Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova embrace New York state of mind at US Open

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer has conquered virtually everything in his two decades on tour but even the greatest tennis player of all time can’t beat New York’s notorious traffic snarl-ups.

The US Open, where the Swiss star has been champion on five occasions, is staged in the New York borough of Queen’s, across the East River from glamorous Manhattan, where players and media stay for the fortnight.

However, the 10-mile journey can often take an hour or more during the working week.

It’s one of the many challenges, on and off the court, which reinforce the city’s reputation as no place for shrinking violets.

Federer has found one way of making the tournament come to him by practicing on public courts in Central Park.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, anything that doesn’t make me drive very long,'” said Federer.

Fellow superstar Maria Sharapova, never one short of confidence, admits that when she first saw the city of 8.5 million souls, she hated it.

“When I first came to New York I was intimidated by the noise, the traffic, the people. But now I love it,” said the Russian star who was 2006 champion at the US Open. The feeling appears to be mutual.

When Sharapova played her first Grand Slam match since the end of her 15-month doping ban on the 24,000-capacity Arthur Ashe stadium on Monday, she wore a black dress, dotted with Swarovski crystals.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

“It’s prime time baby!” said Sharapova.

The Ashe stadium, the largest tennis venue in the world, can be a constant cauldron of noise. At night, the din is ratcheted up with music and commercials thumping out during changeovers while fans chat and fidget, usually on their way back from the bars around the sprawling venue.

“It’s intimidating, it’s so big, there’s so much going on. The screens are working during the points. Yeah, there’s a lot of people moving and talking. It’s not easy to play in,” said Canadian 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov.

Shapovalov even interacted with a spectator who was merrily enjoying his evening out. “I noticed a couple of guys had a little bit too much to drink. I mean, some of them were standing and, like, just talking to me as if we’re buddies.

“I was up a break in one game, I think it was probably 40-15, I just miss a backhand. He’s like, ‘Ah, no.’ I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, man, I got this.'”

The noise on Ashe is always impossible to ignore, although it wasn’t to everyone’s taste on Tuesday when the $150 million roof was shut all day as torrential rain washed away most of the programme.

With fans happily chatting away, the sound turned the arena into a giant echo chamber, much to the irritation of Rafael Nadal

“I understand it’s a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise,” said the world number one, a two-time champion at the tournament.

Most players who experience Ashe insist that you have to get the crowd on your side — otherwise you are doomed.

“It’s hard to beat a New York crowd when they’re for you – it’s a lot to go against,” said CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Roger Federer survives another five-set scare while Rafael Nadal made to work for US Open victory

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Federer was taken to five sets for the second consecutive match.

Former champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battled into the US Open last 32 on Thursday while the women’s draw lost the fifth seed from its top eight.

Federer recorded his 80th career win in New York but he needed five sets for the second successive match before claiming a 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Mikhail Youzhny.

It was his 17th win in 17th meetings with the grizzled Russian, who, at 35, is his junior by just one year.

World number one Nadal, meanwhile, saw off Japan’s world 121 Taro Daniel 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 after being blown off court in the first set.

Federer, 36, and the five-time champion at the US Open, next faces another 35-year-old, Feliciano Lopez of Spain, for a place in the last 16. His record against Lopez is just as solid – 12-0.

“It was quite a lot of fun out there – I feel quite warmed up by now,” said Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Federer, who fired 63 winners and 68 unforced errors.

Youzhny admitted he had cramped, which meant he could move left to right but not forward and back.

“That was hard to watch,” said Federer. “But this was probably the best match we have played against each other.”

Top seed Nadal, the 2010 and 2013 champion, was rocked by New York-born Daniel in the first set.

But Daniel, who has never beaten a top-10 player, paid the price for his all-out assault as Nadal prevailed to book a third round date with Argentine lucky loser Leonardo Mayer.

“All the matches are difficult but especially here as everyone wants to play their best and if you don’t play your best it will be very difficult,” said Nadal, who recovered from a set and break down.

He saw room for improvement after converting six of 11 break points.

“I didn’t play very well but I will work hard to find better feelings because I know I can do much better,” he said.

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Sharapova battles on while Zverev and Kyrgios crash out at US Open

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Maria Sharapova.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova battled back Wednesday to reach the third round of the US Open while next-generation rising stars Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios crashed out.

Sharapova, who downed second-ranked Simona Halep in her first Grand Slam match after a 15-month doping ban, defeated Hungary’s 59th-ranked Timea Babos 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-1 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I felt like going into the match I just wanted to get it done,” Sharapova said.

“It wasn’t my best tennis. It was scrappy tennis but sometimes those kind of matches are a lot of fun and this was one of those days.”

The 30-year-old Russian became the first player into the third round where she will face Russian-born US teen wildcard Sofia Kenin.

Sharapova, whose five Grand Slam titles include the 2006 US Open, tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, her most recent Grand Slam appearance until this week.

“Every day I have the chance I have to play out here at the US Open is a special day and I’ll look forward to the next one,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova, ranked 146th, played only one Open tuneup match due to a forearm injury but wore down Halep and Babos to prove she’s a threat for a deep run.

German fourth seed Zverev, whose five ATP titles this year include a win over Roger Federer in this month’s Montreal final, fell to 61st-ranked Croatian Borna Coric 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/4).

“He had a most unbelievable year where he won basically everything,” Coric said. “It does mean a lot to me to win this match.”

Alexander Zverev.

Alexander Zverev.

Coric, who next faces South African Kevin Anderson for a spot in the last 16, was one point from being pushed to a fifth set before winning five in a row to take the 12th game of the final set.

“I was just thinking to keep the points shorter,” Coric said. “And yeah, I was a little bit lucky.”

Zverev’s ouster left US 10th seed John Isner the top-ranked player in his draw quarter and Croatian fifth seed Marin Cilic, coming off a Wimbledon runner-up effort, the best in his half of the draw.

Cilic, the 2014 US Open winner, reached the third round by beating Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Kyrgios, the 14th seed and highest-ranked obstacle in Federer’s quarter-final path, hurt his right shoulder in a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 first-round loss to 235th-ranked Aussie John Millman.

“Early in the third set I hit one serve and I never felt the same after that,” Kyrgios said. “Something didn’t feel right in my arm.”

Kyrgios, 22, beat Rafael Nadal two weeks ago on the way to the biggest final of his career at the ATP Cincinnati Masters before falling to Grigor Dimitrov.

Kyrgios grabbed his right shoulder after a serve in the fourth game of the third set, telling a physiotherapist his woes during a medical timeout.

Nick Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios.

“One serve and arm is totally dead. It’s so dead and numb. It’s incredibly weak,” said Kyrgios.

After his last available treatment, Kyrgios dropped eight of the last nine games to Millman, who missed nearly eight months with a hip injury.

“Nick’s shoulder deteriorated as the match went on,” Millman said after his first US Open triumph. “It’s a victory but slightly hollow.”

Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem finished off Aussie Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. Thiem is the highest-ranked rival to Federer and Nadal on their side of the draw.

“I’m not in the first row of favorites, maybe in the second, so I can play calm,” Thiem said.

Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, rescued three match points in defeating 67th-ranked Czech Marketa Vondrousova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) to reach the second round.

Kuznetsova is among seven women who could become world number one after the US Open. So is Ukraine’s fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who held off 42nd-ranked Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-0, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.

Also sustaining top spot hopes was seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, the US ninth seed who beat France’s Oceane Dodin 7-5, 6-4. This year’s Wimbledon and Australian Open runner-up is the field’s oldest woman at 37.

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