No * Needed

Now that the bubble has burst and the dust has settled on this unprecedented US Open, I want to paw my final thoughts.

Men's final preview: Dominic Thiem vs. Alexander Zverev - Official Site of  the 2020 US Open Tennis Championships - A USTA Event
Image: US Open

Since this year’s Open was so unusual because of the pandemic, some cats were wondering “Would we have to put an asterisk by this year’s winner?” Emphatically, my answer is No!

True, two of the “Big Three” were not in attendance. But Roger Federer has been out with an injury anyway, so he wasn’t going to be there. And let’s face it…things happen that prevent the “top” players from being at tournaments. But let’s also face it…what goes up, must come down, and eventually the Big Three will be an * of their own.

What we did have was world #1, Novak Djokovic, world #3 Dominic Theim, and seven of the top ten players there, so there was no shortage of talent who could lifted the trophy come Championship Sunday. I feel like this was a level playing field for anyone to win. The past few years, these guys have been knocking on the grand slam door, ready to kick it open. It would happen eventually. And this year, it did!

And then we have the line judge incident that was heard around the world! It seems like everything stopped and people couldn’t process that Novak Djokovic was disqualified for his actions, leaving him out of contention of this grand slam title.

There was no foregone conclusion that Djokovic was going to win that match. Pablo Carreno Busto was ahead in that match…hence the Novak tantrum. I could tell when watching that he was having an off day, and felt certain that PCB was going to win. A casual tennis fan may argue that point, but I know what I was watching. Everybody, even the best players, have an off day every once in a while.

The semi finals were as they should have been…PCB vs. Alex Zverev and Thiem vs. Medvedev. Even though the Zverev semi final was a struggle to watch, mediocre tennis at best, I always picked Zverev to win. The other semi final was quite predictable to me.

Dominic Thiem trophy
Image: tennishead.net
Alexander Zverev: 'I Don't Think It's My Last Chance' | ATP Tour | Tennis
Image: ATP Tour

Anyone who ever debates the relevance of best of five sets in grand slams just needs to watch the Final match between Dominic Thiem and Alex Zverev. Yes, Alex started out on fire, winning the first two sets easily. One could argue that he was too “warm” when he started…a lesson for him on another day. If this was a regular tour tournament, he would be the winner. However, this is what sets grand slams apart. Dominic Thiem found a little something extra, a winner’s will and spirit, and came back to win the next three sets! It was unbelievable to watch…especially with an empty stadium. The deafening silence was eerie. If you listened closely, you could hear each player’s thoughts, strategies and frustrations yelling from the rooftop of Arthur Ashe Stadium throughout the match. I found it fascinating to witness. A true test of wills.

So, was this year’s US Open different than years passed? Yes! Fur sure! Does the winner earn any less credit because the final didn’t have one of the Big Three in it? Absolutely not!

Here Comes the Champion, Rise Up!

Out gunned…

Out manned…

Out numbered…

Out planned…

Image: Tennischannel

It was a battle of wills for Sascha Zverev and Dominic Thiem in today’s US Open final. One thing was for certain…we would have a new grand slam champion by the end of the day. Dominic has been in grand slam finals before, but couldn’t get the job done. Sascha seemed to choke at the grand slams, so it was surprising to some that he was even here. But here we are…nothing should surprise us in NYC!

Out gunned…Dominic Thiem was totally getting out gunned, out powered in the first two sets. Sascha had him on the ropes from the beginning. The first set couldn’t have lasted more than 20 minutes in a quick 6-2 in Sascha’s favor. But mid-third set, Sascha let off the gas and Dominic ran with it! Now we have a match!

Out manned…more than anything, this was a mental battle to the finish! I’m not sure where Dominic’s head was for the first hour or so, but when the light came on, he was in it to win in. Tennis is often like this…an up and down roller coaster. That is what makes grand slam 5 setters unique (and why we should keep them). So many momentum shifts, it was never fully one-sided, because you knew that, one bad play and everything changes.

Out numbered….Dominic knew what he needed to do. After being down the first two sets and the numbers completely against his favor, he knew if he had any chance to win this, he would have to step it up! And the cool cat did!

Out planned…Sascha Zverev came in with a game plan. He was slow to start in his previous two matches, so he knew he needed to be ready once he stepped on center court. He was on a practice court just moments before the match started, and I think this played to his advantage. I don’t know if Thiem had a solid plan. But, experience took over, especially toward the end, and he was able to finish victoriously!

The fifth set had everything….leg cramps, service breaks, a historic first US Open final decided by a fifth set tie break, a first time grand slam champion. Bravo to both players. Really, they were both magnificent! I feel for both of the guys, but congrats to the Champion!

So, here we have the Champion! Dominic Thiem…Rise Up!

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Image: nj.com

The Things Chrissie Says

Last night, while watching the women’s semifinal match between Jennifer Brady and Naomi Osaka, ESPN commentator, Chrissie Evert said if she had gone to college, she would have had fewer husbands!

Chris Evert - ESPN Press Room U.S.
Image: ESPN

What does this have to do with tennis, you ask? To put this in context, they were talking with the legendary Billie Jean King about the Original 9 and the 50th anniversary of the WTA. Billie Jean was making the point that she is in favor of players going to college before turning pro. College helps with socialization and organizational skills, which are beneficial when transitioning to being an independent agent. (Listen up, athletics programs eager to cut programs to save $$$. Tennis is usually one of the first to go, sadly).

Billie Jean King | The 20 greatest tennis players of the Open era: Where do  Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer feature? - Tennis
Image: The Telegraph

To put this into further context, they were talking about how going to UCLA, after spending time at the Evert Tennis Academy, helped Jennifer Brady improve her game, both on court and off. Just before Billie Jean was on, they had Brady’s tennis coach from UCLA, Stella Sampras (yes, Pete Sampras’s sister…HI Pete!) on, discussing Brady’s overall improvement while at UCLA.

Stella Sampras Webster - Head Coach - Staff Directory - UCLA
Image: UCLA Athletics

And all of this led to Chrissie’s admission: If I had gone to college, I would have fewer husbands. She also said something about the unforced error was the new power. Ummm….really? OK, Chrissie. Thanks for that!

Brady bounces Putintseva to book first US Open semifinal
Image: WTA

All of this was interesting fodder, I just wish it wasn’t happening during match play. I mean, show some respect towards the players…Jennifer Brady played remarkable tennis last night…going toe to toe with Naomi Osaka! One of the best semifinal matches I have seen in a LONG time! 7-6, 3-6, 6-3! Not too shabby, Jen! Congrats Jenny Brady on a great run at the US Open!

Mama Mia!

Moms are showing out BIG at the US Open!

Today, history is being made with three of the four women playing for a spot in the semifinals being moms! And these moms are tough!

First up, we’ve got Serena Williams. What more can be said about Serena? She is fierce, determined and ready to grab one more US Open title!

Serena Williams
Image: Forbes

Next up, Victoria Azarenka. She has been on the tennis scene for years! She has already won two grand slams, and this is her first quarterfinal since becoming a mom a few years ago.

Azarenka wins but laments lack of fans | Tennis Threads Magazine
Image: Getty Images

Then we have Tsvetana Pironkova from Bulgaria. Admittedly, I don’t know a thing about her. I know, I know…what kind of tennis cat am I? I try, but I can’t know everything. What I do know is she is looking pretty sharp! She’s up against Serena today, so I guess the best mom wins! Best of luck to her.

I'm in My Own Little Bubble": Tsvetana Pironkova on Her Groundbreaking  Return at US Open 2020 - EssentiallySports
Image: Essential Sports

Purrsonally, I am a huge fan of Vika Azarenka and would love for her to win the whole darn thing. That would mean getting past Serena (if she wins her match today) in the semifinals. Only time will tell. It’ going to be a battle of the beast-mode moms! Let’s do this!

Back to Business

You would have to be hiding under a rock (or in a seriously deep cat nap) to not see what shook the tennis world this weekend at the US Open. Novak Djokovic hit a line judge in the throat with a tennis ball, and then was defaulted from his match.

I’m not going to spend too much time on this, but a lot of cool cats have been asking about it, so here is what I think:

He broke a rule, therefore he should be penalized. He intentionally hit a ball recklessly within the court with negligent disregard of the consequences. He is not above the rules, although sometimes he acts like he is. He received the penalty that was warranted.

It’s unfortunate that the chair umpire didn’t warn him of his other violations before this incident…smashing the ball toward the side fence when he missed a volley at the net, not wearing the proper face coverings when he had his injury time out. Maybe had those violations been called, he would have been more diligent of keeping his actions in control.

It is also unfortunate that someone was injured during this incident. I’m sure the line judge didn’t asked to be thrust into the spotlight. It’s unfortunate that Djokovic’s most obsessed fans have harassed this line judge and have made death threats towards her. Honestly? Come on, we are better than that!

Now that this is over, let’s get back to business of tennis!

Innovative Changes at the US Open

There’s no doubt that the US Open is different this year, but that doesn’t mean all of the changes are bad. Here are a few changes that has improved the tournament.

Ball kids have names on the back of their shirts! And you want to know whose names they are? Doctors and front line healthcare workers of the global crisis we are currently facing. What a thoughtful idea! Way to go, Ralph Lauren! In all, over 150 names of essential workers from NYC’s Mount Sinai Health System will be represented. Thank you to our unsung heroes!

U.S. Open ballperson uniform Ralph Lauren
Image: Ralph Lauren

A virtual players box on Arthur Ashe Stadium! So, after a match is won, one of the screens along the court become a Zoom monitor and up pops a friend or family of the winner! At first, I was like “what is this?”, but then when Sascha Zverev won his first round match and his brother, Misha, popped up to congratulate him, it was very sweet. You could tell Sascha wasn’t expecting that, and he was so happy to see his brother. Since then, I’ve seen Rebel Wilson pop up to see her friend, Karolina Muchova, beat Venus Williams in the first round, and Naomi Osaka’s mom congratulate her win last night.

Players suites in Arthur Ashe Stadium! With COVID-19 keeping fans away, the USTA decided to allot the corporate suites in Arthur Ashe Stadium to the top 32 seeded players! So, every top player has access to watch every match, live, from their suite! And players are taking advantage of it! And I think it creates an interesting dynamic for the players on court, knowing their peers are watching.

I know this year’s tournament is unique, and I am enjoying a few of the innovative changes they have implemented!

No Fans, No Problem

I had a hypothesis at the beginning of the US Open. And it went like this:

There will be no five set matches at the US Open.

And I was proven wrong!


While watching last week’s Cincy Open, I thought “No fans, no problem.” It was like watching an intense practice match, which can be fun. Players were able to play quality tennis without their fans cheering them on.

However, the thought did occur to me, “how would this translate to grand slam matches where the men’s matches are best of five sets, lasting sometime four to five hours, sometimes longer?”

Who will raise the intensity level when the only thing on court is the silence of the players and their thoughts? The hollow sound of the singular bounce of the ball, the screech of the shoes, the call from the umpire. Without the fans to cheer them on, how will they muster up the will to fight back and play harder? Who is there to reassure them they are loved and they are great? To fill the silence with applause, cheers and reassurance?

Fighters don’t need the outside assurances. Their inner dialogue is strong enough. Their toughness of spirit to press on comes from within.

Andy Murray reacts after defeating Yoshihito Nishiokain their first round match of the US Open.
Image: The Guardian

Yesterday, if you were lucky enough to catch Andy Murray fight back from two sets down against Yoshihito Nikiosha, you got a real treat! Yes, they were in Arthur Ashe stadium, which typically holds 23,771 spectators. I couldn’t tell you how many people were watching (maybe 50, at most), but I did notice Novak Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, and Jamie Murray (Andy’s brother) watching from their suites. They knew they were witnessing something special. And I’m sure it taught them a little something about Andy’s fortitude and desire to win.

A champion doesn’t need external accolades…their desire to win is deeper than that. There has been plenty of great five setters so far, and it’s only day three. I am looking forward to many more in the days to come.

The Heavy-Hearted Side of Tennis

Furriends, I just got through watching the women’s final at the US Open and I am not feeling light-hearted as I usually do. Matter of fact, my heart is heavy. It should be a celebratory time, but instead I am feeling a lot of conflicting emotions. Anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, joy…all of these things.

Let’s set the scene for you. Serena Williams, who was out this time last year giving birth to her first child, has fought her way back this past year and made it to the US Open final. No small feat, but she’s a fighter and a champ and she did it with conviction and determination. Naomi Osaka, 20 year old, who has played excellent tennis earlier this year, had a bit of a slump mid-season, fought back and was making her debut at a grand slam final. In my mind, it was Naomi’s time to win today. She has beaten Serena before and she has been playing well this tournament, so I always thought Naomi was going to win.

First set was all Naomi Osaka…quick 6-2.

Then it all went to hell in a hand basket in the second set. A lot went down, so try to follow me here…

The chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, called a code violation on Serena for getting coaching from her coaching box. She had a “conversation” with the chair umpire that she doesn’t cheat, that she would rather lose a match than win while cheating. You can see it on TV, and her coach later admitted, he was coaching… he motioned to her to go to the net more. Then Naomi broke Serena’s service game and Serena smashed her racquet. Code violation #2. Two code violations = one point for the other player. At the end of that game during the change over, Serena brought up the coaching thing again and called him a thief for robbing her of her point. Things escalated, and she asked for the tournament director and she discussed this with them, too, saying it was unfair, that this would never happen if this was a man doing these things. This resulted in code violation #3. Every violation called after 2 is a game penalty. So, she lost a game and the score is 3-5.

Meanwhile, poor Naomi is checking her own pulse, trying to remain calm. Naomi eventually serves out the last game and wins her first major title! Congratulations Naomi Osaka! Unfortunately, it is overshadowed by the mess that unfolded on court today.

No smile: Osaka did not look too happy about her victory - APImage: Yahoo Sports

This pictures makes me so sad. Naomi Osaka couldn’t even break a smile while hoisting the trophy for the first time.

Emotions…here is how I’m feeling.

Anger…that Naomi was robbed from her celebration! She was the better player today from the beginning. This was her first slam…against her idol. She is a shy girl to begin with and she couldn’t even have her moment.

Frustration…that Serena had to be subjected to questionable actions on the chair umpire’s part. There was fault on both sides. How he handled things, how she handled things. All around, just a mess!

Sadness…that, unfortunately Serena is right. There is a double standard in sport and in society when it comes to men and women. We saw it this week when the female player got a violation for taking her shirt off and changing during a match. We see it in what men can get away with saying on the court (cuss words, etc), and what women can say. We see it in classrooms and in business…men being rewarded for be assertive and aggressive and women being punished, over looked, or deemed “difficult to work with” if they show the same actions.

Confusion…of why this couldn’t have been settled off court. I know Serena was in the moment, but part of me says take the violation and move on (there is another player standing on the other side of the court waiting on you). But also feeling like Serena had every right to stand up for herself and call out the injustice that was playing out before her.

Joy…for Naomi Osaka!! Make no mistake, this young player is here to stay! She’s got something special, and now she’s got a grand slam. I was happy to see during the post match ESPN coverage just outside of Arthur Ashe stadium, that the crowd was cheering for her, chanting her name and acknowledging her as a champion! She deserved that, even if it was a little bit late!

osaka.jpg                Image: Yahoo Sports

So if you will forgive me, all of these emotions have me exhausted. I think I’ll go take a catnap!

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The Importance of Beauty Rest

Furriends, have I ever talked to you about how important it is to get your beauty rest? Well, it is super important. Getting the proper amount of rest is imperative in all aspects of your overall health, from improving your mood and concentration to helping with weight loss.

Well, let me tell you…this week I have NOT been getting my beauty rest! Did you know that cats sleep 16 to 20 hours a day? I need at least that much to maintain my good looks! But epic night matches at the US Open has kept me from getting adequate rest this week!

It started with last Saturday night when I just had to stay up for the Marin Cilic/ Alex De Minaur match. Late Night at the Open

Then came Monday night with the Roger Federer/John Millman match that had everycat talking! If you recall, that match was played in hot, humid conditions in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Both players were soaked to the bone and Roger wasn’t looking his best. But it was Millman that out hit, out played, and just dominated that match. I couldn’t possibly go to bed and miss that drama.

Here is John Millman after winning his match against Roger.

John Millman.Image: MSN Sport

The following day, we were gifted with an epic quarterfinal match between Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem. This turned into a 4 hour and 49 minute smashfest that is an instant classic. It is matches like this that makes me wish both players could win, but of course we know that this is not the nature of sports! You have winners and you have losers. The winner was me because I got to witness a beautiful display of athleticism and sportsmanship from both players. And the loser was me because I didn’t get to bed until 2am!!

Rafael NadalImage: BBC Sports

Thankfully, last night was not as bad. John Millman, the guy who knocked out Federer Monday night played Novak Djokovic. I think Millman didn’t have enough gas left in his talk to play the type of match he wanted to, and Djokovic won the match in three sets. I was in bed by 11pm.

So, here I am on day four this week and I just watched Serena Williams win her semi-final match against Anastacia Sevastova in no time flat. I am currently watching the second women’s semi-final match between Madison Keys and Naomi Osaka. Osaka is up a set, but you know how it is. Momentum could swing and this could easily turn into a three set match. I’m purrty sure Osaka has this in the bag (she has Serena’s former coach now), so hopefully there will be lights out here soon. This kitty needs his rest…

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Stranger Things (At the Open)

This past week at the Open has seen some stranger things. Some cool, some not-so-cool, and some just down right head-scratching.

Let’s start with the not-so-cool. During a second round match between Nick Kyrgios and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the chair umpire, who will remain nameless (because I used to respect him, and now I’m not so sure about him), got down from his chair and did some on court coaching with Nick Kyrgios. This is wrong on so many levels! But lets just remember that the role of the chair umpire is to be a fair, unbiased judge of the match. They are to ensure the rules of the game are being followed by both players. By showing bias for one…well, this is just wrong. And what about the other guy? He just sits in his chair patiently while the other guy gets a pep talk? It was just a bad scene all around. Shame on him!

Image: news.com.au

Now for the head-scratching thing…in another second round match across the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, grown man, soon to be retired, French tennis player, Julien Benneteau, dropped his shorts on court. Yes, you read that. After losing a point, Julien pulled his shorts straight to the ground (leaving his undies in tact, thank goodness), and pulled them back up, leaving me confused. He did not get a penalty or nothing! Unbelievable! Meanwhile, women’s tennis player, Alize Cornet, gets a code violation for removing her shirt on court. I couldn’t find any picture or video of Julien dropping his pants, but the minute I Googled Alize Cornet, tons of stories, pics and videos are covering this story…because this is news “woman gets hot in record-breaking temps…?” Unbelievable! Sexist much, US Open?

Now for the coolest of news this week! I tweeted about a dream I had about Martina Navratilova, and she tweeted back!! I dreamed that Martina looked me square in the eye and said “I love to quilt!” Strange, right? So basically, Martina and I are BFF’s!

So, that’s just a quick wrap up of this past week’s stranger things at the US Open. Wonder what’s in store for this week. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you up to date.

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Late Night at the Open

Confession time…usually I am ready to go for the US Open, knowing this will include late night “must-see” matches, resulting in little sleep and surviving solely on coffee and catnaps for the next two weeks, but this year, I just couldn’t do it. You know, I’m 10 years old now and that means that I just can’t hang with the big cats, enduring sleepless nights like I used to when I was younger.

But something beautiful happened last night. The stars aligned, the tennis was right, and I was up, along with the fans in New York, for some late night tennis magic at the US Open!

By the time I started watching the Marin Cilic/Alex De Minaur match, they were already in the third set, with the young Aussie, De Minaur, up two sets. Honestly, I could believe what I was seeing. Marin Cilic is the 2014 US Open champion and currently the #7 seed at the Open. Alex De Minaur is a 19 year old from Australia with loads of ambition and raw talent. When I saw the draw, I thought this for sure would be a quick three-setter and Marin can get a good night’s sleep.

Unfortunately for Alex, Marin won the third set. Alex could have won the fourth set, but he ran out of gas. Marin was controlling every point, running De Minaur from one side of the court to the other, chasing down balls, wearing his wiry legs ragged. So now they had to play a fifth set.

Cilic got a quick lead and the match was at 5-2. One more game and we could all go to bed, right? No, Alex had other ideas. Alex was down 0-40 in the next game and managed to level things up to deuce, 40-40. The game went back and forth, getting to deuce 7 times before Alex finally won it for 3-5. The crowd was on their feet, giving Alex a standing ovation during this game, recognizing the shear will it took to pull that off!

Sep 1, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Alex de Minaur of Australia hits a forehand against Marin Cilic of Croatia (not pictured) in the third round on day six of the US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports Image: Yahoo Sports

Alex won the next few games, but the match finally ended with Marin Cilic winning it 7-5. The final score was 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, ending at 2:22am local NYC time. Here is their handshake at the net. I say Alex looks plenty tired, don’t you think?

US_Open_Tennis_81137.jpgImage: lohud.com

Even though the teenager did not win this one, I see bright things for his future.

Today starts week two of the US Open, or the “business end” of the tournament, as some like to say. Well, I say, if this is business, business is booming! Looking forward to what’s to come!

Happy Sunday, my furriends!

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The Heat Is On!

It’s summer time in New York and that means it is going to be a blistering US Open!

The final grand slam tournament of the year, the US Open, began Monday and will continue for the next two weeks. It is always so darn hot in New York City this time of year that the thought of playing a three hour (or more, in some cases) match on the unforgiving concrete tennis court is enough for me to turn my A/C down to 0, get under a down comforter and snuggle on the couch, far far away from the heat and sun!

To give you an idea of the type of conditions I’m talking about…picture yourself walking out of the grocery store onto a big concrete parking lot, opening an oven door that’s been cranked up to 350, in a heat wave. You feel the heat rising from the ground, blowing on your face, and beating down on you from up above? Now, imagine running a marathon in that for three hours or more. No…thank…you!

It was 95 degrees in New York yesterday, with a 46% humidity, which makes it feel like 103. The courts are kind of in a fishbowl because the stadium seats are built up, so there is not much air blowing on the courts, and the courts are concrete, which makes it about 130 degrees on court.

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

Let’s start with the good news. The important decision makers at the US Open implemented a heat advisory rule that says if a men’s match makes it to three sets without a winner, the players get a 10 minute break before starting the 4th set! Bravo US Open! Finally a rule that makes sense! Players need some reprieve from the heat if we want them to continue to play at their best. And trust me…every tennis fan out there wants to see quality tennis, even it if means we have to find something else to entertain ourselves for 10 minutes while the players sit in an ice bath. This rule was used several times yesterday, and thank goodness. This means the winners will be able to compete competitively in their next match, too…not just survive, hanging on by a gasp of breath and dignity to win the match at hand, and then have nothing left for their  next match.

Here is Novak Djokovic surviving a 4 set match against Marton Fucsovics, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. This does not look health to me.

2018-8-28-novak-djokovic-heatImage: USA Today

Now the bad news…if I got my facts right, even with the extreme heat rule, we had six players retire, five of them siting heat related issues. That’s too many, and it’s unfortunate. Many players do not come from countries that have these type of extreme heat conditions. Even the great Roger Federer pointed out that where he is from, Switzerland, temperatures stay relatively cool, and that is what he is used to.

The weather will stay in the 90’s for much of the tournament, so I hope we don’t have any more retirements and that this extreme heat policy will keep everyone safe and healthy during this fortnight.

Stay cool out there, furry furriends.

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Patiently Waiting

The final grand slam of the year, the US Open begins Monday, and for the next two weeks, all eyes of the tennis world will be on the center of the Universe, New York City!

The US Open has a new logo this year! What do you think? As long as there is the tennis ball on fire, I like it!

So what’s a cat to do between now and then? I am patiently waiting. To bide my time, I am watching the men’s qualifying matches on the Tennis Channel. Tonight, we have young Canadian breakout star, Felix Auger-Aliassime against American college star-turned pro, Christopher Eubanks. At the moment. Felix is up a set and it’s 3-1 in the second set. I am going to call it and guess the Canadian will take this match.

A kitty might think qualifying matches wouldn’t be that exciting, but au contraire mon furry frere! When watching young players, you can almost see their minds processing their decisions, their change in tactics, their reflexes. The quality is just as good, and in my humble opinion, the stakes are higher! These matches are to get a seat in the main draw at the US Open! That is HUGE! Anything can happen!

The draw came out today, so I spent some time going over my first-round popcorn matches. Lots of sports commentators like to analyze the entire draw, making assumptions like, “If X gets to the fourth round, he will play Y.” I like to see one round at a time because, as you know, anything can happen. It’s New York!

Here are the first round matches I have my eye on.

Rafa Nadal vs. David Ferrer: obviously Rafa is the favorite in this match, but they both come from Spain, long time friends, and you never know. Ferrer could have a very good day. (It’s possible)

Taylor Fritz vs. Misha Zverev: this is only interesting because Taylor is American and I like to back my fellow countryman. And Misha is the older brother of Sascha Zverev (the better of the two siblings), and plays a pretty scrappy game. This could go four or five sets.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Grigor Dimitrov: Stan’s a two time grand slam champ who has been out with injuries. Grigor is a great player that has yet to realize his full potential at majors. Both excellent players. This is definitely the ONE to watch. (And strangely, this is a rematch of Wimbledon’s opening round. What are the odds?)

Venus Williams vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova: well, for one, it’s Venus! And for two, it’s Svetlana! Both big time winners with big time games. Definitely the match to watch in the women’s draw!

We still have three days until opening day, but I will wait, patiently. Because all good things are worth the wait.

Tick tock…

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There Is No “I” In Team

But there is an I in Tennis! Of course, that means absolutely nothing except that it is a fact. There is also a T, and E, a couple of N’s and an S!

Oh cat, I got off track there for a minute. Too much cat nip! But not that far. I was thinking about the Women’s Final that took place yesterday, and there was an interesting dynamic that happened on the court. The two finalists, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, are both American’s, . Both players were out earlier in the year, skipping the Australian Open in January, with injuries which required surgeries. We all know that you don’t recover, rehab, and compete at the level of a grand slam final without a team behind you. Coaches, trainers, nutritionists, parents, friends…that’s your team!

To add an extra layer of complexity to this grand slam final, both players are also teammates and good friends. They play on the American Fed Cup team together, they competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics together, they themselves are teammates. So, imagine for a minute that you were playing for the biggest title of your career against a teammate and good friend. This was the scene for yesterday’s final.

But with all competition, there is a winner and there is a loser. And yesterday, the momentum swung in the direction of Sloane Stephens. Sloane Stephens was on point from the get go and Madison Keys struggled to find her game. The final score was a convincing 6-3, 6-0.

Photo by:  (USTA/Darren Carroll)
For me, the highlights came after the match! After the win, both players met at the net like players do. But instead of the cold handshake, chair umpire handshake, then march back to your chair, Sloane and Madison hugged at the net and one friend consoled the other while she cried on the winner’s shoulder. Then instead of going to their own respective seats, the winner sits next to her friend and laughs and cuts up until the trophy ceremony. Furriends, if you don’t follow tennis, let me tell you, I have been watching tennis a long time and this NEVER happens.
Then, during the trophy ceremony, both players had beautiful, gracious things to say about the other player. I cried through the whole thing! (No one is surprised by this, I’m sure). Wonderful display of sportsmanship, friendship and class at a time when our world needs a little bit of it!
So even though there is no I in Team, there is a team within tennis. And the American women’s teamwork was on full display yesterday! Congratulations to Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens.

Del Potro’s Match of the Tournament – Part II

Well tennis fanatics, just when you thought you have watched the match of the tournament, you tune in a few days later and watch another great match! Turns out Juan Martin Del Potro is all better now!

AFP Photo/AL BELLO

I will preface this story to let you know, if there is a match being played between Juan Martin Del Porto and any other player, I will always purr for Juan Martin! When he beat Roger Federer in a surprise US Open final in 2009, I was hooked! Unfortunately, his battle with multiple injuries has kept him away from competitive tennis until recently. He plays with so much emotion and heart, it is hard NOT to meow for him!

On Labor Day, a very sick, virus ridden, Juan Martin Del Potro played the match of his life and beat Dominic Thiem for a seat in the quarterfinals at the US Open. He looked like he was on death’s door when he stepped onto Louis Armstrong Stadium that Monday night. But the crowd raised him up, raised his game and he won that match in five sets, earning him a date with the GOAT, Roger Federer.

He faced no easy task last night, meeting Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Ever since the draw came out a few weeks ago, all anyone talked about was the possible match up between Federer and Nadal in the semis. They have never played against each other at the US Open (which sounds practically impossible, but totally true), so everyone from the commentators, to the players, to Twitterville, thought these two were destined to meet. Well kitties and furry friends, Juan Martin had other plans!

Feeding off of his momentum from Monday’s match, he was fearless! And I have always meowed, never discount a player who has the crowd behind them. Sure, there were Fed Fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium last night, but there will always be following for the Gentle Giant, Juan Martin Del Potro. He took down Roger Federer in Four sets, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4.

Up next in the semifinals, he gets Rafa Nadal. This will be another hard match for me…Juan Martin will be seen as the underdog here, but I believe he has what it takes to go all the way to the final! Stay tuned for Juan Martin’s Match of the Tournament – Parts III and IV!

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