One by one they limped off courts at the United States Open, heads bowed, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped. They answered questions in small, interview rooms with concrete walls, away from the stadiums and big crowds.
They came to New York from all over the world, from Kazakhstan and Croatia, from Britain and Brazil, to compete at the only Grand Slam tournament in the United States. They came, all of them, to win, to advance, to pump fists and raise their arms in victory. The old and the young. The low- and high-ranked. The baseliners and the serve-and-volley specialists.
By the end of play Wednesday, all of them, 128 male and female singles players in the main draw, half the field, will hold one important and somewhat depressing thing in common.
They will have lost in the first round.