This whole blog post was written with tissues nearby, as I mourn yet another Roger Federer early exit from a Grand Slam Tournament…
So I went back to the U.S. Open on Monday, for the fourth time in a week.
This time though, I didn’t go as an obsessed fan. I went as a good old working sportswriter, like I used to be.
If you’ll indulge me, it was one of the cooler assignments I’ve ever gotten to do, not just because it was the Open, but because of the player I was there to cover.
I first met Reilly Opelka when he was 12 years old, and a local junior tennis stud in Palm Coast, Fla., right outside Daytona Beach, where I worked at the time. I heard about him through some tennis people I knew there, and I went out to his house one day to do a story on him.
It was to be nothing more than a “local kid shows promise in a sport” story, one newspaper reporters like me do all the time.
I found Reilly’s parents to be charming, and the kid to be really down-t0-earth and sweet. I hit some balls with him on their backyard court and he had me sweating quite a bit, but I think I was still a little better than him (maybe).
I followed his junior career a little bit over the next few years, but not as much since I moved back to NY two years ago. I knew he was training full-time at the USTA National Development Center in Boca Raton, which meant he was a serious prospect in the sport.
Fast forward to Sunday, when I was looking at the U.S. Open juniors draw, and saw Reilly’s name on the entry sheet.
I was stunned. He just turned 16, and last week he won two qualifying matches, and now, unbelievably, a kid who three years ago I was still able to win points off of, was scheduled for a first-round match on Monday.
I caught up with his parents during the long rain-delay at the Open, and they had this “can you believe we’re actually here to watch Reilly at the Open?” expression on their face the whole time we chatted.
It was a great thrill for them, even though Reilly’s match got rained out Monday (he’s now scheduled to play today).
And if he grows up to be a Grand Slam champion, well, hey, I can remind him that I dominated him when he was 12.
**Next up, in case you’re not quite sick of that Robin Thicke song yet, a pretty funny mash-up involving “Blurred Lines” and “The Cosby Show.”
Personally, given that Robin Thicke is Alan Thicke’s son, using “Growing Pains” would’ve been more appropriate.
“Show me that smile again…” my knowledge of 1980s TV theme songs is unsurpassed!
And finally, because this also made me laugh Monday night, Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise react to that hideous Miley Cyrus performance at the VMA’s…(hat tip to my friends Scott and Dinah, who alerted me to it on Facebook)