Day Eight: Laughing Faces

One of the coolest things is seeing people waving and jumping around on the big screens in Arthur Ashe Stadium.  When the players are resting between games, sneaky photographers are capturing spectator antics for 20,000 of us to see.  I love the sudden jolt from placid to animated as the stars of the show realize that it’s all about them for a few seconds.  Young, old, in between … the human spirit is on display.

Late afternoon I was sitting high in Louis Armstrong Stadium, waiting for my dear Canadian hero Leylah Fernandez to begin play.  My heart was jumping up and down, which could make it difficult to sustain life.  When you’re so full, you just have to turn around and share the joy with the folks sitting behind.  I had to make sure they were cheering for Leylah, rather than the German player Angie Kerber.

A young woman and two young men seemed quite happy to clap for Leylah.  Good.  Our little cheering section.  They were most willing to talk to an old guy.  I found that refreshing.

Interlude: It’s now the next morning, just before the first match in Louis Armstrong.  We’ve just been asked to stand for the national anthem.  It’s time to sing, and I do, even though it’s not my anthem.  Feels good.

Back to yesterday.  As Leylah fashions another improbable comeback, I enjoy the “Go Leylah!”s coming from my new friends.  They’re into it!  As a matter of fact, so am I.  I stand up and yell a lot as Leylah hits winner after winner.

As Kerber’s final ball smashes into the net, the stadium explodes!  Decibel heaven.  Leylah prances around the court, arms held high.  Did she really beat Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber in consecutive matches?  Two former Grand Slam champions?  Yes, this lovely about-to-be 19-year-old did exactly that.

Areeka, Eshan, Rohan and I go out for dinner after the match, each of us choosing our fare from the food court.  Areeka and Rohan live in Texas, while Eshan calls Massachusetts home.  We are soon joined by their friend Ronak, who lives in New York City.  The four became friends while students at the University of Texas.

We talked tennis as if I’d been part of their lives for years.  Really we were talking about life, disguised as tennis.  I thought of the US Open ticket for Friday’s day session.  “Just give it to one of them, Bruce.”  Ronak was the only possibility, since the others were heading home soon.  He beamed a “Yes!” at me.  It only took a few minutes to cancel my attempt to sell and transfer the ticket to Ronak.  He gets to see the first men’s semi-final on Friday!  And so do I … with my friend Carolyne.

Okay … it’s time to watch Belinda Bencic from Switzerland go toe-to-toe with Iga Swiatek from Poland.  I’ll see you tomorrow.

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