© Ella Ling


Diary: The last-minute US Open champions


Mixed doubles is an acquired taste; some male players love it and excel at it (think the Bryans, Max Mirnyi, Leander Paes) – others just can’t work it out and even get annoyed when they lose their serve. The women enjoy taking on the men and many are good enough to more than hold their own.

You get some regular pairs (Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond) and some one-offs (Bob Bryan and Kim Clijsters) and then are those pairings that come about by accident or when a late injury or illness changes initial plans.

Bruno Soares and Ekaterina Makarova won the mixed doubles title at the US Open on Thursday, fit into another category for they only signed in to play together one minute before the cut-off time. Makarova had asked Soares to play but the Brazilian had already agreed to play with Jarmila Gajdosova, the Australian. However, their combined ranking was not high enough to get into the draw so with the deadline minutes away, it looked like he would miss out.

“With five minutes to go, I was in the referee’s office and I find out Katia (Makarova) is practising in the park,” Soares said. “So I had to run…actually, my coach did, he went running all the way over there and talked to her and called me with 30 seconds to go and said, “you can sign”. So at the very last minute, 11:59, I signed us in. I guess it worked out.”

It certainly did – to the tune of a grand slam title and $150,000 between them.

The walk between the metro stop at the US Open (Mets – Willets Point) and the entrance to the US Open takes about five minutes, during which time you usually have to weave your way through the throngs and politely turn down requests to buy or sell tickets from the ticket touts (or scalpers, as they call them here).

On Thursday, an anti-USTA protest group was handing out leaflets. They were not against the controversial changes to the scoring system in College Tennis (worth a story in itself) but against the alleged use by the USTA of “a contractor that does not pay its workers the proper area standard wages and benefits established by the hard working members of the District Council 9 Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO”.

The two leaflets mentioned the late Arthur Ashe as well as Billie Jean King, asking how they would feel if these allegations are true.

In response, a USTA spokesman said: “We are proud of all the work that the thousands of people who work here do, so that we can put on a world class event. I can assure you that we compensate our workers properly.”