short balls: the weekender

We’re doing a weekend edition of short balls because the US Open calls for us to be a little more on top of our games, something that Jelena Jankovic couldn’t quite do in the third round on Saturday. Do you guys ever think this girl is going to win a Slam? Will she be the formidable #1 she was a few years ago or was it just a flash in the pan? I’m curious to see what sort of trajectory her career now takes on. She’s sort of hit an official slump, no?

No such slump is happening for Francesca Schiavone, at least not anymore. The French Open champ struggled since winning in Paris, going 3-6 over the summer and coming into the US Open with a giant question mark looming over her head. But earlier this week, Schiavone hits a jaw-dropping shot that matched that of Roger Federer from night one of the Open. Running down a baseline lob from Alona Bondarenko, Schiavone tagged a ball between her legs that went zooming back over the next and help her win the point. As Sports Illustrated writer Brian Armen Graham noted, Schiavone was humble as usual: “”Is nothing programmed. Is just instinct. Is art.” Artful, indeed.

More art is happening in the form of photo galleries, three of which caught my eye over the past week. Tennis.com has a gallery up of past US Open magazine covers from their 30-plus years on the newsstand, which also chronicles the price rise of magazines over the years (if your eye can catch them in small print). Meanwhile, the NYT has a (OT) slideshow up of the Oval Office through the years, just in time for the Office to get a face-lift. Pretty cool. And Prince has a great photo album up on facebook featuring week-one shots of their players at Flushing Meadows.

More short balls after the cut.

Celebs were in style at the USO over week one, as well. Making appearances at the Open were Derek Jeter of the Yankees, comic actor Will Ferrell, actor Alec Baldwin, photographer Nigel Barker of America’s Next Top Model, and musicians Usher and John Legend (pictured below).

Tennis Now, the online tennis news site, is running a couple high-quality contests we wanted you folks to get in on. One is a Match of the Day for the US Open – $50 Gift Card - and the other is a Trip For 2 to Miami for the Sony Ericsson Open. Both contests can be found on the Tennis Now homepage.

Our fave in-the-city blog, Kenneth in the 212, has been following the Open with a watchful eye. He’s comparing US up-and-comer Ryan Harrison to actor Ben McKenzie - of The OC fame – and we think he’s got a pretty good point. Twinsies? And in case you missed the debacle from Arthur Ashe stadium on Thursday night, Kenneth put that up too, Daily News cover and YouTube videos included.

Picture this: Below, Steffi Graf demonstrates her trademark forehand swing for female tennis youth at the Longines Center Court for Kids Tennis Clinic in Central Park last Thursday. Graf, in town with hubby Andre Agassi, spent the day in the park with Billie Jean King and American pro Mashona Washington, among others, to give instruction to young gals in association with the City Parks Foundation.

(jankovic photo by getty images; john legend photo by the ap; steffi graf photo provided)

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