Thursday, August 30, 2007

US Open Tennis

I'm on the couch watching the US Open, and it occurred to me: Tennis is doing well as a sport right now.

In the men's game there is the dominant and sure-to-be-legendary Roger Federer chasing history. Right behind him are the very marketable figures Rafeal Nadal, Steve Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, and Andy Roddick.

The women have Maria Sharapova, who at the age of 20 is already one of top paid female athletes in the world, if not the highest. Her success combined with her looks have turned her into an advertising machine. The biggest question concerning her going forward is whether she can stay focused on her tennis having already proven her talent and banked millions of bucks. Will she be motivated and able to continue her dominance or will she become complacent?

Serena Williams is as fit as ever and back playing well after a stint of being too focused on other "hobbies". Venus Williams, Serena's older sister who was the first Williams sister become a champion, is back after a few down years. She won Wimbledon this year and is a force to be reckoned with once again. Justine Henin has been competitive for years as well. When she is playing her best she has proven that she can beat anybody, even on the biggest of stages.

Older players like Marina Hingis and Kim Klijsters still compete, but it is clear that their time has come and gone as tennis's biggest female stars. I could be wrong but I think Lindsey Davenport, Mary Peirce, and Jennifer Capriati have all recently retired after long and fairly successful careers.

With this many famous faces all playing great tennis, networks are able to show intriguing matches every night. As the tournament moves on hopefully this will culminate into some heavyweight battles between the biggest names in the game. Tennis is a sport built on rivalries, and with Federer and Nadal's great Wimbledon final and Nadal still being the one guy between Federer and a French Open title, it seems they have formed one. I still ultimately root for Roddick, but he seems to be at this point a notch below both Nadal and Federer.

With John McEnroe leading the charge, the commentator cast is entertaining as well. The former player known for his frequent on-court tantrums is joined by fellow ex-tennis star Jim Courier, who is well spoken and insightful, and Ted Robinson, who lives in the bay area and often fills in for Tom Tolbert on monday's for the 'Razor and Mr. T Show'.

Growing up it was Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Becker, and Edberg. Then the torch got passed to Agassi and Sampras and a few others. Now, the torch is safely and proudly in the hands of a worthy group of male tennis stars, perhaps even more well-rounded than the group before them.

The women's side has been entertaining all along, but right now there seems to be a spike with so many big names playing well and motivated to win at at the same time. The one thing I don't like seeing is the William's sisters playing each other in the finals of a tournament though, so hopefully that won't happen.

Here's my predictions. I'd like to go out on a limb, but I just can't see these two losing to anybody:

Men's winner: Roger Federer
Women's winner: Serena Williams

We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

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