It’s fascinating to sit near a players’ camp during one of their matches. Most of the time, 90% of the audience for any given match is just there to take in a good tennis match. Aside from hardcore fans of a particular player, the rooting doesn’t get that intense. However, sitting next to a players’ camp, the tension is palpable. You can hear nervous mutterings and encouragements from coaches and hitting partners and trainers. You can hear a frustrated coach talk strategy during key points. You can even hear a coach cheering double faults (I’m looking at you, Thomas Hogstedt and Maria Sharapova‘s camp during the 2011 Cincinnati final).
I sat next to Melanie Oudin‘s camp yesterday during her match against Angelique Kerber. Oudin played excellent tennis, but dropped the first set, 7-5, as her team cheered her on. They seemed to deflate along with Oudin in the second set as Kerber ran away with it, not that you could tell from her facial expression:
Speaking of Kerber’s facial expressions, I also snapped this one during her first round match as she gave a linesperson a glare for a call she disagreed with:
It was great to see Mardy Fish back on court, even though his singles campaign ended early. There was a little bit of rust in his game, but there were flashes of the 2011 Mardy Fish who captured the US Open Series title. He’s held some pretty cryptic press conferences lately, and he doesn’t seem comfortable revealing what he’s been going through, but it’s nice to have him back. He plans to return for his next tournament in Cincinnati later this month.
I observed a couple of Bernard Tomic‘s practice sessions here. His team right now consists of a new hitting partner who looks like this …
… newly-hired physical trainer Allistair McCaw, and a guy to pick up the balls. The new hitting partner is a 24-year-old from London who played college tennis. It’s a bare bones operation, but Tomic was working hard, hitting several times a day and even after his match against David Goffin. McCaw has an impressive list of tennis clients he’s worked with, including former World No. 1 Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Xavier Malisse, and Alex Bogomolov Jr., and he could be a smart addition for Tomic, since he’s an established trainer who knows the ins and outs of the tour.
Tomic was hitting the ball well in practice, and played a great match against Goffin, beating him 6-1, 6-3, before falling to an in-form Juan Martin del Potro. He plans on playing qualies in Montreal and Cincinnati before the US Open.
A couple of key quotes from his press conference:
On whether Tennis Australia has been supportive during his recent personal issues: “There’s been some help, probably not the help that I would’ve imagined at that stage. But they’ve been good, I can’t complain. They’ve been very supportive for a lot of my time since I’ve been playing. I get along with Tennis Australia very well.”
On how his younger sister Sara has been dealing with the situation: “My sister, she’s okay. She doesn’t think a lot about that. She’s like me. She’s playing the junior tour now, she’s in the top 50 for the ITF. She’s having fun experiencing the junior stage where I got to experience it a few years back.”
On his childhood idols: “I looked up to Roger a lot … Roger’s an idol to everyone in sport. To me, he was really big. I’m happy I had an idol growing up, and someone to motivate me to get where I am.”
Juan Martin del Potro has been looking dangerous on-court, and seems more relaxed and happy than I’ve ever seen him in press. I’ve been in his press conferences at several other events, and I’ve never seen him joking around so much, and having such a good time interacting with the media. I got a chance to interview him one-on-one for a piece coming later this year, and as you might expect, he’s just the nicest guy. He took time to talk to me after playing two matches in one day for the first time in his career. It was pretty cool.
Lindsay thankfully snapped a picture of the interview to demonstrate the hilarious height difference.
Tommy Haas showed his lighter side on Wednesday night after his match against Tim Smyczek was subject to multiple back-to-back rain delays that encompassed about three hours. After drying the courts three times, they came out again, and rain immediately began to fall. As Mo got down to inspect the court, Tommy climbed up into the umpire’s chair, and was goofing around. The crowd loved it. The match was eventually called off for the night, and they resumed the next day.