McHale’s Navy Attacks In Full Force

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Two years ago, people started to “Believe” in Melanie Oudin and her Cinderella run.

This year the New York crowd may be ready to board McHale’s Navy.

Nineteen year-old Christina McHale, stormed to the third round with a straight set win over No. 8 seed 7-6 (2) 6-2 to become the darling of this year’s open.

“I knew that like I had to try,” the New Jersey resident said.  “I couldn’t play like any sloppy games.  I had to try and compete really hard in the second set because I knew she was going to try even harder, too, to get the second set because she lost the first.

“When I went from 3‑Love to 3‑2, I was like, C’mon, Christina, don’t let it get back to 3‑All.  That game was a big game to get it to 4‑2.”

McHale isn’t any stranger to upsets. She slayed World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati last month in the first round and then proceeded to beat Aleksandra Wozniak in the first round.

This win may have topped it off for the young American.

“I think they’re different wins.  I had never really, at the Grand Slams, made it past the second round,” she said.  “Yeah, that was a good win for me, too, but I think to have it happen here at the Grand Slam is exciting for me.”

Two years ago, during Oudin-mania McHale quietly win her first round match against Polona Hercog but lost to Maria Sharapova. Now, though, she seems poised to take on the bigger names in the sport on her rise to the top.

Yet, she is trying to not to get too tied up in the hype and become a long term disappointment like Oudin.

“I try not to think about that too much,” she said.  “I mean, when I go out there every time on the court, I’m going to try my best, try to compete really hard.”

Being from New Jersey means this is her hometown match. For years as a teenager she came to Flushing as a fan to watch the greats competed for the title.

Now she is getting the same treatment she gave to her heroes.

“Someone asked me this the other day,” she said.  “I don’t remember a particular match.  I just remember we’d all get here when the gates opened and we’d literally spend the whole day here, all of our friends, running from court to court, trying to get an autograph, a picture.

“It was so much fun for us.”

Almost as fun as winning the second round of the Open and if she beats the 25th seed Maria Kirilenko in the third round, then McHale’s Navy may be in full force.

All Aboard!

Djokovic Determined After First Round Win

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In his postgame interview after his first round drubbing of Conor Niland, 6-0 5-1 (Withdrew), Novak Djokovic was posed this question:

Speaking of entertainment, for years you were trying to pass Roger and Rafa.  In terms of entertainment, Rafa is almost like a rock star.  He’s so appealing.  And Roger is beautiful and perfect and graceful.  How do you think you’re taken and received here in North America?

To that the No. 1 seed responded: “What about me?”

Well some people call him the space cowboy and some the gangster of love.

To the rest of us he’s The Djoker and he very well can be on his first US Open title.

Actually, Djokovic is having a very good year, winning both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while getting to the Semifinals of the French Open. If he continues on his torrid pace and takes the crown in Flushing Meadows, it may go down as the best year for a player in history.


Sounds big,” he laughed when asked the question. “No, this year has been tremendous, best so far in my career, and there has been a lot of talks about history making and this incredible run.

“No doubt I’m extremely honored and privileged to be part of the elite of the players that have made, you know, the history of the sport in some ways.

“But my main focus is really on the court.  I need to take one match at a time.  That’s the only way I can really perform well.”

For any athlete, especially one like Djokovic, staying healthy is the most important aspect to winning. After Wimbledon, the 24 year had shoulder problems, which caused him to sit out the rest of the summer after the Cincinnati Open.

“Well, the shoulder in Cincinnati didn’t feel good obviously, and throughout the whole week I was carrying the, you know, kind of pain and discomfort in my shoulder,” Djokovic said. “But after Cincinnati I took some time off, and I did everything in order to recover the shoulder.  Today I didn’t feel any pain.  I served well and I played well, so I have no concern.”

Yet the rest of the field may have some concerns, especially with this champion stepping up his game. Although an American audience will root for Mardy Fish or Andy Roddick to advance, the tennis watching world probably is pulling for a Djokovic to take on Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.

Yet, that’s still pretty far off in the future, as it’s a long two weeks. The Dark Knight will wait for the Djoker. Up until then Flushing Meadows will enjoy this young attacker, who is enjoying a resurgence after ticking off the crowd with some on the court comments a few years ago, making him an arch villain.

“Well, you know, it’s equally important, of course, to play well on the court and to do your job to win, you know,” he said. “As much as you’re successful and as much as you win, you get more attention from the media and from the people, and you get more respect, obviously, from your colleagues.

“But I think it’s really important as well to carry yourself off the court in a good way.  I have been learning that throughout my whole career, and last couple of years I have experienced some good and bad situations on and off the court.

“But I accepted that all as a big lesson in my life and, you know, something that can serve me well for my future.  You know, I’m aware of the responsibility that I have as a present No. 1 to, you know, represent the sport as well in some ways off the court.

“So I need to do that in a best possible way.  You know, I’m trying.  You tell me, how am I doing?”

Pretty well, Novak. Pretty well.




Q & A With Rafael Nadal

Q.  What are your thoughts about being here during a hurricane, and how will you spend your time?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I don’t know what’s going on, I think.  Nobody knows exactly what’s going on, no?

But having the club closed, all the places in Manhattan will be closed, so not much.  Just stay in the hotel.  Maybe watch some films.  But we will see what’s going on.  I never had an experience with a hurricane.  Is something new.

I think is very bad for the city, for the weekend, for everybody.  But, you know, that’s a new experience, and not enjoyable experience, but we know how is when is hurricane.


Q.  How are the fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Much better.  I am able to practice with normal conditions.


Q.  Bandages?  No bandages or anything?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Bandages, yes.  The skin is still very thin, but it’s fine.


Q.  A lot of people have said you’ve been stymied, you’ve been flummoxed by Djokovic this season.  I mean, do you feel like if you possibly meet him in the US Open this week or next week that you have good chance against him?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, I am here.  You know, I am here at the start of the tournament and you start to talk about a match against Djokovic.  I have to win a lot to play Djokovic.  And probably him, too.  He’s not in the final yet.

I am focused on try to play well and try to have very good practice this week.  That’s what I am doing.  And the good chances against Djokovic, those chances always depends how I am playing, how he’s playing.  Not talking about here, talking in general.

After we will see, no?  I think I played a fantastic year this year.  I had a lot of victories all the year; I am not happy about how I played against him.


Q.  Could you talk about exactly what happened to your fingers?  You got burned in Cincinnati at some restaurant, right?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Yeah, I get burned in a Japanese restaurant.  Probably, you know, the Teppanyaki grill was there, probably the plate.  When I arrived at the restaurant the plate was there, so probably the plate stayed there for a long time.  Not inside the grill.  Something like this away to the grill.

You know, when they put the food, I tried to put the plate closer to me and was obviously very hot.  (Smiling.)

Q.         So your pointing finger and two fingers?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Two fingers.


Q.  Can you tell us a little bit about this book?  Was it important for you to do something like this?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, it is something that we decided to do.  Was the really first autobiography I was able to do.  Was a good opportunity to work with John Carlin.  We had a very good feeling together.  He speaks in Spanish, too, so it makes a little bit easier everything to talk about the emotion and to talk about, you know…

I think it was a fantastic experience.  I talk a long time with him and remember a lot of things that you normally usually don’t think about the past, no?  So when you start to talk you remember, yeah, few moments of your career, few moments when you were a kid.  Was interesting and I had fun, and hopefully the book will like to the people.


Q.  In the book where you talk about your parents’ separation, it seemed like it came out of the blue for you, that you did not realize that they were having any troubles.  Is that right?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I didn’t understand that very well.

(Translation.)  You know, what happened there was ‑‑ but in the book ‑‑ I never talk about my personal things in the press, but, you know, all the changes in your life needs a little bit of time.  That’s what happened.

So after a little bit of time I was perfect, but, you know, at the beginning it’s tough.  But, you know, I am not the only one who has the parents divorcing in one moment of my life.  Only thing is that Mallorca the family is very important, you are very close of the people that your friends, your family.  So any change in this part, these people close to you, affects you, no?

That’s happened.  That’s past.


Q.  I understand how it affected you.  What I don’t understand is how you did not see problems between your mother and father.  You did not notice problems between your mom and dad?

RAFAEL NADAL:  I know the problems, but anyway, I gonna repeat you, I don’t want to talk about that now.


Q.  How does it feel to come here after having you won it last year?  Do you see the tournament different?  Is it less pressure because you won it once?

RAFAEL NADAL:  The emotions probably are a little bit different, because when you come back after the victory of last year the emotions are higher.  Of course, it was the last Grand Slam for me to complete all four.  Was very, very nice moment of my career, one of the biggest moments of my career.  That makes the comeback a little more special.

But if we talk about the goal, is the same.  Play well, try to arrive to the final rounds.  That’s the same, no?

Pressure?  I don’t feel extra pressure.  I am happy about how I did.  I didn’t play very well during the summer, but I am practicing much better here.  So we’ll see.


Q.  Have you been surprised this year by the turnaround, where before it was you and Roger for so long at the top, and now all of a sudden ‑ Djokovic didn’t come out of nowhere, but he really has jumped up very quickly this year.  Have you been surprised by that change?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Djokovic didn’t arrive this year, no?


Q.  But he was not playing at the level that you were…

RAFAEL NADAL:  He was No. 3 of the world for three years.  That’s not bad.


Q.  But he only won one slam.

RAFAEL NADAL:  Only one, and most of the people never won one.

For me is a little bit strange about the people here from tennis talks about Djokovic, about his big new improvement.  Djokovic was here before, no?  Djokovic played fantastic before.  He had fantastic potential to be where he is today.

He’s doing great.  He’s playing without injuries.  He’s playing very solid, the mental, the tennis.  What he’s doing is something very difficult to repeat.

For me surprise?  I think for everybody surprise see a player that he’s not losing.  He’s only lost two matches during all the year.  For everybody surprising, but for me is no surprise that Djokovic is No. 1.  For me is not a surprise that Djokovic is able to win Grand Slams, because he’s very good.

That’s not from six months ago.


Q.  Two questions:  One, you’re 25 years old.  Does it feel strange to have a book about your life at 25?  And second, you seem like generally a pretty private person.  What did you want to tell?  What did you want to accomplish with this book?

RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, I am lucky.  25 years old and I enjoyed a lot of experiences in my life.  You never know if you can have another book in the future, but I felt it’s a good time to have that one.

Is a little bit of the history of my life.  Is a little bit of the history how I am where I am today.  Just open a little bit more of my life to them, to the fans, to the people who support me, the people who are interested about me.

For me, you know, now I am a little bit more open with the fans with the Twitter with the Facebook, and now with the book.  So I am trying to be more connected with them, and that’s probably a good way to do it.

Maria Sharapova Transcript

Q.  How do you feel going into this tournament winning in Cincinnati?  Must have given you a lot of confidence.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I came into Cincinnati, you know, asking to play a lot of matches for myself, as many as I could at that tournament.

It was great to win the tournament.  I beat some really good opponents, played some good matches.  You know, the final was a little whacky, but I just managed to win that one.

Yeah, it’s great.  Obviously coming into the Open it’s great to have a title under your belt.


Q.  How different are you this year compared to last year at the same time for the US Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m seeded higher.  I’ve won two titles this year.  You know, I feel like my tennis is at a much better level than it was last year.  Yeah, I’m a better player, definitely.


Q.  How do you expect to deal with the expected hurricane in the next 24 hours?  What are your plans and what are your thoughts about being here for this?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I’m a Florida girl so I’m used to this stuff.  (Laughter.)

I think everyone’s a bit overreacting about everything, but of course you have to take precaution and all that.  But, I mean, where are we gonna go?  All hundreds of us?

So I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy, you know.  That’s all we can do, right?


Q.  What do you know about Heather Watson?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Not too much.  I’ve never played her before.  I saw a little bit of her matches in the past I think at Wimbledon her first rounds.  Yeah, she’s someone that’s up and coming, and those are sometimes dangerous because they’re quite fearless when they go on the court, don’t have much to lose.

It’s not too often that you play an opponent you haven’t played against before, so, yeah, it’s not an easy first round.


Q.  You had experience of that obviously at Wimbledon against another British youngster in Laura Robson.



Q.  Sort of a similar situation?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I guess, but they’re two different players.


Q.  In the (Head) advertising you were on the court with Djokovic or it’s…

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah.  I was there watching it happen.


Q.  You always say you enjoy the process, but now that the process is paying off, where is your level of enjoyment in competing right now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s a lot more enjoyable when you’re winning more matches, that’s for sure.

Actually it’s a lot easier to go out on the practice court.  I mean, even when you take a few losses it’s a little bit easier to shrug them off because you know you have that level.  You just need maybe sometimes a little time or just a few things to click to get it back.

Whereas when you haven’t had it for a while, you kind of are trying to find it, trying to find it.  You play one good match, and then, Do I have it now?  Do I feel it?  It’s definitely different.


Q.  Coming to a tournament now, fourth seed, obviously people think you’re one of the favorites here.  Do you feed off that?  Does it give you confidence coming into a tournament like this?  Do you feel a bit more pressure now that you’ve got more of an X on your back?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, to be honest, I have been seeded a lot lower and I’ve still been one of the favorites, so it’s not anything new for me that people expect me to do well.


Q.  How do you look back now on your run to the final at Wimbledon?  What do you come out of that tournament with?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I mean, my opponent played a really unbelievable match.  You know, I had my chances, and it’s quite important in tennis to take them.  She was able to find an answer, you know, in things that I kind of challenged her with.

It was a really great match for her at a big stage.  That’s the only way you can really look at it.


Q.  She hasn’t had a great summer since then.  Is that pretty normal when you come off a great breakthrough win like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, it’s not easy, that’s for sure, especially after your first one, definitely.

Yeah, I think she’s a good enough player to find her form back here.


Q.  In all the time since your shoulder problems, how would you compare how you feel now with the process which was discussed earlier?  Getting over that, the surgery, everything till now, what is your feeling now compared to all the times since then?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, it’s just great to still be a tennis player.  I’ve said this many times.  I’m very fortunate to do what I do, obviously, to do it at a high level and to win tournaments and to win big matches obviously.

It gives you tremendous amount of confidence and delight that the work you’ve put in, you know, is paying off.  It’s the time that you spend away from the courts, the time that people don’t see what you put into the sport of trying to get back there.  Just to play a match, and then do it over and over again, not many people experience that feeling, see it.

So to be able to prove to yourself that you’ve put in that work and there you are at that stage again, giving yourself these opportunities to win Grand Slams again, it’s a good feeling.


Q.  But your level of play now and your level of confidence, how would you compare it with all the time since your shoulder problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Well, I just feel like this year I’ve improved.  Last year I felt like I would play a couple good matches and then I’d play a bad match.  I didn’t have that sense of consistency, and that’s something I felt like something that has changed this year.


Q.  Do you have any memories of working out with Freddy Adu at IMG?



Q.  Somebody was doing something on him and said you guys might have crossed paths for a couple weeks.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think we worked out at the same facility in Florida, but I don’t think I’ve ever ‑‑ I mean, I sure hope I wasn’t doing a soccer workout.


Q.  Just one of those questions we needed to ask.  Were you in the city at all this morning?  Could you characterize the mood here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  This morning?


Q.  Yeah.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I left pretty early.  I left at 8:00 a.m., so I’m not really sure if everyone was sleeping in New York on a Saturday morning or if it’s the hurricane effect.  But it was pretty quiet.


Q.  You were talking about your chances and things like that.  When you see the news that somebody like a Kim Clijsters is not playing, what goes through your mind?  Do you feel like it opens up another alley?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I can’t really think like that.  I don’t think that’s a mindset of a winner, to be honest.  You’ve got to be ready to face anyone at any given moment.  It’s obviously unfortunate that she can’t come back as a defending champion.

But on the other hand, you know, she is the one that has the memory of holding up that trophy last year.  It’s I have been in that position before.  It’s definitely tough, there is no doubt about it, to not be able to defend such a big title.  It’s sometimes the adversity that we’re faced with.

Roger Federer Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.


Q.  How do you feel about this US Open regarding your form and your expectations?

ROGER FEDERER:  I feel good, you know.  I have had plenty of practice.  I wanted to say plenty of rest.  I have been resting a little bit, but I will rest tomorrow more.

I had a good hit, no niggling injuries, and everything is under control.  I went right back on the practice courts after my last match in Cincinnati.

Conditions have been somewhat okay here in New York.  Seems a bit slower, the surface, actually, I thought really when I was playing now.  But I don’t want to say it’s a slight adjustment, because it’s not a crazy difference to previous years, but it is slower.  That’s my opinion.

So that has maybe an impact rather than who you play and how you play them.  Other than that, my preparation has been good and I’m excited for the tournament to start.  Clearly it’s always a great event to be a part of.  Was a success here obviously.  It’s nice to be back.


Q.  How does turning age 30 affect your outlook and expectations?

ROGER FEDERER:  None, really.  I mean, hasn’t changed anything.  I’m still as professional.  I’m still as hungry.  Everything’s still completely normal.

You know, it’s just a number that’s changed, you know.  So, no, I’m ready to go.


Q.  What is it like for you trying to get prepared for the start of the Open and your first‑round matches and having Hurricane Irene bearing down on the city?

ROGER FEDERER:  I mean, I kind of usually always take a break anyway shortly before the tournament.  So, you know, I’m not anxious now having to hit tomorrow, but if my schedule would have been to hit, I don’t know, let’s say noon, it would have rained at noon, maybe then I wouldn’t have gone indoors at all, you know.

Maybe I just go back and relax instead of trying to hustle around and trying to get an indoor hit.  I’m not 18 anymore where that’s the kind of stuff you do then to show how badly you need it, how professional you are, you know.

But at my age you kinda know what it takes, you know, to get ready, and you don’t panic.  So, yeah, I won’t be playing tomorrow.  It’s not an issue, you know.  I’m not even going to try to.  It wasn’t on the plan anyway to do so.

But sure it’s somewhat scarey, you know, because we don’t know how hard it’s gonna hit us.  I’ve got family.  We’re in New York City, you know, it’s not just a regular city.  It’s quite something with all the buildings.

So it’s unusual, but we’ll follow the news closely and we’ll try to stay as safe as we can so we get through it.


Q.  Andre Agassi had a lot of success in 30s.  He won Grand Slam title.  Do you inspire from him physically or mentally?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I mean, well, I played him here in 2005.  I think he was 35, I think, so I was like, Wow, that was his 20th US Open I think in a row.

I’ve got a ways to go.

This is my 13th time here, 12th time maybe in the main draw, so it’s definitely an inspiration seeing guys being around for a long time like Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, and then there are tons of other players who were there for a long time.

I feel my game allows me to, you know, still play for many more years because I have a relaxing playing style.  I have almost played a thousand matches on tour and that leaves its toll, but I’m very professional when it comes to massages, stretching, diet, sleep, all of that stuff.

So I have always looked in the long term as well for a long time.  I have never been chasing stuff around since, you know, I turned world No. 1 seven years ago.

That’s why I’m confident I can still play for many more years to come at the highest of levels.


Q.  Del Potro came back to the US Open.  Do you think that he’s one of the favorite to win the title, like you, Rafa, Djokovic?

ROGER FEDERER:  I think it would be unfair to put him into one of the favorites position for him.  I think he’s playing well ‑ good enough to win for sure, otherwise he wouldn’t have won here in the past ‑ but maybe does he need a bit more tennis?  Probably.

I think as long as he’s feeling physically fine and gets deep into the tournament, once he gets into the quarters I definitely think he’s a threat to win the tournament.  But to pick him first like that, it’s a tough one.

I really think Novak, Rafa, myself, we’re all playing extremely well at the moment.  I don’t know his draw.  I haven’t checked it.  I think for him it’s really important for him to get through sort of the first three, four rounds without being physically too beat.

I played him last week and he was playing well, I thought.  It was a good match and it was nice to see him back.  I hope he does really well here.


Q.  This tournament marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic attacks in 2001.  The final, ironically, will be played on September 11, the men’s final.  Can you recall where you were on September 11, 2001?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I do.  I was at the National Tennis Center in Biel, Switzerland and working out in the gym.  I heard something was going on.  You know, I was one ‑‑ I don’t know if I got a message on my phone or someone ran down and told me and I started to tell all my friends to turn on the TV and see this incredible news.

That’s how I heard it, you know.  But I was long gone from New York.


Q.  What was your state of mind?

ROGER FEDERER:  Because I think it was two days after, and I lost the first week, I think.


Q.  What was your state of mind when you saw those images on TV?

ROGER FEDERER:  It’s hard to understand and grasp it, really.  I mean, I couldn’t believe what was happening, you know.  I guess I didn’t quite understand it almost until I came back to America the next time, or when I came to New York the next time, that this is ‑‑ it was such a shock.

Yeah, it was almost surreal that something like this was possible that someone would want to do that.  So that was very heavy.


Q.  Does it change your perspective on how you view the world today, especially now that you’re a father?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I mean, I think you’re never quite safe.  Doesn’t matter what you do.  There are so many car accidents around the world.  That’s something you can control to some degree, right?

But I guess what you try to do in life is try to be as safe as you can be without living in a golden cage, either.  You have to go out there and live life, right?

So then you have unfortunately things like this that don’t help the cause, you know, of getting more frightened and scared of going out and maybe travel and all those things.

For us, it left a big impact, because as tennis players we don’t really have the choice not to travel, right?  We are a part of, you know, the traveling circus with planes and so forth.  We didn’t really like to see it, I think all of us.  You guys need to travel too to come see us.  It was tough, yeah.


Q.  What are your thoughts about how Novak has achieved what he has this year and your general impressions of the year that he’s put together?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I mean, impressive to say the least.  He’s done amazing to have a run like that, especially after losing here in the finals last year.  I think the rebound for him to come back and not to be disappointed about losing against Rafa in the finals of the US Open where he probably figured he had a good chance to win was a tough loss for him.

But the rebound, it shows, you know, when you’re down like that and, you know, take the right decisions and, you know, come back strong and believe you can do it, he made an incredible run this year.  It’s been wonderful to watch, even though I have probably seen just probably guessing 10 to 15 matches of all those 50 whatever matches he’s played.

So for me it’s hard to say how well he’s really played.  I have seen him play some matches and they were all really good, but I’m not courtside for every single match.

The record speaks for itself.  It’s been an amazing run, and he’s still playing really well and he’s definitely one of the favorites here, if not the favorite.


Q.  Andy Murray coming into this tournament having won in Cincinnati.  This is also his favorite Grand Slam.  How would you assess Andy’s chances this time?

ROGER FEDERER:  Very good.  I would have said the same regardless of Cincinnati.  So for me, I’m sorry I don’t look at ‑‑ I don’t go day by day or week by week, you know.  You have to look at more of the big picture.  He’s had a good season.  He’s played an amazing Australian.  Unfortunately he ran into Novak, who was just playing incredible tennis, in the finals, I felt.

Meeting Novak in the semis, which I thought was a very close match.  Could have gone either way in some ways.  So I knew how tough Novak was playing and expected Novak to win that, even though I thought Murray was playing equally good, I thought, throughout the tournament.

Just got maybe a bit down on himself.  You know, like when I mentioned before about Novak taking the right decisions after losing in the finals, maybe Andy didn’t quite do that after Australia.

But he rebounded strong on the clay season, played well I think on the grass, and then for me was normal that he was going to be in‑form coming into the US Open.

So to me he’s also definitely one of the big favorites, yeah.

Is Isner America’s Best Hope?

FLUSHING  MEADOWS, NY – With Andy Roddick and now Ryan Harrison out of the tournament, is John Isner America’s best champ in bringing back the Men’s Singles championship to the United States?

If his ankle holds up, then sure, but that’s a big if.

“Yeah, it’s definitely been tough,” said Isner who beat Marco Chiudinelli in four sets, 6-3 3-6 7-6 6-4. “You know, I started feeling it in the third set of my first match.  I felt great.  I actually felt pretty good right from the get‑go of my first match.  I was thinking, Hey, this is a good omen.

“But then kind of hit me in the third set, and really throughout the whole match today I was feeling it.  I don’t feel like I had the pop on my shots that I normally would out there today.”

“So, yeah, I’m struggling a bit physically.  But, you know, I’m going to have to do my best to get myself up to 100%.  I’m getting stronger.  Although I’m out there and playing these long matches, I feel like I’m getting stronger, and I should be better for the next one.”

The winner of the Eternal Match back in Wimbledon hurt his ankle back in Cincinnati and what was originally thought to be torn ligaments turned out to be just a sprain and he was cleared to play just a few days before the Open.

So without any practice or conditioning, the 18th seeded Isner is taking it one match at a time and hope he will be continue to get into better game shape.

“Yeah, I am going to need that,” he said.  “I think, you know, the focus, the rest of today and all day tomorrow, is going to be just to try to rejuvenate my body as much as possible to get me feeling as good as I possibly can going into that match.

“I’m going to have to play really well, do the same thing essentially today:  serve well, hit my forehand well.  Those are my two strengths.  That’s no secret.

“He’s just ‑‑ I played him in Montreal last year and it was three sets.  But, you know, he kind of ran me off the court the last two sets.  When he’s on, he’s really, really tough.  For me, I kind of hope he’s not on.”

Even with his own problems to deal with, the 25 year-old is still keeping his eye on the up and comers like Harrison, especially after he lost that five-set heartbreaker today.

“Yeah, it’s so tough,” he said of Harrison.  “I mean, personally I don’t know how many fifth set sets I’ve played in.  I think I’ve played in two this year, maybe four or five in my career, so it’s not that ‑‑ I’m not seasoned at it, either.  It’s something that obviously with maturity and the more times you’re in that situation, the better you’re going to be.

“But, I didn’t see the match today.  I don’t want to say that ‑‑ I mean, probably just have to give credit to Ryan’s opponent.  Ryan, he’s obviously playing well and he’s a huge future in this game.”

Harrison’s time is in the future, but right now, Isner may be America’s great hope.

Isner Just Getting Back After Wimbledon and Injury

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The last time we saw John Isner at a major, it took him three days to get the win.

Needless to say, this time it was a little easier.

“Yeah, just a little bit,” laughed Isner after he disposed of Federico Gil, 6-4 6-3 6-4.  “I don’t know the exact time of my match tonight, but obviously it was a lot less time on the court.

“So for my second‑round match I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon.”

Actually John, you were on the court for 1hour, 57 minutes, certainly much less than the 11+ you played in England.

Yet, even if this match was relatively uneventful, his weeks leading up to the US Open were filled with uncertainty. You see, Isner injured his ankle in Cincinnati, which was originally diagnosed as torn ligaments, but now seems to be just a bad sprain. Up to a week ago, he was not cleared by the his doctors, but now he has a clean bill of health.

“In my mind,” he said, “I didn’t think I was going to play, just because I didn’t think my ankle was ready.  But I got cleared to go.  Once I got that news it was all systems go, doing everything I possibly can to get ready for, you know, today’s match.”

Right now, Isner says the ankle is about 90 percent, but his legs are not in game shape after missing the last few weeks due to the injury. He felt it on the court today and feels he has to have a few matches before he gets back into full tournament shape.

“The issue when you hurt your ankle, everything else shuts down,” he said.  So that’s just what happens.  So I’ve just got to rebuild the strength in my legs.  That was the issue tonight. Because when you have that hurt ankle you’re not able to put any weight on it for a long time.  Everything on the right side of my body was shut down.  I have to get to the point where my left and right side are moving the same.”

The injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the 18th seed as he was able to stay away from the limelight the last few weeks. He needed to take time off after Wimbledon to unwind and even turned his phone off for a few days.

“I went into the Atlanta tournament and felt pretty good out there,” he said.  “But then when I went to play D.C. it all kind of hit me.  Either it was that match, kind of everything I did after the match, you know, a lot of interviews and whatnot, it kind of all just hit me.  I kind of ran out of gas in D.C.

“From there, I didn’t play Toronto.  I knew I needed to take some time off like completely.  That’s what I did.  I went home to North Carolina, turned my phone off for four days, got spoiled by my mom.  Then I went into Cincinnati feeling great.  Been hitting the ball great, just playing my best tennis.  Unfortunately I hurt my ankle.”

But now he’s back and enjoying his new found fame from the Eternal Match. Ironically, though, the first person he saw when he walked into the player’s lounge at Arthur Ashe was his opponent Nicholas Mahut .

“It was the first time I’ve seen him in person since the match,” Isner recalled.  What was it?  Monday morning, I didn’t fly into New York until Sunday night, so Monday midday I came to the courts for the first time.

“As soon as I stepped into the locker room, honestly he was the first person I saw.  We did the handshake, high five thing.  Sat and talked for about five minutes.  And ever since then, I keep running into him in the locker room and we talk.  I talk to his coaches.  He talks to my coach.

“Obviously, we’re definitely good friends now.”

Murray Ready For Open Run

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Believe it or not, the US Open is a lot easier then Wimbledon for Andy Murray. I New York, the second seeded player can be more relaxed, compared to the scrutiny he gets in London.

“Yeah, it’s normal,” said Murray, who hopes to finally win a Grand Slam this year after losing to Roger Federer in straight sets in the 2008 Finals. “It’s not like you sort of get followed around. People are not sort of following you back to the hotel whereas back home, you know, you can get people waiting outside your house or following you to dinner if you want to go out. It’s not like that here. So it makes it easier to relax away from the court.”

It’s on the turf at Arthur Ashe where Murray looks to make his mark. Last season he was the surprise of the tournament, rising up from sixth seed to challenge Frederer for the title. Yet, much like many opponents, the now five time champion swatted away his 22 year-old opponent.

“If you watch Roger playing against anyone, if leave the ball in the middle of the court against him, you give him enough second serves to attack,” Murray said. “He comes forward against anyone.”

Now the page has turned and Murray is looking for the elusive slam, which he said “is the one thing he wants to do in tennis.” Although he was the hometown favorite during Wimbledon, the tennis star lost to Andy Roddick in the semifinals in four sets.

But just two months later, Murray has a chance to make his mark in New York, and even though he was the clear favorite in London, he knows the Flushing crowd will support him.

“Obviously at Wimbledon, the support that I has has been great over the past few years, but I have also had great support here,” he said. “I’ve played some of my best matches here and last year had a very good run.”

If Murray plays Federer again it will be in the final. Although he fared well against the best player in the world, he most recently lost to the Swiss native during the Cincinnati Master semifinals last week.

“I started off a bit sluggish and hit balls in the middle of the court,” he said. “I’ve given him too many opportunities in the first set.”

That’s too weeks away and Murray will have to go through the tough last summer tournament first. He faces Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the first round.

Hopefully no one follows him around.