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5:32PM

Fognini closes his mind on the Open — it’s ‘the worst’

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — So Fabio Fognini, who most Americans wouldn’t know from Giuseppe Verdi, except Fognini probably has a better forehand, says the U.S. Open is worst of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments. Maybe we could get a comment from Colin Kaepernick.

Fognini’s dislike of the event surfaced when he was warned for whacking a ball in anger after losing a point and subsequently received a point penalty for — he said — jokingly grabbing a line judge’s sunglasses.

“They have their rules,” Fognini told writers from Italy. “You know the Americans are different in every way.”

Meaning we walk on all fours?

“Of the Grand Slams,” he specified. “this, as far as I’m concerned, is the worst.”  

Apparently he spoke without consulting his wife, Flavia Pennetta, who, having won the women’s singles last year over Roberta Vinci in the final, surely has a different opinion.

If, however, Fognini has such low regard of the Open, perhaps, as one tennis official pointed out, he shouldn’t enter.

“But then,” the man reminded, “he wouldn’t have a chance to make money.”

Worst or best — and the vote here is very much toward the latter — the Open is a joy, two weeks of high-class sport and New York madness, an event as much as a championship where the crowds are huge, the competition tense and a kid can get an autograph almost as easily as he can a kosher hot dog.

The whole idea in entertainment, and sports is yet another form, is to, well, entertain, whether it’s a hot musical like “Hamilton,” where tickets before the cast change were selling in the $500 range, or a concert or ball game. To make the people feel good.

They figured out how to do that long ago at the Open, where music blares, fountains spray and it’s just as much fun to watch a key match on the big screen facing the plaza as it is inside the largest arena in tennis, 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium.

In this city that never sleeps, the tennis starts each day a few minutes after 11 a.m. and lasts until, well,Tuesday. The match in which Madison Keys defeated Alison Riske started Monday night and lasted 2 hours 26 minutes, ending at 1:48 a.m., the latest ever for a women’s match.

The fans who stayed until the end cheered — themselves, as well as Keys and Riske. Nobody leaves early in New York, even if early is late. Besides, the subway’s still running, and there’s a place on East 51st Street, Bateau Ivre, that serves full meals until 4 a.m. So what’s the rush?

The Open is part history and part circus, and it now has a new big top, a retractable roof, which if the forecast for rain on Thursday is accurate may very well become a grand part of this Grand Slam — the one Fognini slammed grandly, if incorrectly.

Yes, jets from LaGuardia, a few miles away, roar above, but not continually. The wind off Flushing Bay whips around the court at Ashe, but not constantly. If Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams have won titles there, who can complain? Except Fognini

The Billie Jean King National Center is smack in the middle of a park where the 1964 World’s Fair was held, anchored in a way by the Unisphere, the huge stainless steel representation of the earth constructed for the fair. To come from the south, past the 120-foot sphere, then enter the Court of Champions, past the plaques of everyone from Bill Tilden to Oakland’s Don Budge to Helen Wills, born in Alameda County, to John McEnroe to King herself is a real experience.

A country needs familiar sporting locales, places such as Wimbledon, Churchill Downs, Augusta National, the Rose Bowl — and, as is the case with Billie Jean King Center, places identified with greatness, with triumph.

The U.S. Open draws 700,000 people during its two-week run. On Broadway, they would call that a box office smash, boffo. But Fabio Fognini would rather be anywhere else. Poor fellow.

8:28PM

Venus Williams remains ageless and remarkable

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — The years go on and, for Venus Williams, so do the games. She is long past the point of no return — and interpret that any way you choose. The serves no longer are ferocious, but they are effective. More importantly, her tennis is timeless.

No one asks her when she’ll retire. Or even if she’ll retire. And why should she?

Venus can live with the game she plays at 36, which unsurprisingly isn’t the one she had at 26. If there are no more Grand Slam championships, there at least is a sense of accomplishment.

It’s her younger sister, Serena, who has been atop the women’s tennis stairway, the way 15 years ago Venus was in that enviable position. On Monday, Venus, in her opening match of the 2016 U.S. Open, was in the final slot of the afternoon program at Arthur Ashe Court, a winner, if not easily, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, in 2 hours and 42 minutes over Kateryna Kozlova of the Ukraine.

Then, when Venus was being debriefed in the main interview room below the stadium, Serena, the No. 1 seed, was on court, defeating Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, 6-3, 6-3.

“I always admired her game,” Venus said in sisterly admiration of Serena, who will be 35 in September. “Just so fearless.”

Of Venus, we could say, just so amazing. Tennis is a sport that wrenches wrists and ruins ankles and knees. No less, it wears out psyches. There comes a moment when a player, having hit balls since she or he was a child, says, “That’s it, enough.” But Venus never gets enough.

Maybe because she has a fashion house — the New York Times ran a full spread on the designing and planning of dresses and tops — which gets her far enough away from tennis that it’s almost an escape to get back. Not the other way around.

Venus has appeared in the four Grand Slam events a total of 72 times, more than anyone else. When told, she replied, “That’s crazy.” More accurately, that’s persistence.

“I’m grateful and I’m blessed,” she said about a career that began in a tournament at what then was the Oakland Coliseum Arena in 1994. “All I’m hoping for is just health that I can keep the record going.

“I don’t know when I’m going to stop playing. I don’t have any plans now. I’m playing too well to be thinking about stopping. I appear to be getting better and better each and every month.”

An exaggeration, but an allowable one. When in 2011 she disclosed she had been stricken with an autoimmune disorder, Sjogren’s syndrome, the suspicion was Williams was finished as a competitive player. And for a few tournaments she appeared to lack energy, although not intent.

Then these past few months, Williams for the first time in seven years made it to the Wimbledon semifinals, the finals of the Bank of the West Classic and, with Rajeev Ram, the finals of the Olympics mixed doubles, indicating that she still was a factor.

“As an athlete,” she said, “you’re always aiming for perfection. You want more and more. It’s never enough.”

That thought would be echoed by the American public, which in a sport built upon personalities and recognition, there are virtually no substitutes at the time for Venus or Serena, the one-two punch for every tournament in the U.S.

Asked what she loves the most about tennis, Venus had an emotional response. “I love that I love it,” she said. “So when you love something you put the work in.

“I love the challenge. Definitely I like the pressure. I like high stakes. All of that makes it just perfect for my personality.”

And makes Venus perfect for tennis. She’s ageless and remarkable, a legend who refuses to stop acting and playing like one. The game has been fortunate to have her.

8:21AM

Global Golf Post: McIlroy Leaves Without A Word

By Art Spander
Global Golf Post

OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA — He had telegraphed his feelings clearly upon arrival. "I'm obviously excited to be here," Rory McIlroy told us a few days earlier at Oakmont. But now after missing the cut he wasn't saying anything other than, "I'm not talking."

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2016 Global Golf Post

12:11PM

Bleacher Report: No End in Sight to Novak Djokovic's Dominance After Career Year, US Open Title

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — He’s a man in full flight, at the top of his game, athletic, resolute, a champion whose future is no less beautiful than his present. Novak Djokovic had a rare year in tennis, a winner of three Grand Slam tournaments, a runner-up in the fourth.

But it’s not so much what Djokovic has done—adding another U.S. Open championship to his collection of titles with his win Sunday over the man who was the gold standard of the sport, Roger Federer.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

9:03PM

Bleacher Report: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer Battle a Dream Finale for 2015 US Open

By Art Spander
Featured Columnist

NEW YORK — This is what tennis wanted, and the sport will have it on Sunday in the U.S. Open men's final: the best against the best, No. 1 against No. 2, the great server against the great returner.

It’s the dream match — the latest version of a recurring dream.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2015 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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