Guess I should start with the end of yesterday (this morning at 1am). The Hewitt-Nalbandian clash was a memorable one, moving one way and the other to a gripping close 4 hours or so later. From watching Nalby as he moved through the ranks at the Legg Mason last year I learned two things. 1) He is slow warming up and often loses the first set. 2) He is a master of the unexpected drop shot. Both of these things happened last night. The big additional factor is that Hewitt is such a good fighter and never gives up. We saw this too. It was a very tight match but one could not help but feel that Federer in current form would have taken either out in half the time but then we would not have had all that entertainment. It has always seemed to me that Hewitt only wins when he is serving really well. He did part of the time last night but not enough. Having said that, his game is a lot more interesting than say Roddick’s. The crowd, as said earlier got more and more noisy as the match came to an end. Nalbandian would drop a point, and Australian flags appeared from everywhere. If Hewitt had won, it would have been literally deafening. Hewitt certainly had his chances. In the 4th set, he must have squandered 7 or 8 break points with rather awkward flubs. Same could be said for the second set.
Earlier on, the first match should be remembered not for Safina’s double bagel but for Clijster’s complete competence and efficiency in what she was doing. She is going to go far this time again.
Earlier in the day I missed the Rafa non event to go to show court 2 to check up on Cilic, Donald Young, and Del Potro. I almost alone don’t think Young did all that badly against Cilic. I saw a lot worse in Cincy. That said, Cilic was not very good either. Cilic won mostly because of his superior serve but their ground games were more or less the same. Only a small group of Croats was present and they were basically cheerful. As well a droning on in their own language, from time to time they provided what might have been a translation for the locals along the lines of “Hello people come to cheer; let us now that you are here".
For the following match, the Argentinian cheer squad was pretty well silenced by the extremely loud and to me very unpleasant Israeli crowd. For me it bordered on the offensive. I had to keep telling myself that Dudi Sela is probably a really nice guy but with unfortunate friends. But the real news is that Del Potro is back, winning a fairly tough 4 setter. The serve, high toss and all, is back with all its former force but the former devastating forehand is not. In the old days, it was fatal to get into a baseline rally with Del P. This time, the rallies would go on and on and would usually be won by Sela. But, it is great to see JMDP back on the court again.
While watching the above, I got talking to a lady who told me how happy she was that two of her children were ball kids at the tournament. I learned a lot about how they have been training for the last 6 months and that there is a lot of work in ferrying them around. A hierarchy is established with the good ones ending up on center court and the less than good sent to the outer courts. They are constantly being evaluated. Her son, who was on center court the previous night, lost points once for holding a ball up for the player when the game was finished. She said that the kids ranked the players too. Djokovic was right at the top. He apparently always offers thanks and a smile for the offered towel. Roddick is down in the pits in their opinion. To my surprise, James Blake is way up there with Nole in practicing courtesy to those at hand. He’s made me cross with some of his public statements in the past but apparently more privately he is a really good guy.
For today, I will skip Roddick-Kusnitsyn. I’ve seen them play before in Washington. Kusnitsyn has a very defensive game and will probably be blown off court by the Roddick serve. Not much chance for Gilles Simon against Federer tonight but I will go to that as I like watching both. On the smaller courts, I am going to try and catch Berdych-Kohlschreiber and Wawrinka-Dimitrov. For now, however, a relaxing morning is called for!