There is a case to be made that Brad Gilbert is the busiest man at the US Open, and the former World No. 4 would have it no other way.
From the late hours of Monday evening until the early hours of Tuesday morning, Gilbert sat courtside in Arthur Ashe Stadium to call the fourth-round match between Alexander Zverev and Jannik Sinner for ESPN. He interviewed the winner, Zverev, on court before heading back to his hotel in Queens.
“Last night I got back at let’s say 2:25. And I was up at like, 5:15, probably went to sleep at 3:30. I’ve had probably the least sleep here,” Gilbert told ATPTour.com. “Actually, I was out cold yesterday about 5 p.m. and I got to sleep for about 30 minutes… Then somebody comes, wakes me up, got to go do a hit in the studio. So I get like 30 minutes sometimes during the day.”
Most people on Gilbert’s schedule would be exhausted this deep into the tournament. But the Californian is as fired up as ever.
“I’ve been on every late match. I’m on last tonight again, but it’s okay. There’s nothing better than sitting out there watching something like what happened last night,” Gilbert said. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a match like last night. That kind of reminds me of a Rocky Balboa movie.
“I’ve never seen both guys at the same time be dead, out of gas. And then Sinner finally started to look a little better. And then Zverev got one more push. But Zverev looked gone in the fifth, yet he was still serving unbelievably. It was literally a Herculean effort, especially for Sinner, who looked completely out of sorts in the second set.”
Gilbert has been coming to the US Open every year since 1981 and has no plans of breaking that streak any time soon. But this year for the first time the American has combined his commentating with coaching in the same year. Earlier this North American summer Gilbert began working with WTA star Coco Gauff, who on Tuesday advanced to the semi-finals.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done that. So I’ve done all the evening matches,” Gilbert said. “So I’ll be working in the studio doing stuff, then I’ll be working at seven o’clock a little bit, then I get to scout, then I’m courtside for the second match tonight. So they put me to work.”
For the most part, he has not missed any aspect of either role. The only exception has been during qualifying week or missing something on the day of a doubles match. But especially on singles match days, Gilbert has been totally locked in with Gauff.
The former coach of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick among others, Gilbert is notorious for going on early-morning walks. This US Open has been no exception and after his late night at Flushing Meadows, he walked from 5:15 a.m. until 7:15 a.m. listening to some of his favourite old-school rock music.
“This morning I had a lot of Tom Petty, a little Crowded House, a little Grateful Dead, a little Eagles,” Gilbert said.
How does he stay awake? The 20-time ATP Tour titlist travels with an espresso machine.
“I used to drink a lot more [coffee], especially when I played. Usually I power up with two double espressos in the morning and then usually that’s it,” Gilbert said. “But probably now at like six o’clock or 6:30 before I’ve got to scout the first match and then I’ll be courtside the second one, so I’ll probably have another one at like 6:30, seven o’clock.
“Even when I played in the 80s, I always travelled with my own coffee, like a French press or even at 20 when I went on my first trip to Asia because I wake up early and you might not be able to get coffee. So I always travel with coffee and a way to make it.”
Gauff in a press conference earlier in the tournament revealed Gilbert has given her Jolly Ranchers, which she has not eaten. According to the coach, he used to travel with 500 Jolly Ranchers for a trip. Now ESPN has Jolly Ranchers and an espresso machine on site for him.
“My daughter actually has some healthier ones at home. But when I used to play, let’s say I’d go on an eight or 10-week trip, what happened to Zverev last night used to happen to me,” Gilbert said. “I needed a lot of shoes and you couldn’t get FedEx, you couldn’t get things. So let’s say I’m going on a six or seven-week trip to Asia, I might have to bring 15 pairs of shoes. I’d bring like 500 ranchers for a trip.”
Most importantly, Gilbert loves watching tennis. Even though he is coaching Gauff, he is fully on top of everything going on in the tournament.
“I was thinking we were going to get the Sinner-Alcaraz and I was really looking forward to the rematch of that. But now you’ve got to wonder, a fresh Alcaraz versus 15 rounds for Zverev. Hopefully his team can put him back together. But obviously, advantage Alcaraz at the moment,” Gilbert said. “The crazy one tomorrow [is between Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev]. Rublev’s 0-8 in his career in the [major] quarters and he’s playing one of his best buddies and countrymen.
“Can he get off the schneid? Medvedev, I’ve done like three of his matches here and he’s been fighting himself and everything, fighting his box… but he’s still finding a way. So we’ve got some interesting matchups.”
Gilbert is not sleeping much these days, but as he always says, sleep is overrated.
“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing. I got to play. I got to coach. I got to commentate,” Gilbert said. “I almost feel like I still get to coach even when I wasn’t coaching, when I’m commentating. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than doing this run here at the Open.”