Friday, July 22, 2011

ATC photos - rain, rain, go away and don’t come back another day

Thursday’s tennis was marred by a nearly 2 1/2 hour rain delay, which interrupted the first matches at the ATC, causing a rescheduling scramble that could have been worse had a sore-shouldered John Isner not withdrawn from his doubles match with James Blake, which was scheduled to be the fourth and last match on the Stadium Court last night.

I received an exciting assignment yesterday afternoon: to be a scorekeeper on the Stadium Court with a lineup of second round matches that began with American teen Ryan Harrison (video) against the fourth seeded Belgian Xavier Malisse, “the X-Man”, at 4 PM which was to be followed by Australian Lleyton Hewitt’s match against American Rajeev Ram, an upset winner over the fifth seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. The 7 PM match was to be defending champ and top seeded Mardy Fish’s first match (after receiving a bye in the first round) against France’s Nicolas Mahut, who’d famously played in the longest men’s match in history against the ATC’s third seeded Isner at Wimbledon in 2010.

But the best laid plans often go awry and, after a thrilling battle that featured Malisse taking the first set in a tiebreaker and Harrison breaking Malisse in the tenth game of the second set to even the match, dark and ominous clouds moved in and lightning interrupted the American as he attempted to even the third set at 2 games apiece (serving at 1-2, 40-30). At about 6 PM the chair umpire suspended play and shortly thereafter, the downpour came. I had scored the second set, a task which was much easier the second go-round, and was looking forward to possibly scoring the first set of Hewitt’s match as well. But it was not to be. By the time the rain stopped and the Stadium Court could be thoroughly dried, it was near 8:30 PM before the players took the court to warm-up to resume their match. During the delay, my shift expired and I turned over the walkie-talkie to my replacement, had my dinner, and changed out of my volunteer shirt so that I could sit in an unoccupied seat to watch the rest of the match & hopefully some more tennis before I’d have to head for home.

Harrison lost his serve to go down 1-3 in the third (he spun, dropped & attempted to kick his racquet on its way to the ground) but broke back immediately to get back on serve 2-3. On the changeover, he and the X-Man had a heated exchange. Being all the way across the court, I couldn’t make out what it was all about, but believe it had something to do with Harrison making Malisse wait a moment between his first and second serves at “ad out”. After both men sat down, Malisse and the umpire had words. Impressively, the nineteen year-old American kept his cool, held his serve, broke to lead 4-3 before the next changeover, and then closed out the third set and the match by holding serve twice more, winning it 6-4.

Tournament officials had moved Hewitt’s match to Court 1, where India’s Somdev Devvarman was soon to close out his second round win over Japan’s Tatsuma Ito – he was up 6-1, 3-1 before the rain delay, and eventually won the second set 6-3 – so that Fish’s match could start on the Stadium Court next. I stayed as late as I could (10 PM) but only got to watch until the American broke the Frenchman’s serve in the first set, to lead 4-3. Mardy went on to break again and win the first set 6-3, and took the second by the same score. There was no sign of his lovely wife Stacey Gardner at the match.

It’s been a fun week and I had a feeling of melancholy in my heart as I left last night realizing that my volunteer time had come to an end. Of course, I look forward to watching the quarterfinals on TV, if not live then on my DVR, and attending the finals in person on Sunday, which I’ll write about as I resume my regular posting schedule – every Monday and Thursday – next week.

One final note: There was a Special Pops exhibition on the Demo Court (east of the Stadium Court) last night; it was great to see Bill – who was hosting it – again.

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