Alec Baldwin, Stanley Tucci highlight an exciting opening of first round of play
There’s only one way to kick off a tennis Grand Slam tournament in New York: Celebrities.
The first day of the U.S Open brought its highlights on the court (read below) but it also made a glitzy opening night. Every year the USTA hosts its Gala, a major fundraiser for “USTA Serves,” which contributes over $400,000 to fund college scholarships and program grants to tennis and education programs over the country.
Helping kick off the event, which included a reception, dinner, live and silent auctions, first-round matches, and the opening night ceremonies, were popular movie and television actors Alec Baldwin and Stanley Tucci.
Baldwin declined to answer questions from the media, but Tucci was more than willing to speak, professing the importance of the benefit and its mission. Amidst the backdrop of the tennis player’s entrance, he was also candid about his own athleticism.
“I ski, I play tennis, I play soccer,” he said, but when asked how he was at tennis, he glibly replied, “terrible.”
Also walking the red carpet was Grammy-nominated pop singer and current star of the film Sparkle, Jordin Sparks. She sang the National Anthem at the opening ceremonies to a crowded Arthur Ashe stadium, one that had endured an ominous soaking during the afternoon that thankfully subsided before the night’s festivities. When asked about her favorite tennis players, she wasn’t shy to admit her past.
“I love the Williams sisters. I think they’re great and their red carpet style is amazing as well,” said Sparks. “But to be completely honest, I still like Andy Roddick, and I think it’s because I had a huge crush on him when I was younger.”
Also sending Williams support was actress Anna Chlumskey, who stars in the new television series Veep.
“I love Serena and I’m obsessed with Tsonga. I love Tsonga so much, he’s so much fun to watch,” she said.
Filling out a truly eclectic red carpet was actor Zach Braff, Debbie Phelps, mother of Olympic champion Michael Phelps, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who with a quick trot inside and a hand wave proclaimed, “it’s a great event.”
Not very extensive, but that’s the way Red Carpets go. He sums it up pretty nicely I’d say.
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Onto the court
Not a whole lot of surprises here on the first day, except for maybe the half-hour jolt of rain that suspended play for over an hour. Unaffected was women’s U.S. Open reigning champion Samantha Stosur, who swept two sets 6-1, 6-1 against Petra Martic. She didn’t miss a beat, winning the first 19 points of the match, several shy of capturing a golden set.
“I don't think it was nerves,” she said. "I think it was just 19 points in a row. You're going to lose one at some point. It's just the way it goes.”
Other easy first matches went to #1 Victoria Azarenka, #3 Maria Sharapova, and #9 Li Na. Intriguing notables included Kim Clijsters, who hadn’t lost at the U.S. Open since 2003 for a streak of 21 matches. She defeated young, promising player Victoria Duval. Clijsters says this will be her last tournament before hanging up her tennis sneakers. The Germans also suffered Monday, most notably Sabine Lisicki, a former Wimbledon semifinalist, who lost to Sorana Christia in three sets.
On the men’s side it was much the same. Andy Murray won in three sets, but it was his gristly play in the second that cemented the sweep. Down four games to three, Murray rallied through some hamstring pain to break serve and escape with a commanding two-set lead. Give credit to his opponent Alex Bogomolov Jr. though, who in the middle of the match, switched his shirt, put on a backwards cap Lleyton Hewett style, and forced Murray into some tough corners.
“I played fairly well from the back of the court. I just would have liked to have served a bit better because I wasn't getting many free points on my serve,” said Murray. “Because of that, there were a lot more rallies. When he's in a rhythm, he's tough to break down. “
Home crowd favorite James Blake collected his first win and other American, #23 ranked Mardy Fish, won in three sets after accomplishing two tie-breaks. American Donald Young wasn’t as fortunate, still managing a strong effort against #1 Roger Federer.
Andy Roddick, Serena Williams, and Novak Djokovic highlight Tuesday’s action, looking to get off to important first round starts.
Monday was a star-studded day. Flushing Meadows is alive again.