Welcome to New York. If you can’t make it here, you may be stuck in US Open qualifying trying to get out.
The first impressions of the venue start on arrival – they are serious about bag searches and that you will be stuck in queues, especially no doubt when the main event starts.
The other is the overwhelming dominance of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, towering over everything as a central reference point. The roof only adds to this effect – I’m not sure it’s the most aesthetically pleasing, but it is unmissable.
Qualifying was also very busy. No doubt being free helps, but especially for the Friday, the Americans playing had the benefit of substantial and cheerily partisan backing throughout their matches. The level of support for the event is good, the debate on just how you pronounce Tim Smyczek from those in the bleachers was more revealing.
But it helps bring an atmosphere to the vast majority of matches. There is also a little bit of space around the outside courts, though this may soon get sucked up for the main event. One thing that is good is that all the minor courts do have some seating at the end of the court, as well as down the sides. It’s very basic, but it does the job and adds something compared to Wimbledon, at least.
FINAL ROUND – PEDJA KRSTIN v SAKETH MYNENI
This match offered some intrigue beforehand for two reasons. Firstly, the fact both were looking to qualify for a Grand Slam for the first time. Myneni, in fact, was looking to make an ATP draw for the first time. The second intrigue was in the presence of the Saki Squad, Myneni’s immensely polite cheering squad, drawn I think largely from his University of Alabama days. Dressed in orange and green, and sporadically waving cut out faces of their hero, they took their place behind the end of the court.
Serb Krstin, with Janko Tipsarevic watching on, actually started well, He was the more aggressive player hitting flatter, faster shots, and got the early break to lead 2-1
But slowly, Myneni worked his spell. His patient, defensive style had Krstin starting to lose his way, The early forehands started to find their way into the net. The Saki squad offered gentle encouragement as he got it straight back to 2-2.
From then on, the match grew unexpectedly one sided. Krstin was full of dark mutterings that perhaps suggested the world, the weather, and anything else was against him, despite quietly encouraging words from Tipsarevic when at the appropriate end.
Myneni stayed accurate, and also found times to finish points with a carefully placed winner, the backhand down the line neat and efficient.
It didn’t take long for a fried Krstin to submit to his demons. Myneni was the man through to his first main draw to be submerged in signing requests from his University of Alabama (and other) fans.
FINAL ROUND – DANIEL BRANDS v GUIDO ANDREOZZI
This match was gradually defined by the Brands forehand – or its disintegration.
When his game is on, you can see what got him comfortably into the top 100. There’s lots of Brands, he’ 6’5″ (1.96m) and while his serve doesn’t quite flow effortlessly, it certainly has potency, especially when he sends it out wide.
Andreozzi rarely makes excursions off clay, but had come through qualifying here four years ago. The classification of classic South American challenger grinder seems fitting. Little seemed to make him more happy than being able to get on to the forehand side when possible, pinning his opponent into the corner with cross court shots and then pinning them there, before finishing things off as and when the moment suited.
Despite Brands reeling off four games from 4-2 down in the first set (enlivened by the brief presence of a nun court side during the German’s resurgence), but then the forehand fell apart. It hit the top of the net, bottom of the net, the doubles tramlines, beyond the doubles tramlines, and pretty much everywhere he didn’t choose. It allowed Andreozzi to play the percentages and wait for errors.
Andreozzi went a break up in the final set but threw in one loose game to get broken right back, but it was fairly comfortable against a dispirited opponent (as you can see below for the finale)
As it turned out, Andreozzi gets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with Brands making it in as a lucky loser, facing the slightly less threatening (if still more than capable) Alexander Zverev..
I only caught the final few games of Thomas Fabbiano versus Alejandro Gonzalez, but if it matched what I saw it seemed a match of really good quality. Long, punishing, thoughtful rallies, including one beauty where the Italian retrieved a lob and top speed, worked his way back into the rally and finished with a drop volley.
Gonzalez dress sense (or enforced dress sense) also made him looked like a harlequin.
My main focus on the penultimate day was Guilherme Clezar v Tim Smyczek, on one of the show courts 17. The experienced spectators knew where the shadows where. Clezar shot into a 4-0 lead, yet looked oddly anxious despite that, getting double broken back to 4-4.
His game was enjoyable when on, looking to finish off points where he could, rather than await Smyczek mistakes. Clezar had a great run in the 2014 Challenger finals, and showed signs of that lively form. The heat was intense (to weakened British sensibilities) and both players were sheened in sweat after just a couple of games.
One double fault in the tie-break effectively cost Smyczek, and despite an enthusiastically partisan crowd, he would go on to lose 7-6 6-3. I fear for him a little on this performance, as a level of consistency is crucial to his game and we didn’t really see it against a greater risk taker.
You can even see a little of that on the final point, where Smyczek tries to wind it up.
It wasn’t a big surprise to me that Clezar came through his final rounder.
Now to the main draw. Let the games re-commence.