US OPEN SCENE: Azarenka's 'Happy Birthday' wish

September 2, 2014 - 12:05 AM
US Open Tennis

Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, reacts after a point during a math against Aleksandra Krunic, of Serbia, during the fourth round of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

NEW YORK (AP) — As a singer, Victoria Azarenka makes for a really good tennis player.

With her on-court interview after a fourth-round victory nearing a close, Azarenka asked the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium to join her in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for the person she called her "best friend" — Gael Monfils, the 20th-seeded Frenchman who turned 28 on Monday and will play in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Tuesday.

"If you guys can help me please wish him (a) happy birthday, it would mean so much to me," Azarenka told the spectators, who responded with cheers.

The interviewer, though, tried to get Azarenka to speak about her next opponent. After a perfunctory answer, Azarenka returned to her quest, urging fans to "sing with me."

Some obliged, accompanying Azarenka's wavering, often off-key, version of the familiar tune.

Asked at her news conference whether she heard anything from Monfils about the song, Azarenka said he texted her "that he loves me very much." Then she paused, slammed her hands on the desk in front of her and clarified, "Not in that way."

— By Howard Fendrich, http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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DUCK!: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga insists he didn't whiff on a serve, as much as it looked that way.

Trying to close out his first service game of the second set against Andy Murray on Monday, the ninth-seeded Frenchman tossed the ball in the air, started to go into his motion — then ducked.

Tsonga explained later that a giant bug landed on the brim of his cap, blocking his view of the ball, which wound up glancing off his head on the way down. Tsonga pulled off his hat and shook it, then rubbed his hair to make sure no insects were on him.

He argued with the chair umpire that the awkward motion shouldn't have counted as a first serve because he didn't swing his racket — though he did appear to swing even if he was more focused on ducking out of the way.

That wound up being moot when Tsonga went on to win the point to finish the game. He would lose the fourth-round match to the eighth-seeded Murray, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4.

— By Rachel Cohen — www.twitter.com/RachelCohenAP

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YES TO THE DRESS: Tip for Serena Williams fans: It pays to wear her signature dress to her matches.

Williams, the No. 1-ranked woman, has turned heads with her dress selection for the U.S. Open: a pink, leopard-print model accented by a pink headband and white, leopard-skin wristband.

After her straight-set win over Kaia Kanepi on Monday to reach the quarterfinals, she spotted a fan wearing the same outfit and rewarded her with a souvenir tennis ball.

"She had on my outfit. I was like, 'She should definitely get a ball,'" Williams said.

Of course, there are no guarantees multiple fans won't try the same thing.

"I saw a couple people with my outfit on," she said. "But she was the one who got it."

— By James Martinez — www.twitter.com/jfmartinez

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AMBASSADORS BRYAN?: Bob and Mike Bryan say they have no problem being the faces of doubles. It's just that they're the ONLY faces of doubles.

"A lot of fans come up to us and say, 'You're our favorite team,'" Bob Bryan said. "And I'm like, 'Who's your second-favorite team?'"

The Bryan brothers, seeking their 100th career title together, acknowledged they have become celebrities as much as players. Their third-round U.S. Open match Monday, a straight-set victory over countrymen Bradley Klahn and Tim Smyczek, was played before a mostly full Louis Armstrong Stadium.

"We like to stand up for doubles. When guys are taking shots at it, we try to do our part and promote it as best we can," Bob Bryan said.

"Maybe when we're done playing, we'll still be ambassadors for doubles. Maybe we'll be even commissioners for doubles."

— By James Martinez — www.twitter.com/jfmartinez

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U.S. Open Scene follows tennis' hard-court Grand Slam tournament in New York as seen by journalists from The Associated Press. It will be updated throughout the day.