US OPEN SCENE: Shirt is not a hometown advantage

August 28, 2014 - 11:05 PM
2014 US Open Tennis

Simone Bolelli, of Italy, returns a shot against Tommy Robredo, of Spain, during the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK (AP) — Simone Bolelli says branding was at play when the Italian wore a shirt with the Stars and Stripes on the sleeve for his second-round match Thursday against Tommy Robredo.

An attempt to get the New York crowd on his side?

"Naaaww," Bolelli said after his four-set loss, explaining his clothing sponsor, Hydrogen, makes shirts specifically to wear at most of the major national tournaments.

"They have Italian ... they have Paris, they have U.S.," he said. "But Wimbledon was impossible because they're all white."

— By James Martinez, http://twitter.com/jfmartinez

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SWEAT EQUITY: In past U.S. Opens, it may have been the kind of stuff that was swept up and thrown away: Placards that identified players at news conferences. Banners hung from light poles. Towels players used to wipe away their sweat.

Now, all of it — the obscure and the obvious — is collected as bits of sports memorabilia and sold in a kiosk under the stands of Court 11 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

"Some may wonder, "Why would you want that?" but people want a piece of the U.S. Open," said MeiGray Group memorabilia salesman David Meisel, whose dad, Barry, founded the company in 1997 and struck deals with the tournament and individual players for castoff balls and other items. It has been at the tournament since 2012.

For the budget-conscious, there's an actual ball from a first-round match between two lesser-known players ($5) and a Philipp Kholshchreiber news conference name placard ($20). For a little more money you can get a rolled-up net from last year's three-set women's final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka ($5,000), a scuffed racquet used by Mike Bryan to win the 2012 doubles title ($1,495), and the actual ball used on match point in last year's men's final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ($2,500).

And then there are the towels. Price is determined by both the name of the player involved and one other crucial factor.

"It has to have been used," Meisel said. "The more sweat, the better."

— By James Martinez, http://twitter.com/jfmartinez

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SECOND-ROUND BLUES: She might have been out-hit by Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, but Vania King hit all the right notes at her news conference afterward.

King, a 25-year-old based in Florida, studied music as a kid. In 2006, she performed "America the Beautiful" in Arthur Ashe Stadium before a tournament night session.

So following King's 6-1, 6-0 loss the top-ranked Williams in that same arena Thursday, a member of the media put forth this question: "After a tough match like this, can you think of a song you might want to sing in the shower or sing to your friends — or to us?"

King chuckled at the request, paused, then began belting out "Can't Help Lovin' That Man."

After a few stanzas, she cut herself off, rapped her fingers on the desk in front of her and said she wanted to come up with an easier song.

And then she broke into "Fever," crooning for about 20 seconds.

She stopped and laughed.

The reporters present applauded.

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

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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.