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By Chris Oddo

Sara Errani French Open (August 31, 2012)--Let me start this edition of the Minutes by saying that nobody announced their retirement today. And, thankfully for American tennis fans, nobody had their career ended by an upstart teenager. But don't let that fool you into thinking that Day 5 of the US Open wasn't choc full of goodness. Naturally, it was.

Also see: NY Minutes Day 2 | NY Minutes Day 3 | NY Minutes Day 4

Here's 10 Random thoughts on Day 5:

1. Laura Robson is in full bloom

There was a moment, way back before this year's US Open went bonkers on us all, when Kim Clijsters was absolutely annihilating Laura Robson in the first set of their second-round match. I sent out a tweet saying that Clijsters was just about to put the kid to bed at that time, and, immediately afterward, the “kid” started to knock the felt off the ball.

Who knew?

She outplayed Clijsters -- and Clijsters was by no means playing poorly -- and then proceeded to do the same against Li Na today. All the while I've been watching, thoroughly impressed, along with many others.

Robson is, simply put, on fire right now. She is as fit as she's ever been (she cites the fact that she's been healthy for a long stretch and therefore able to train for longer stretches), she's playing with a controlled aggression that is far superior to the out-of-control aggression that we've always known her for (she credits new coach Zeljko Krajan for helping her improve tactically with regard to understanding risk/reward), and she's also been cool as a cucumber under pressure.

I could go on -- literally -- for several more paragraphs, citing her return game (bedazzling), her serve (such a loose wrist!), and her courage (plenty of it). But there are other things to get to...

2. Steve Johnson, with an exclamation point

We should have all heard of Steve Johnson before this year's US Open. The guy won 72 consecutive matches at USC, after all. But alas, very few fans (even die-hards unfortunately) follow the college game. Well, thankfully for us, Steve Johnson has taken his traveling tennis show to New York this week, and what a show it was today, as the hard-serving, forehand-crushing American took it to Ernests Gulbis, saving all nine break points he faced en route to a second-round victory.

Johnson said he felt like he was in a college atmosphere, and if he continues to feel that way, Richard Gasquet better look out. "It kind of felt like, for me, kind of a college atmosphere,"said Johnson. "The crowd was cheering every point, and I could hear, you know, some of the people close to me in the stands and everything. To know they're all behind me was pretty special."

3. Stosur does the "Sam Shuffle" again

I'm still having trouble believing that Sam Stosur has done a post-match victory dance, affectionately tabbed the “Sam Shuffle” after her last two matches. Really? Are we talking about the same painfully shy, introverted, down-to-earth Aussie here? Evidently, we are.

“I’m sure I looked like a goose,” said Stosur after her first “Sam Shuffle early in the week.  “I’m waiting for someone to tell me if it was all right or not.”



Today, after her straight-set victory over Varvara Lepchenko, Tennis Channel's Rennae Stubbs talked her into breaking into the dance again. At first reluctant, Stosur finally caved and broke out her moves.

4. Bryan Brothers talk Micaela with Cari Champion

The Bryan Brothers breezed through their second round doubles contest with Eric Butorac and Paul Hanley, then spent some time talking -- what else? -- Twitter with Tennis Channel's Cari Champion after their match. It just so happens that Bob's daughter Micaela is quickly becoming one of the most popular follows for tennis fans on the social media website. Here's how Bob and his wife Michelle got the idea for Micaela's account:

“Actually Michelle my wife took the name. She wanted the name just in case down the road, Micaela wanted to tweet," Bob said. "In Miami she got a picture with Rafael Nadal and we put it on Twitter just as a joke. Woke up the next morning she had 700 followers. She's averaging 1,000 a month."

“She's a funny tweeter,” Bob added. “She does it all by herself, she's very witty.”

5. The passion of Hewitt/ compare to Roddick


I'm going to direct the attention away temporarily from those who are retiring this week to pay homage to those tried and true warriors who are too stubborn and too in love with the sport to even consider hanging it up.

Exhibit No. 1: Lleyton Hewitt: Hewitt just keeps battling, and with each passing year it's clearer and clearer that this guy truly loves the heat of battle, perhaps more than any other player of his generation. He's had hip surgeries, foot surgeries, he's dropped out of the top 100, he's had to beg for wildcards, but all the while, Hewitt keeps coming back, and he never—not for one single second—stops bringing every ounce of his passion to every single match. It's legendary. So while you're shedding a tear for Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters this week, put your hands together for players like Lleyton Hewitt and Nadia Petrova, who keep battling on for the love of the game, through thick and thin.

Here's a quote from Hewitt's presser today, after his five-set win over Gilles Muller, that I thought was classic Hewitt:

Q.  Does it seem like a million years ago or yesterday when you won here?  You were on Court 11.  Do you have to remind people that you were a champ here?
    
LLEYTON HEWITT:  I don't know. You know, you come here as a wild card, so...   At the end of the day I play wherever I'm put.  Yeah, these are the tournaments that still motivate me.  This is why I'm still playing, to play Grand Slams. Yeah, it was a great atmosphere out there, especially the fifth set today.  The crowd support that I got was great.

And here's a funny quote from Justin Gimelstob, to sum of the depths of Hewitt's dedication: “Hewitt might lead the tour in icebaths... Absolute warrior.”

6. Harrison’s woes against top 10 continue


Good thing: Ryan Harrison has reached three tour-level semifinals this year and has gained direct entry to the US Open for the first time. Good thing: Harrison is only 20. Good thing: Harrison has tons of potential. Bad thing: With today's four-set loss to Juan Martin del Potro, Harrison is now 0-15 against top ten opposition.

7. A story you may not have heard

American men placed 12 men in the second round this week at the US Open. That's the most men to reach the second round at the US Open since 1996, when there were also 12. Americans went 7-5 in round two...

7B. Wildcards having unprecedented success in New York

Four wildcards have reached the third round at this year's US Open. It is an Open Era Grand Slam record. James Blake, Jack Sock, Lleyton Hewitt and Steve Johnson.

8. Tweet of the day: Svetlana Kuznetsova is making the most of her time off...

9. Quote of the day

"I'm currently homeless, so it's an interesting situation." – Steve Johnson, on his current living situation.

10. Tanking Tomic Hot Under the Collar

It was a great night for Andy Roddick on Arthur Ashe, as he cruised to a straigh-set victory over the young Aussie Bernard Tomic, bageling him in the final set. It makes me wonder: If Roddick had more subservient opponents like Bernard Tomic over the last few years would he still be planning his retirement or would he be itching to give it a go for another two or three years? There was quite a bit of talk about Tomic's lack of effort during this match, and Tomic didn't bother to deny it. Here's how Tomic explained himself to reporters after the match:

    Q.  They made a pretty big deal of it on the last set, tanking, all that stuff.
    BERNARD TOMIC:  Really?  What do you think?

    Q.  I'm not sure.  I think your relaxed style sometimes people get the wrong impression.
    BERNARD TOMIC:  That's how I play.  Do you have a problem with that?

    Q.  No.  It was on TV.  It was a big deal.  Better to give you the opportunity now to talk about it surely.
    BERNARD TOMIC:  Yeah, no, that's your prediction.  I have mine.  That's how I play.  If you think that's that, it's up to you.  What is your name?

    Q.  Will.
    BERNARD TOMIC:  Will who?

    Q.  Will Swanton.
    BERNARD TOMIC:  From?

    Q.  Reuters.
    BERNARD TOMIC:  I'll remember you.

(Photo Credit: AFP/Patrick Kovarik)

 

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