In her fourth round match, Samantha Stosur played the longest tiebreak in women's Grand Slam history, a 30-point back-and-forth against Maria Kirilenko. This was after she was part of the longest women's U.S. Open match: a three-hour, 16-minute battle of wills against Nadia Petrova in the third round. But she only needed two sets and 83 minutes in the US Open women's finals to knock off Serena Williams, who had been such a heavy favorite that her semifinals match against no. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday had been promoted as if it were the finals.
The Tuesday after Labor Day might actually be the worst Monday of all, marking as it does the end of summer, the start of school, the first day back from vacation. And for anyone who had Labor Day tickets to the night session at the U.S. Open, it must feel extra rough: Play stretched well past everyone's bedtimes, with Roger Federer and Juan Monaco not walking off the Arthur Ashe Stadium court until after 1 a.m. on the ultimate school night.
But Federer and Monaco weren't to blame; the Swede's Federer's 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 victory clocked a crisp and efficient 74 minutes. (You got the sense the man wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed.) The real culprit was a highly anticipated Round of 16 daytime match between no. 8 Mardy Fish and no. 11 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that turned into a 3-hour-and-45-minute-long momentum-swinging marathon.
There is nothing quite like watching Andy Roddick speak to the press. The hair on your arms stands at rapt attention, you begin to lean forward in your seat, and your face slowly curls into a half-smile, half-grimace — the universal expression for ohmygodwhatamiwatching. What a jerk! you think. And then: But he's got a point!
Having waited out Hurricane Irene in North Carolina following last week's Winston-Salem Open, a tournament in which he was upset in the semis by fellow American John Isner, Roddick didn't play his first U.S. Open match until Wednesday night. (By the time he took the court, many of the women had already played twice.) But he wasted no time in going Full Roddick.
Watching players at Wimbledon is like seeing your school friends all cleaned up and crisply side-parted in church. Watching them at the U.S. Open, however, is like seeing them out at the mall, trying on colorful looks and getting loud, unsolicited, and entirely heartfelt feedback from a gum-snapping shopgirl.
Tennis snobs often sniff that the U.S. Open is loud, unrefined, and entirely lacking in manners, particularly those rowdy night crowds filled with, well, New Yorkers — the financebros and fashionistas who, day in and day out, give the city its particular alchemy of style and sweat. But can you even blame them? The day matches are sizzling, the night matches run late, and the lines for those signature Honey Deuce drinks are long enough that you might as well grab one for each hand, and maybe one more if they'll let you.
But I'm getting ahead of myself — we haven't quite reached the real night sessions yet. No, the first week of the U.S. Open is the domain of the daytime crowd, the middle-aged moms and dads from Connecticut who take the MetroNorth to Grand Central and then hop on the 7, clutching their visors and spray-bottle fans and strategizing about their plan of attack. For me the U.S. Open was a father-daughter affair, with my dad — now retired and thoroughly immersed in a twilight career as a tennis club pro — taking me along to the early rounds every year largely so he could do things like ship me off as a mercenary to, say, get Stan Smith's signature on a tennis ball. "He can't say no to you," he would urge. "Who's Stan Smith?" I would say.
If you're reading this, and you're able: Take a day off this week and go. You'll see up-and-comers on side courts so intimate you can smell the tennis balls in their bags, and a few years later you'll realize that up-and-comer you sat 10 feet away from was someone like now-no. 7 Mardy Fish. And you'll develop a sense of just how hard it is, just how grueling, how painful, how mundane, how ridiculously hot it is, not even to win the whole thing — but even to come anywhere close.