Arthur Ashe won the U. S. Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1970 and the Wimbledon Championship in 1975. He died tragically at age 49 in 1993, after contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion he'd received because of a heart condition.
Now the main stadium at the U. S. Open is named after him. And so you'll soon be able to see on TV the big tennis stars playing at Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY.
|A sunny day at the U. S. Open|
The tournament doesn't officially start until Monday. This week features the qualifying rounds, where lower-ranked players vie for a spot in the main show. There are 128 men and 128 women entered. The 16 men and women who win three rounds get to play in the first round of the Open.
My son and I (he played tennis in college; I played tennis on the playground) have gone to the Open together every year for the past ten years, at least. It's become a kind of tradition for us.
We like to go to the qualifying rounds, because they're much less crowded than the real event. So yesterday we met up in Flushing Meadows, and instead of standing in line and watching the big names from way back in the stands, we got to view some pretty amazing tennis up close and personal -- although, as you can see, the place is still crowded enough.
|If you think this is crowded, wait until next week!|
The cold fact is that the Americans are not as strong as they used to be (think Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Chrissy Evert). Now the biggest and best come from Europe (except for the Williams sisters and Serena isn't playing this year because she's pregnant); but think Roger Federer of Switzerland, Rafael Nadal of Spain, Andy Murray of Scotland, Angelique Kerber of Germany, Garbine Muguruza of Spain).
But there are plenty of Americans in the qualifying rounds.
|Louisa Chirico serves|
Not all of them won. The young New Yorker Louisa Chirico (ranked 145) was bested by the veteran Kaia Kanepi from Estonia (ranked 421) by a score of 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. Just f.y.i., in this sport, a "veteran" is 32 years old; and "young" means 21.
|Bernarda Pera awaits a serve|
Bernarda Pera (ranked 146) was born in Croatia but now plays as an American. She cruised to victory, 6-3, 6-4, over Irina Bara of Romania (ranked 192).
|Jamie Loeb disputes a call|
Jamie Loeb, from New York (ranked 156) won a nailbiter, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, against the Russian Vera Zvonareva (ranked 742), even after a disputed call went against her. If the name Zvonareva sounds familiar, she was once ranked No. 2 in the world and played in the both the Wimbledon and U. S. Open finals in 2010. Now at age 33 she is trying to power through a series of shoulder injuries.
|Evan King serves|
Evan King from Chicago (ranked 308) made a comeback -- 3-6, 6-1, 6-0 -- to defeat his Argentinian opponent Renzo Olivo (ranked 112).
|Mitchell Krueger blasts an overhead|
And Texan Mitchell Krueger (ranked 198) looked very impressive as, at 7-5, 6-4, he handily beat Egor Gerasimov from Minsk, Belarus (ranked 123).
Honestly, none of these players will likely make it past the first or second round at the U. S. Open. But they are still fantastic athletes, and so if you ever want to see some great tennis, without the crowds -- or at least with smaller, more manageable crowds -- come up to Queens, NY, in late August. And besides (if you're reading between the lines) you can see that it's a great way to spend a day with your grownup son.