Bernard Tomic, an Australian with a good run or two at the Australian Open who maybe isn't the next big thing but is still a solid and reckonable player
Ryan Harrison, a definitely up-and-coming American who's had too many bad draws, constantly facing top players in early rounds and not yet beating them, thus not as many ranking points as if he had a few easier early round opponents, but definitely going places
Jerzy Janowicz, a Polish player who had a really good Wimbledon this year
Ricardas Berankis, a Lithuanian who advanced to the final of the DC tournament this summer, helped since the field was weakened because of the Olympics, but still if you can get to the final of an ATP mens tournament that ain't chopped liver.
So this year I thought I was really lucky that Berankis had his breakthrough to late to get into the US Open automatic entry, so I could watch his coronation in the qualifying like I did with Andy Murray the year he was stuck qualifying for the final time. No such luck. I watched Berankis struggle in the first two rounds of the qualifying this year and then lose to a fairly unheralded American. Really entertaining match, but it was an awful week for a player who is still very young and should have done better.
It was that kind of year. I saw six matches on Tuesday for the first day of the first round, and some of the matches I'd forgotten by today. The highlight: Rhyne Williams, a 21-year-old American who was a good college player and had a good summer on the European minor league tennis circuit, upset Vasek Pospisil, a Canadian player who looked wonderful in 2011 and carries expectation and was the #7 seed in the qualifying. It wasn't even close, really. In fact, Williams went on to win his next two matches without breaking a sweat. If the home town crowds can help him along... I also caught my first glimpse of James Duckworth, a 20-year old Australian who may have promise.
Day 2 was maybe a little better. I caught a glimpse of Hiroki Moriya, a 21-year old from Japan who looked worth following. Hard to say what's up, his 2nd and 3rd round matches were both long drawn-out endless deuces and long rally affairs that suggest neither he nor his opponents could force a winning shot into the equation, but he did end up prevailing in both to qualify. I saw only a smidgen of Guido Andreozzi, a 21-year-old Argentine, but he showed me something in that little bit of viewing.
Day 3 was an odd kind of day, Brady McReynolds, the newest member of the JABberwocky team who is handling foreign rights, came out for the afternoon. So we left the tennis center for a little bit so I could give a walking tour of Flushing Meadows Park, we popped in to Armstrong and the Grandstand to eat while watching a smidgen of practice, he was doing the video recording thing with his phone of Andy Murray. But before Brady arrived, I saw James Duckworth and Bobby Reynolds play a hugely entertaining match on Court 17. Duckworth, 20 and solid and with an all court game, was probably the better player, but Bobby Reynolds had a huge and vocal rooting section even by the standards of the home-town crowd for an American, and I do think that made the difference when Duckworth was broken to lose this really tight 3-set match. Hugely entertaining.
On Day 4, I wanted to watch the #1 seed in the qualifying, Dutchman Igor Sijsling. Enh. He won, but not all that impressively. Ahead of that, I watched Jimmy Wang from Taiwan and Romanian Marius Copil in a long and tight three-setter on the same court. Like with Moriya's matches a little bit because the players couldn't always find winners. Wang won and qualified, but it wouldn't surprise me if Copil sticks around if he can find that little something extra in his game. The Sijsling match at least was boring and quick, so I was able to see the last half of the 2:30+ affair with Berankis and Tim Smyczek. With Berankis losing, maybe crowd helped a little but you could hear more vocal cheering from a few courts over for Bobby Reynolds than for US player Smyczek.
The weather was solid, just a little bit of rain that delayed play for an hour on Wednesday, and then a little hotter on Friday, the first day I really needed to visit the water fountains after each set. I stopped going to the Lemon Ice King of Corona, for some reason the ices just didn't seem as wonderful as in my recollection and I didn't feel I needed to add the (not much) time to go back the last couple of days. I did stop in on Thursday in Manhattan for the grand opening of the Whole Foods on 57th St. and 2nd Ave., which is the 133rd Whole Foods that I have visited. I was glad to add one on Opening Day but honestly it was too crowded to really enjoy. It's a very small store, maybe not much smaller than the first Manhattan store in Chelsea but that store was built without a cafe which this one has, which is nice that you can sit and eat but also means the actual selling space is really tightly designed. I finally went to Donovan's Pub for what some places rate as one of NYC's best burgers. It was OK. And tried a Thai restaurant in that section of Elmhurst that is filled with Asian ethnic eateries that really I should have eaten at more of.
Still and all, even on an off year, the 4 days of qualifying are among the more satisfying of the 365 I get during a year.
Igor Sijsling might not be all that good, but the draw is on his side. His first round opponent is Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who is currently ranked #102 for singles, i.e., lower than a player like Berankis who had his good week too late to count for the US Open. That's a very winnable match. If he wins, no matter what happens in the 2nd round Sijsling is assured of a nice check and at least 70 ranking points for the qualifying (25) and making the 2nd round (45). And against either Kevin Anderson of South Africa or top 10 player David Ferrer, Sijsling doesn't get to round #3.
Rhyne Williams does not have the luck of the draw. He gets to play Andy Roddick in the first round. Roddick is having a bad year, who knows if he has another good year in him. The good news for Rhyne Williams is that he probably gets to play a night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, this seems like the kind of perfect early round match-up for Arthur Ashe. But as surprised as I was to see Rhyne Williams beat Vasek Pospisil in round 1 of the qualifying would be way more to see him beating Roddick at the US Open.
Marcos Baghdatis has had some career highlights since I first saw him in the Open qualifying something like 8 years ago but has faded a lot. This seems a more likely opportunity for a German qualifier Matthias Bachinger. Upset, yes, shocking if it happens no.
Hiroki Moriya against Ivan Dodig? Winnable for the qualifier. Jimmy Wang against hard-serving Ivo Karlovic isn't winnable.
Bobby Reynolds and Tim Smyczek may get to play on the Grandstand, but they get to play one another. The PTB at the US Open are (a) glad that one of them is guaranteed of being in the 2nd round (b) not glad to have two vaguely marquees players facing off in the first round. On the other hand, they will get either the Argentine qualifier Andreozzi or Japan's #17 Kei Nishikori in the 2nd round, even if they get the #17 player in the world, playing at the US Open with a home town crowd pulling big time, I would give one of those Americans a fighting chance for the 3rd round, and could even see a winnable 3rd round match looking further down the draw.
The good news on having WorldCon on the traditional Labor Day weekend instead of August is that it means I can go to the qualifying, the bad news is I can't watch much of the Open during WorldCon, and this year I have other travel both sides of WorldCon. But it's always fun to see how it plays out.
And just to say, if you like tennis, the qualifying is free and open to the public, and you can do worse than schedule a trip to NYC to watch some good free tennis !!