THE NEW KID IS BURIED IN BAGELS

The dancing fountains in the South Plaza of the US Open grounds

The dancing fountains in the South Plaza of the US Open grounds

NEW YORK – Heavy winds coursed across the abyss called Ashe Stadium, but they didn’t blow Beatrice Capra away.  That job was left to Maria Sharapova, and she went at it devastatingly.

A blonde gale wrapped in an aqua gown, screaming like a cyclone, she was miserly Maria, unwilling to part with a single game as she whooshed into the second week of the US Open, chasing the title that she won four years ago.

This is what every tennis player yearns for – to perform on the biggest stage in the game against a champion.  To battle and win.  Win, ahem, at least a game.  One game.  Could 18-year-old Capra, the Thursday sensation out of Ellicott, Maryland, imagine that Saturday would fall on her like a ton of bagels, and only one game would be out of her reach.

Sad, but nobody died.  Certainly not her dream to live up to the high praise of her mentor, all-timer Chris Evert.

Beyond the 73 minute storm in which she was the stormed, Trice, (pronounced Treese) as she is called, said, “I’m mentally fried.”

Maybe she should have said “mentally baked” because bagels come out of an oven, and she was double-bageled, 6-0, 6-0.  And no smoked salmon or cream cheese.

Credit a little guy, Eddie Dibbs, a successful  American player from Miami Beach in the 1970s, with coining “bagel” for a shutout set.  He and Harold Solomon were doubles partners calling themselves the Bagel Twins.

Capra said, “Maria overpowered me.  She’s the best I ever played against, and the wind [25 MPH in tricky gusts] the worst.”

Court of Champions at the US Open

Court of Champions at the US Open

But she could smile.  “It’s been a really great experience.  I beat a top 20 player [Aravane Rezai of France].  It was all amazing.”  But the smile dimmed somewhat as she talked about the experience.  “Some of the games were close, [she had five game points altogether]. Plus when you’re like losing that bad it’s just in your head like just please let me win one game.  Then you get tight because you want to win a game.  So it was really hard, but…”

Capra said, “Maria wasn’t giving anything away even though I had a couple of break points.  It was really intimidating, even though she’s beating me badly she’s still so focused.”

Sharapova’s answer to that: “I really don’t think about the score.  I just think about winning the next point”  — and kept on doing it.  She was double bageled herself by Lindsay Davenport at Indian Wells three years ago.  It can happen.

When they reported for duty, Sharapova – seven inches taller at 6-2 – seemed the wicked witch of whatever direction.

“Before the match,” Trice said, “she  walked past me, and kind of like gave me a glare, which is kind of intimidating.”

2009 Champions, Kim Clijsters and Juan Martin del Potro

2009 Champions, Kim Clijsters and Juan Martin del Potro

Ah yes, the famous beauty’s game face.

“But you know after the match, when we shook hands, Maria was really nice.  She said, ‘great tournament. Keep up the hard work.’  That meant a lot to me.”

Next up for Sharapova is the tourney favorite Caroline Wozniacki.  I like Maria’s chances to go all the way.

As for Capra, she can purchase years of breakfast bagels with her $ 50,000 prize money, or pay tuition at Duke, a college she may enter.  Actually this wasn’t Capra’s first double bageling.  It happened at the hands of Arantxa Rus at a small tournament in Midland, Michigan six months ago.

Midland in virtual secrecy? Better to crash on world-wide TV at Flushing Meadows.

Chris Evert’s pre-match advice to Capra: “Enjoy the moment, control your emotions, don’t ever give up.”

Said she, with laughter, “That was kind of tough today.”

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