Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BB&T Atlanta Open – first day ‘insider’ notes

I arrived early for the BB&T Atlanta Open yesterday; my first day as scorekeeper for the tennis matches that would be played on the Stadium Court Monday. I was partnered with Lisa, who I’d met while performing the same duties together at last year’s Atlanta tournament. As a tennis parent, she writes the ParentingAces blog; check it out, if you have the chance. For more information regarding the job of scorekeeping, nothing has changed since last year’s event; read about it here.

View from our Booth

The first match we did was one of the last qualifying round matches to be played (the others were on the Grandstand and Court 3); the Stadium Court matchup was between South African Rik De Voest and Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. De Voest took the first set in a tiebreaker from Berankis, who had served for it leading 5-3 before getting nervous and losing three straight games; he recovered to break his opponent and force the tiebreak, but then lost it rather one-sidedly. At the end of the second set, it was De Voest's turn to let his nerves get the better of him; he was serving for the match at 5-4 when - out of nowhere – he giifted his service game to Berankis, who then went on to win the second set in a tiebreaker. Up until that point, De Voest had been the far steadier player. In fact, Berankis evened the match despite getting just 38% of his first serves in and surviving 8 double faults in the set. After two hours in the heat, the players began the third set. Using his cross court backhand and ripping forehands, Berankis sprinted to an early break in the third game of the deciding set, and held on to win it 6-3. For his reward, he’ll face Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov tonight in the second match to be played on Grandstand.

Berankis serving to De Voest

Next up on Stadium Court was between the seventh seed Alex Bogomolov Jr. (#50 in the world) and wild card entry Jack Sock, who’d won the 2011 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles title with Marietta’s Melanie Oudin. Moscow born Bogomolov, a resident of Miami since 1992, recently switched his allegiance from the U.S. to Russia to have the opportunity to be the country’s top ranked player, play Davis Cup and possibly in the Olympics, and had to reimburse the USTA $75,000 for the development funds.

Sock serving to Bogomolov Jr.

In a match presided over by veteran umpire Steve Ulrich, Bogomolov Jr. lost an early break to Sock, who can not only rip it from both sides but also possesses a deft touch for drop shots (which frustrated the Russian greatly). ‘Bogo’ lost his serve again to drop the first set 2-6, but then broke the American to open the second set, which he held on to win 6-4. A few games into the second set, some clouds began to move in, providing much needed shade the court. In the third set, with the score on serve at 2-1, Sock needed a bathroom break and a trainer visit to address a bleeding hand. The near 15 minute delay would prove significant as the thunder began to rumble. The rains came with Sock about to serve leading 4-2 in the third. My shift was now over, and the subsequent 2 hour rain delay affected the start of the evening’s docket.

Clouds (three games into the second set)

During the rain delay, I stayed ‘trapped’ in the tent, along with the Stadium Court’s PA announcer Kevin Payne, the sound board engineer and the handful of other technicians that run the computers, video boards, and all the other electronics at the tournament. It was somewhat dicey given the lightning, loud thunder and heavy rain, which started to pool up on the blue Astroturf under our feet. Shawn, who runs the computers for all the statistics, including the one that scorekeepers use, said the heavy rain a few days earlier caused about two inches of standing water in the tent. When the rainfall started to wane, most of us made our way to Volunteer Services area where we could get dinner.

"Rain, rain go away"

While enjoying the Sonny's BBQ catering, I saw 11Alive’s Sam Crenshaw. Since I’d just watched his Sunday morning show "Matchpoint", which he co-hosts with Jeff Batten, during which the sports anchor invited everyone to come “say hi” to him ‘down’ at the tournament, I did. We had a several minute conversation about all things “BB&T Atlanta Open” before I realized I was keeping him from rejoining his group, as everyone was starting to return to the courts after the rain delay. Nice, approachable man; thanks Sam!

Sock wins it!

The evening’s matches were scheduled to begin at 7 PM, but instead, at about 8 PM, the afternoon’s Sock-Bogomolov Jr. match was resumed. Sock came out and served a shaky game but won it shortly after a failed challenge by his opponent. Earlier in that same game, Sock lost two of his three challenges. The volatile Bogomolov was irate and received a code warning after swatting a drink with his racquet when he returned to his bench. However, the Russian held his serve and then broke the American, who was serving for the set at 5-3, to get back on serve. But Sock gathered himself and broke right back to take the set and the match with a backhand winner down the line.

Military Appreciation Night at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Monday night was Military Appreciation Night at the BB&T Atlanta Open, and there was a nice ceremony, singing of our National Anthem, and salute to those that serve including a "first serve" by one war veteran and the coin toss by a high ranking officer. The VIP booth - northwest corner of the Stadium Court - was filled with service men and women from every branch.

Johnson serving to Young

Next up on Stadium Court was Atlanta’s own Donald Young against the current and two-time defending NCAA men’s singles champion Steve Johnson, from the University of Southern California, who earned a wild card bid into the main draw. He made the most of it, breaking Young in the fourth game of the first set and holding out to take it 6-3. However, it wasn’t easy. While serving for the set, Johnson and Young traded set and break points through at least a dozen deuces before the Trojan finally closed it out. Now sitting in the stands, I shared the same row with Young’s dad Donald Sr., who was located where his son could look up and mouth his frustration on occasion. It was getting late, and I had to leave with Young Jr. up but on serve at 2-1 in the second set. The Atlanta native went on to win it 6-3, but fell to Johnson in the third by the same score.

Hard to beat the view at the BB&T Atlanta Open

Because I had to leave ‘early’ (cursed rain delay), I was unable to stay for any of Brian Baker’s match. I thought to myself “Oh, well, I’ll see his next match”; after all, in my draw analysis I’d penciled him in all the way to Friday’s quarterfinals. But unfortunately, Baker lost a three setter to Russian Igor Kunitsyn, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6 – in a match that must have finished past 1 AM – so I missed my chance to see him in person; my loss.

Check back tomorrow for my Day 2 notes and comments. Hope to see you there!

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