Editor’s Note: Albuquerque’s James Owens is in New York for the U.S. Open and contribute stories to Enchantment Sports during the event. A longtime John McEnroe fan, Owens spent Saturday at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy.
Photos by James Owens
By James Owens
For Enchantment Sports
RANDALL ISLAND, NEW YORK — It is U.S. Open Week 2019 in New York City. But nestled in among the Randall Island fast pitch softball diamonds, you will hear the unmistakable sound of tennis balls rocketing across the island.
The tennis world will look on at the Billie Jean King USTA Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York, but in the middle of the Saturday afternoon before the start of the U.S. Open pro Dominick Thiem and No. 4 seed, is getting in final preparations on the hard court at the 20 court John McEnroe Tennis Center just east of Harlem on the East River.
The tennis center opened in August 2010 aimed to give aspiring young players an avenue to professional tennis. Many of the twenty courts are occupied on this Saturday afternoon. Not surprisingly, there are no tennis tantrums among the youngsters playing in a tournament. This is all business, tennis business.
A visit to the McEnroe Tennis Center, quietly appointed with all the former World No.1’s major championship trophies, next to copies of each of the over 64 Sports Illustrated Covers he graced throughout his career, is a rather uncelebrated walk through the past twenty-five years of McEnroe’s career.
John has traded that past for the future of tennis. Here candidates from all over the world, gather to receive one on one training from McEnroe and an impressive host of top teaching pros. The summer clinics are but a memory, and on this day, McEnroe is with his brother Patrick hosting a celebrity Pro Am in the Hamptons raising funds for his JMTP Tennis Charity.
On Saturday, with the Open beginning in less than 48 hours. Dominick Thiem hoped to regain his early-season form, walloping serve after serve, shirtless in the afternoon sun, while two coaches observed.
I began following the post pro tennis life of McEnroe in New York, quite by chance during 2009, as I spent time walking the halls of Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan’s Upper East side.
One afternoon I had to check on a new born child and his mother, and noticed the second floor of the hospital was named the John P. McEnroe and Tatum O’Neal Neo-natal /Pediatric center.
John, who is father to six of his own children, sponsored the floor with his wife Tatum O’Neal, with very little fan-fare outside the very wide Upper East Side Manhattan circles.
For the next three weeks, the tennis universe will focus its attention on Flushing Meadows, New York. Men’s No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Roger Federer must overcome an array of young stars on the men’s side. The women’s draw is to be filled with surprise. Coco Gauff was given a wild card qualifier and awaits Osaka, in the third round should both prevail to that point.
But over this quiet sultry weekend, everyone is a possible favorite. In the wide open women’s draw, that is truly the case, with young women peppered throughout the draw, who with a break, can claim the Open Championship. Naomi Osaka is the defending champ in a 2018 U.S. Open final remembered more for the reverberating boo’s heard around the stadium floor after she unseated Serena. Osaka’s tender right knee may open the doors for Serena or a host of others to walk through. Gauff is a qualifier in both singles and doubles.
There was a great deal of buzz heading into Ms. Serena’s opening match on Monday night, when she took on World’s No. 64 Maria Sharapova. The two have never met in the U.S. Open but despite Venus’ (19-2) career mastery over Ms. Sharapova, their first round encounter is a much anticipated matchup.
It didn’t last long, however. Serena took a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
Some of the biggest questions at The Open: Will Venus win her 24th Major here?
Can Federer flip the five-set Wimbledon script on Djokovic?
Only time can tell. But we are off to a great first weekend here in New York City.
Hope to give you more snapshots of what has gone on here.
James Owens is an Albuquerque attorney, whose side business is Southwestern Sojourner. He travels throughout the USA looking for out of the way travel/sports/golf destinations that folks in the Southwest wouldn’t otherwise know about.