Usually I wait until the later rounds of the US Open to head out to Flushing, but OH MY GOD, when I heard that Serena Williams would be playing against Maria Sharapova in the FIRST ROUND, I knew we were gonna have to break with tradition this year and hit up opening night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Both players obviously have a long history (I can still remember watching Sharapova beat Williams at Wimbledon on TV when I was in high school in 2004), but I don’t think you could call theirs a true rivalry – for that to happen, you’d need Williams to care as much as Sharapova does about being in each other’s orbit, and Williams is just light-years away. (19 straight wins over Sharapova after last night, to be exact.)
Sharapova has plenty of critics (myself included) who feel her reintegration into the sport after a temporary doping ban has been unfair – when she gets court time, it’s prime court time, every time, which is frustrating for other players. (Also, shout-out Alex Ohanian for this next-level trolling last night.) But before you come for me, it’s not like Sharapova has been left out in the cold in spite of the scandal – I recently watched a video tour of her house, which is basically the dopest residence I have ever seen in my whole life, so clearly she’s doing okay when it comes to keeping a roof over her head. (Probably thanks in no small part to her book, which owes heavily to the Serena Williams saga that she just can’t seem to stop talking about.)
ANYWAY, in case I haven’t made it clear, I was rooting HARDCORE for Williams last night, which left me in kind of a weird spot when I found out that pretty much every single person sitting around me was cheering for Sharapova. The Russian boomers to my left? Sharapova. The dudes sitting in front of me? Sharapova. The couple who kept taking turns with a pair of binoculars to my right? Sharapova. I DON’T FUCKING GET IT.
I rarely watch sports where I’m not surrounded by at least a few like-minded supporters (or better yet, by myself in my own home), so even though I was on the outs, I kind of just went for it anyway when it came to cheering on Williams during the first set. And she KILLED. So I was doing my fair share of clapping, and when she sealed the deal to close out the first set on top, I did a “WOOHOO!” This is the same “WOOHOO!” that I also reserve for concerts in between songs. Anyway, the aforementioned Russian boomers (a couple) were NOT INTO IT, and the woman literally looked right at me and angrily echoed back “WOOHOO!” and then stormed off for a long time, leaving the man squirming in uncomfortable silence until she came back, still in a huff. I don’t speak Russian, so I don’t know what was being whispered between them, but I do know the international sounds of disapproval, and those were definitely flying. Like, what?! Listen, I get as hot-headed as the next nerd at sporting events that I care about, but this is a goddamn tennis match! I don’t want to fight you, lady!
So anyway, I decided the sportsmanlike thing would be to keep my mouth shut and to keep the clapping to a minimum for the rest of the match since clearly Williams was kicking Sharapova’s ass into next week. Straight sets – 6-1, 6-1. When Williams did take the win (in under an hour, mind you), I stared longingly out at all my compadres who were fist pumping and hollering. BUT I HELD MY TONGUE FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE!
Did the match merit an IRL watch? Absolutely! (Roger Federer’s appearance afterwards was the cherry on top!) Obviously it helped that the result was what I wanted to see, even if I was seated amongst people who hated my guts! I think it would have been more fun to see a bit more drama play out, maybe a little more even-keeled in terms of scoreboard, but I will absolutely take this win any day of the week. I hope Williams will benefit from having had this insane matchup come first, and I hope we’ll see her again and again through to the final!
And as for Sharapova’s early exit, well…WOOHOO!