Sure, Novak Djokovic is one of the best tennis players in the world. Yes, he became a YouTube hit by doing impressions of fellow pros. Yep, he’s a quirky guy who likes to bounce the ball 20 times before serving.
Yet after his second-round win over American Robert Kendrick on Friday, something else about Djokovic attracted more attention: Who’s that woman who’s been sitting in his box at the US Open? She’s Leryn Franco, a javelin thrower from Paraguay who finished 51st out of 54 contestants in preliminaries at the Beijing Olympics. She also has competed in the Miss Paraguay and bikini contests. “Yes, I’ve heard that this has been the main subject in the papers, and I’ve heard that even they showed it on the TV two days ago when I played my first match,” Djokovic said. “So I’m denying this, and I’m saying that we don’t have a romance like people call it already.
“Yeah, the papers are probably trying to make another scandal of it, you know. Another romance. This is part of my life and I have to accept it like this,” he said. “We know each other, that’s true, and we met, and then she came to watch my matches, but there is nothing more than friendship.”
Djokovic created a stir at the Open last year when Maria Sharapova showed up in his box for the final, which he lost to Roger Federer. During that tournament, he said they were just friends. Djokovic and Franco spent time together at the Olympics. Now that he’s here in New York, he’s trying to pay attention to playing tennis, rather than reading the papers about his social life. “Media can make you a star and can bring you down in a day,” he said. “So I have to be careful what I say, right?”
Fish downs his best man
Pleased as Mardy Fish was to reach the US Open’s fourth round for the first time, he wasn’t thrilled that he had to beat James Blake to do it.
Fish and Blake are pals. Before heading out on court at Arthur Ashe Stadium for their third-round match, they hung out together in the locker room, watching college football highlights on TV. Next month, Blake will be a groomsman in Fish’s wedding. Setting all of that aside for about two hours, Fish constructed a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) victory over the ninth-seeded Blake, who was born in New York and always draws loud support from spectators at Flushing Meadows.
“I never want to see James lose. He is definitely a close friend of mine,” Fish told the crowd afterward. “James is obviously an extremely tough out here. It feels like he’s got 20,000 friends screaming in my ear.”
Kuznetsova in a tizzy
When Svetlana Kuznetsova was finished losing in the third round, she threw a white towel over her head while walking off the court, the better to hide her disappointment. What was considered a wide-open women’s Open at the outset grew even more so on Friday. “It’s getting so much messed up,” Kuznetsova said, referring to the rankings. “I don’t get anything (about) who’s going to be No. 1.”
It certainly is complicated, so leave it at this: Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva all could be atop the WTA Tour rankings on September 8, the day after the year’s last major championship wraps up.