2007-09-07 / Sports

A U.S.Grand Opening For Tennis In The Park

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY - It's become an end of summer tradition. The hardcourts in Flushing Meadows are once again in use, as the US Open has come to town.

This Grand Slam has become the 'in' sports event for New Yorkers over recent years. The Open has been a destination for many celebrities, like Tony Bennett, Colin Farrell and Donald Trump and regular spectators alike, trying to catch a peek at tennis greatness.

What makes the Open different from other Grand Slams is the atmosphere. It's classic New York. Arthur Ashe Stadium is the largest tennis-only venue in the world and many a great player has either elevated his or her game, or wilted in the Queens spotlight.

"I think the US Open is really, really intense," said Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, who made the Quarterfinals in Flushing. "That's just the take I get in it. It's just really intense. I feel the intensity of the city and just all the people. The stadium is huge."

Under the watchful eyes of the 23,000 tennis fans and lights of the court, the top players in the world go after the ultimate championship. And every year there's a surprise or two along the way.

Last year's women's winner, Maria Sharapova, lost in the third round this year to the 30th seeded player, Agnieszka Radwanska, in three sets, 6- 4, 1-6, 6-2.

The swirling winds, which often cause problems for outfielders at Shea Stadium, hurt Sharapova's serve. Because of her height the ball would not be where she wanted it to be on the serve, hurting her game.

"Definitely not an easy day at the office for me," Sharapova said. "But, you know, it's - I could sit here all day long and come up with excuses and say how bad I played. But at the end of the day my opponent won the match and I lost it. Better go on from here. Clearly it hasn't been my best year. Just hasn't been my year."

Then there was a classic on Labor Day between German Tommy Haas and local product James Blake, with the 10th seeded Haas prevailing in five sets and a tiebreaker at the end, 4-6, 6- 4, 3-6, 6-0, 7-6(4). It was a match where it was a shame someone had to lose. In the tiebreaker at the end, both Haas and Blake fought for points and were showing some classic volleys.

"It's as good as it gets for us," said Haas. "I know one of us had to lose today. I think we both can be very proud of what we've achieved after going through something I think many people can't imagine."

And that's what the Open is aboutthe drama of one-on-one competition.

Other than that, those who were expected to win have moved on. Topseeded Roger Federer moved to the Quarterfinals with some ease, as did American Andy Roddick. On the women's side; Justine Henin placed in the semifinals, while third-seeded Jelena Jankovic also kept winning.

It makes for a good drama on the final weekend, while this Open has the makings for another end of summer classic.

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