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Monday, July 22, 2024

An evening to forget!

It would be safe to say that the spectators’ thrill of getting to watch the last match at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Tuesday along with Rory McIlroy was not matched by the golfer’s emotions on the night. While the significant crowd got its fill of the celebrity sighting through their many photographs and autographs from the world No.1, McIlroy was left holding his head in his hands — literally — as girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki combusted to a miserable first-round exit from the US Open.


McIlroy has embraced the world of tennis quite charmingly — even taking part in a WTA promotional campaign along with Wozniacki earlier this month — and his evening started pleasantly enough as he giggled around with the Dane on the practice courts at Flushing Meadows before the match. The golfer, who has presumably simply stayed back after the end of the Barclays tournament in the neighbouring Bethpage course this weekend, then merrily signed tennis balls passed down to him in his reserved seating area.    But with Wozniacki clearly bothered by a knee problem that has persisted since she was forced to withdraw from the semi-finals at New Haven, McIlroy’s look of concern turned into a full-fledged frown by the close of the 6-2 6-2 stroll for Romanian Irine-Camelia Begu. Begu, who had never before won a match in this tournament, is ranked 96th in the world to Wozniacki’s ninth, but outhit, outran and outlasted her celebrated opponent.    The loss meant that Wozniacki has now gone another tournament and not won even a single title this year. She won at least three titles in each of the last four, and went on to finish both the 2010 and 2011 seasons as the World No 1.    She hasn’t gone past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam this year and also lost in the first round at Wimbledon. But the US Open had been her chosen Slam: three years ago she made the final here, losing to Kim Clijsters, and her last two trips to New York have taken her to the semi-finals.    McIlroy bounced off questions of distraction that keep getting thrown at the two young players since they went public with their relationship by strolling to his second Major win at the PGA Championship in early August. It’s been harder for Wozniacki to deliver a firm statement, and Tuesday’s upset is not going to quiet anyone down.    Off on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the word upset wasn’t even close to being a part of the conversation. With the wind whooshing around the cavernous court on a cool evening, the respective opponents of the two night court headliners were left clueless.    Novak Djokovic, who spent 4 hours and 10 minutes when he was on this court the last time, in last year’s final against Rafael Nadal, had to devote only 73 minutes of his Tuesday night in dismissing Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi 6-1 6-0 6-1.    The fairly full stadium, worried it wouldn’t get its money worth, tried to push the Italian toward Hawk-eye challenges just to whip up some otherwise no-existent drama. Serena Williams, on next, was equally boringly errorless in her 6-1 6-1 win over 20-year-old fellow American Coco Vandeweghe.    The Ashe crowd is said to be ambiguous about Serena and the tantrums that tend to come from her once in a while, but the audience at Armstrong was nothing if not clear about their devotion for Sloane Stephens, who was on court just before Wozniacki.    Stephens, a 19-year-old American who was in the fourth round at Wimbledon in June, has a wicked forehand and the ability to run around quickly, two attacking angles the 32-year-old Francesca Schiavone could hardly deal with on the day.    With “Let’s go, Sloane, let’s go” vibrating through the stadium as the evening light turned golden and the stadium sensed the young home player was not going to crumble under pressure, the attempted second-set comeback from the Italian was thwarted without a lot of resistance. Stephens, who is grinning away on USTA posters all over the No 7 subway train to the venue, won 6-3 6-4 to start the upset queue on the court and skipped away in joy.

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