| Martina Hingis of Switzerland after beating Amanda Coetzer of South Africa at the US Open Saturday. Hingis won 6-3, 6-4. (AFP)
New York: They are the rowdiest crowds in tennis. They intimidate players, talk on cell phones during play and ignore the pleas for quiet from the umpires.
They drove Greg Rusedski to distraction, to the point the Briton filed a complaint with the supervisor following his Round II-win over Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan.
They taunted world number one Lleyton Hewitt with shouts of “racist” during his third-round victory over American heartthrob James Blake, leaving a stain on Saturday’s feature match.
Welcome to New York and the US Open.
To the uninitiated, the 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe stadium court can seem nothing less than a seething Roman coliseum, a rabid crowd looking for blood.
If you are American and your name is Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jennifer Capriati or Venus and Serena Williams you are embraced. If you are anything else you are fair game.
“When I get the call to go out there and open up a night session, it sends shivers up my spine,” said Agassi following his opening match on Monday. “I love it, there’s no other place I’d rather be.
“I’ve always appreciated the heart and spirit of New Yorkers. There’s a lot of inspiration in the hearts and minds of everybody that’s in this city.”
There was never any doubt that Blake would have the lion’s share of support for his third-round match, won by Hewitt 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
The rematch produced the entertaining, high-calibre tennis everyone had expected but none of the fireworks of last year’s second-round showdown when the Australian appeared to suggest to the umpire that an African-American linesman was favouring Blake with his calls because of the colour of the two men.
While the players had put last year’s controversial clash behind them, some members of the large Arthur Ashe stadium crowd had not, one spectator shouting, “Don’t let him beat you James, he’s a racist.”
“I just apologised for any fans that were speaking out negatively,” said Blake when asked what he had told Hewitt after the match. “That was something I was a bit embarrassed by, when a few fans did that. But that’s what you’re always going to get at US Open.
One player the New York crowd has not been able to get to is Hewitt, the 21-year-old proving he is not only the most tenacious competitor on the men’s tour but the most focused as well. “You’re always going to get a few nutters in the crowd,” said Hewitt. “Can’t do much about it.
Serena stalker charged
A German man was charged with stalking tennis star Serena Williams after he was spotted watching her through a fence at the US Open, police said. Just weeks earlier, the same man had been arrested for scuffling with the police at Wimbledon, adds AP.
Albrecht Stromeyer, 34, was taken into custody Friday after an officer recognised him from a photo given to police by Williams’ manager, said detective Louis Camacho.