Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene ruffles top players' feathers before US Open

Maria Sharapova US Open
Maria Sharapova said about the approach of Hurricane Irene: 'I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy.' Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Andy Murray was "excited" but concerned. Roger Federer thought it was "scary". The Russian-born Maria Sharapova said she was "a Florida girl, so I'm used to this stuff" and reckoned everyone was "overreacting".

When Hurricane Irene blows herself out, the people of New York, the world's best players, staff at Flushing Meadows and journalists covering what is a surreal US Open even before a ball is hit, will have cause to remember more than mere tennis.

Murray, who was shaken up in the earthquake earlier in the week, pointed out "the weather has not been great". And he is taking no chances. Not only has he arranged indoor practice near his hotel on Sunday, but he has also been shopping. "We had to go and get stuff from the supermarket for the room in case – well, loads of places are gonna be closed. There's a two-and-a-half-hour queue at the supermarket."

"I think everyone's a bit overreacting about everything," Sharapova said, "but of course you have to take precautions. But where are we gonna go? All hundreds of us? I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy. That's all we can do, right?"

Mardy Fish, who grew up near storm-lashed Vero Beach in Florida, was as sanguine as Sharapova, and observed: "I couldn't get my Starbucks this morning, which was annoying."

As New York closed down, players used to limo lifestyles had to get used to a little hardship, not to mention disruption to their preparations for the tournament.

"At my age," said the 30-year-old former champion Federer, "you know what it takes to get ready, and you don't panic. I won't be playing tomorrow. It's not an issue. But sure it's somewhat scary, because we don't know how hard it's going to hit us. I've got family. We're in New York City, it's not just a regular city. It's quite something with all the buildings."

Murray expressed concern about being on the 40th floor of the uptown Parc Meridien and wondered if he would be asked to evacuate. He was not.

For Rafael Nadal, bemusement set in. "I don't know what's going on, I think. Nobody knows exactly what's going on, no? Just stay in the hotel. Maybe watch some films. I never had an experience with a hurricane."
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