by Nate Chura
As you marvel at the power of Serena Williams’ forehand, or the graceful footwork of Roger Federer, please also consider the agile wheelchair moves of Esther Vergeer.
Early Thursday afternoon, at Louis Armstrong stadium, the 28-year-old from the Netherlands extended a 376-match winning streak, defeating France’s Florence Gravellier, 6-2, 7-5, in the quarterfinals of the US Open Women's Wheelchair Singles.
Vergeer is the winningest wheelchair tennis player in history. The last time she lost a match was in January of 2003.
Highlights from her playing career include winning the Paralympics three times (2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing). She also took the US Open Women’s Wheelchair Singles title three times. Vergeer was the World Wheelchair Champion nine years in a row, from 2000-2008. Her career singles record is a staggering 571-25. Yes, she’s the number one wheelchair player in the world.
For those who don’t follow wheelchair tennis, the ball can bounce twice. You would hardly know this watching Vergeer and Gravellier. The ball seldom bounced twice as the athletes zipped across the court like laser beams. Gravellier is actually an effective net rusher with a fine volley. Unfortunately for the French woman, she ran up against Vergeer.
Watch Vergeer forehand in action:
Last night the hearts of 24,881 tennis fans inside the sold-out Arthur Ashe stadium in Queens -- and the dreams of ESPN and Tennis Channel executives -- were crushed as 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin was ousted from the US Open.
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki tossed the Georgia peach from US Open prime-time, 6-2, 6-2, in 88 minutes.
The girl who captured fans' imaginations with wins over Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova, and Nadia Petrova was gracious in her goodbye.
“Caroline played a good match,” Oudin said. “She’s such a strong player."
She said her new role as America"s sweetheart didn't factor into her error-filled game. "These past two weeks have been really different for me. I’ve gone from being just a normal like tennis player to almost everyone in the United States knowing who I am. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think that affected my tennis game tonight at all.”
Listen to Oudin reflect on her US Open run:
by Nate ChuraThe world’s #1 doubles team, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan, lost their bid for a second consecutive US Open doubles title Wednesday. The defending champions were bounced from the semifinals by the 4th seeds Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6).
“It was a little frustrating to lose 7-6 in the third,” Mike Bryan said after the match. “It came down to the wire and it could have gone either way. We had a few break points there in the third set, which I thought we could have got, but I’ve gotta tip my hat to them. They played well when it counted. Leander was quick at net. Dlouhy served really well. He was hitting the lines. But we’ll be back next year and give it our best shot.”
The momentum first slipped away from the Bryans at 3-all in the first set, when Dlouhy/Paes broke the Bryans at 30-40 on Mike's serve. Dlouhy threw up lob return and Mike sent the forehand long. That stroke of good fortune was all Dlouhy/Paes needed to consolidate the first set.
Two Democrats who want to unseat Mayor Bloomberg have debated for the last time before Tuesday's primary election. Both candidates agreed that the city should take greater control over the MTA, but differed on how to do that. City Councilman Tony Avella suggested scrapping the 2nd Avenue subway project:...
by Nate ChuraOn match point, Croatian and world #17 Marin Cilic served a bomb down the T of the ad court service box to cut off the hopes of Scottish-born Andy Murray of making a run to a second consecutive US Open final. Brits everywhere are in mourning. The ace was 1 of 10 in the match and the nail that sealed the coffin in the world #2’s straight sets round of 16 loss, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, on Arthur Ashe stadium.
In a post-mortem, Murray couldn’t put his finger on exactly what gripped him on court. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just couldn’t get myself into enough return games and couldn’t quite find a way to get myself back into the match.”
Cilic broke Murray five times in the match to advance to his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal. After the match, he spoke about beating one of the hottest players of the summer season.
“I mean I’m feeling tremendously happy,” said Cilic. “Of course it’s the biggest result for me so far. Now that I don’t have this blockade in my head, I can look forward, and, of course, focus on the next matches.”
Murray walked onto Ashe the leading hard court player of the season, having won 37 matches on the surface this year. It was his 6th consecutive appearance in the round of 16 of a major slam. Murray also lead Cilic in their career head-to-head, 3 to zip. But when all is said and done, the numbers had little meaning once the players stepped onto the court.
by Nate ChuraThe view from Suite 136 in Arthur Ashe Stadium this afternoon was worthy of a luxury box. On the blue court below, close enough to hear every grunt, were the American doubles juggernaut, Mike and Bob Bryan, taking on Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione.
One person enjoying the occasion was Dina Moscowitz from Forest Hills. She lives near the West Side Tennis Club, where the US Open was held from 1915 to 1978. Moscowitz went to the US Open at the faded gem, but prefers her view from the box at Ashe.
Listen to what Moscowitz says about suite living at the Open:
Listen to French describe his job:
Meanwhile on court, the Bryan brothers, the #1 doubles team in the world, muscled past Ball and Guccione to clinch the quarterfinal contest: 6-4, 7-6(2).
by Nate Chura Ray Charles said it best. Georgia was on the minds of American tennis fans on Day 8 of the US Open in Flushing Meadows, Queens this Labor Day.
After back to back upsets against the fourth seed Elena Dementieva and former US Open champ Maria Sharapova, seventeen-year-old Melanie Oudin, of Marietta, GA, continued the trend, besting 13th seed Russian Nadia Petrova to advance to the quarterfinals of her first ever Grand Slam. The final score was: 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.
Oudin got off to a sluggish start, losing the first set in 31 minutes, but quickly took a 2-0 lead in the second. However, the Russian would not give up easily. Oudin had to fight hard to reverse the momentum that had accumulated in the more experienced Petrova's favor. It took a lot of hustle and composure under heavy fire for the upstart to stay in the match. But each point Oudin won bred more inner belief and the large, excited crowd in Arthur Ashe stadium also threw her a lifeline. Eventually, the American found herself up 5-0 in the tie break before she closed out the second set. Oudin allowed Petrova just two points.
Oudin continued to roll in the third set, breaking Petrova in the first game. But Petrova broke Oudin right back. In the fifth game, with Petrova serving at deuce, Oudin hit a deep slice backhand -- a shot she's taken from retired Slam champion Justine Henin's toolbox -- and it caught Petrova by surprise, chipping the back of the baseline. The rattled Russian double faulted on her next serve to hand Oudin a break, and a 3-2 lead.
From that moment on, the momentum was all Oudin's. Petrova's play turned sloppy. She overcooked an overhead at 15-40, serving at 2-4, to give the unseeded teen a second break. Oudin served it out, finally winning on her third match point.
by Nate Chura
If television were ever to consider a tennis version of the hit NBC reality series The Apprentice, a different Donald would host the show…Donald Dell.
Dell is a former US Davis Cup captain and founder of Pro Serv Sports Management Agency, one of the first full-service sports ...
by Nate Chura
Last night’s double feature on the main stage of the 2009 US Open included appearances by Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick. In between points, the tennis stars occasionally looked to their player’s box. Maybe they were seeking approval from a coach or family member, or maybe they were assigning blame. We’ll never know for sure, but one man who was definitely responsible for the matches under the Virgo moon was Australian, Glen Flint, stringer for these particular stars.
Flint is the full-time traveling stringer for Roddick, and, at the major slams, he is Sharapova’s racquet technician as well. And he is a technician. A stringer at this level isn’t just pulling polyester threads through the holes of a racquet’s head. A stringer like Flint tweaks and manipulates these space-age instruments so that they are, as he says, “an extension of the player’s arm.” Listen here for more:
Listen to what Flint does to Roddick’s and Sharapova’s sticks:
For the day session, Dinara Safina narrowly escaped extinction yesterday for the second time in the tournament. She prevailed in three sets over Kristina Barrois of Germany, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3. By the end of the match, the Russian served 15 doubles faults and committed 38 unforced errors.
The candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in the 19th City Council district in Northeast Queens all want to be seen as good neighbors. But some claim they have stronger ties to the district than others.
Paul Vallone, in particular, has had to answer questions about his loyalty to the 19th. Vallone is the youngest son of former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who represented Astoria and was succeeded by his oldest son, Peter Jr. The family has a law firm in Astoria, too, where Paul Vallone works. And though Paul Vallone has lived in North Flushing since 1994, opponents Jerry Iannece and Steve Behar have seized on a news report that he didn't vote in the District until 2005. Iannece, who chairs Community Board 11, portrays Vallone as a newcomer who's never solved an issue or addressed a problem and refers to the Vallones as "Astoria people, not Bayside people."
Vallone dismisses that, saying "If there's an advantage coming from a family that has done nothing but community service I'll take that advantage. It truly is a blessing." He acknowledges he didn't get around to switching his voter registration from Astoria to North Flushing for several years. But he says he was preoccupied when his young daughter required serious surgery. He also claims his commitment to the district is evident in the work he's done with a variety of local civic groups.
by Nate Chura
At the top of Arthur Ashe Stadium, the view of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is surprising. It’s beautiful and has a calming quality. Yesterday, while Venus Williams was blasting her way through fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-4, 6-2, in the second round of the U.S. Open, I took the long hike up to row Z of the upper promenade. It's the highest point of the National Tennis Center. When I arrived I discovered I wasn’t the only one who thought the trip might be worth it.
Randy, a local twenty-something from Flushing Meadows, is a regular Ashe climber.
“The best part,” he says about watching matches from the nose-bleed section, “is you don’t have to turn your neck as much. You can have a view of the whole court without having to turn your neck left and right. And you can also see the ball where it hits the lines. Actually, the ump should be sitting up here rather than down there.”
Another fan soaking in the last remaining summer rays in row Z was, Lee Griffin from Australia, who currently lives in London, but was meeting up with her sister for a week of tennis in New York. Griffin found the surrounding views serene as she rooted for Williams to win the match.
Listen to Nate’s interview with fellow rooftop climber, Lee Griffin, at the top of Mt. Ashe.
“It’s a great vantage point to actually see a whole lot of the surrounding countryside,” Griffin said. “A bit difficult for the tennis, but good for the views.”
Down in the deep caves of Mt. Ashe, in Interview Room 1, Williams wasted no words after her victory over Mattek-Sands.
“I’m in the U.S. Open,” the older Williams sister said. “The U.S. Open, baby. I’m in the process of being in the third round. So I love it.”
At ground level, fans of the U.S. Open said goodbye to two of the game's most interesting personalities: former world number 1 and 2000 champion, Marat Safin, and Fabrice Santoro, who made his 69th Grand Slam appearance in New York.
Po Bronson argues that when it comes to raising children, we've mistaken good intentions for good ideas.
Listen to the whole interview:
In his new book, Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children, written with Ashley Merryman, Po Bronson sifts through many of the common behaviors of parents raising children. Bronson argues that many parents are unaware of how praise, tattling, lying, punishment and even bedtime are linked to issues of childhood independence, self-esteem and obesity.
"There are key areas in which some of the assumptions we make are contradictory to scientific records," says Bronson. "A lot of parents tell me that they're proud to be doing something good, like being more affectionate [to their children]. In many dimensions they are doing the opposite of the authoritarian parent they've had." But apparently, the more lenient or "progressive" a parent is, the more their child may be likely to act out. A study Bronson cited of a middle school showed "progressive" dad's kids were acting up in class as much as the children of the "deadbeat" dads. "What it seems to be about is inconsistency at home," says Bronson.
According to Bronson's research, it is the progressive parents who are unsure of how to punish their child. "When it comes to disciplining their child, progressive dads are sort of embarrassed to do it, weren't counting on having to do this as a part of fatherhood, and as a result are often inconsistent." It all amounts to confusion as a result of different punishments received from lenient parents. "The inconsistency ends up leading to kids becoming more socially aggressive."
by Nate Chura
Day Two of the U.S. Open came and went with the summer breeze. While the giants of the game like Serbian, Novak Djokovic, and Russian, Elena Dementieva, dismembered their first-round opponents in grand fashion on the featured show courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, there was another group of challengers gutting out a living on the outer ring of courts deprived of such lavish comforts as the Chase Review Hawk-Eye system.
When most people think of professional tennis players, they think of Maria Sharapova. She won her night match quite easily. Or they think of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who hammered into submission yesterday 18-year-old Chase Buchanan, from Columbus, Ohio.
Mention the name Jesse Witten to most people, and be prepared for a blank stare. But on Court 7 yesterday, Witten, a 26-year-old tennis journeyman, made quick work of his opponent, too -- the 29th seed from Russia, Igor Andreev. It was the biggest win of Witten's career, taking only 97 minutes, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
Until then, Witten, from Naples, FL, had never won an ATP Tour level match, let alone advance to the second-round of a grand slam. Witten is currently the 276th ranked singles player in the world. He had to win three qualifying matches just to face Andreev in the main draw. Going into the tournament, Witten’s total prize money for the year was a whopping $19,284. And in case you’re wondering, there are no endorsement stipends on top of that. For winning his first-round match, Witten will receive $30,000, enough to keep the dream alive.
Witten played college tennis for the University of Kentucky, where he studied kinesiology. After the match, Witten was asked if he endorsed young tennis players going to college.
“I’d go back to college right now if I could,” he said. “I loved everything about it. There’s a couple guys, obviously, that can skip college and get away with it. But, I mean, there are so many guys that are at the mediocre level. There are so many guys that skipped college, and I know ‘em now and they kind of regret it. Actually, a couple of my friends are going back. I think it’s great.”
To hear Nate’s interview with Witten:
The three Democrats vying to succeed Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau squared off in a debate at John Jay College last night.They fielded questions on high-profile cases from Etan Patz to the Central Park jogger to Plaxico Burress and on their legal philosophies on drug law enforcement and parole-versus-prison, among other topics. The debate featured some sparring between Cy Vance and Leslie Crocker Snyder who's been hammering Vance for weeks for spending the majority of the last two decades in private practice across the country.
"During NY's worst crime, worst, when everyone here was in danger and our kids were being assaulted, you were in Seattle."
Snyder, a former state supreme court judge, claimed to be taking on what she called the old boys' club in the city.
Vance accused Snyder of changing her positions since she ran against Morgenthau in 2005, saying at that time she supported the death penalty.
"How is the electorate to know what are your core legal values, and when they won't change and bend to political whims."
Vance has the support of Morgenthau in the election.
“We are gathered here representatives of the major warring powers to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored. The issues involving divergent ideals and ideologies have been determined on the battlefields of the world and hence are not for our discussion or debate...It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world dedicated to the dignity of man, and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice....
by Nate Chura
The 2009 U.S. Open kicked-off yesterday in New York style. Before night matches began, a record 36,085 fans poured into the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens to attend the last grand slam tennis tournament of the season.
While some came to see men’s world #1, Roger Federer, and others filed in to see Serena Williams, one thing all fans had in common was a desire to witness the best tennis in the world, which was in fine form.
All the major seeds progressed to the second round. ATP Tour veteran, Tommy Haas struggled a bit in his four-set victory over journeyman, Alejandro Falla. And underdogs like Devin Britton, the 2009 NCAA Champion and wild card in the tournament got a lesson about what it takes to win in New York City.
The volunteers were out in full force. Ushers were ushering. There was no shortage of people pointing and passing along directions. To the casual tourist, these were the signals of a carnival, fitting of a world’s fair. But to the concessionaires and retailers, all the deliberate choreography lead to a singular objective: a job.
Inside the National Tennis Center there were no signs of recession. Indeed. Outside Louie Armstrong Stadium in the food court, where at the Fulton Fish Market a lobster roll costs $17 and a pint of Heineken beer will set you back seven big ones, the economy was booming as large as Andy Roddick’s serve. As summer draws to a close, hopefully the two-week tournament billed as the “largest annual sporting event in the world” will serve as a harbinger of prosperity to come in the days ahead.