I made my first visit to this year's US Open on the second day of play, accompanied by my friend Gabriel. He and I have a history at the tournament, largely of my worrying about him wandering off and having to explain his disappearance to his parents. Gabriel is 12 now, and he had a cell phone with him, so I was somewhat less nervous than in the past. On the other hand, I gave him frequent opportunities to invoke his favorite admonition: "Chill."
Though savvy fans do not spend too much time in Arthur Ashe Stadium (thank you, USTA, for building that monstrosity), we did want to see Roger Federer, who was given an 11:00 a.m. start time. I got stuck in the office a little bit later than I might have liked, and I navigated the subways with all the élan of a congressman caught taking bribes on videotape (not realizing that the stop labeled "Roosevelt Avenue" was really the "Jackson Heights" stop where we had to change from the E train to the 7), so Federer was in the process of breaking Ivo Minar for a two-set lead when we arrived.
(Roger Federer, photo by Jerry Balsam - complete photo gallery here)
One of the big video monitors at Ashe was out of order. Every year, it's as though the start of the tournament comes as a surprise, and it takes a while to work out the kinks. That's a regular experience with the IBM online scoreboard for all the Grand Slams.
At 1-1 in the third, Federer called Norm Chryst down from the chair to check the lines, which were becoming slippery as a result of a drizzle. The forecast had called for rain on and off throughout the day, so it looked like we were in for a siege. But no - Chryst determined the court playable, and it never rained again during the long day. It was plenty humid, however, and the fans, to say nothing of the players, were soaked with perspiration throughout the day. Indeed, some players were to encounter problems a lot bigger than maintaining a dry grip.
There isn't a whole lot to say about the Federer-Minar match. Minar did not have any obvious weaknesses, but that's not quite sufficient to help one keep up with Federer. Federer is sublime, as anyone who is reading this page well knows. In 64 minutes, it was over, 6-1 6-1 6-1.
I tried to get onto Court 10 for the match between Gael Monfils and Novak Djokovic, but it was impossible. In the end, Djokovic - who needed repeated injury timeouts - rebounded from being bageled in the fourth set to win the match 7-5 in the fifth. But this is not an eyewitness account, other than to the extent that I stood behind four or five rows of fans outside Court 10 and heard the end of the match.