You know what's the best thing to do if you live in New York the week before the U.S. Open and you're a tennis fan? Hint: It's not going out and playing.
It's watching the pros play, and for free, no less!
The qualifying tournament to try to get in the main draw at the Open kicked off Tuesday, and let me tell you, it's a great thing to do. If you're in the area and you're reading this, then stop reading it and get out there! I'm tempted to tell go up to my boss and tell him that I quit so I can go catch some matches.
Over the past few years, I've managed to catch the full range of players competing: from the ones you know are going to be stars (David Nalbandian, Andy Murray) to players looking to break out of long slumps (Vince Spadea) to veterans trying to play in one more big one (Stefano Pescosolido, Diego Nargiso). While they're putting together the draw this morning, the hopefuls are trying to fill some of those empty spots. Oh, if only I were out there today! Here's what I'd try to catch:
• Nicolas Massu (9) vs. Rui Machado: Wouldn't it be cool to catch an Olympic gold medalist in action? I saw he and Fernando Gonzalez play doubles after they won the big one in Athens a few years back, but I haven't had a chance to catch him live in singles. If you've cracked the top 10, you're a definite player and one well worth watching—especially if it's free!
• Tzipora Obziler (12) vs. Shenay Perry: Now, if I were to tell you I knew anything about Obziler, then I'd have to watch for lightning coming through my window and striking me down. I do remember Perry, though: She had a pretty deep run at Wimbledon in '06 and looked like she was poised for a breakthrough. I think injuries have slowed her down. Here's hoping she gets back on track.
• Sesil Karatantcheva vs. Julie Coin: Coin falls into the Obziler category, but Sesil was supposed to be in the top 10 by now, but a little thing like a positive doping test and two-year ban got in the way. She started back playing this year, and has had some success on the lower levels.
• Gilles Muller (15) vs. Adrian Mannarino: Everybody knows Muller as the guy who killed American Express' Andy Roddick campaign a few years ago. He was in the top 50 for a while, but has really fallen back a few notches, though. He's got game as I've seen him play in the qualies before. Well, actually, if I were to think about it, does he really have game if he's always playing the qualies? Hmmm.
• Alexa Glatch vs. Katie O'Brien (29): Glatch has gotten some press over the past couple of years, as a young American hopeful. Will she make it or is she headed for journeywoman status?
There's other names out there battling all with their own story, such as Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Lilia Osterloh, Kevin Kim, Rika Fujiwara and Hugo Armando. It's a great thing, the qualies. You know, I think I am gonna go in and quit my job. If I hurry, I can make it out for the Massu match!