New Haven, Connecticut. I had never been and I always wanted to check out the Yale campus. So sure, why not? Especially when my favorite tennis players were scheduled to show up at the last USO warm-up tournament, the James Blake Open. Well, they try to maintain a veneer of impartiality so they call it the Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue but I can't snark too hard. Pilot G-2s have been my pen of choice for the past 15 years. No really. I still have a ziplock bag of all the stuff I took with me into the California Bar Examination. It includes 2 completely empty Pilot G-2 .05s in blue.
I'm a bit particular about my writing instruments.
Where was I? Oh yes. New Haven.
So how does one get from Mason, Ohio to New Haven, Connecticut? Well, if one is trying to do it on the cheap, one takes a cab from Mason to Dayton, takes a flight to Detroit, gets lost in conversation with a friend, sprints 20 gates to barely make a connecting flight, stew in one's own sweat for an hour and a half, lands at JFK in New York, takes the subway to Grand Central Station while watching a fellow subway rider do pull-ups between stations, races onto a crowded train to New Haven, stands for an hour and 40 minutes while desperately trying to track Rafa's match via Twitter, gets off at New Haven Union Station, waits for a trolley that never comes, and finally hops into a cab that charges $10 for a .9 mile ride to downtown New Haven.
It was a long day. I dropped my shit off in my room and headed straight for the hotel bar. But 2 hours and three drinks later, I was good as new.
The town of New Haven is, to put it kindly, rather sketch. Lots of loitering, lots of police cars and sirens, and lots of darkness at night. I get a bit nervous when there isn't ample street lighting. But I'm not here to go all Rick Steves on New Haven. I'm here to watch some tennis. And that's what I did yesterday.
After a tournament shuttle ride with the Sisters Bondarenko and Shuai Peng (K-Bond likes her Sudoku, btw), I made it to the grounds just in time to see Pico pull out a win in his first qualie match. The side courts here are fantastic. The bleachers are close to the court and which makes it very easy to take pictures and hear the players and the coaches.
I also watched Sorana destroy Alla in the first set, only to blow three match points and lose the match in an 8-6 tiebreak. She's a frustrating one to watch these days. She has the weapons but lacks the consistency, and I'm not entirely sold on her tactics at the moment. In addition, she wasn't serving particularly well, making it very difficult to hold her serve. I stood right next to her coach, who had an amazing Burberry popped collar and was Vamosing like a motherfucker. the kid was pretty sad after the match.
Oh, and Alla's on court demeanor blows. But whatever floats her boat, I guess.
Unfortunately, the practice courts are tarped off, making practice court viewing (my favorite tourney pastime) really difficult. It's better than San Diego, where they had double tarps making it impossible to watch unless you literally smushed your face up against the fence, but still not ideal. Kind of a bummer but I'm sure I'll find a way to get my Sam practice fix as the week goes on.
The grounds themselves are great. Small enough to get around fairly easily, though the main stadium is fairly large, so it's a pain to walk around. Obviously yesterday was qualies only so the crowd was pretty small. I'll be interested to see how things progress as the week goes on.
Blah is a huge part of this tournament, like it or not. He gave a pre-tourney presser today, his mom is signing autographs, there are J-Block shirts for sale, he's at every promotional event, and I heard more people were watching him practice than were watching any of the qualie matches. He's the hometown boy so it's expected. But that doesn't mean I don't scratch my head.
I mean, he's Blah.
Sunday is All Access Hour for the WTA, but because Caro is still playing in Montreal and Elena has her first round match, it will just be Sam and Fran. Fine by me. I love them both and can't wait to talk to them. Assuming that I sack up and actually say words out loud. Which...is a 50/50 proposition.
So there you go. An unnecessarily long, rambling post about New Haven. It goes best with tequila.