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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

tennis, anyone? Pt. 2

So it's always nice to head off to watch the qualies with a 0% chance of precipitation and the high forecasted for not much more than 80 degrees!

Wednesday was tennis weather, and some of the tennis was pretty darned good, too!

Match #1, Court #13, Sergiy Stackhovsky (Ukraine) vs. Stefano Galvani (Italy)
Why? Sergiy is the #1 seed in the qualies, and thus almost certain to be in the main draw. Even if he loses in the qualifying, at least 1 of the players above him will withdraw, and his ranking will entitle him to take that spot. In fact, since Lleyton Hewitt is out on account of shoulder surgery, it's a lock just about.
Why Not? Galvani I do know, as being a journeyman who has been around for years and years, and not the kind of player I usually want to spend time with during the qualifying.

& in fact it looks like the 22-year old from the Ukraine will win in a runaway after 2 games. He holds served and breaks Galvani in a heartbeat to go up 2 games to 0. But then Galvani breaks back instantly, and then sneaks out a break in the final game of the set to win the first 7-5. The tennis is solid, and often more than that. Galvani's crowd support shows there may be more Italians in NYC than Ukranians. He does a better job playing to the crowd. Everyone holds serve deep into the 2nd set when another exchange of breaks takes place, and then Stackhovsky sneaks out a break to win 7-5. The third set starts out with some excitement, with Galvani calling a trainer and rubbing his eyes as if he's lost a contact or something, and he disappears off court twice for bathroom breaks or who knows what. Does that lead to his being a bit more lackluster in the final set, which is a smoother ultimate conquest for Stackhovsky who wins 6-3.

So I've seen the #1 seed and he is good. Not exceptional, but good.

Match #2, USA Michael Yani vs. Columbian Santiago Giraldo, the #30 seed, on court #11.
Why: The match is just starting, it has a seed, it has an American I'm not familiar with. Giraldo is only 20 and ranked in the mid 150s. Yani is 27, born in Singapore, played for Duke, hasn't even turned pro? Giraldo is a pretty good player, but somehow or other Yani is playing like he's Federer or Sampras of the qualies, hitting all kinds of shots from all over, and winning 6-4 6-2 in the blink of an eye. Who is this guy? He's won four Futures events, for players at the very bottom rung of the tour hoping to get enough points in the rankings to play Challengers that are more the Triple A league, and he plays like this? Is he a late bloomer destined to make his mark at this year's US Open, or a flash in the pan with a good match in him today who'll lose horribly tomorrow? And I like what I see of Giraldo, but the match is over so quickly I don't see much. I barely finish the Times crossword puzzle (it's a Wednesday, it doesn't take long; the puzzles get harder Mon-Sat and can be very very difficult to impossible on Fri/Sat, then the Sunday puzzle because of the larger audience is dialed back a bit to a Thursday level, and then Monday starts off easy) and the first set whizzed by.

Match #3, 2 Germans, Andreas Beck, #10 seed, and Benedikt Dorsch. Court #5
Match #4, Brit Alexander Slabinsky vs. American KJ Hippensteel. Court #4
Why? The Beck match is just starting up, with a relatively high seed playing. I miss maybe the first few games, and then that one is ending on one court as the oher is underway on the next so I can slide right over.
Why Not? To be honest, neither of these matches is very good, and and if the Beck match had gone to a 3rd set I'd have gone someplace else. Beck is a 22-year-old hanging around the low 100s in the rankings, Dorsch a journeyman of 27 whos never been in the top 150. Neither is going anywhere. Hippensteel is an American Dorsch, a month or two older and also never in the top 150, playing a 22-year old Brit. One match the younger (Beck) beats the older, the other it's the other way around. I doze off for a point or two in the Slabinsky match.

Match #5, Ryan Harrison (US) vs. Daniel Munoz-de la Nava (Spain). Court #5
Why? Daniel was watching a match with me the day before, with his credential hanging down his back so I could read the name, which for first round qualies is as good a reason as most any to choose a match. And it directly follows Match #4 on the same court so I know I have time to attend to myself for a few minutes and get back for the start.

Why I should have watched this match: Harrison is an American phenom, only 16 years old, who made the semi-finals in the Australian Open juniors, is only the 10th player to win an ATP tour match before turning 16, and the 3rd youngest player to do so since 1990. He's #700 with a bullet in the ATP rankings, a wild card entrant. The Spaniard is a 26-year old who's been around for a long time.

As the first set progresses I am feeling very sorry for the Spaniard. It's looking a lot like when I visit my family in Connecticut and my 13-year old nephew beats me at Scrabble, or the 12-year old at some SP2 game with way too many buttons for my ossified adult mind that wants to deal with a joystick for Yar's Revenge and a paddle for Circus Atari. Harrison wins the set rather handily, 6-3. In part, this is because Munoz de la Nava is making a lot of what tennis people call "unforced errors," shots where you probably have the time and the opportunity to hit the ball back but end up botching it, which if you do often enough your opponent can kind of play it nice and easy and so long as he hits the ball in, you will hit it out. Or to put it another way, Harrison is playing well enough to win this set, but if his opponent stops botching it it, what then? The answer to that is revealed in the next two sets. Munoz de la Nava plays more cleanly, and wins the next two sets to win the match. So Harrison loses, but he shows poise on the court, the occasional ability to ace his way out of trouble with good first serves that can't be returned by his opponent, some decent shotmaking with power and pace and spin, and looks fairly comfortable at the net winning some points with excellent volleying which is not usual for a 16-year old or even for some 26-year olds. He hasn't lucked his way into his early success. But he also shows some flaws. He's not the classic tennis build and looks a tad stocky. You don't usually see this in the pro game for a reason: it's hard to win when you're running back and forth on a hot summer day with five or ten pounds you don't need. This may contribute to the back problem that requires Harrison to seek the trainer out, and at the end of the 3rd set he's carrying all of his 16 years looking either very tired or very much in back pain, and I am tempted to say a little bit of both. A couple times when Munoz de la Nava hits a lob, a shot that is designed to go overhead and fall in the back of the court while you are in the front, Harrison holds his ground and flails as the ball scoots by overhead instead of trying to race the ball back to the court and get in position to try and hit some kind of return shot back, which he does do the third time around. So maybe he's learning.

I read my 3rd Variety, finished a solid issue of Rolling Stone, start in on a National Geographic, do the NY Times. Vanilla chip ice at the Lemon Ice King. Dinner at the Jackson Diner. Classic NYC story, an Indian restaurant that kept the name when it took over a small-ish storefront diner 20 or 25 years ago, served great food, had cheap prices, long lines. Moved to a bigger space, part of a former Woolworth's when that chain went under, prices go up and the quality of the food starts to go down. Good news that they haven't raised prices this year like so many other restaurants, but the bowl of rice with my main was awfully small; two big spoonfuls or maybe three. And the main course was not very good at all. I may not go back except for the lunch buffet, though the restaurant will no doubt thrive for years on its past glories. I've slowly trended to splurging on Indian at Manhattan restaurants, because the Jackson Diner is long past the days of being as good or better for much less and now is cheaper in all ways.

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