US Open: Tennis In The Bubble And Asterisk * Unstrung

WASHINGTON, September 1, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Angelique Kerber enjoying tennis ‘as much as I can right now’

World No. 23 Angelique Kerber waited until the last possible moment to commit to this year’s US Open. So far, no regrets as she won her first-round match over No. 57 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 6-3, 6-3, on Louis Armstrong Stadium Monday. The match took one hour and 28 minutes to complete and it was Kerber’s first match since January.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the tennis as much as I can right now,” Kerber said during her virtual press conference that followed her win. “You don’t really have expectations of yourself, you don’t know where you are and how you [will] make the transition to the match court, which is always a little different than just practicing. Right now for me … .it’s about being in the moment, here.”

Kerber hit 15 winners, committed 24 unforced errors and converted five of five break-point opportunities. “It’s a little bit weird to play without fans and without support and atmosphere,” she said. “It’s like the atmosphere of playing a practice match but of course it’s a serious game. It was more [difficult] for me mentally to prepare for the match. It wasn’t so easy at the beginning but then you get used to it.”

The German No. 1, born in Bremen, said the past six months since playing in the Australian Open have been a long break, but one which allowed her to rest and heal old injuries. “I was just at home trying to relax a little bit. I was a little bit injured,” she said. “I’m fine now. The last few weeks I was working hard, playing a lot of tennis.”

Kerber has reunited with her former coach, Torben Beltz. So far, according to the German No.1, it’s a good fit for all.It’s nice to have someone I know and can tell me how my game is working,” said Kerber. “He knows to improve my game, as well. We are speaking the same language. I’ve known him since I was 16 or 17. I’m really happy I have a good team around me. I’m trying to enjoy tennis as much as I can.”

With Kerber’s victory, it sets up an all-German second-round matchup on Wednesday against Anna-Lena Friedsam, who advanced over American Caroline Dolehide, 6-2, 6-2. Kerber could get top seed Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round on Sunday.

‘You can’t stop us’ – The Williams sisters in a new Nike ad

“You can’t stop us,” a new and poignant Nike ad about Serena and Venus Williams that debuted in time for the US Open, celebrates the combined achievements of the Williams sisters instead of seeing them merely as on-court rivals.

Let’s face it, their legacy transcends tennis and both future Hall of Famers will go down in history as two of the greatest female athletes of all time who just happened to also transform the game of tennis. Along with their Grand Slam accomplishments, both Serena and Venus battled for equal pay and social justice as Black female athletes.

“Ever since we were little girls you have compared us to each other,” says Serena in an off-camera voiceover. “It’s funny,  you saw two tennis players trying to win a game. We saw two sisters changing it.”

The Williams sisters’ ad is Nike’s latest in their “You can’t stop sport” campaign, which marks a year that has been greatly affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Both sisters shared the Nike ad on their social media platforms within minutes on Sunday, writing: “When one of us wins, we both win. You can’t stop sisters.”

More Serena: ‘Tennis is mental … it’s all mental’

“Tennis mental. You know, it’s all mental,” says 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. Others, who are competing in this year’s US Open echo her sentiment. Reem Abulleil explores this often-overlooked aspect of tennis in her latest for The National. She wrote on Twitter: “It’s always interesting when players open up about the mental challenges they are facing, and how they tackle them.”

Asterisk unstrung

Tennis Channel Insider Jon Wertheim said on Monday’s Tennis Channel Live that winning the 2020 US Open could actually mean more in the long run, based on the difficulty of dealing with extraordinary circumstances. He also points out: “History will remember the winner, not the circumstances.”

US Open ball persons have names on their backs

For the first time, the US Open ball persons will have names on their backs. However, rather than their own names, these are the names of healthcare workers, who have been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 in New York City.

Ralph Lauren, the official outfitter of the US Open, which provides uniforms for all of the on-court officials and ball persons, partnered with New York’s Mount Sinai Health System to honor their essential workers from the Tri-State Area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic. The names of those frontline workers will be worn on the backs of the ball persons through the US Open fortnight.

The Way Back Machine – 1979 US Open

What we’re reading

In his latest tennis essay for The New Yorker, “How to Watch Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, Where She Has Nothing Left to Prove,” Gerry Marzorati suggests: “How about we just watch for flickering of her greatness, twilight glimpses of what made her the G.O.A.T.”

What they’re saying

Over the weekend, Coco Gauff was asked about her idol, Serena Williams’ bid for a 24th Grand Slam singles title:I consider her the greatest tennis player of all time right now. I’ll look at her that way whether she gets 24 or not. I’m also competing in the same field as her so I want to win also. When I watch her play, I normally am rooting for her.”

What they’re writing

Open Court‘s Stephanie Myles writes that Sunday’s positive COVID-19 test for France’s Benoit Paire is just the first step in what will be a test of the USTA’s mitigation strategy for US Open – “and Paire is a gregarious guy.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Rod Laver / Good luck to everyone competing – especially the Aussies!

Billie Jean King / To the players, good luck and stay safe.

Danielle Collins / Netflix suggestions?

Andy Murray / He was like all of us during quarantine

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“I was nailing ice creams during lockdown.” 😂 @andymurray was just like all of us in quarantine!

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CoCo Wandeweghe / Good luck everyone!