Look, it’s been a busy few days here at the Citi Open. I’ve been having the time of my life and getting a lot of work done, but there are two things that I haven’t done enough of: Blogging here at The Changeover, and actually sitting down court-side and watching some live tennis.
It’s weird how that happens. I’ve been writing for BR, working on a lot of future freelance pieces, and trying to sit in on every interview that I possibly can, and somehow these days have just absolutely, positively flown by. Or, you know, maybe I’m slow and lazy. (If you’re my editor or a possible future editor, it is absolutely not the latter. Also, please don’t read the rest of this post. THANKS.)
But last night I decided I needed to get my butt into gear a bit and, you know, watch a complete tennis match, from coin toss to match point. After getting done with my time-sensitive work for the day, I headed out to the un-televised Grandstand 1 court as the sun was setting and got out my notebook to try and be a real journalist for a little bit.
Please follow along to see how poorly that went.
(This is in bullet-point form, because there’s no way these notes can be woven into cohesive paragraphs.)
-It’s was a perfect night, you guys. Seriously, PERFECT. There were crazy Frenchies yelling for “RICHIE,” and plenty of obnoxious Americans yelling for guys named “Smee” and “TIIIMMM.” If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that crazy Frenchies and obnoxious Americans are pretty much my specialty.
The sun was setting, there was a light breeze, and in the open field next to the stadium there was a kid’s soccer game going on. It was like a postcard, or something else that’s supposed to be nice.
Look, I’m a huge tennis fan (SHOCKER), but sometimes watching tennis sucks. The other day I was watching Shelby Rogers take on Marina Erakovic in the scorching hot midday sun. Because of new rules here at the Citi Open, media has to sit in the upper bleachers on Stadium court this year, and so even though there was practically nobody there, I had to be far away. There was no atmosphere at all besides a few random cheers for Shelby, but she played so poorly that there wasn’t much opportunity for that. Erakovic didn’t play much better, she was just somewhat solid.
During that match, I kept thinking about all the people who think tennis is a boring, monotonous sport where fun goes to die. I started to feel like maybe they had a point.
Anyways, it was clear before the warmups were even over that this match was going to be better than that. Thank. God.
-When you think of fierce competitors and players that are ready to pounce at any second, I’m not sure that Richard Gasquet and Tim Smyczek are the first names that come to mind. When the umpire called “time” on the warm-up, both men were still tying their shoes. For, like, a few minutes. (In their defense, they seemed pretty intense about the tying.)
If you wanna learn how to tie your shoes
It’s a very easy thing to do
Just sit on down and I’ll give you the scoop
It’s called a loopdy loop!
You take one lace in each hand
You go over and under again
You make a loopdy loop and pull
Now your shoes are lookin’ cool
You go over and back
Left to right
Loopdy loop and pull em tight
Like bunny ears or a Christmas bow
Lace ’em up and you’re ready to go
Just make a loopdy loop and pull
And you’re shoes are lookin cool!
-At long last it was time for the coin toss. Don’t believe me? PROOF.
-Gasquet started off serving. I think that means he won the coin toss.
My notes right now say, “HOLY SHIT MOTHER OF GOD RICHIE’S BACKHAND. HE LOST THE POINT BUT SO PRETTY.” (#analysis)
I’m not really sure I have anything to add to that, you guys. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Gasquet’s backhand in person, but I had to stifle a gasp every time I saw it. It didn’t matter if the ball went in or out or if he won the point. I mean, it probably mattered to him, but not to me. I was just IN AWE.
Clearly Timmy was in awe too because he kept hitting to Richie’s backhand. I’m not sure that was the best strategy.
-Richie was pushed to deuce in the first game, but he held. There was this one long rally that lasted about 1,032 shots, backhand to forehand, and at the end of it Richie hit a BEAUTY of a backhand lob and it was so great that FANBOY TIM even clapped. The guy behind me was not impressed, though. “Tim’s only like 5’5″, he scoffed.” (According to the ATP, Tim is 5’9″. I didn’t correct this guy, though. How generous of me.)
-I wrote “IT’S ALL HAPPENING” in my notebook now. I don’t know what I was referring to, but it sounds exhausting.
-Ugh. The Milos match had ended next door in Stadium, and Milos had won and now someone was singing the national anthem. It was not going well. This was probably the worst part of my night. Plus, now that the Milos match was over everyone was stoooorming into the Grandstand and God, people are the most annoying.
-At this point, it was clear that Richie was DIALED. IN. He hit a backhand winner that was so spectacular that the Tim KAD next to me attempts to say “Allez.” It didn’t not go well, but I gave her an “A” for effort.
-“So much talent,” a guy in front of me said with a sad sigh. “He’s just a little bit, well, different.”
Can you guess who he was talking about? HINT.
-Gasquet broke for a 4-2 lead, but I was becoming increasingly impressed with Smyczek’s flat forehand, particularly when he hits it cross-court. It has a surprising amount of pop and power. If he could figure out a way to get it down the line, he might be onto something.
-At this point, though, things simply became a Gasquet masterclass. Also, I stopped paying attention to specifics because this is what I was looking at and HOLY HELL life is superb:
-Oh right. Back to the match. SORRY. Seemingly out of nowhere, Richie proved that he has a forehand too. He really has an embarrassment of riches, especially when compared to a guy like Smyczek who tries so hard and is good to tennis but really just isn’t in the same class. (Not that Tim couldn’t beat Richie. Richie decompensates–if that is a word that means what I think it means–for his extreme talent in other ways.) The Frenchman closes out the set by hitting two lethal forehand winners in a row and glaring intensely into the crowd while shaking his sweaty hair.I think he was trying to look intimidating, but it was really just so freaking precious. -Honestly, this is where my notes get sparse(r). The second set was pretty similar to the first set. Gasquet’s backhand dictated the match while Tim’s forehand kept him in points but ultimately couldn’t win him many. He seemed to be having fun, though. He smiled in exasperation at many of Gasquet’s shots, clapped a lot, and seemed to really cherish the crowd support. Meanwhile, I got distracted by things like this: caption Seriously, is that hat supposed to be that color, or is that a formerly white hat that is just hideously dirty? Both options are simply unacceptable. There’s no way PseudoFed would approve. -When the sun officially went down, the crowd all basically turned into werewolves. (Is that a nice way to say drunk? I don’t think so, but I’m keeping it there.) There was group of men in the front row (including dirty-hat guy) who kept standing up between points and yelling, RI-CHARD! RI-CHARD! It wasn’t quite as great as this “LU-KAS LA-CKO *clap clap clapclapclap* chant that I heard later that night on Stadium, but they’re forgiven because the Lacko fanboys had a lot more time to drink.
She was rather distraught by the match. If she had a British accent, I might have thought I was in England.
-Overall, it was a nice match. Flashy shotmaking, great crowd, perfect weather. If this was a date, I would be asking for a second one, but, you know, only if it included a nice dinner and the he paid. Because it wasn’t like the match of my life or anything.
-I did talk with Richard after the match along with a few other journalists in the mixed zone. He confirmed that he had missed Atlanta due to an arm injury in Bogota, and that he was very sorry and disappointed he had to miss that tournament, but that he was better now. His priority is to be healthy for the U.S. Open (where he has semifinalist points to defend) and the Davis Cup semis. He talks very, very fast but is much more comfortable in English than he used to be. And he was super sweaty.
I’d transcribe the interview for you guys, but, I mean, you can see how long it took me to get this post up as is. Take what you can get.