If you had the luxury of putting aside your work today to watch NCAA champion Devin Britton play Roger Federer on Arthur Ashe, as I did, you probably directed several remarks, loudly, at the television set.
Although I really appreciated John McEnroe's defense of college tennis as a viable path to the tour (after all, he went for a year), and he was unerringly correct when criticizing Britton for playing too quickly and rallying too much from the baseline, it was apparent that his new partnership with ESPN's longtime commentator Cliff Drysdale needs polish. There was altogether too much of the flattery that always seems to be required when a former champion is in a television booth, and although McEnroe said he saw Britton play at Wimbledon, it was obvious that Darren Cahill, the courtside reporter for the match, was the only one of the trio that actually knew his game.
I can't criticize ESPN's decision to stay with the Isner - Hanescu second set tiebreaker, which Isner won 16-14, saving 10 set points, but it was difficult to get a feel for how Britton and Federer played over the course of the entire match. Britton was up a break twice, 3-1 in the second set and 4-3 in the third, but each time Federer got the break right back, never leaving any doubt as to the outcome. Britton didn't volley as effectively as he usually does, but I thought he served well--in one game he aced Federer three times--he just didn't handle the Federer returns as calmly as he does similar ones from lesser mortals.
In a tweet a few hours after his loss, Britton wrote: "Best time I've ever had losing. Actually best time I've ever had period. Unreal experience. Had a blast. Still pumped even with a Loss."
For an excellent story on Britton by someone who was not watching on TV, see Greg Garber's story at espn.com.
In other notable matches today, Isner did win his match over No. 28 Victor Hanescu of Romania and his next opponent is Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, who nearly a week ago was defeating Ryan Harrison in the first round of qualifying. Ilhan is the first man from Turkey ever to win a Grand Slam match, in fact, ever to play in a Grand Slam, and this story from the ATP website explains just how much he's overcome along the journey from his birthplace in Uzbekistan to his new home. You can hardly blame him for thinking that a few more advantages a little earlier might have put him in the Top 50 by now.
Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito won her opening match from a set and a break down, defeating Mathilde Johansson of France 1-6, 7-5, 6-1. Another well-known prodigy, Donald Young, couldn't get past Tommy Robredo of Spain, falling 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to the 14th seed. Young revealed after the match that he had received a letter that he would get no further support from the USTA as long as his parents continued to coach him. Darren Rovell posted this story on Young for CNBC. Wild card Gail Brodsky lost 6-4, 6-4 to No. 20 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain. Qualifier Somdev Devvarman, the NCAA champion before Britton, posted his first win at a slam with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Frederico Gil of Portugal.
On Tuesday, boys national champion Chase Buchanan gets his Devin Britton moment when he plays No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, although it will open the Grandstand action, a considerably less intimidating arena than Arthur Ashe. It should be available on the free live streaming on usopen.org (the WATCH LIVE button), although I had some trouble with the service early today. Christina McHale, the girls national champion, plays Polona Hercog of Slovenia fourth on Court 10, and Mallory Cecil faces Italian veteran Tathiana Garbin second on Court 8. For complete draws and schedules, see usopen.org