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US Open Diary - Agassi Honoured For Giving Back

Day 1

Andre Agassi© Getty ImagesAndre Agassi remains a strong favourite with New York tennis fans.

Agassi Honoured
Two-time former champion Andre Agassi received a warm welcome back to Arthur Ashe Stadium by a sold-out crowd during an opening-night ceremony at the US Open to honour athletes who give back. In June, Agassi’s charter school, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, celebrated its first class of 34 graduates.

Agassi later recalled the emotional graduation day: “It took place inside our gym that we did [up] really better than for a prom. After we handed the diplomas, we didn't officially do the tassels till all the kids got up on the bridge, walked across one by one, called their name, they took the flag of where it is they're going to school, and they pasted it against the Plexiglas of the bridge It was quite an emotional moment.  I was on the other side kind of receiving each one as they came across, just looking at their faces.  Pretty incredible.”

Turkish Delight
Marsel Ilhan created history at Flushing Meadows Monday when he became the first Turkish player to ever win a main draw match at a Grand Slam tournament after beating experienced Belgian Christophe Rochus in five sets. Ilhan, 22, was born in Uzbekistan but moved with his mother to Istanbul five years ago for a better life and to further his tennis career. “I love Turkey very much and I do everything for Turkey," he said.

Ilhan, who lost his father at 14, says that as a teenager he could afford to play only a handful of domestic tournaments each year and that finding money for equipment was a constant struggle. “My family lived on about $50 a month, so there was no chance to travel to tournaments. Racquets, balls, string, courts… everything was a problem.”

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Heartbreak Kid
Canada’s No. 2 Peter Polansky has had a tough year at Grand Slam level, qualifying three times only to lose in five sets in the first round of the main draw all three times. On Monday he rallied from two sets down against Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez only to lose 6-1 in the fifth set. Polansky also qualified at the Australian (l. Andreev) and French Opens (l. Petzschner). He did not play qualifying at Wimbledon, opting instead to train in preparation for Canada’s Davis Cup tie on clay. “It has been hard to lose all of them in five sets… it’s been a tough main draw experience for me.”

That Polansky is back playing tennis is remarkable in itself. Three years ago in Mexico City for a Davis Cup tie, Polansky suffered a horrific injury when he crashed out of a hotel window, plunging three stories to the ground. He severed most of the muscles in both legs, needed 450 stitches, and was told he may not walk again. He also suffered cuts on his back and head.

“I had a night terror and thought there was someone in my room trying to hurt me,” Polansky said. “I tried to escape through the window and fell three stories. It was all just part of the night terror. I remember I woke up on the ground and that’s when I regained my sense of everything.

"The rehab went very quickly and I was able to start walking after about three months."

You Can Ring My Bell
Sam Querrey, who as the US Open Series winner stands to pocket $2.6 million should he emerge as a surprise US Open champion, rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in Times Square Monday. The big-serving American will be hoping that the NASDAQ’s 19.71 point loss on the day [about a one per cent dip] is not a harbinger of things to come for him at the Open, where he is seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.

DEUCE Magazine: Sam's Man Dan Never Stops Serving

Tiring Tie-break
John Isner played one of the longest tie-breaks in recent US Open memory when he won a 30-point ‘breaker during his upset win over 28th-seeded Romanian Victor Hanescu Monday. Isner, who saved 10 set points in the second-set tie-break, defeated Hanescu 6-1, 7-6(14), 7-6(5) to take his sizzling tie-break record dating back to Indianapolis to 13-1. The 6’ 9” Isner is at a career-high No. 55 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings.

Five-Set Feast
It was a five-seat feast early on Day 1 at the US Open as four of the first six men’s matches went the distance. And three of the four matches involved German players. Spaniard Marcel Granollers rallied to beat German Mischa Zverev 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0; German Simon Greul scraped past Ecuador’s Giovanni Lapentti 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0, 7-6(9); Czech Jan Hernych claimed his first win over German Rainer Schuettler 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-3; Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez lost the third and fourth sets before steadying to beat Canadian qualifier Peter Polansky 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-1.

Quote Of The Day
“My goal is to not get crushed.” – American teenager Devin Britton, on his thoughts heading into his first-round meeting with Roger Federer. Britton won just one point in the first three games of the match but steadied to put up a respectable showing. He led 4-3 in the third set with a break of serve before falling 6-1, 6-3, 7-5.

Record Crowds
First-day crowds (day and night sessions combined) totalled 59,848 - a first day record. Don't tell New York tennis fans there's a recession!

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