NEW YORK – The new racquet, adopted just a few short days ago, was almost a good-luck charm for Canadian Frank Dancevic.
But in the end, the 29-year-old suffered another heartbreaking five-set loss at a Grand Slam, a 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2) defeat at the hands of world No. 38 Joao Sousa of Portugal, which knocks him out of the U.S. Open in the first round.
It began in the bright sunlight, ended with the high-tech high beams on over brand-new Court 5, and wrapped up with Dancevic limping off court and all the way to the locker room barefoot, unable to stand one more second inside his steaming, overworked Wilson tennis shoes.
"I thought it was a real high quality match, unfortunate that I lost but I feel really good about my game. if I keep this level out I can do some damage the rest of the year," Dancevic said. "Physically I feel great. We played a really long match. a lot of long rallies, a very physical match I think, three dimensional, we were all over the court, just used all the shots."
Dancevic said he felt great? His poor feet would argue that point. He was in some distress after it was over, staring straight ahead in his chair before he decided to remove his shoes, then his socks.
Here's what it looked like:
Eventually, chair umpire Pascal Maria had to come over and gently ask him to leave the court; you could spot Australian player Anastasia Rodionova, somewhat peeved, standing in the corner waiting to come on for her match against Sara Errani of Italy even as Dancevic finally rose, signed some autographs, and squeezed past Rodionova and into the tunnel underneath the stands. He signed some more autographs as he limped, barefoot on concrete that had seen thousands of dirty shoes and spilled legal beverages on it all day, and back to the locker room.
The new racquet? Dancevic thought he played exceptional tennis with it despite the fact that he only had two of them, had to get a couple of restrings during the match, and wasn't familiar enough with it to know when exactly he should change to fresh strings. He said it cost him a few games here and there, although he certainly couldn't blame the racquet for coughing up a 6-1 lead in the first set tiebreaker.
Here are a few pics from the match:
"I feel my serve picked up a lot of speed, especially my second serve, with the gut (string) combination. I feel like my returns, I was getting a lot more returns back in court. From the baseline I feel a lot more control and depth at the same time, everything in my game feels a lot better," he said.
"It was really about just making a relationship with my racquet," Dancevic added. "When you meet a girl, do you know everything about her after three days? You don’t know all about her after 10 years – never mind three days."
Dancevic, who will next head to Halifax for Davis Cup – the squad hasn't been announced yet, but he'll be there – said he'll keep the new racquet for the rest of the year and re-evaluate then.
But in the end, it was a first-round loss at the final Grand Slam of the season, no matter how valiant. Dancevic, who hasn't always been accused of this in his career, really did empty the tank and give it absolutely all he had.
If you're not convinced, ask his feet.
"I mean, really, it would have been nice to win today, but I just have to keep my head up high, keep going. I feel really good about my game. I like the way I’m playing," he said.