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Alix Ramsay Shares Her Views Of NYC • Looks Over The 2019 U.S. OPEN Tennis Draws For 10sBalls

Oh, to be in New York now that the US Open is here. The air is as thick as treacle as the humidity smothers all in its path, there are queues for everything (although not a lot is really open yet) and all the security guards have been briefed in different ways to approach the same problem with the end result being that simply getting into work of a morning is all but impossible. Yes, it is indeed good to be back.

Still, we are in New York. Yes, it is a manic city but it is also a great place to be for three weeks. For a start, it is almost impossible to get lost in Manhattan, not that that stops some of m’colleagues from wandering off piste. Provided you know your left from your right and your up from your down, you will be fine. And then there are m’colleagues…enough said.

The first few days are spent happily terrifying the locals. Most New Yorkers would claim to be hardened city folk, people who are not fazed by much nor frightened by anything. And then they meet a Brit abroad (or, in my case, a broad who is also a Brit).

The look of utter shock and awe on their faces when you open negotiations with a frightfully polite “please, would you mind terribly if….” and conclude them with an equally polite “thank you ever so much”. Of course, it means you get served last in shops and delis as the shopkeepers put out an alert about a mad woman on the loose – polite but still mad – and the appeal does fade after a few days but it is still worth the game.

The draw, of course, is a sign that the fun and games are almost over and it is time for the serious work to begin. And as is the way with draws of late, this year’s men’s draw is a belter.

Felix A-A and Denis Shapovalov must wonder what they did wrong in a previous life: for the second year running, Canada’s two young hopes have been drawn against each other in the first round.

Twelve months ago, it was Shapovalov, one year older than his great friend, who emerged victorious. The heat had become too much for the then 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime and at a set apiece but with Felix 4-1 down in the third, he threw in the towel. He was in tears with his mate Shapovalov sitting beside him in an attempt to console him. There would be other big matches on big courts, Felix would have more chances. It wasn’t all bad.

And there have been other chances for Felix this year. The semi-finals in Miami, the finals on clay in Rio and Lyon and on grass in Stuttgart and, oh, yes, a first round win over Shapovalov in Madrid back in May. He is now the world No.19 while Shapovalov is unseeded at No.38 in the pecking order. Who will be consoling whom by the end of this year’s first round?

As usual, all eyes will be upon the much vaunted Next Gen boys only these days, the fascination is more like the rubber-neckers who drive slowly past a car crash to check out the damage.

Stefanos Tsitsipas started the year with a bang, reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne and beating Roger Federer along the way, and he built on that success over the next few months. But since he lost a huge fourth round, five-setter to Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros, he hasn’t been quite the same player – his semi-final loss to Nick Kyrgios in Washington is his best result in ages.

Now then, Mr Kyrgios. He opens his account against Steve Johnson and could, in theory, face Tsitsipas in the third round. Of course, there are many sets to be played and many meltdowns to be dodged before he gets that far…and that set us to thinking.

We all know about Kyrgios’s infamous explosion in Cincinnati a week ago. His antics then cost him a whopping $113,000 in fines for everything from unsportsmanlike conduct to verbal abuse as he called the umpire, Fergus Murphy, “the worst f*****g umpire on the tour”, a potato and “a f*****g tool”. He also smashed a couple of rackets, walked off court without permission – that was to smash the rackets – and did everything in his power to rile the Irishman in the chair. All of that came just 10 days after he had charmed everyone on his way to winning the title in Washington. Which Nick turns up to play against Johnson, we wait to see.

But surely this begs the question: why did Murphy have to sit and take all this abuse? It is one thing to blame Kyrgios for his abominable behavior – and he deserves everything that is coming to him after this latest performance – but why are the rules not stricter? Why does the umpire have to sit there and take the verbal hammering? Surely he should have the power to default any player who acts in such a manner. After all, if you walked into a pub and started shouting obscenities and abuse at the landlord, the police would be called and, at the very least, you would be barred from the pub. You would, most probably, end up in front of the magistrate.

If the rules were stricter, Kyrgios and every other hothead would know just how far they could go before the walls came crashing down on top of them. The umpires would also know that they had a real weapon to use in self defence. And the ATP would not be able to use their short-tempered but talented players like ATMs, withdrawing cash from their prize money cheques as the fines mounted up.

Kyrgios isn’t stupid – although, at times, he is daft – and if he knew that the rules were not only strict but strictly enforced, maybe he would not fly off the handle quite so easily. It might not work but surely it is worth a try.

But back to the draw: Rafa is seeded to face Sascha Zverev in the quarter-finals although very few would risk a fiver on that happening (Zverev does not seem to have made any progress at all since he was dumped by Ivan Lendl). Dominic Thiem is Rafa’s scheduled semi-final opponent. On the other side of the draw, the Mighty Fed and the Djoker should be squaring up for a semi-final showdown, a second running of their recent Wimbledon final. And if Roger gets two match points this time, will he be able to take them? Watch this space.

In the women’s draw, the match of the opening round is Serena against Shazza. The two old rivals have been at each other’s throats for 15 years and after 21 meetings, Serena leads 19-2. But this is New York where Serena gets horribly nervous. She is also not the same Serena as in years gone by. Then again, Shazza’s shoulder is held together with sticky tape and hope. But she does love a scrap and even if she is crocked for the next round, this could be her best chance of getting that third win over Ms W. Either way, it should be a sell-out.

Right, there are three and a bit days to go before it all kicks off in Flushing Meadows. That is more than enough time to go and terrify a few more locals. Manhattan, here I come…

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