Sorry to be taking so long to chat about a week of vacation and tennis. But there's always so much to say! :)
Thursday, my mom was anxious to get an early start since we had missed so many matches (due to lack of shade) so far. I looked on the app and saw that another of our favorites, Fernando Verdasco from Spain, would be practicing early, even before the matches started. So we decided to leave my apartment a little early and get over to the tennis center. We went right over to the Grandstand to enjoy his practice and Mom was thrilled to see that an unannounced Rafael Nadal was Verdasco's practice partner. The previous day, when Nadal and Federer were on the schedule, the Grandstand was packed and you couldn't get very close for good photos. On Thursday morning, only Verdasco was announced, so the stands were pretty empty. I got to get some really close photos for my mom, which was great. Both guys were practicing hard, but Nadal was seriously kicking Verdasco's butt. I'm not sure that Verdasco won any of the practice games. Oh, and I forgot to mention, on Wednesday, Nadal kept getting his wrist massaged by one of his team, and he also came down on his knee funny and grimaced and limped around for awhile. It was nice for my mom to see him again at full steam on Thursday.
After Verdasco and Nadal finished practicing, Mom and I went over to the practice courts to see Coco Vandeweghe practice. Mom and I like Coco - I usually don't enjoy players with such swagger, but I don't know. I like Coco. She's bold, where a lot of the women aren't. I also wanted to get a look at Coco's new coach, Pat Cash, who was a teenage crush of mine, I must admit. He still looks good. My mom was surprised at how slight Coco looks in person, she looks quite solid and athletic on tv. It's really a stark difference. I wish I could've seen her practice with a different hitting partner, because the girl on the other side of the net didn't seem to be on the same level as Coco. The practice didn't get very intense, but it will still nice to see that power close up.
We wandered over to Court 7 to watch two players I had seen in their first round matches: Aragone from the US and Bellotti from Italy. We finally got the umbrella out to shade us, because it was impossible to see match play in the afternoon that didn't have some sun. There was some excellent hitting on both sides, with Bellotti the more naturally powerful player, but also the player without a plan B. Aragone lost the first set, but he started changing some things up and ended up winning the match in three. I think Mom and I will keep our eyes on him moving forward.
Then we moved on to Court 11, so we could watch the new phenom, Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov. Shapovalov beat Nadal in a tournament a couple of weeks ago, so he was coming in with a lot of buzz. I was actually surprised my mom wanted to see this match, since the kid had beat Nadal and my mom holds a grudge (see, I come by my grudge-holding naturally), but I was glad she wanted to watch. Court 11, which has one of the biggest seating areas of the outside courts, filled up really quickly.
This was a pretty good match to see, though Shapovalov's opponent, Gastao Elias from Portugal, wasn't quite up to the task. Plus, he was playing a little bit even below his usual level, so the kid didn't have much trouble winning in straight sets. He did lose his serve in the second set, but thankfully climbed back into the match, took control and won. Shapovalov is flashy, but also really talented. He seems to have the wandering attention span of a teenager, but doesn't get down on himself or others, at least so far. I'm interested to see what he does moving forward (spoiler/real time alert: he qualified for the Open and is into the third round, after knocking off a top 20 seed; I think this kid is the real deal).
After that match, Mom needed a little shade, so she had a sit down and some snacks, and I wandered over to Court 4 to catch the end of the Victoria Duval match. You may remember Duval from last year - she's still on the comeback train after many injuries and a year layoff during treatments for lymphoma. She's such a fighter and she fought back to win her match on Court 4. I wish I had gotten a photo of her right after she won, she was so excited. Unfortunately, she must've hurt herself in this match because she had to retire in her third round match and didn't get into the Open. But I'm sure she'll keep fighting.
Mom and I then went over to Court 17 to watch a match between American Mackenzie McDonald, who had practiced the day before with my Roger, and Jan Satral, from the Czech Republic. Mom and I liked McDonald's smooth game and unflappable demeanor, so we were happy to settle in for his match. We were also happy to settle into real seats, instead of benches, because after three days of benches, we had some sore backs, knees and tushies. McDonald secured an early break and we were excited, but he unfortunately couldn't hold onto it. Satral was just a little more explosive and took control of the match at the end of the first set, and didn't let go. McDonald seems to still have some maturing to do, physically, and then I think he'll be in the mix. He has good hands, a nice net game and smart instincts, but he's just, uh, petite. He'll grow out of that. I hope. We wandered around a bit after this match and stopped to check out Frank Dancevic from Canada, who is a wackadoodle, but he finally put his brain back together and won his second round match. We didn't watch for very long because he just couldn't hold his serve, but neither could his opponent, Stephane Robert from France. Not a very enjoyable match to watch, to be honest.
To end our day, Mom and I went to the temporary Louis Armstrong stadium to watch the return of Swiss Patty Schnyder, who I kept teasing was my age, against the American Nicole Gibbs. Patty is actually 38, which is almost my age in tennis years, but she has been 'retired' since 2011. It's nice to see her crafty, lefty game back on the tour. She fought valiantly, but the younger, quicker Gibbs won the first set pretty easily. Mom and I had to get to Kinko's to print off her boarding pass for her flight the next day, so we left after the first set. I saw on the app that Schnyder came back to win the second set, but ultimately lost the match. I'll be interested to see what she does next.
Since Mom was leaving on Friday, we decided to go out to breakfast and do a little shopping before she went to the airport, and then I went out to the tennis by myself in the afternoon. A lot of the matches on the schedule weren't going to start until at least 3pm, so I had plenty to watch when I got there. I actually went straight to Court 6, since Mahut would be playing his third round match there. I arrived at the court as the match before his, between Anna Zaja of Germany, and Su Jeong Jang from South Korea, was headed into a third set. I was thrilled to get a front row seat and I actually enjoyed the last set played by the women. They both hit the ball hard, but also had some nice feel - there were drop shots, lobs and other good tactical plays. Zaja broke twice, then struggled to hold on to win, but she did. She was so excited - making it into the Open is such a huge payday for these lower-ranked players.
Finally, Mahut came to the court. He was playing a player I had never heard of: Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece. Besides being extremely attractive, he was also a very good player. He utilized the on-court coaching a couple of times, which I found interesting. The first set was very exciting, with no breaks and very solid play from both gents. The tiebreak was also quite thrilling, with many ups and downs, with Mahut finally taking the set. The second set started off as more of the same, but suddenly Mahut had a dip in form and Tsitsipas elevated his, as he broke Mahut twice to end the second set and win it. I was a little worried, but after the break before the third set, Mahut must've screwed his head back on, because he was on fire and ended up not losing another game (he took the third set 6-0). It was such an interesting change of fortune, for both players, I still don't quite know what happened. But Mahut was absolutely thrilled to pull through, and then his adorable son came scampering out of the crowd to hug his papa! ADORABLE. As of this writing, Mahut is in the third round of the Open, so fingers crossed for him. I hope this is the start of another great run.
Tennis Week was again a load of fun, with lots of exciting tennis and adventures with my mom. I'm already looking forward to next year.