FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – A few observations from a practice match on Arthur Ashe Stadium between Roger Federer and longtime friend and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka.
The first, and most notable one, is that Wawrinka appears to have all of his speed back.
Maybe it’s happened at some point earlier this season.
But it was our first real close-up view of him at work in a (fairly) serious practice session. And he was quick, and explosive. Impressive.
The level at which these two fellows do things is truly off the charts – even well into their 30s. Which is probably why Wawrinka, a late bloomer, is a multiple Grand Slam champion and Federer is … well, Federer.
Still. They hit the ball SO hard. And they move SO quickly from side to side – and up and back. The pace was literally furious. And the conditions seemed pretty quick, too.
Here’s what it looked like (as always, we’d have shot video if we could. Rightsholders rights and all, to be respected).
Wawrinka MIGHT have won
On this day, Federer had some issues getting onto Wawrinka’s serve. But since we don’t keep score when watching practice matches, we can’t tell you who won (plus, we didn’t watch it all).
It appeared that Wawrinka broke Federer when he was serving for the first set. And then, he won the tiebreak.
We do know that Federer looked fresh as a new rose despite the conditions in Arthur Ashe Stadium when the roof is closed. It’s a looong, long way from the way he looked during the last match he played in there, against John Millman at last year’s Open.
In that one, the conditions got the better of him for one of the rare times in his career.
Meanwhile, the opposite was true of Wawrinka.
The man was a dripping hunk of sweat – until he finally changed his shirt after that first set.
We kind of like that about him, actually.
Anyone who’s not as naturally gifted as these top players (that is to say … everyone, basically) can appreciate someone who appears as though it’s at least hard work to play at that level.
Small crowd for Fed-Stan
Arthur Ashe Stadium is open to the public before the first official day of play for the first time this year, during “Fan Week”.
But there was a surprisingly small crowd to see these two play. It was astonishing, really.
It’s not all that easy to get in; you have to know which gates are open (there are only a couple, both leading to that one side of the court across from the sit-down chairs. A lot of entrances are locked. The main entrance at the front of the stadium, through which thousands enter, was blocked by the “Fan Week” stages.
And it appeared they were doing a little crowd control outside all week, to limit the number of fans in there.
But as you can see, there were loads of empty seats.
Later that night, on the shuttle bus back to the city, we might have solved that mystery.
A fellow passenger, who works in TV but whose son was at the tournament, said that her son had been told, when he went to try to watch, that they weren’t allowing anyone into the stadium.
To bad for the fans who missed it.
But it was good for Jenson Brooksby, who was playing his final-round qualifying match around the same time.
The 18-year-old American had a pretty massive crowd to watch him make the main draw. Great atmosphere, too.