Entries in U.S. Open (189)

8:39PM New York version of Grand Slam all about fun, entertainment

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

NEW YORK -- They've made it here. It doesn't matter if they can make it anywhere else.

The United States Tennis Association found the formula to mine gold, to make history, to have a tournament that's an event, noisy, boisterous and, as Andy Roddick verified at 12:45 a.m. ET Tuesday, virtually never-ending.

Truly, there's nothing like it. Other than the corner of 42nd and Broadway. Or 57th and Lexington. Or other intersections in Manhattan.

Wimbledon is quiet lawns and British reserve. The French Open, Roland Garros, is clay courts and long rallies. The U.S. Open is a crowded, rollicking 14 days of celebrity watching, T-shirt selling, latte sipping, beer guzzling, pastrami chewing and great shot-making.

Night and day it goes. Day and night. Seemingly no sooner had Roddick departed in the wee hours than Julia Goerges and 2004 women's singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova were arriving for their 11 a.m. start. Less than an hour and a half later, Kuznetsova was a 6-3, 6-2 winner.

On to Arthur Ashe Court came the No. 1 women's seed, Dinara Safina, and an Australian named Olivia Rogowska, ranked 167th in the world. And on to the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center came thousands of fans, great gobs of them standing in the bright sunshine outside the stadium, in front of the fountain and watching on the big TV screen as Rogowska took a 3-0 lead in the third set.

Screams and gasps. How could this be happening, the top seed getting beat in the first round? By the time anyone else figured it out, Safina had figured it out, slipping by Rogowska, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.

"I try to do something good," said Safina, the Russian, who, despite never having won a Grand Slam event is atop the women's rankings, "but when it doesn't go good, then I go like too much into myself, what I'm doing right, wrong, instead of thinking what I have to do with the ball."

Which, of course, is hit it over the net to places where Rogowska can't hit back over the net.

Then, echoing Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, Safina mused that she had made it to the next round "and tomorrow is another day."

Sometimes at the Open, it's difficult to separate yesterday, today and tomorrow. You know the line, about waking up in the city that never sleeps. What about not going to bed at all?

For years they've been writing songs about late hours in New York, "... When a Broadway baby says good night it's early in the morning ..." It's hard to say if the milkman was on his way when Roddick said good night -- do they still have people who deliver milk? -- but presumably some people were on their way to work.

There were some opening-night ceremonies with famous types, including the former basketball player David Robinson, and by the time Venus Williams and Vera Dushevina began, it was almost 8 o'clock.

When they finished, Venus staggering through in three sets, it was almost 11. And Roddick and his opponent, Bjorn Phau, still were waiting.

"The later the better," Roddick would say. "You know what it is. It's just something that's always been there in New York. It's tough sometimes. It's all part of it, kind of the crazies who stay 'til 1 in the morning. There's something fun about that."

Fun is an appropriate word for the Open. And lunacy. Tennis often is thought as a dispassionate activity for the elite. But here they've turned it into around-the-clock entertainment.

James Blake has a cheering section, the "J Block." Sam Querrey, the kid from Southern California who Tuesday beat Michael Yani, is shouted on by his "Samurai."

The famous Carnegie Deli has a booth here, and the lineup for one of those monster corned beef sandwiches is almost as long as it is to get on to Court 13, where Tuesday the lineup included Fernando Verdasco, the No. 10 seed, who defeated B. Becker -- Benjamin, not Boris.

Ralph Lauren Polo is the official clothing outfitter for the Open, but Nike and LaCoste, which Roddick wears, are well represented. If unofficially.

Nike is not allowed to use the phrase U.S. Open on its attire, so the stuff has subtle references such as "New York 2009." A T-shirt with those words costs $22, while a Nike model with "RF" (for Roger Federer) runs $40.

The New York Post had its fashion reporter, one Anahita Moussavian, critique the clothing and jewelry on display by the competitors. The observations were hardly positive.

Moussavian called Serena Williams' choice of basic black for night matches "misguided" and described Roddick's shirts and shorts as "a double fault ... it's boring."

She's entitled to her opinion, but if there's any description that never should be applied to the U.S. Open, it's "boring." On the contrary. For two weeks, the Open might be the most exciting place in the country.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
9:10PM Young Britton in awe facing great Federer in first round

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

NEW YORK -- You've had those dreams. You blow a fastball past Albert Pujols. You do a double-pump to leave Kobe Bryant hanging in the air, helpless. You whip a backhand past Roger Federer and are up 3-1 in the second set.

And then you wake up. Or as happened Monday to a kid named Devin Britton, in a surrealistic opening-round match of the 2009 U.S. Open, Roger Federer wakes up. So much for dreaming.

"I was thinking," said Britton, "I'm up a break. This is awesome. Then it only lasted about 30 seconds."

Then Federer won the next six games as the No. 1 player should against an 18-year-old who is ranked No. 1,370 in the world. Federer defeated Britton, 6-1, 6-3, 7-5.

The match was a mismatch. And yet it wasn't.

Britton, 18, won the NCAA singles title last May during the one semester he spent in college, at Mississippi. Invited to the Open as a wild card, he had what could be considered either the good fortune or the misfortune to be put in the draw against Federer, who has won the championship the previous five years.

When told Thursday he had drawn the great Federer, who has a record 15 Grand Slam titles, Britton at first thought it was a joke. Any laughter was muted.

Britton, as all of us, had seen Federer on television. "He looked unbelievable," Britton said of watching from afar.

Then after a pause, the kid added, "But when you play him, he's even more tough."

A day earlier, Britton had practiced with Rafael Nadal, who was ranked No. 1 before being unable to play in June and July because of bad knees. Nothing grandiose bounced around Britton's mind, but after hitting against Nadal, maybe, Britton hoped, he could pull off a shot here or there against Federer.

In a way, he failed. In a way, he succeeded.

"My goal," Britton said candidly, "was not to get crushed."

He didn't. Or did he? Federer won the first set in 18 minutes, which is less time than it takes the 7 train to go from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows back to Manhattan.

"It was hard not to think about who I was playing," Britton conceded. "He plays such a pretty game. It's fun to watch. I didn't start thinking about my own game until late in the second set."

Britton did break Federer once in each of the last two sets, an indication that either Britton has a future or Federer has a heart, not that Roger is going to ease up in his quest for another championship.

"Try to win again," Federer answered when someone asked about his motivation now that he already has been described as the best in history. "I like being the winner of any tournament in the world. That's why, when I enter, I try to win."

If the words sound more than vaguely familiar, echoing those of Tiger Woods, that would be understandable. Federer and Tiger both are served by the same agency, IMG, and both often express admiration for the other.

On this afternoon, any admiration expressed was by Britton, who first signed a professional contract in June at Wimbledon, where he reached the semifinals. Of the junior championships.

And suddenly there he was Monday, standing dumbstruck across from the elegant Swiss with "RF" on his jacket and tennis in his wake.

"It was pretty scary," said Britton, who at least has a sense of humor -- or of reality. "I was pretty scared."

Fear, excitement, it's a wonder Britton made it through three sets, remarkable he broke Federer in two of the three sets.

"The extended changeovers, I had time to think about it," Britton said of the one-minute breaks. "It was pretty much all I was thinking about. You know, this is pretty cool. I was sitting here on [Arthur] Ashe Court and playing Federer. This is awesome."

Also instructional. Britton said he realized he would need to get stronger, would need to develop a bigger serve, would need to improve his forehand -- although he also knows there is no duplicating the famous Federer forehand.

"I think he serves unbelievably well," Britton said of Federer. "I don't think a lot of people realize how big he serves."

The forehand, the one that is able to place a ball virtually anywhere at any time? Like someone poking his hand into the lion cage at the zoo, Britton masochistically wanted to see how much he could poke around without getting eaten.

"His forehand is just crazy," said Britton, bringing laughter to the media group. "I tried to keep it away, but sometimes I just hit [the ball] there just to see it."

What Federer wants to see is a few more trophies. He finally won the French in June, then took Wimbledon for the sixth time. A sixth consecutive U.S. championship would equal the mark of the late Bill Tilden in 1920-25.

"I've beaten the all-time Grand Slam record," Federer said. "That's not what tennis is all about. I don't think if you ask the other players, their goal is to win 16 Slams now. ... You can have different types of goals. Mine are at a very high level. That's just the difference."

As Devin Britton, his newest victim and latest fan, understands quite well.

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© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.

RealClearSports: For Tiger, the Hardest Major of the Year

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- He liked his chances, as did the rest of us, a following that included the man he someday should supplant as the game's standard.

"I suspect,'' Jack Nicklaus had mused, alluding to Tiger Woods' 14 major championships, "that No. 15 will come in two weeks.''

Jack was speaking after Tiger won Nicklaus' own tournament, the Memorial. After Tiger never missed a fairway the last round. After Tiger seemingly verified he was ready to take this calamitous U.S. Open at Bethpage.

And even Tiger, properly favoring himself, told us, "I like my chances in any major.''

Yet as the 109th Open, a tournament with more suspensions than suspense, slogged through to a merciless conclusion at the course nicknamed "Wetpage,'' Tiger's chances were gone.

With the Open spilling over into Monday, it wasn't clear who would win: maybe Ricky Barnes, whose huge lead of Sunday afternoon had disappeared; maybe Lucas Glover, who had come from six shots back to tie Barnes; maybe even David Duval.

It was clear who wouldn't win, Tiger Woods.

Once again, a year after taking the championship, he took a figurative punch to the jaw. He couldn't repeat in 2001 or 2003. He couldn't repeat in 2009.

Even though we thought he would. Even though he thought he could, if with a caveat.

Not for 20 years has anyone won Opens back-to-back.

Not Nicklaus, not Payne Stewart, Lee Janzen or Andy North, although along with Tiger and Jack they did win more than one Open.

Since Ben Hogan, in 1950-51, a stretch of 58 years, only Curtis Strange in 1988-89 has taken Opens consecutively, an achievement he not so humbly embellished with the pronouncement, "Move over, Ben.''

Tiger was in the wrong place, the early starting wave on Thursday, at the wrong time, when the first of several storms powered in and, with Woods and playing partners Padraig Harrington on the seventh green, halted play until Friday.

The golfers who didn't get on course until the second day and then got in most of two rounds were those who got the good break.

Rub of the green, it's called in golf. And the green rubbed Woods very much the wrong way.

He got shafted by Mother Nature. Then he got in trouble. When Tiger returned on Friday, he was even par with four holes to play. And four-over par after those four holes. Balls dropped into the rough. Putts slid by the cup.

It was a precursor. And a reminder.

"This is the hardest major we face,'' said Woods, "year in, year out. Narrowest fairways, highest rough. You have to have every facet of your game going.''

Nicklaus played more than 40 Opens. He won four. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson won one apiece. Greg Norman never won any. The hardest major they face.

Heading into the final round, Tiger was at 1-over par 211 for 54 holes. Nine shots behind Ricky Barnes. Tiger's game wasn't going anywhere, although by the time play stopped, Woods having completed seven holes of the last round, he was even par. And seven shots back of Barnes and Glover.

"All week,'' said Woods on Sunday, "I hit it better than my scoring indicates. My finish the first day put me so far back, I had to try and make up shots the entire time. I finished that day playing poorly.''

No one finished anything Sunday, when play was called because of darkness. This is the pain of sport. This is the wonder of sport. We never know.

Rafael Nadal didn't win the French Open, even though we believed he would. Tiger Woods won't win the U.S. Open, even though we believed he would. You've heard it so many times, and you'll hear it again: That's why they play the game.

There's something reassuring in all this, not that Tiger was unable to meet expectations, but that sitting around and forecasting winners doesn't mean a great deal. The people on the courses and courts and diamonds are the ones who have the real say.

Tiger and Phil Mickelson and Ricky Barnes come back next week, and the probability is that everything is different. But they're not coming back. They had their chances. Barnes was making the best of his. Tiger couldn't do the same.

When after the third round somebody, dreaming, asked in effect if Tiger could overtake the leaders.

"Bethpage,'' said Woods who won here in 2002, "is one of those courses where you have to play a great round and get some help.''

Throughout this Open, Tiger had neither.
As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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© RealClearSports 2009

Scotland Sunday Herald: Barnes surfaces after years of expectation

GOLF: Former amateur prodigy profits as washout engulfs rivals, writes Art Spander

PUTTS WERE falling, and again so were raindrops. The wettest, messiest and most confusing of US Opens kept splashing on yesterday towards an ending that would be neither expected nor timely.

A kid named Ricky Barnes, from whom greatness was predicted but hasn't been achieved, was the leader after a second round not completed until a third day. If you're mixed up, so is everyone.

Round two of a tourn-ament that began of a sort on Thursday was only headed to a finish yesterday. But when this 109th Open, being played at Bethpage's Black Course on Long Island some 30 miles east of Manhattan, actually ends is anyone's guess. The plan was to get those who made the cut back on the course to begin the third round before the thunderstorms or darkness, whichever came first, and then with luck complete it today.

Officials insisted, meanwhile, that a champion wouldn't be determined until a full 72 holes -- and maybe an 18-hole play-off were there a tie -- had been played "even if we have to go to Tuesday."

The good thing for the basic, boisterous New York crowd, was that Tiger Woods would go the full tournament. He arrived yesterday morning 12 shots behind Barnes, at four-over, and in danger of missing the cut in a Major for only the second time as a pro.

But Tiger, whose opening round consisted of six holes on Thursday, and another 12 on Friday, shot a one-under 69 yesterday for a three-over total of 143 to stay in the tournament, if not in contention. As a point of reference, the greatest halfway deficit overcome by a winner was Lou Graham, who was down by 11 in 1975 and then won in a play-off over John Mahaffey.

Woods, trying to be the first repeat US Open winner since Curtis Strange in 1988-89, was in the group with Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington and Masters winner Angel Cabrera. Harrington, who had three double bogeys in his first round, shot 76 for 152 to miss the cut, while Cabrera posted a 69 in his second round for 143, the same as Tiger.

Barnes, with a US Open 36-hole record score of 132, after a second round of 65, leads Lucas Glover, who shot 64 for 133 and third-placed Mike Weir, whose 70 left him a shot further back.

Phil Mickelson, performing admirably as he attempts to deal with the news of his wife Amy's illness, shot a level-par 70 to finish on 139. It could be said, though, that all the leaders got the luck of the draw, having played their entire first rounds and much of the second in sunshine on Friday, and then finished the second in benign conditions yesterday morning.

It was the rub of the green -- Tiger's threesome was in the other wave, the one that did get pounded by rain on Thursday before play was abandoned for the day. Barnes, 28, won the US Amateur Championship in 2002 and in 2003 was, at the University of Arizona, college player of the year and also finished 21st in the Masters. But he couldn't qualify for the PGA Tour, playing the secondary Nationwide Tour where last year he did well enough finally to get elevated to the big time.

"It got me ready to play,'' said Barnes, from Stockton, California. "And it humbled me over the last four years. I've grown up. I always thought after college I'd be out here right away."

Barnes, who had seven holes remaining in his second round when he arrived yesterday, hit 31 of 36 greens. His eight-under 132 was a shot better than the mark set in 2003 at Olympia Fields in Chicago by Jim Furyk, who went on to win.

"Obviously, at the start of the week,'' said Barnes, "you don't think that score is out there. But my ball-striking was outstanding. But if you would have told me I'd be eight under and only have a one-shot lead I'd have said you're crazy.'' Mickelson is the favourite son of these New Yorkers, who cheer him on like a football crowd. That his wife Amy has been stricken by breast cancer has only endeared Phil even more to the fans. "I love it here," he said. "If I can get my putter going the last two rounds I like my chances."

David Duval, who won the 2001 Open championship at Royal Lytham, sits on 137. In 13 tournaments this year he hasn't finished better than a tie for 55th.

Sergio Garcia, who played well at Bethpage in 2002, added a second consecutive 70 and Todd Hamilton, who suddenly has found his game after doing nothing since winning the Open at Royal Troon in 2004, is on 138 after a 71.

Scotland's Martin Laird just missed the cut after posting a 71 for 145.

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©2009 newsquest (sunday herald) limited. all rights reserved

David Duval back for his second act

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- There are no second acts in American lives. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it, a generalization, hyperbole. David Duval is on stage once more, the script edited, the character unchanged. Raise the curtain.

Call it a comeback. That’s a more sporting term than second act. Call it a return. A renaissance, although in a way it’s been going for a while.

It’s just that on days such as Saturday, when Duval becomes a presence in a U.S. Open that has become beholden to the weather officials, we realize the man still is a great golfer. Still can play.

When the second round of this 109th Open ended Saturday, with officials hustling those who made the cut to start the third, trying to end the tournament on Sunday as scheduled, there was Duval tied for fourth place at 3-under par 137.

There was Duval, at age 37, saying, “I love playing the game. I love competing. But more than that, I’d really like for my wife and family to see how I can actually play the game. They haven’t seen me at my best, and I want them to.’’

We saw him. Saw him shoot a 59. Saw him ascend to the top of the world rankings. That was 10 years ago, when the part of golf that didn’t belong to Tiger Woods belonged to David Duval.

We saw Duval come close to winning the Masters a couple of times and heard him spill out his heart about the beauty of being in the hunt and then missing the prize.

We saw Duval at last conquer his demons and win a major, the British Open in 2001 at Royal Lytham St. & St. Annes, standing at the summit for which he had reached.

And then we saw Duval, the perfectionist, the intellectual, step away and literally move away, from the golfing mecca of Florida where he grew up to Denver and marry a woman who already had children to establish a life where the challenges had nothing to do with carrying a tee shot over a fairway bunker.

For various reasons that included back ailments and vertigo and a loss of interest, Duval and his game tumbled faster and farther than perhaps any top player. The golfer once No. 1 by last summer was ranked No. 1,087.

Then the climb back. He was only three shots out of the lead halfway into last year’s British Open before the wind and his errors created an 83. Painful, but not fatal. In fact, reassuring. He knew he still had it.

Now we know, too. “Patience is crucial in this game,’’ Duval reminded, “and I feel I have been patient for many years and continue to work hard. If anything, my patience is most tested over the last six, eight, 10 months, when I really felt like everything was falling together but nothing good was happening to me.’’

Duval’s formative years were difficult. At 9, he was the bone-marrow donor for his brother Brent, 12, who within weeks of the procedure died of aplastic anemia. David, it was said, blamed himself and grew even more inverted than he had been.

The death contributed to marital strife between David’s parents, who eventually divorced. By high school, Duval was a loner who, having been taught golf by his father, a pro, escaped into the game. He practiced by himself at the end of the range and once said his fondest memories as an adolescent golfer were of playing alone in heavy fog.

While Duval was a four-time All-American at Georgia Tech, he was known as Rock, both for his solid game and rough-edged personality. His intelligence -- David is one of the few people to understand the difference between “implied’’ and “inferred’’ -- manifests itself in arrogance, especially when pestered by journalists.

A sports psychologist contended that once Duval won the British, he was confronted with a vacuum with which it was hard to deal. It was as if Peggy Lee were singing, “Is that all there is?’’ That’s all there was, so David sought another life and found it.

He showed up at the 2004 U.S. Open, at Shinnecock, not having played a competitive round in seven months, the decision to use his exemption coming shortly before the Open as he sat in a golf cart at a course in Denver.

The exemption no longer exists. For the first time in 14 years, Duval had to qualify, which obviously he did successfully, a week and a half ago in Columbus, Ohio. Some golfers who had won major championships wouldn’t subject themselves to the pressure and, you could say, the ignominy.

David Duval was determined. He intends to get someplace close to where he used to be. He wants to perform that second act.