NEW YORK (AP) Tim Smyczek noticed other vehicles passing his courtesy car on the highway as he headed to the U.S. Open on Wednesday morning.
So he looked at the rpm gauge, and it was at zero.
"Wait a minute," the American player said to the driver. "Why are we just coasting?"
Smyczek eventually got to his first-round match on time and got some good laughs after his ride ran out of gas in the middle of Queens. His day ended much better than it began, with a four-set comeback win for his third Grand Slam victory.
"I honestly think she thought she was going to be able to make it to the site without stepping on the gas again," Smyczek said. "We had to be five, six miles away, still. I don't know what the thought process was."
When a truck cut them off, the driver had to hit the brakes, and they couldn't coast any farther. They pulled over on the shoulder, where Smyczek tweeted out photos as they waited to be picked up.
"My coach and I just started laughing," he said. "I felt bad for the lady because she knew she screwed up. But there was nothing you could do but laugh. Thankfully, I gave myself enough time this morning that I wasn't too worried about missing my match or anything."
For once, being chronically early paid off.
They waited about half an hour for another car to arrive. Instead, a tournament employee who happened to be passing by noticed the stranded vehicle and offered a ride.
Then the 25-year-old Smyczek went out and beat a fellow wild card, Australia's James Duckworth, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1. Smyczek is ranked 109th, while Duckworth is 149th.
Smyczek encountered more strange occurrences during the match, cramping in his hands and forearms.
Smyczek will face 73rd-ranked Alex Bogomolov Jr. as he seeks to reach the third round at a major tournament for the first time in five tries. Bogomolov upset 24th-seeded Benoit Paire in a fifth-set tiebreaker later Wednesday.
So Smyczek might have more fuel in the tank than his opponent in his next match. He's still not sure how his car could have run out of gas.
"I don't want to get anybody in trouble, man," Smyczek said. "I hope she still has a job. She seemed really nice. She just said, `I don't know what I was thinking.' It was the first trip of the day, so I don't know."
He prefers to look on the bright side.
"I'm just glad we didn't break down in the Midtown Tunnel," Smyczek joked. "Would have been a disaster. They might have had to push back matches for everybody."
There's no chance that will happen Thursday. Smyczek vowed: "I'm going to make sure to ask tomorrow morning if we've got gas before we leave the hotel."