This summer, thousands of tennis fans from all over took the 7 train to its final stop to watch one of the most competitive tennis events in the world, the 2013 U.S. Open Tennis Championships. These fans purchased their tickets months in advance and waited on long lines, with hopes of seeing epic matches packed with drama, intensity, and emotion.
While fans were busy searching for tennis stars on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the ball people in blue, who were neither supposed to be seen nor heard, were busy searching for what court they were assigned to and preparing to work their mandated two matches a day.
Being a U.S. Open ball boy this summer was a totally different experience for me. I’ve been to the U.S. Open as a fan many times before, but being in the middle of the action as a ball boy is a unique experience.
Aside from the obvious difference between the ball people and the fans, that one works while the other is entertained, another difference is the amount of interaction with the players. As a ball boy, I felt the tension on the court. I saw the pressure the players were under on their faces. Ball people directly experience and deal with the emotions of the players when they throw their towels and demand PowerAde.
This U.S. Open was a particularly exciting one to have worked at. While the big winners, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, were the favorites going in, there were quite a few upsets that took the tennis world by surprise.
The biggest surprise was probably the fourth round loss of the number seven seed Roger Federer to Tommy Robredo. Federer, a 17 time Grand Slam Champion is always expected to make it to the semifinals of a Grand Slam, and is often considered the favorite. However, his loss of 7-6(3), 6-3, and 6-4 came as a shock to many fans.
Federer’s loss opened up the field for the various players who many assumed wouldn’t have been able to challenge the world-renowned star. However, Federer is 32 years old. He’s not as young as the other top competitors. It’s likely that this major loss will be considered the beginning of his decline.
The semifinal loss of the Williams sisters in the women’s doubles and the Bryans brothers in the men’s doubles was disappointing considering the high hopes everyone had for these teams. They were playing on their home turf, in the United States’ main tennis, thus magnifying the impact of their losses.
Despite this series of disappointments at the U.S. Open, a rising star did emerge in this tournament. Fifteen-year-old Victoria Duval surprised everyone with her first round win over former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia.
In her second U.S. Open appearance, Duval played well through all of the qualifying rounds and made it to the main draw, as expected. However, when the draws came out and she had to play against Stosur, many counted her out and assumed it’d be a routine match. However, Duval shocked everyone with her powerful forehands and solid return of serve, she claimed the win in three sets: 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
While the 2013 U.S. Open was not a routine tournament, with big names, like Venus Williams, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer, exiting early, unexpected players, such as Flavia Pennetta and Stanislas Wawrinka, went significantly farther than anyone expected and made the 2013 U.S. Open a rather exciting tournament.