Home » Sport » Life at a Grand Slam: What You Don’t See on TV at the U.S. Open
Life at a Grand Slam: What You Don’t See on TV at the U.S. Open
When Mackenzie McDonald dueled Félix Auger-Aliassime for three and a half hours in the opening round of the U.S. Open, fans were only seeing a glimpse of the time McDonald put in toward his surprise win on Monday.
For both players, and hundreds of others at the sprawling tournament, a match day extends well beyond a warm-up and the contest itself. The preparation, of course, takes weeks and months, with the grueling men’s and women’s professional tennis tours pushing players to seek higher rankings to gain a more favorable path at the Grand Slam tournaments.
And once they arrive in Queens, a new series of obstacles emerges as players adapt to the feel of the courts, the ambience of New York and the demands of one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
For McDonald, the 28-year-old American who broke into the top 50 of the singles rankings in 2022 and upset Rafael Nadal in the second round of this year’s Australian Open, the preparation for the U.S. Open began on Aug. 22 when he arrived in New York. McDonald, who is scheduled to play Borna Gojo of Croatia in the second round on Wednesday, said he trained hard for his first few days, then tapered a bit to recover before his four-set duel against Auger-Aliassime.
Those practices, along with the travel, can become repetitive. Jessica Pegula, the American ranked third in women’s singles, last week compared the routine on tour to “Groundhog Day,” the 1993 film in which a man relives one day again and again. McDonald echoed that sentiment.
“Things can get monotonous week after week, locker room after locker room, hotel after hotel,” McDonald said. “It’s good to have those small goals or little things that drive you that make you believe that you can get better.”
Two Days Out
Two days before his opening match, McDonald couldn’t focus solely on his play. Before practicing on Saturday, he had to stop by a fan event put on by Wilson, his racket sponsor.
His day began at about 8:45 a.m. as he made his way down to the lobby of his hotel in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood. A driver and S.U.V. were already waiting for him, his girlfriend and his trainer as they walked out of the hotel.
On a normal day, the drive from the east side of Manhattan to Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park can take up to an hour in heavy traffic.
“It’s never easy,” McDonald said of the commute to Queens. “Day after day, it definitely adds up.”
But on a Saturday morning, with little traffic and an assertive driver familiar with shortcuts, the ride was a brisk 21 minutes 16 seconds.
The quick ride afforded McDonald some extra time to drop off his bags before heading to the Wilson event, where he spent about half an hour volleying with children, then posed for pictures and videos.
With that commitment filled, McDonald could focus on more intense tennis for the rest of his day, starting by working with a physiotherapist and finding time to eat, and following that with two hours of practice.