Dylan Stableford is filing occasional reports from the U.S. Open here in New York City. (Well, Queens.) Here's a missive from last night's epic James Blake-Fabrice Santoro matchup. (Trust us, it was epic.)
The Open is heading into its middle weekend with few, if any, surprises — save for Roger Federer's sartorial choices (all-black, Roger? That's so un-Swiss of you!).
The best match of the tournament thus far happened last night: a three-and-a-half hour five-set-a-thon between James Blake and tireless, pesky Frenchman Fabrice "The Magician" Santoro, ostensibly the David Eckstein of tennis - that is, if Eckstein looked like Emilio Estevez, had a two-handed forehand and flick-returned everything.
Blake eventually dispatched Santoro 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 — Blake's first five-set win in 10 tries — but not before the 34-year-old Santoro — hobbled and cramping during much of the fifth set — won over the 17,000 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, despite the Connecticut native's inherited home-court advantage and raucous "J-Block" rooting section. (If you need proof New Yorkers like underdogs, look no further than last night: the J-Block couldn't even get a drunk Flushing crowd to chant along to "U.S.A.")
Blake followed another Sharapova snoozer (6-1, 6-0) that took 52 minutes. That's two matches in under two hours, in which she's lost a total of two games — proving once again there's absolutely no need to watch women's tennis until the quarterfinals. At the earliest.
The matches to watch this weekend: Rafael Nadal-Janko Tipsarevic. Sorry ladies. Nursing a pair of knee injuries, Nadal will be lucky to get through any match, let alone set up the Roger-Rafat championship some Agassi-Sampras-pining tennis nerds want. Does this sound like a second-seed to you? "Practicing and last minute of practice, I felt something, don't know in English. I have pain. Maybe if another tournament, don't go to court today. But it's the U.S. Open. You saw the match. I didn't run too much. I tried to run as less as possible and try to win.''
Federer-John Isner. Isner is a 6-foot-9, 22-year-old South Carolinian who, since his graduation from the University of Georgia six weeks ago, has climbed to 192 from 839 in the rankings thanks to a deadly 140 m.p.h. serve. Federer in straight sets.