Clearly, my failure to keep track of the modern tennis game has left me extraordinarily out of touch with a sport that used to grab my attention from time to time many years ago.
As I suspect it was for millions of others, the US Open provided the opportunity to visit an old friend, so to speak, but by golly virtually all of the names have changed when I wasn’t looking. Most of the folks I remember are sitting in the broadcast booth. I am not proud of any of this deplorable ignorance, just reporting.
I’d always been tickled by the female section, remembering the incredible battles between Chris Everett and Martina; it sounds silly to say it, but I’d always kind of thrilled to the audio portion, the grunts of exertion for the gals, and the occasional verbal tirade at the various officials by some of the guys.
Lots of things have changed – most importantly the names – but the audio traditions remain largely intact to provide a kind of comfort for visitors like myself who have been away too long.
Here I was just getting accustomed to the idea that Roger Federer was/is perhaps the greatest ever, and then I tune into a Finals match where some young fella (Juan Martin del Potro) I had never heard of whups him big time. And this coming a couple of days after I had seen a SportsCenter clip of him coolly returning a difficult volley by swiping at the tennis ball between his legs with his back to the net.
Back when I lived on the East Coast and used to occasionally go to some of the big pool tournaments, I was always struck by the realization that a lot of times you watch a couple of opponents play for a half hour or so, and I would come away with the feeling that Player A had Player B’s number.
I think that kind of calculation works a bit more in a game like pool where the psychological aspect is so extraordinarily exaggerated relative to other sports. In tennis, where I understand that there’s a good deal of physical exertion involved and stamina is much more of a factor, probably not so much.
Still, when I tuned in to that Men’s Final, I felt like the Argentinian had Federer’s number. I guess the only way I can check out my admittedly tenuous theory is to keep track of tennis a bit more assiduously than I have over the last 20 years.