By Jill Neuharth
Turned out to be a pretty nice day for the qualifiers as Bopanna, Peya and Evans all advanced to the second round. Only Jun, who lost to American Donald Young, failed to round out the quartet. To his credit, he made the bejeweled American work for it in split sets. In fact all of the singles matches except one went into three sets. 2005 finalist Vince Spadea won his first set then lost the second. By the third he culled all his previous Newport experience to come out with a win. Nothing fancy, he just remembered not to let the ball bounce. Paul Capdeville should have taken a meeting with Spadea prior to his match with Brendan Evans. If anyone at my tennis club had seen the match they would have thought I was his coach. His shots were pretty much everywhere but the singles court. Maybe he was confused and thought this was a clay tournament?
I can totally emphasize with the players, as I found out for myself what these courts are like. Most Americans including moi, have never played on, let alone seen a grass court. Sure, we’ve all seen putting greens and baseball fields, but those sports are not counting on the rebound ability of the surface. Unlike the ultra-firm courts of Wimbledon, the Newport courts tend to give the feel of playing on wet clay. For those fortunate enough to have played in the rain on a wet court, you already know how the balls barely bounce and when they do, they take on otherworldly properties.
Two things made my first grass court experience memorable; the racket and the partner. I had the opportunity to try out my strokes on the grass court this afternoon with Brian Battistone. He and his brother Dann have been creating some waves and gaining a following for their unusual style of play and even more unusual rackets. Called the “Natural One,” the 29-inch racket has not one but two handles. The unique handle angle puts less stress on your elbows and helps the body balance better. I loved it so much I bought one. They boys helped the inventor of the racket work out the bugs and are now the only players using it. To answer your next question, yes it is legal. The brothers carry an approval letter from the ITF to all the tournaments they play. Up until this week those events have consisted of challengers and futures. They will make their ATP debut tomorrow on center court. The rackets aren’t the only fan draw. Brian, my hitting partner, has a jump serve similar to a volleyball player. The tall and lanky Brian throws the ball high up in the air and jumps at least three feet off the ground for contact. He says he has only been clocked once; his speed was 139.
I was having so much fun hitting with my new toy (the racket not the partner) that I almost missed the last two matches of the day. The number one singles seed took out the number one doubles seed. Fish/Isner beat the Mahut/Santoro team in a very quick two-set match. Ending at almost the exact same moment, two European guys who I never heard of until today, beat Levine and Dancevic also in two sets. My Sea Breeze is empty, the sun is setting and my feet hurt from my six-mile hike this morning on the famous Newport Cliff Walk and Bellevue Avenue. Time for some lobster!
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