Hooray! So last night was my annual trip to the US Open. Despite rain delays that pretty much ate up the entire Day Session, the weather yesterday evening for the Night Session was lovely. Well, it was VERY humid, but the skies were clear and it wasn't windy and Ashe stadium was pretty dry so I score this as a total spectator win. Conditions were much grosser if you were actually trying to compete, as all the players were sweating buckets. We had a great time and as scheduling luck would have it, my buddy Miguel and I got to see Rafa's match! My first time ever seeing him really compete in person. I previously had a grounds pass at the French Open in 2010 for the men's final when Rafa won, and I saw him play an exhibition with Delpo at MSG earlier this year, but this was my first in-stadium Rafa viewing during real competition. Our Hero did not disappoint, beating No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-1! Woohoo!
(Evening shot of Ashe from Court 17 as the clouds lift on the Night Session.)
When we arrived on the grounds, Federer was already losing to Robredo over on Armstrong, as a delayed match from the Day Session. There was no way to get into that stadium, as it was already filled to capacity. I don't know that it would've been fun to watch Fed self-destruct like that anyway. Watching it on the big screen while we were eating dinner was shocking enough. We also got to see the very beginning and end of the Raonic-Gasquet match on Court 17 which started just before Nadal's match and ended about 45 minutes after. Court 17 is such a fun court. Not a bad seat in the place. Really great design. Migs and I also hung around to see a bit of the Bryan Brothers doubles match. It's a shame they got such a late start, but I'm glad they didn't get bumped off of Ashe because of the rain.
(Ashe starts to fill up as the players take to the court!)
So now with our Grey Goose Honey Deuce signature cocktails in hand, it was time to take our seats for the main event. OMG, guys. Kohlschreiber! WTF. This dude came to PLAY. Despite my continued suggestions throughout the first set, that he just give up and have the match get to its inevitable conclusion sooner rather tha later, he refused to listen to me. That was really annoying of him.
In the first set, Kohl was hitting truly wicked serves and returns. Rafa's service game was not being threatened. Nadal only faced one break point the whole match and that wasn't until the match was over two hours long and into the start of the 4th set. And Rafa really should've won the 1st set. He had 3 set points from 0-40 on Kohlschreiber's serve, and couldn't convert them. Then Kohl played incredibly well in the tie break and took the set. The crowd was stunned. I was less than pleased. I had been politely clapping for Kohl's winners during the first set, but that came to an abrupt stop when he won the tie break and did not resume for the rest of the match. Migs continued to clap for Kohl's best shots, but I decided to be civil and not get into a big argument with him about it.
(There he is! I saw him and the world went away...)
While this drama was going on in front of us, Fed was busy losing on Ashe and lots of people in our stadium were listening to that go down on their headsets. Watching Rafa fall was making for a crazy anxious energy. This was not supposed to happen! All in all Rafa for the match, was really poor on break point conversions - only 5-21. It was his only weak stat, but it's still an important one. It really wasn't that he was making errors on big points. Philipp was just playing these incredible Rafa-esque shots when his back was up against the wall. Rafa had a a 0-40 opportunity on Kohl's serve early in the second set and again couldn't get it done. Luckily he had another chance later and made it stick.
There was an INSANE first game to start the third set that went on forever and featured a dizzying amount of deuce points (the jumbo screen didn't keep a tally but it was A LOT, evidenced by the astonished groans from the crowd with each missed advantage point) and eight break chances for Nadal. Still, somehow Kohl survived the game. In those three games that I just mentioned, that's 14 missed break points! Rafa remained focused, however and eventually he converted his chances for decisive breaks in the second, third and fourth sets. Victory was his!
I have to say, it's truly a special thing to see Rafa's most unbelievable shots happen live. It's just a different perspective to see it happening right in front of you. They seem that much more physcially impossible. I'm so happy I got to see him win this year!
Next up, Rafa gets Tommy Robredo, instead of our first ever US Open match between Rafa and Fed. Nadal has a 6-0 lifetime record against his elder statesman, but they haven't actually played against each other since 2009. You can only play one match at a time, but Rafa has a favorable road ahead back to the final. Robredo in the quarters and most likely Ferrer in the semis. If he keeps up this level of play and focus, we should see Rafa back in the finals on Monday. VAMOS!!