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The Favorites Are Rolling at the U.S. Open

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Want a sign of tennis’s health? This marks the first U.S. Open in the post-Federer/Serena era. And not only is this scarcely a storyline, but attendance at this event has set three records in the first six days of play. Grounds passes are priced exorbitantly. There are multi-changeover lines for restrooms.

There are also abundant storylines, from titans like Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, to qualifiers and wild cards clearing their throats and announcing themselves … there are moms in their 30s; teens fresh out of the junior draws … players who arrived from oceans away; and homegrown talent. John Isner and Jack Sock may have departed, but Alex Michelsen arrives. CoCo Vandeweghe may have walked away, but another Coco (Gauff) thunders on. We’ve had marijuana fumes drifting over the court; and wafting rumors of the WTA contemplating moving their showcase event to Saudi Arabia. Carlos Alcaraz belts out tunes, Elena Svitolina shows off her moves … and this song and dance heads to Week 2 …

It took five sets, but Djokovic advanced past Djere to reach the round of 16.Frank Franklin II/AP


The faves: Before the event, Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev; Iga Świątek, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff were three favorites in their respective draws. After one week, that has changed not one bit.

American men: It’s been—all together now—20 years since Andy Roddick took the title, the last homegrown male to do so. At this writing, four potential successors remain, all in their 20s.

Moms: Starting with returned Caroline Wozniacki, 10 players who bore children were in the main draw. And here’s new mom Serena Williams.

Attendance: The qualies week presaged what was to come. There’s something distasteful about grounds passes going for more than Taylor Swift tickets. But the counter: It beats the alternative and at least there’s demand.

John Isner: He retires with the all-time record for aces (14,411) and the distinction of winning the longest match in tennis history, 70–68 in the fifth set. But a more important number: 16. That’s years on tour, a remarkable show of consistency and durability and professionalism. Here’s a Tennis Channel video essay.

Other retirees: Jack Sock, once a top-10 player, announces his departure from tennis to the world of Pickleball … Coco Vandeweghe: The veteran and former top-tenner announces her retirement. Barbora Strýcová, another mom who returned successfully, will try and win another major in doubles and then is out. Maryna (Zanevska) lost to Aryna (Sabalenka) in her last match.

Sean Manning (and Andy Roddick): As perhaps you’ve heard, it’s been 20 years since Roddick won his title. To honor the occasion, here is a wonderful feature.

Czech Republic: Whether it’s Ostrava or Prague, emerging as the site of the 2023 WTA Finals.


Laz Djere: Serbian takes first two sets off Djokovic … but fails to win a third.

VAR: Good for tennis for using video to answers questions over double-bounces and touches and foot-faults. Now we just need to get the kinks out.

GemsLife: Elina Svitolina continues her post-maternity, post-Ukraine-invasion tear, reaching middle weekend and playing well in defeat to Jess Pegula. Her husband, Gael Monfils fared less well, winning one match and then falling to Andrey Rublev.

Laura Siegemund: Falls gamely to Coco Gauff in perhaps the best Week 1 night session match. Siegemund is well-known for what is either admirable resourcefulness or less-than-admirable gamesmanship. But next time you think to boo a player note this.

Venus Williams: Musters only two games in her first-round defeat. But if, at age 43, she wants to continue thumbing the eye of convention and continuing on, why not?

Alexandre Müller: A fine player who’s had the misfortune of drawing Alcaraz and Djokovic in the early rounds of the last two tournaments.

Alycia Parks: Perhaps the hardest pure server in the women’s game took a set off Daria Kasatkina before relenting.


Covid-19 … and other contagions: John McEnroe is the most high-profile name to go out. But it’s hard to recall a major with this many players complaining of stomach aches and flu-like symptoms.

Greek Kitchen: Maria Sakkari is an asset to tennis and offers so much to like. But her play when it matters most does not make that list. For the third straight major, she loses in Round 1. Stefanos Tsitsipas—in a serious mid-career slump—goes out in Round 2, losing in five sets.

Injury mania: We are all creatures of incentive. But a guaranteed $81,500 check is enough to motivate too many compromised players to take the court with no expectation of winning.

Canada: We love our neighbors to the north. But a rough event for a country with three top-tenners not long ago. No Maple Leaf flags flying after Round 1.

Holger Rune: Credit Rune for his vaulting ambition. But he hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon. And if you are going to bitch (not unreasonably) about your court assignment, you have to win there. That’s the rule. We now know there is behind-the-scenes coaching friction as well.

Alexander Bublik: If you want to tank, that’s your choice. But to then refer to yourself as rehabilitating the careers of “disabled” players? Not cool.


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