As summer winds down and the nights get cooler, we eagerly await football to begin and baseball’s pennant races to come to their climatic finish.
In the meantime, we are treated to an annual ritual provided by the boys and girls of Tennis. It’s time for the sound of ball on racquet, and rubber on hardcourt to permeate around Flushing Meadows in New York City.
For the next two weeks, Queen’s will play host to the greatest professional tennis grand slam tournament in the world.
That’s right; the greatest.
You can have Wimbledon. With the standard white dress, grass courts and strawberries n’ cream. The serve and volley game complete with polite applause and constant rain delays.
Rolland Garros certainly rolls off the tongue nicely and there’s much to be said about playing on clay. But the French Open lacks inspiration and is played at a time when our thoughts are with playoff hockey and basketball.
The US Open comes at a time when it is truly needed. Were still about 2 weeks away from being interested in baseball’s wildcard races. The NFL season is starting ridiculously late, with our first Sunday not until September 13. We have College Football beginning this week but there are only 2-3 games worth our undivided attention.
For the next two weeks we can tune in and watch Tennis on its biggest stage, played late into the night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the “Big House” of professional tennis courts.
The crowds make the US Open special. Raucous, loud, undignified, and boisterous, fans at Arthur Ashe stadium act like us if we had the chance to have seats to Federer and Roddick.
Tennis announcers tell us that the British fans at Wimbledon are exceptional, but they just don’t seem to be that interested. US Open fans cheer and boo and gasp from start to finish. And they don’t hide their preferences. When a player has a US Open crowd on his side, he can feel likes he’s playing in front of 23,000 friends and family.
The US Open is played in good old Eastern Time. You don’t have to wake up Sunday morning at 9:00 to catch the final. Or worse, set the alarm for 5 AM to catch Federer and Nadal in the Australian Open final (which, sadly, I’ve done).
The matches are played on good old hardcourt. No sliding around on clay, no service game dominance on grass. There are rallies and lots of them. You have to be a complete player to win it. You need a full package of skills to survive. Clay and grass specialists need not apply.
Finally, the US Open has “Super Saturday”. The men’s semi finals sandwiched around the women’s final. Nearly 12 hours of tennis played at the highest level. I’ve spent many a great US Open Saturday lying on the couch surfing between baseball, college football, and championship tennis. It’s great.
So put down that Globe and Mail, and raise your Heineken to the US Open all you tennis loving sophisticates. It’s the working man’s tournament. The annual classic where Connors, Sampras, and Lendl became legendary. It is the season’s last hurrah, filling our late summer nights with outstanding athletic feats, and tennis matches we’ll never forget.