Sharapova Into Quarters With Help From Rain

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Maybe some higher power is looking favorably on Maria Sharapova, because the rain came at the right time tonight.

With the No. 3 seed down a break in the third set against Nadia Petrova, the sky’s opened for a 75 minute rain delay, and after play resumed, she took a 6-1 4-6 6-4 win to make the Quarterfinals for the first time since she won the Open in 2006.

“It’s a tough situation because I felt like there’s so many ups and downs between the beginning of the first till that break.,” Sharapova said. “She was up a break and it was a little bit difficult going in because I felt like I started getting a little bit of momentum back in the second set and then just didn’t really take my chances when I had them and played a sloppy game at 4‑5.

“But I didn’t really mind.  I have the experience of getting off the court and waiting a little bit and trying to start from scratch.”

Petrova called it Sharapova’s “lucky day” but you have to give Maria a little more credit than that. She has been on a tear this year, winning the French Open and looking determined to get  her second Open next Saturday.

And today, she grinded it out against her fellow country woman, who seemed to be a lot more psky in the second, with Sharapova making a ton of mistakes.

And Petrova had her on the ropes, but Sharapova came out pumped looking to end any threat.

“You’re playing a night match at the US Open, you have a rain delay, you come back, and all the same people that were there waited through for 45 minutes and they came back to watch the end of the match,” she said.  “So that energy in the stadium with the music and the cheering, it’s just unique.  You know, I think it really, really pumped me up and got me going.  I wasn’t going to leave that court without a fight.”

After she came out, she quickly put the set back on serve and gave Petrova no chance against her first service. Petrova’s great serve was shut down by the Russian in the final games.

“That was really important, especially against Nadia,” she said.  “One of her strengths is her serve.  You know, when it’s on and she’s holding easy, that obviously puts more pressure on the service game.

“You really try to concentrate on that, you know, be smart and mix it up a little bit more. Overall I’m really happy with the way it came out in the third.  I didn’t let that little letdown bother me.  I just kept on fighting.”

Now she will take on Marion Bartoli, who roars into the Quarters with a 1-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Petra Kvitova.

“We haven’t played in a while.  It was a great win for her today, someone who has been playing really good this summer,” she said.  “Yeah, it’s nice to see her back in the quarterfinals of a slam.  I think she’s been a little bit up and down, but obviously her level has stepped up here.  Honestly, I haven’t watched any of her matches here.

“I played her before; I know her game style.  It’s always a little bit different, nontraditional.  But, yeah, it’s the quarterfinals and I’m excited.”

Hopefully, Sharapova won’t need the rain gods for this one.

After The Win, Nadal Basks In Glory

In the city that never sleeps, Rafael Nadal wasn’t resting on his laurels after capturing his first career US Open to complete the career Grand Slam on Monday night. The World No. 1 stayed on site at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center until after 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, celebrating with his family and friends, making a point to personally thank the members of the USTA staff for running the tournament and conducting interviews with Spanish television.

“I had the control antidoping, and saying hello, all the US Open staff and say thanks, everybody, for the organization, for the facilities that they give me, they give to me,” Nadal said in explaining his activity immediately after he crashed to the court following championship point.  “After that, I was with the authorities, they came, thank you very much. And the president of the Spanish Federation and the family.  Just be out there for the family for a few minutes, and afterward I was in the locker room organization, and having organizing all the clothes.”

So exactly what did Nadal do the morning after his triumph in New York City?

Nadal and girlfriend Xisca, who sat by herself in the player dining area gazing out of the window and watching the rain fall during the one hour, 47-minute rain delay that interrupted the men’s final, sat side-by-side in a van that took the pair back to their Manhattan hotel after 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

The nine-time Grand Slam champion only got about three hours of sleep before heading to Times Square with his family and management team for a photo shoot across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe.

Tourists and fans, seeing the swarm of photographers waiting and blue police barricades set up in Times Square knew something was about to happen and began to crowd the area.

Nadal and his team rolled up, he jumped out of a car and posed for a series of photos while fans screamed support (and a couple of marriage proposals) in his direction. An immensely popular presence in New York, Nadal acknowledged the crowd then it was back in the car for the short ride to Nike Town in mid-town Manhattan where fellow Nike endorser and tennis television analyst John McEnroe, who picked Nadal to win the Open before the tournament began last month, conducted a question and answer session in front of fans wearing Nike Nadal t-shirts staffers passed out at the door.

At the start of the interview McEnroe asked Nadal the question that had long been on his mind.

“How are you so damn humble?” McEnroe asked. “(You must be thinking) Why is this old man asking me these boring questions I want to get the hell out of here  and go home.”

A grinning Nadal replied: “Always a pleasure to talk to you John. That’s the only thing I can do (be nice to people). There are people out there every day waiting for a photo. That’s the normal thing to do. That’s my opinion.”

An unconvinced McEnroe shot back, “I tell them to get a life sometimes” prompting laughter from both the crowd and Nadal.

Nadal said life in Mallorca has shaped the player and man he has become.

“It’s part of the character in Mallorca; we are very relaxed,” Nadal said. “The life there goes a
little slower than here in New York so for that reason I am more relaxed on court.”

Completing the career Grand Slam on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court, Nadal fell to his back in a complete collapse and said his match point moment was purely a physical response.

“You don’t have control of your body at that moment,” Nadal said. “I don’t have any plan to go down when I win the title. When I won the last point I am (there).”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.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.