Tramlines

Florence and the machines

Tramlines

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In an age when sports
stars are all too often portrayed as emotionless machines, it was refreshing to
see Elena Baltacha proving otherwise on day two of action at Flushing Meadows.

In a touching scene rarely
witnessed on the battle ground that is a tennis court, the British number one showed
remarkable compassion when her opponent collapsed in a heap, her body riddled
with cramps.

Doing her best impression
of Florence Nightingale, Baltacha rounded the net and tended to the stricken Jamie
Hampton, rubbing ice into the American's body until she was fit enough to walk
off court herself.

Baltacha, who was on the
verge of victory but progressed by default, later she revealed her friendship
with Hampton - and her disappointment in the umpire, who had mercilessly called
a time violation whilst Hampton was lying prone on the floor.

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The rumour mill was in
overdrive on Arthur Ashe on Tuesday, with wagging tongues reporting that Kim
Kardashian was throwing a lavish party somewhere in New York later that night.

That would certainly
explain Serena Williams's hurry to get through her first match back at Flushing
Meadows since 'that' semi-final in 2009.

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Having been made to wait
until after 10pm local time to kick off her campaign this year, Serena wasted
absolutely no time in dispatching Bojana Jovanovski 6-1 6-1 to sound a clear
title message to her rivals - and in plenty of time to make it to 'the other
Kim's' shindig for cocktails.

It was a brutal
performance that made light of her seeding - a ridiculously low 28th
- and with other contenders falling early she now
has to be the firm favourite to lift the title for a fourth time, regardless of her
playing time this season.

Serena played down that tag, saying: "Everyone's been playing all year and
I haven't. I've played like five tournaments this year. I don't think that's
usually a favourite going into another Grand Slam."

Perhaps not going into a
Slam, but after an opening demolition job on a player who some thought might be
able to trouble her, that tag is now going to stick and prove mighty difficult
to shake off.

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Poor Conor Niland. This
was the moment that he had been working all his life to get to: a match against
the current world number one on centre court at a Grand Slam event. It had
taken him weeks to qualify, and in doing so he had become the first Irishman to
make the main draw at Flushing Meadows.

One dodgy pork chop at a
supposed fancy Manhattan restaurant later and he was left close to tears, his
dream cruelly ended by food poisoning. It was an upset, just the wrong kind.

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Romantic sympathising
aside, he was never going to challenge Nole and when he eventually had to throw
in the towel, the Irishman was 6-0 5-1 down.

But nobody other than the
British love a heroic failure more than the Irish, and brave Niland had already
done his nation proud just by getting onto court.

As he said himself: "I
thought maybe I could bluff my way through, but I just found out you can't do
that against the number one in the world. I just didn't have it in me today. I
was too sick to play. I thought I was going to vomit after long points and just
felt really rotten out there."

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Quote of the day: Brought
to you today in video format:

Hats off to: Andrey
Golubev. The guy brought a 6-24 record with him into his match with Rafael
Nadal, hence his lowly ranking of 98, and no one thought the Kazakh could
even slightly trouble the world number two. But Golubev did. He played like a top 10 player, swinging
his racquet with a glorious, reckless abandon and more often than not nailing
his shots. He broke Nadal six times and how the match didn't go further than
three sets is a mystery.

Tweet of the day:
"Outrageous set on arthur ashe right now! Golubuev has got some firepower!"
Jamie Murray marvels, like anyone else who was lucky enough to be watching, at Golubev's
shotmaking.

Looking ahead: After
a long wait, Andy Murray finally kicks off his campaign against India's Somdev
Devvarman,while Ireland's second representative at Flushing Meadows Louk Sorensen
takes on Robin Soderling. Venus and Maria Sharapova are back in action in the
women's draw, with Laura Robson adding some British interest against Anabel
Medina Garrigues. Wins for Murray, Venus and Maria, defeats for Sorensen and
Robson.

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