Elena Baltacha column

US Open

Flushing Meadows, New York
29 August - 11 September
Session start times:
1600 & 0000 BST
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Elena Baltacha
Baltacha says after the hurricane threat this week she can't wait to play tennis

Whatever happens once the tennis starts at this US Open, thanks to Hurricane Irene I don't think anyone who has been in New York over the last few days is ever going to forget the experience.

New York seems to have escaped the worst of it but I know lots of people have been suffering - and that's far more important than a tennis tournament.

Still, that is what I'm here for and when you're trying to prepare for a Grand Slam tournament, every player wants everything to be perfect, from the number of matches you've played to the amount of practice and gym time you've had.

You can become a bit obsessed with all these details and try to control everything. Then a hurricane happens two days before the tournament and you realise you're just going go have to go with the flow.

I'm staying near Times Square in the heart of Manhattan. On Saturday night, after staying in all day, we decided to risk it by going out even though the storm was due to hit later that night.

They had stopped all the subways and buses earlier in the day and warned people to stay indoors. I have never seen the city so quiet.

Fortunately, my favourite restaurant, Tony's, was open so my coach Nino and I had a meal and then headed back indoors to prepare for the storm.

I ended up glued to TV, flicking between the news and weather channels, and I did start to get a bit anxious, especially as my room is on the 17th floor and they were warning people in high-rise buildings to be careful.

I have never been through a hurricane before, so I have nothing to compare it to but all it seemed to be in Manhattan was a very windy night and early morning with a lot of rain - not nice but not as scary as I expected it to be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it wasn't worse and I knew a few places across the east coast were very hit hard but it seems like New York City itself got off pretty lightly considering.

Elena Baltacha

Now that we've got the storm out of the way, I can't wait to get started because I do always enjoy the US Open.

This is one of my favourite cities in the world and the tournament always has a noisy, lively atmosphere, which is good fun to play in.

I'm playing an American, Jamie Hampton, in my first match on Tuesday and I'll expect the crowd to really get into it because both of us get pretty pumped up on court.

I played her in the first round of the Australian Open this year and it was close, so I know how dangerous she can be if she's on.

She has a big serve and she strikes the ball well, and I'm expecting her to be very up for it because she's playing at home and, as the lower ranked player, she'll feel like she has nothing to lose.

I expect it to be tough and I never, ever take players for granted at the big events because everyone is always really up for it, but I'm probably a lot more relaxed than most players heading into the tournament.

I had a lot of matches in Dallas last week and I was going to take two days off hitting anyway, so the weather hasn't cost me any practice time - something I'm sure a few players are fretting about right now.

It's nice to be one of four British women in the draw here along with Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, who qualified for a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.

After the last few days, I think all four of us will be ready for anything.

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