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Tennis Ramblings From Alix Ramsay For Labor Day At The 2019 U.S. Open • Keep Your Day Job

Andrey Rublev? In a boyband? Surely not. Not the 21-year-old, world No.43 who now sits in a startlingly open quarter of the draw and who, should he beat Matteo Berrettini on Monday, will be through to his second US Open quarter-final…not him? Oh, but yes.

Four years ago, when he was but a mere stripling, he and three mates formed a One Direction tribute band, calling themselves Summer Afternoon. They recorded their version of ‘Steal My Girl’, produced a video to go with it and their music careers were born. Andrey wants to keep up with this music business, too, provided his tennis does not get in the way. That, though, is not working out as planned: Andrey’s tennis is getting better by the week so his singing will just have to wait.

Anyway, this got us to thinking: which players would fit in which band and what would be their best song? Well, it helped fill a quiet afternoon. And this is what we came up with:

Novak Djokovic and Black Sabbath. If you think Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a live bat is scary, you have not seen Djoko getting involved in a spat with a spectator on the practice court. Whatever the fan said – some reports claim the fan told Djoko and his poorly, sorely shoulder to retire before his match with Denis Kudla on Friday – it clearly riled the world No.1. “I’ll come find you,” Djoko was heard saying to the man in the crowd. “I’ll come find you afterwards. Trust me, I’ll come find you.” When the security people tried to move the fan out of Djoko’s eyeline (he wasn’t actually removed from the stands), Djoko was also heard to instruct the guards to get a photo of the man so that he could be recognised in the future. Perhaps Djoko had been listening to Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ on the way into work.

Nick Kyrgios and either the Kaiser Chiefs (I Predict a Riot) or Young Thug (Bad Bad Bad). Need we say more?

Rafa Nadal and the Waterboys. The former US Open champion likes nothing better than to go home to Manacor and take his boat out on the Med for a spot of fishing. The Waterboys song ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ would suit him nicely, then. Or he could try and muscle in on the country duo of Maddie and Tae and their little ditty: Shut Up And Fish.

Roger Federer and the One-handed Backhand Boys. This one is real – the boyband of Fed, Grigor Dimitrov and Tommy Haas formed in 2017 at Indian Wells. The compilation of their greatest hit (singular) features their version of Chicago’s ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’ and only survived due to Tommy’s father-in-law, the song writer and record producer David Foster. After the initial recording, Foster worked his magic in the studio and thanks to the sort of technology that can make an asthmatic duck sound like Pavarotti, he produced a minute and half of almost tuneful warbling from the trio. Fortunately, all three “singers” decided to stick to their day jobs after that.

Jelena Jankovic and Kiss. This is simply on account of her over-zealous use of make-up. There were times in her career when JJ made Kiss look au naturel.

Tim Henman and Beige. Dame Timothy was once described as “the human form of beige” by the late, great comedian Linda Smith and, guess what, there is a Brooklyn band called just that: Beige. One of their better-known songs is “Folds”. Feel free to insert your own joke here.

Jo Konta and Madness. Fond of a spot of psychobabble as she explains the emotional rollercoaster rides that constitute some of her grand slam matches, Jo-Ko and the Camden Town ska band are a good fit. Their No.1 ‘One Step Beyond’ is particularly apt after her three-set win over Karolina Pliskova on Sunday. For their first time in her career, she had reached three consecutive grand slam quarter-finals and had made the last eight in New York. At long last she had gone ‘One Step Beyond’.

That step was hugely important for Konta. When she arrived, she had not won a match since Wimbledon (she had only played two) and yet she was brimming with confidence. As she happily told the telly people, playing so few matches on the hard courts meant that she had conserved her energies for her “three-week stay in New York”. She came here planning on staying until the bitter end.

In the past, she has had her decent runs in grand slams but they have been one-off occasions. This year, she has been consistent at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and now here in Flushing Meadows. It means that, yet again, she is rewriting Jo Durie’s elderly records: she is the first British woman since Durie 36 years ago to reach the last eight here. Just as she was the first woman to reach the French semi-finals since Durie. But it all adds up for Konta: every milestone is vitally important for her.

The look of sheer joy on her face when she did for Pliskova, a woman she had lost to in six out of seven previous matches, told its own story. She had managed to lose the first set – which she should have won – she turned around the second set which, by rights, she should have lost, and in the third, she was fearless. Pasting the lines with thumping winners, she earned her quarter-final spot 6-7, 6-3, 7-5.

“It was my third time here in the fourth round,” she said with a huge smile, “so to go one step further is a massive achievement for me and I’m really looking forward to making that one, two, maybe three steps further but I’m really enjoying today for what it brings. To be in the quarter-finals of a slam again and for the third time in a row for me this season is a massive achievement for me so I’m really pleased.”

John McEnroe claimed that Konta could win the title next weekend (although he did qualify that with the thought that Konta and several others all stood a good chance of success). The player herself has planned to be here on the final weekend and now, at last, she has taken that one step beyond and reached the quarters. It was a remarkable performance and a great result. The song ain’t bad either – you should give it a listen on YouTube – so now we wait to see just how far into the beyond Jo-Ko can go.

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