playing, could always be counted on to lose at Flushing Meadows by  the fourth day of the Open. Of course back then nobody around here cared if Dent was eliminated early since we could always depend on either Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras, both Americans of course, to win the big trophy.

I asked Dent whether tennis will be in trouble if an American doesn’t start winning a US Open sometime soon. “That’s a good question. My feeling is that it’s not as crucial as it might have been a few years ago,” he stated.

The Tennis Channel, which is available on Time Warner Cable only as part of an extra-costing sports tier package, once again missed a golden opportunity at the US Open. As per their nickel-and-dime tradition, they neither took out a kiosk to promote their outlet to the general public, nor did they have a press event to let media get to know either their executives or broadcasters such as witty former player Justin Gimelstob.

The Golf Channel, which has obviously a similar niche appeal as the Tennis Channel, is available as part of basic packages on most cable and satellite providers. What separates the two is that the Golf Channel is owned by Philadelphia-based media behemoth, Comcast. The Tennis Channel is independently owned and thus lacks muscle with television operators which is why they should promote themselves where they can such as at American tennis’s marquee event.

The United States Tennis Association held a kick-off event for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month this past Saturday. Fighting childhood obesity has been a pet project of First Lady Michelle Obama. Coming out to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center to lend their support were gold medal-winning Olympic swimmers Dara Torres and Cullen Bryant, personal trainer and consultant to NBC’s popular reality series, “The Biggest Loser,” Bob Harper, and actress Christine Taylor (who is perhaps better known for being married to Ben Stiller.)

It’s hard to believe that the Baltimore Orioles have emerged to be the Yankees’ biggest threat in the American League. I had to check the box score in the papers to make sure that Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray weren’t still playing for them. OK, call me Rip Van Winkle.

After watching the Mets win five out of six against the Phillies and the Marlins on the road last week, it’s clear that our Flushing heroes are, to use a favorite term from team owner Fred Wilpon, playing meaning September games. Our guys are going all out to finish in third place in the National League East.

I was saddened to learn of the passing of veteran character actor and Forest Hills High School alumnus Stephen Franken. He was best known for succeeding Warren Beatty in the role of the foppish and wealthy high school rival of Dwayne Hickman’s Dobie Gillis on television’s “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” in the early 1960s.

 

Fish Learns On The Job

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Abe Vigoda’s character Sargent Phil Fish from Barney Miller is getting more respect than Mardy Fish these days.

As the top ranked American you would figure he should get a chance to be on Arthur Ashe Stadium one of these days, but alas the No. 8 seed still is getting showcased on the old center court Luis Armstrong stadium.

The Californian, though, doesn’t seem to mind.

“It’s definitely been like that in the past,” he said. “You know, there’s an American playing, put him on Grandstand or Louis court, and hopefully he’ll win.

“I hope it’s the beginning of that. That’s what you work towards, to have people come and appreciate what you do. You know, maybe I get the feeling, at least in the beginning of that match, that there were quite a few people there that maybe wouldn’t have been there in years past.”

Fish won his match today against South African Kevin Anderson with a straight sets victory, 6-4 7-6 7-6 to advance to the fourth round.

And if he wants to continue on his trek to greatness, he knows he need to continue disposing of opponents like the 12th Precinct captures bad guys. Straight set matches are key for the 39 year-old if he move deep into this tournament and beat one of the Big Four.

“It’s huge,” Fish said. “Mentally, physically, everything. Obviously it’s what we train for. I’ll be physically fine in two days. But, you know, I’m 29. I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like I’m 20. I don’t feel like Donald felt this morning. I’m sure he felt fine, you know. I won’t feel like that tomorrow morning.

“But we’ll do a lot of work on my body tonight, tomorrow. It’s big, you know, to get off. Last year was a prime example. I mean, I played two fivesetters in the first three rounds. I was just mentally and physically kind of drained to play someone like Novak in that next match.

“Maybe I could have come up against him, gamewise, a lot better than the score was. But I was so tired I wasn’t ready for it.”

It has been widely reported Fish has made the remarkable transformation from journeyman to star in a matter of a few years and maybe the reason he’s not getting the respect he deserves is that no one believes he could become a top player at this advanced age.

Yet, here’s Fish and like Phil Fish he is the grizzled veteran who is best at his job.

So what changed?

“Probably a lot,” Fish said. “I mean, probably first and foremost the mental side of it. You know, he seemed pretty jacked up yesterday. Obviously, you feed off the crowd. You’re not going to go away with a crowd like that, that’s for sure.

“But, you know, he lost serve at 54 and came right back, was able to hold to go to a breaker. And I think he said it after his match, that that’s probably a match he would have lost a year ago.

“Mentally he probably would have just been upset and said he had some chances and that’s it. You know, so that’s a huge part of it, as well. Maturing, growing, growing into your game, what makes you feel comfortable out on the court. There are demons out there, for sure. It’s not easy. It’s not going to be a piece of cake three out of five sets, that’s for sure.”

Fish is set to take on the winner of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round and much like the crew of Precinct 12, he will be ready for the job.

New York’s Falconi Gets The Big Stage

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Venus Williams may have been Willy Pipped today.

After the elder Williams sister pulled out of the tournament with an autoimmune disease, Irena Falconi had her second round match moved from Court 11 to Arthur Ashe Stadium and the 21 year-old New Yorker seized the opportunity.

“When I walked in,” she said, “I was trying to distract everyone that I was drinking water, but I was looking at my environment and really just adapting to what was about to happen. Yeah, I definitely took a second to really look at my surroundings.”

But in the end the young American came through against 14th seed Dominika Cibilkova , 2-6 6-3 7-5.

It was the thrill of a lifetime for the 78th ranked Falconi, who started waving an American flag after her win.

“It was totally out of instinct,” she said.  “I have the flag in my bag.  It’s a good luck flag that was given to me by my trainer, Kim Wilson.  I really felt that it couldn’t have been a more perfect time.”

And maybe Falconi is coming along at the perfect time. So much has been said about the slump American tennis is suffering through that someone like Falconi could easily fill the void. Like Christina McHale this year and Melanie Oudin a few years ago, she can be an up and comer for the US circuit.

It’s something she knows and is sure to tell everyone who listens.

“I’ve heard so much about media talking about American tennis, and I really wanted to portray that there’s a huge wave of American players,” she said.  “I have an American coach and trainer, Jeff and Kim Wilson.

“I strongly believe in all that is USA, and I wanted to represent it and show the world that it’s coming.  It’s coming.  No need to wait any longer.”

If you look at Falconi, she doesn’t look like a typical tennis player. Actually she looks more like your little sister or the girl next door. At 5’4’’, she has thought to have been too short and not the right shape to compete at competitive tennis at a high level. And the braces on her teeth make her look like she’s 15 rather than the legal drinking age.

But all of this drives the Ecuadorian native.  She didn’t come from tremendous means with her parents immigrating to the Washington Heights, NY in 1993. And then she moved to Florida in 2004 to perfect her game.

Now just seven years later, the sky’s the limit for this young girl.

“I don’t really think there’s a limit,” Falconi said.  “I’ve been told that I’m 5’4″, in case you didn’t know.  One thing I did go in there today knowing was that I was taller than my opponent, which was huge.

“I know Justine Henin, she was 5’6″ and she was 1 in the world.  I know for a fact if she can do it, why not?”

That’s a question every woman is asking in this Open. Why not? With seeded players getting knocked out all over the place today this may be a year when an up and comer just happens to win the Open.

“Tournament’s not over yet.” she said, “There’s still five other matches to be won.  There’s still doubles and mixed.  So this is definitely a fortnight.  It’s not over yet.  I’m just so excited.  My team and I are just so excited for what’s to come.”

With an attitude like that, Venus may not be the only player she replaces this week.

 

 

 

 

 

WILD-CARD MUELLER BEATS STEVENSON ON DAY 1 OF LEXUS OF LAS VEGAS USTA WOMEN’S $50,000 PRO CIRCUIT EVENT

LAS VEGAS, Nev., (Sept. 28, 2010) – Advantage, wild cards.

Alexandra Mueller, a 22-year-old from Abington, Pa., and Chelsey Gullickson, 20, from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., took full advantage of their wild cards on Tuesday during the first day of the Lexus of Las Vegas Open, a USTA $50,000 women’s event being played at the Red Rock Country Club.

Mueller beat veteran Alexandra Stevenson, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 and now owns a 2-1 career head-to-head advantage over Stevenson having won the last two, including another three-setter at a Boston $50,000 Challenger in June.

“I’m familiar with her having her played her those two other times,” said Mueller, who was the winner of the U.S. National Open Playoff over the summer and won a wild-card in the qualifying at the U.S. Open. “I know she can turn it on at times and be real explosive. I had a couple of set points in the first that I couldn’t pull the trigger on.”

Stevenson, who will be 30 in December, is currently ranked No. 323 in the world while Mueller is No. 442.

Joining Mueller in the winner’s circle was another wild-card Gullickson. The 2010 NCAA singles champion from Georgia is taking the fall off from school to see how she does in professional events. She had a nice won over No. 7 seeded Julia Cohen on Tuesday, beating the world’s No. 169 player, 0-6 7-6 (3), 6-2. Gullickson, who is the daughter of former major league pitcher Bill Gullickson, recently played at the U.S. Open, losing a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court to top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the first round.

Only two other main draw singles matches were played with No. 2 seeded Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. beating Kathrin Woerle of Germany, 6-3, 6-3 and Florida’s Lauren Albanese taking out Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France, 7-6 (4), 6-0

Las Vegas’ Asia Muhammad, 19, will play her first singles match in the last match on Stadium Court on Wednesday against No. 5 seeded Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia, not before 4 p.m.  Muhammad is currently ranked No. 443 in the world and was a surprise quarterfinalist in the event last year and a runner-up in a similar event in 2008.

It was a good day to be an odd-numbered seeded player in qualifying as the No. 1, 3, 5 and 7 seeded players all won matches Tuesday to gain entry into the main draw. Former Georgia Tech All-American Irina Falconi (No. 1), all-time USTA Pro Circuit singles leader Julie Ditty (3), Ashley Weinhold (No. 5) and Brittany Augustine (No. 7) each won straight-set matches.

Two of those qualifiers will face each other in the first round on Wednesday as Ditty drew Weinhold.

First-Round Singles Scores

Varvara Lepchenko (U.S.) (2) def. Kathrin Woerle (GER), 6-3, 6-3

Lauren Albanese (U.S.) def. Stephanie Foretz Gacon (FRA), 7-6 (4), 6-0

Chelsey Gullickson (U.S.) (wc) def. Julia Cohen (U.S.) (7), 0-6 7-6 (3), 6-2

Alexandra Mueller (U.S.) (wc) def. Alexandra Stevenson (U.S.), 5-7, 6-1, 6-3

First-Round Doubles Scores

Lindsay Lee-Waters (U.S.) (4) / Megan Moulton-Levy def. Asia Muhammad (U.S.) / Ashley Weinhold (U.S.), 6-4, 6-2

Kimberly Couts (U.S.) / Anna Tatishvili (GEO) (3) def. Sabrina Capannolo (U.S.) / Amanda Fink (U.S.), 6-1, 6-3

Christina Fusano (U.S.) / Courtney Nagle (U.S.) def. Heidi El Tabakh (CAN) / Riza Zalameda (U.S.), 6-2, 6-2

Irina Falconi (U.S.) / Maria Sanchez (U.S.) def. Jorgelina Cravero (ARG) / Kathrin Woerle (GER), 6-0, 3-6, (10-7)

Stephanie Foretz Gacon (FRA) / Alexa Glatch (U.S.) def. Nicole Melichar (U.S.) / Petra Rampre (SLO), 6-1, 6-0

Abigail Spears (U.S.) (2) / Mashona Washington (U.S.) def. Lauren Albanese (U.S.) / Laura Siegemund (GER), 6-3, 6-2

Madison Brengle (U.S.) / def. Amra Sadikovic (SUI) def. Sorana Cirstea (ROU) / Edina Gallovits (ROU) (1), 6-2, 5-7, (10-6)

Final Qualifying Scores

Ashley Weinhold (U.S.) (5) def. Jorgelina Cravero (ARG) (4), 6-1 6-2

Brittany Augustine (U.S.) (7) def. Julia Boserup (U.S.) (2), 6-4 7-5

Julie Ditty (U.S.) (3) def. Maria Sanchez (U.S.), 6-0 6-1

Irina Falconi (U.S.) (1) def. Amanda Fink (U.S.) (6), 6-4 7-5

Wednesday’s Order of Play

q: qualifier; wc: wild card

Starting at 10 a.m. on Stadium Court

Mashona Washington (U.S.) vs. Alexa Glatch (U.S.) (wc)

Camila Giorgi (ITA) vs. Mirjana Lucic (CRO) (4)

Sorana Cirstea (ROU) (3) vs. Irina Falconi (U.S.) (q)

Asia Muhammad (U.S.) (wc) vs. vs. Mariana Duque-Marino (COL) (5)

Starting at 10 a.m. on Court 2

Edina Gallovits (ROU) (1) vs. Petra Rampre (SLO)

Heidi El Tabakh (CAN) vs. Madison Brengle (U.S)

Kimberly Couts (U.S.) vs. Brittany Augustine (U.S) (q)

Ashley Weinhold (U.S.) (q) vs. Julie Ditty (U.S) (q)

Starting at 10 a.m. on Court 3

Ekaterina Shulaeva (CAN) vs. Valerie Tetreault (CAN) (8)

Abigail Spears (U.S.) vs. Laura Siegemund (GER)

Lindsay Lee-Waters (U.S.) vs. Shelby Rogers (U.S.)

Liga Dekmeijere (LAT) / Varvara Lepchenko (U.S.) vs. Alexandra Mueller (U.S.) / Ahsha Rolle (U.S.)

Starting at 10 a.m. on Court 5

Anna Tatishvili (GEO) (6) vs. Amra Sadikovic (SUI)

The following is a tentative schedule of events supplementing the tournament:

COMMUNITY EVENTS

  • Wednesday Sept. 29 – Players Party at J.W. Marriott, 6-9 p.m. (Free for ticket holders).
  • Thursday Sept. 30 – High School Day, 6-8 p.m. (Free general admission for ages 15-18).
  • Friday, Oct. 1 – Volkl/Becker Racquet Day, 6-8 p.m.

USTA Members Day ($10 off admission for all current USTA members)

  • Saturday, Oct. 2 – Super Semifinal Saturday; USTA Ladies League Luncheon.

For additional event and ticket information, please visit www.lexuslvopen.com

LAS VEGAS PAST CHAMPIONS

Singles

Year                Winner                                                Runner-up

2009                Regina Kulikova (RUS)                      Aniko Kapros (HUN)

2008                Camille Pin (FRA)                               Asia Muhammad (U.S.)

2007                Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)                 Akiko Morigami (JPN)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.)                           Hila Rosen (ISR)

Doubles

Year                Winner

2009                Aniko Kapros (HUN) – Agustina Lepore (ARG)

2008                Melinda Czink (HUN) – Renata Voracova (CZE)

2007                Victoria Azarenka (BLR) – Tatiana Poutchek (BLR)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.) – Annabel Ellwood (AUS)

PRIZE MONEY

SINGLES:                    Prize Money              Points

Winner                         $7,315                         70

Runner-up                   $3,990                         50

Semifinalist                 $2,185                         32

Quarterfinalist             $1,235                         18

Round of 16                $760                            10

Round of 32                $475                            1

DOUBLES:                Prize Money (per team)

Winner                         $2,660

Runner-up                   $1,425

Semifinalist                 $760

Quarterfinalist             $380

Round of 16                $285

USTA Pro Circuit

With 94 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed on the USTA Pro Circuit for approximately $3.2 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jelena Jankovic are among the top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA Pro Circuit is world-class tennis administered on the local level and played on local tennis courts as part of the fabric of communities nationwide — an opportunity for current and new fans to experience the excitement and intensity of the professional game in their neighborhood.

Marino Stops Bartoli in Her Tracks

Montreal, September 16, 2010 – Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) achieved another milestone in her young
career on Wednesday night at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, a $220,000 WTA Tour event.

Just two weeks removed from the playing the biggest match of her life on Arthur Ashe Stadium against Venus
Williams in the second round of the U.S. Open, Marino is making headlines again after ousting world no. 14
Marion Bartoli of France 6-1, 6-3 to reach her first WTA quarter-final. The win is also her first over a Top 20
player.

“This was one of the best matches of my life,” Marino said. “She’s the highest-ranked player I’ve ever beaten. I want to be playing at this level, competing against – and winning – against these players. I have put a lot of work in and maybe this is a reward for that.”

Marino served 10 aces and lost only 18 points on serve in the 75 minute match. The 19-year-old also broke
Bartoli’s serve four times in six attempts. She will face American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Friday’s quarterfinals.

With the victory, Marino becomes only the second Canadian to beat a Top 15 player in the last 10 years.
Aleksandra Wozniak has accomplished the feat four times in that span.

“Rebecca gave me absolutely no chance,” Bartoli remarked after the match. “If she plays like that every day she can be Top 20, Top 10 even. I felt she could put the ball wherever she wanted to and I had no chance to win the match with her playing like that. She served well; there was so much pressure for me to hold my serve.”

Marino’s compatriots Stéphanie Dubois (Laval, QC) and Valérie Tétreault (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) will
attempt to join her in the final eight when they take over Centre Court tonight at PEPS on the campus of Laval University for their second round matches. Tétreault will begin proceedings during Thursday’s evening session against American Christina McHale followed by Dubois who will take on another American in Alexa Glatch. Both Canadians upset seeded players in their opening matches.

For all of the latest news and results from the Bell Challenge, visit the tournament’s official website
www.challengebell.com.

Dubois, Marino and Tétreault will headline an impressive player field at the $50,000 Saguenay National Bank
Challenger which is set to get underway on Saturday in Saguenay with the qualifying rounds.

About Tennis Canada
Founded in 1890, Tennis Canada is a non-profit, national sport association responsible for leading the growth, promotion and showcasing of tennis in Canada. Tennis Canada owns and operates two of the premier events on the ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tours; Rogers Cup men’s and women’s events that rotate annually between Rexall Centre in Toronto and Uniprix Stadium in Montreal. In addition, Tennis Canada owns and operates six professional ITF sanctioned events and financially supports six other professional tournaments in Canada.

Tennis Canada operates national training centres at the Centre of Excellence in Toronto and at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal. Tennis Canada is a proud member of the International Tennis Federation, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympics Committee and the International Wheelchair Tennis Association, and serves to administer, sponsor and select the teams for Davis Cup, Fed Cup, the Olympic Games and all wheelchair, junior and senior national teams. Tennis Canada invests its surplus into tennis development. For more information on Tennis Canada please visit our Web site at: www.tenniscanada.com.

No Need To Roof Arthur Ashe

“A monstrosity,” one New York veteran columnist called Arthur Ashe Stadium in the press room during the one hour and 47 minute rain delay yesterday.

And of course there was chirping from the British media, because if their beloved Wimbledon can put a roof on their Centre Court, why not one in Flushing Meadows?

The fact is, even with the last three Open Finals pushed back a day, putting a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium is just not practical from any aspect. In fact, to cave into the roof demands will take valuable resources away from other USTA endeavors.

“It’s technically complex and financially challenging,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told Reuters the other day.  “At a cost of more than $150 million, do you spend that on a roof or continue to fund grassroots tennis programs in this country?”

Widmaier is probably being nice as some estimates put it over $250 million. From a fiscal standpoint, why would the USTA shell out for a roof just in case there is a storm coming through the second weekend of September? It just doesn’t make sense. And once a covering is installed, you know it won’t rain on the Open for 10 years.

Yet, other majors are going in that direction, so why not the Open? Well in Melbourne, having covered courts is part of the infrastructure of the city. Rod Laver Arena – the Australian Open’s main stage – acts as the city’s main arena for the rest of the year. It’s used for about 180 days outside of the two weeks in January. And Hisense Arena also doubles as a basketball arena for the rest of the season.

Any ancillary events in New York for a crowd the size of Arthur Ashe will go to Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, The Meadowlands, The Izod Centre, and soon the Barclay’s Centre so there will be no extra economic impact. Over the first 14 years of its existence, Arthur Ashe only was used once for a non tennis event in 2008, when the WNBA played a game there.

Some may argue Wimbledon built one with no extra use. But the fact is the weather in London during the beginning of July usually calls for rain. Heck they even put it into the plotline of the movie “Wimbledon” where a shower came through, which allowed the two protagonists to make up. If they made that movie today Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst would never have found love. Wouldn’t that have been a tragedy?

In Queens, however, the two weeks of the Open tend to be the driest of the year. Before 2008, the only other time the Open was pushed back until Monday in Flushing Meadows was in 1987. Before then you had to go back to 1974. Just because there was a lot of rain over the past few years doesn’t mean the USTA needs to shell out a quarter of a million dollars.

Let’s say they did. Arthur Ashe is built on landfill, as Flushing Meadows – Corona Park was once an ash dump (It was in the book the Great Gatzby as the Valley of the Ashes) and it foundation was once the foundation of the United States Pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair, a building that’s half the size of the current structure. To put a roof on Ashe, they would have to redo the whole foundation and then put the covering on it. Or they would just have to blow up Ashe and start anew.

Unfortunately neither plan would be finished in a year, disrupting an Open or two in the future.

Another argument is to cover Armstrong Stadium, but then the USTA would have to expand that venue in order to accommodate, every ticket holder.

No, the USTA is stuck with Ashe, like it or not and putting a roof on the so-called “monstrosity” just doesn’t make sense. The Open would be better served using that money to expand the outer courts to accommodate more people. Frankly, those matches tend to get very cramped, very quickly.

But a roof? No need. The Open is better without one.

Nadal Completes Career Grand Slam With Win Over Djokovic

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Hurling himself into the final ferocious forehands of the night like a fighter unleashing uppercuts with incisive intentions, Rafael Nadal took his shot at tennis history on the rise and completed his Grand Slam coronation in stirring style tonight.

Nadal captured his first career US Open championship to complete the career Grand Slam with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Novak Djokovic in the Flushing Meadows final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s more than I dreamt,” said Nadal, whose fingertips, still tinged with adhesive tape, tickled the shiny silver title trophy that eluded him for so long. “I know, for me, it’s a dream have the career Grand Slam, but this is more (of a) dream (to) have the US Open.  Is some moments unbelievable feeling because I worked a lot all my life, in all difficult moments to be here, but I never imagined have the four Grand Slams.”

On championship point, Nadal coaxed a final forehand error from Djokovic, watched Djokovic’s shot sail wide, dropped his Babolat racquet and fell flat on his back behind the baseline while camera flashes flickered continiously like a force of fireflies descending on Flushing Meadows to light up the night. Then he rolled over on his stomach, his palms pressing down on the court as if embracing the largest Grand Slam stage in the world in a heart-felt hug.

Throughout his career, the US Open was the one major title eluding him, but on this night, in this event, Nadal conquered the hard court once deemed to fast for game and brought more than 22,000 adoring fans along for the ride.

When it was over the appreciative Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd stood and gave both men a rousing ovation.

At the age of 24 years, 101 days, Nadal took another giant stride toward tennis immortality in becoming just the seventh man in history to complete the career Grand Slam. Nadal is the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in succession. He is the third youngest man to complete the career Grand Slam after Don Budge (22 years, 357 days) and Laver (24 years, 32 days).

It is the ninth career major championship for Nadal, who is the first Spanish man since Manuel Orantes in 1975 to win the US Open. He spent some of the early years of his career as the second-seeded shadow to 16-time Grand Slam king Roger Federer. But now Nadal, five years Federer’s junior and owning a 14-7 career edge over the Swiss stylist in their head-to-head series, can stake a claim as one of the greatest players of all time. Should he he continue his winning pace, and there’s no one on the horizon who appears capable of slowing Nadal’s Roland Garros reign, can the muscular Mallorcan surpass Federer as the mythical Greatest Of All Time?

“Definitely,” Djokovic said without hesitation tonight. “He has the capabilities already now to become the best player ever.  I think he’s playing the best tennis that I ever seen him play on hardcourts.  He has improved his serve drastically.  The speed, the accuracy, and of course his baseline is as good as ever. So he’s a very complete player.”

Solidifying his status as the best big-match player in the sport, Nadal is 6-0 in his last six Grand Slam finals.

Racing so far behind the baseline he could have almost tapped the blue back wall with his racquet, Nadal ripped running backhand passes that left Djokovic shaking his head in disbelief at times.

The match featured six rallies of 20 more strokes and those punishing exchanges took a toll on Djokovic, whose depleted legs, drained from the five-set fight with five-time champion Roger Federer in the semifinals, looked like licorice by the early stages of the fourth set.

A rhythm player who actually seems to grow stronger as the match goes longer, Nadal was seemingly swinging with even more force as he saw the finish line in the fourth set.

A titanic topspin forehand down the line gave Nadal a double break point in the third game of the fourth set. Djokovic retaliated with his own ripping forehand down the line to save the first break point, but that shot was effectively the Belgrade baseliner’s last stand. A Djokovic forehand tripped on the tope of the tape and landed long as Nadal broke for 2-1.

Two games later, Nadal was at it again, pummeling punishing shots that hounded Djokovic like a pack of pit bulls unleashed on a trespasser. When Djokovic, who fought so hard for so long, flattened a forehand into the net, he hung his head falling into a 1-4 hole, wearing the weary resignation of a man well aware the dream was evaporating in the night air.

Djokovic was serving at 4-all, 30-all in the second set when the skies opened up and rain began pouring down. Tournament referee Brian Earley, clutching his ever-present walkie talkie came out quickly and acted decisively. “We’re going in. Take them in,” Earley told the security team, which escorted Nadal and Djokovic back into the locker room.

After a one hour, 57-minute rain delay, the players returned to the court at about 7:48 and Djokovic struck the serve that officially resumed play at 7:59.

Serving at 5-6, Nadal bumped a drop volley into net to fall to 30-all. Djokovic drilled a backhand down the line to draw an error and earn break point.

Reading the serve down the T, Djokovic moved right to cut off the angle and drove a forehand return down the middle that flirted with the front of the baseline. Forced to respond off his back foot, Nadal could only lift an off-balance forehand into the net as Djokovic broke to seze the second set.

Winding up for a windmill fist-pump, the veins bulging in Djokovic’s neck were visible from courtside as he trotted to his court-side seat deadlocked at one set apiece.

Sprinting seven feet behind the baseline, back in the territory typically occupied by ball kids, Nadal somehow angled a backhand pass crosscourt to earn triple break point at 0-40 in the third game of the third set. Djokovic erased the first with an ace and saved the second when Nadal netted a backhand. On the third break point, Djokovic slice a serve wide, drew the short ball he desired, but lifted a crosscourt forehand wide as Nadal broke for 2-1. Nadal quickly consolidated for 3-1.

Cranking up the pressure like as if tightening a tennis vise, Nadal earned five break points in the seventh game of the fourth set. Serving under immense pressure, Djokovic played with more aggression on the break points and time after time denied Nadal a second break. Attacking net, Djokovic saved a fifth break point when Nadal mis-fired on a backhand pass. A gam that featured 16 points and spanned more than 11 minutes finally ended when Nadal knocked a backhand into net.

Djokovic dug out a hard-fought hold for 3-4, but his legs and lungs paid a steep price.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Nadal went toe-to-toe with Djokovic in a demanding rally that spanned more than 20 shots. It ended with Djokovic clocking a crosscourt forehand winner. Another fierce forehand down the line drew Djokovic to 15-30.

A determined Djokovic ripped a forehand crosscourt drawing a Nadal backhand beyond the baseline as Djokovic broke at love for a 3-1 second-set lead screaming “Come on!” as his parents jumped out of their seats in support.

Nadal had been broken in just two of 91 games in the tournament, but Djokovic broke him twice in the first seven service games of the final.

Whipping his backhand down the line to set up his inside-out forehand, Djokovic hammered an inside-out forehand to hold at love for 4-1. The Serbian strung together 11 consecutive points and appeared to have the second set under control.

Nadal had other ideas.

The USTA announced total attendance for the US Open was 712,976 total attendance.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Queens of Queens As King and Shvedova Win Women’s Doubles

The Doors’ “Love Me Two Times” echoed around a near-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium shortly before the climactic tie breaker of today’s US Open women’s final while Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova both bounced on their feet in nervous anticipation as if trying to tap thumb tacks into the court with the soles of their shoes.  It was an appropriate anthem for the pair whose affection for doubles is so strong they seem to play every point as if powered by passion.

Minutes later, they were moving their feet in unison on championship point, eye-to-eye with Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova entrenched at net rapidly repelling every drive streaming at them with reflex volleys.

That’s when Shvedova took decisive action: She took touch to new heights.

Taking a small step back, Shvedova measured her shot and lofted an exquisite rainbow lob down the line directly over the 5-foot-10 Petrova’s head. Working the short court down the line is a difficult shot  under any circumstances — it’s downright demanding given the magnitude of the moment.

“Up! Up! Up! Up!” Huber urged, imploring her partner to take a leap at the sailing shot that carried championship hopes in its flight.

Petrova jumped, but the yellow ball floated like a runaway kite beyond her outstretched Babolat racquet,slowly spiraled in the air for what seemed to be several seconds before  kissing the corner of the blue court for a clean winner to complete a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory as King and Shvedova captured their first US Open championship and second consecutive major following their title triumph at Wimbledon in July.

“For me, it was like slow motion. It’s like in the movie.  It’s unreal,” Shvedova said of her winning lob. “But for me it was like this. I saw the ball was so slow. Vania was on the left, I was just waiting, and I saw Nadia was trying to get it. Then I was like then she didn’t get it.  People start to scream, and I was like I didn’t feel like we won.  It was so strange.”

The stroke of genius was a shot of relief for King, who watched the end of the final exchange unfold in silent prayer.

“She played like 10 balls in a row.  It was like, ‘Okay.  Hit a winner, please hit a winner, please hit a winner, please hit a winner, please miss, please miss, ‘ ” King said of her internal emotional dialogue. “Then she hit the lob, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s deep.’  So if it goes in, we win.  If it doesn’t, we lose the point.  Then it’s the next point.  I was like, Go in, go in, go in, go in.”

It went in, but Shvedova, who hit also gorgeous backhand lob winner to hold serve at 5-6 and force the breaker, did not actually see the shot land. She felt its impact in King’s leap of joy.

“They didn’t call anything.  I turned to Vania, and Vania jumped.  I was like so happy,” Shvedova said.

Petrova, who would come in second place in emanating positive energy even if Eyore was her opponent in a singles match, had a slightly less enthusiastic response to the winner  — she flung her Babolat racquet in frustration at her court side chair.

“There’s nothing you can do. I mean, I could just applaud her,” Petrova said. “Well done.  We were trying out hard and to give all today, and absolutely no regret.”

The softest shot of the rally had the most resounding impact of the match, sealing the first US Open doubles for the pair, who raised their Grand Slam record together to 12-0. It’s a remarkable achievement when you consider King and Shvedova won only one match together during the US Open Series.

Sisters Venus Williams and Serena Williams had won six of the last nine Grand Slam doubles titles prior, but with Serena forced out of this Open with a foot injury the sisters were unable to defend their title. King and Shvedova, who became the first player from Kazakhstan to win a US Open title of any kind, saw the opportunity and made the most of it.

They have won the first two Grand Slam tournaments they’ve played and the speed of their success an ease of their partnership — they sometimes answer questions as if setting each other up for a response — has surprised both of them.

“I don’t think we expected it as well, because usually great pairs pair together for a long time to know each other, and they really get a feel for each other and become a true team,” King said. “We had that from the beginning.  I mean, we bonded together so well and we’re also good friends, which helped. Yeah, like she said, it’s strange. I mean, it’s amazing.”

Shvedova celebrated her 23rd birthday yesterday with King and a cake they ate inside the WTA Tour office upstairs inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Birthday banter did not include the 6-2, 2-6, 5-4 deficit the pair faced when rain postponed the doubles final on Sunday, forcing the USTA to schedule completion of the match at 3 p.m. today.

“Then when they canceled us, we went to dinner, and we were just focusing on her birthday,” King said. “It’s pretty special for her, for her birthday.  And then today, yeah, we decided to make a long warm up.  We don’t really talk that much about tennis off the court.  Our coaches like to do that.”

Huber partnered with Bob Bryan to win the US Open mixed doubles title and has been a pivotal player on the United States’ Fed Cup team that will host Italy in the November 6-7th final at the San Diego Sports Arena. Huber, who has a charitable foundation and supports social causes around the Houston area, was philosophical in defeat.

“I think we, as athletes, are very fortunate.  We can bring something good from the sport back to the normal life,” Huber said. “We can kind of relate. So in the tough times that we, are and maybe when you lose a point or you lose a close match like this when you’ve actually had an opportunity, you could walk away from it and sulk and not learn, or you could just say, ‘Okay, this is an opportunity to grow.’  And if you do okay in the bad times, imagine how good you’re gonna do when times turn around.”

Doubles is often relegated to the outer courts in the shadows of Arthur Ashe Stadium on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. A sad irony when you consider both Ashe and King were outstanding doubles players and that most of the tennis-playing fans who watch the Open play doubles. But when you rewind the highlight reel of this US Open consider that two of the most spirited and excited matches of the Flushing Meadows fortnight were contested on the doubles court. Twins Bob and Mike Bryan outdueled India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, 7-6(5), 7-6(4) to capture their third US Open championship and ninth Grand Slam title before an appreciative Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd that gave all four men a rousing ovation at the conclusion of a memorable match and King and Shvedova prevailed before a sparse, but adoring group of fans today.

There’s something about seeing two athletes put their heads, hearts and spirits together on the court. Two were truly one when it mattered most today.

“Doubles is a team sport.  It’s not like singles where sometimes it’s just power,” said King. “I mean, I think especially in the woman’s tennis there is a lot of finesse, a lot of touch. We try to play with combination.  I don’t think we play like a typical team, and I think it kind of throws off our opponents.  I think that people can see us playing and kind of aspire to that, you know, because it’s more about strategy where you place yourself, what shots to pick. You don’t have to be like 6’4″, 200 pounds and bash the ball.In doubles it’s a lot of creativity.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

The US Open Remembers 9/11

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Although this was Super Saturday at the US Open, it was also the ninth anniversary of September 11th. Even with tennis as the centerpiece in Flushing Meadows, a solemn air hung overhead and the USTA and athletes involved made sure it was remembered.

In the distance, the blue lights of the Twin Towers of Light shined to the stars and the Empire State Building was clad in red, white, and blue.

Ten-time Grammy Award winner Chaka Kahn sung “America The Beautiful” after a moment of silence. The flags in Arthur Ashe Stadium hung at half mast and after their matches Kim Clijsters and Rafael Nadal honored the victims.

“Nine years ago the world changed for everybody, and when I come to New York I think about 9/11,” Clijsters told the crowd after she won the US Open Women’s Title. “It was an honor to play here today and maybe give the people a distraction as well.”

Nadal also made sure he mentioned the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

“I don’t want to forget, it’s a very special day for everybody. I want to express my support for the victims of 9/11 and their families,” World No.1 told the New York crowd after posting a 6-2 6-3 6-4 semi-final win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

“Nine/11 was a big shock for everybody in the world. Everybody remembers where they were at that moment, and I remember what happened that day and where I was.

“It was a terrible shock for me, especially because I was in the top of the twin towers a few months before.

“That’s just the minimum thing that I can say. All the support for the victims and for the families for sure is always in my mind.

“When I came back after the disaster, in the first six years, I always was there at Ground Zero every time watching that.

“So that’s probably the most impact view that I had in all my life.”