US Open Day 2 recap: Pella pouts, Konta cruises, and Murray marches on

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Andy Murray's comeback from two sets down was the big story on Day 2 of the U.S. Open. And there continued to be plenty of off-the-court news, as well.

Was there really a five-month hiatus from tennis because of the coronavirus pandemic? Based on the results at the US Open so far, you wouldn’t think so! For the most part, seeded players took care of business throughout the first round. Normally under unique circumstances you would suspect a lot of surprises, but that certainly has not been the case.

That does not, however, mean the first two days were lacking entertainment. Oh, no; there was plenty of intrigue to offer even though the upsets were few and far between.

The women of the day : Whoa, mama!

There are — or were — nine women in the US Open draw who are mothers. Impressively, they compiled a 6-3 record in round one. And the only losses came at the hands of tough opponents. Comeback queen Kim Clijsters fell to No. 21 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in three sets, Tatjana Maria was bounced by No. 13 seed Alison Riske, and Vera Zvonareva could not quite hang with up-and-coming Canadian Leylah Fernandez. The six winners were Serena Williams (who scraped past fellow American Kristie Ahn), Cincinnati champion Victoria Azarenka, Kateryna Bondarenko, Olga Govortsova, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Patricia Maria Tig.

The man of the day : Murray mounts amazing comeback

Speaking of mothers, Andy Murray’s certainly approved of his performance on Tuesday afternoon. That performance, specifically, was a comeback from two sets down against Yoshihito Nishioka.

The 33-year-old saved one match point in the fourth set and went on to triumph after four hours and 39 minutes.

“I’m tired,” Murray assured. “My toes are the worst part; I think my toes on both sides are pretty beat up, but I did all right. At the beginning of the match I was apprehensive about playing a long match because I haven’t for a while and I was pacing myself, because you do that when you are a junior and coming into the seniors and I felt like that at the beginning. But once I was two sets down, I put the after burners on and managed to get through.

The match of the day : Late night tennis

Through their first 19 matches, top 20 seeds on the women’s side at the US Open were 19-0. Perfection all came down to No. 18 seed Donna Vekic, who was was out on Court 6 with a battle against Kristyna Pliskova on her hands as midnight approached. After two hours and four minutes, the 24-year-old finally got the job done 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4. She finished with 37 winners and 30 unforced errors. Pliskova, the world No. 66 from the Czech Republic, recorded an even better winners-to-errors ratio (46 to 37) but still could not pull off the upset.

With Vekic’s win, the top 20 seeds have all reached the second round for the first time in U.S. Open history (since the beginning of the 32-seed era, of course, which began in 2001).

The big surprise : Pella’s bubble bursts

There have not been many surprises on the men’s side, either. Only one top 10 seed (Diego Schwartzman) is gone, and that happened on Monday when he lost a five-setter against Cameron Norrie. Tuesday’s action was even more straightforward, as only two seeds lost. One, Nikoloz Basilashvili, was actually a big underdog in his match against John Millman. That left the only one real surprise.

For playing a grand total of only one match in two tournaments inside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center bubble, No. 29 seed Guido Pella sure made a lot of news. First, he got booted out of the Cincinnati Masters when his physio tested positive for the coronavirus. Now he is left wondering why his fate was what it was even though 11 players have come into contact with Benoit Paire — who tested positive this past Sunday — and are still allowed to play in the US Open. And the Argentine was not happy about it after losing to wild card J.J. Wolf.

“I got like nine different tests every two days,” Pella explained. “Hugo (Dellien) also, and my coach (Jose Acasuso) as well. And after that, we’ve been talking to the ATP like six or seven hours a day, asking them why they were doing this thing to us. We were asking for (practice) courts, we were asking for balls, we were asking for a bike. They didn’t give us an answer until Thursday or Friday. We got a bike, we got different stuff, but very poor; very poor weights, bike, and everything. They got us a court 35 minutes away from the hotel. But the court, I swear to you, was nothing compared to the US Open. Nothing. It was like with trees and shadows; the court was so bad, it was very tough for us to practice.

“And I kept hearing from the press, but they didn’t know, “Dellien and Pella got a court for practice.’ Yeah, we were practicing–but in horrible conditions; horrible conditions, with security guards 24 hours without leaving the room.

“Imagine if you were on lockdown for two weeks, and (then) the Benoit case was (clicking fingers) just like that! Eleven players that were involved with close contact with Benoit, they were like, ‘Okay, you will have a bubble inside of the bubble and you will be allowed to practice and play the US Open.’ Imagine how you would feel if that happened to you. They got this treatment; we (did not). So it was uneven.”

The pictures of the day : The stars come out to watch

There may not be any actual fans at the US Open in 2020. But players can be tennis fans, too. Unable to explore New York and take part in other normal activities that are associated with this slam, players this year are confided to the bubble. That means there is not a whole lot to do other than play tennis, practice tennis, and watch tennis. And when you have a suite in Arthur Ashe Stadium, you might as well watch whatever match is taking place.

And that is exactly what the stars did while Murray and Nishioka were going head-to-head. Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Grigor Dimitrov, and Naomi Osaka all checked out the action.

Oh yeah, and some kind of bird watched as well.

Thiem watching Murray Tsitsipas watching MurrayDimitrov watching Murray

Osaka watching MurrayUS Open bird

The quote of the day : As blue as the Pacific

Johanna Konta, a straight-set winner over fellow Brit Heather Watson, likened the bubble to “being on a cruise liner in the Pacific Ocean.” But you have to wonder how she came up with that comparison, because she later admitted that she has never even been on a cruise!

“I mean, I don’t think it’s necessarily boring to be on a cruise. I have not been on one. So it’s definitely not boring, but it’s just every day is very much the same. I think that’s kind of more the idea. I think, I mean, I’ve got Netflix — so that’s been kind of good. And then otherwise, I mean, there is the golf simulator which I said last week sometime I have had a few goes on. There [are] literally arcade games, which I imagine a cruise would [have].”

Johanna Konta, US Open 2019

Life behind closed doors : Let her finish!

In Murray’s post-match press conference on zoom, a female reporter had her question cut off and the moderator prepared to move to a different member of the media. Murray, though, was not about to have any of that. The three-time slam champion asked to go back to the previous question, telling the moderator to let Ava Wallace finish her question.

And yes, in case you wondering, press conferences are being done via zoom.

The shots of the day (comedy edition) : Swing and a miss!

Tennis is hard…especially if you haven’t played competitive matches in something like five months. Both Tommy Paul and Ivo Karlovic completely whiffed on Tuesday. Yes, they figuratively whiffed in terms of losing their respective matches in straight sets (Paul to Grigor Dimitrov and Karlovic to Richard Gasquet). But they also literally whiffed.

Wednesday match-ups

Second-round action at the US Open will get underway on Wednesday, when Novak Djokovic takes the court again following his opening blowout of Damir Dzumhur. Djokovic is part of the Arthur Ashe Stadium schedule along with Tsitsipas, Osaka, and Petra Kvitova. The following are some of the most intriguing Day 3 match-ups (and full order of play here).

Men’s: Novak Djokovic vs. Kyle Edmund
Men’s: Alexander Zverev vs. Brandon Nakashima
Men’s: Adrian Mannarino vs. Jack Sock
Men’s: Taylor Fritz vs. Gilles Simon
Women’s: Naomi Osaka vs. Camila Giorgi
Women’s: Karolina Pliskova vs. Caroline Garcia
Women’s: Jennifer Brady vs. CiCi Bellis
Women’s: Jessica Pegula vs. Kirsten Flipkens

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