Since this is being written on Thursday of last week, it is unknown what the final outcome of the US Open Tennis Tournament will be. For me personally, most of the drama was eliminated with the startling upset of Roger Federer by Juan del Potro. Since Federer is my all-time favorite tennis player, eclipsing Jimmy Connors, I felt that his game plan as relayed by the commentators was a faulty one. He concentrated most of his attacks on del Potro’s fearsome forehand rather than playing to del Potro’s only weakness, the backhand. The turning point of the entire match seemed to hinge on the overtime serve when Federer was leading 6-4 and elected once again to attack del Potro’s forehand. Tennis experts have long commented that a close match can turn on a single shot. Such was probably the case on that critical Federer serve. To his credit, Federer evened the third set at 6-6 after initially trailing 3-0.
A rather startling headline appeared in the local Press also on Thursday in regard to an Associated Press story, which said, “Nadal awaits Federer”. It looks like Rafa will have a very long wait since his only chance to meet Federer will possibly be in 2018.
The most redeeming factor of last week’s US Open play was the fact that four American women made the semi-finals. Another bright spot was that an American man, Sam Querry, reached the semi-finals before losing to a South African player, Ken Anderson. If del Potro continued his winning ways against Nadal, the final should be a contest between two giants with booming serves.
With the all-American women’s side and the all-Foreign men’s side, it is possible that the attendance for the Finals might be in favor of the distaff side. Other important Tennis news is the fact that a soon-to-be-released motion picture is based on the memorable match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Tennis purists have long whispered that the female star’s win over Riggs might be credited to the fact that Riggs “tanked”. Their premise is that Riggs may have bet on King since he was a master gambler who always took the long odds. On a personal note, I met Riggs some forty years ago when he was here to play the opening matches for a Tennis complex in the Carson Valley. As a matter of fact, Zach, my eight-year-old son at that time, went on court to rally with Riggs. The rally stopped when Riggs purposely netted the ball after the count, which was voiced by the attending crowd, had reached over 50. At one point during the rally, a woman sitting behind me said to her husband, “All Riggs is doing is hitting the ball right back to the kid.” Her husband responded, “Yes, and all the kid is doing is hitting it right back to Riggs.”
Among the assorted dignitaries who joined Riggs on the court was performer Jerry Van Dyke, younger brother of the more famous Dick Van Dyke. Oddly enough, many years later, I got to play Doubles against Jerry on the courts at the Tahoe Racquet Club, in Incline Village. I recall Van Dyke’s partner was a stellar collegiate player, Jerry Sun. My partner happened to be my college roommate, Pete Pridgen.
Over the years, as a Tennis buff, I have seen the game transformed in a number of ways. When I began my learning curve, I received all sorts of instructions on how to master the sport. Most of those tips have long since disappeared. Among them was one from the former champion player and Davis Cup coach Tony Trabert. His advice was to take the racquet straight back and straight forward when striking the ball. This would result in a flat, high-speed stroke with no topspin or slice. Years later, I believe it was Bjorn Borg who relied on heavy top-spin for most of his victories. Another instruction which I received was to never let the racquet head drop below my wrist. Today, with heavy hitters such as Nadal, the racquet head is almost perpendicular to the ground before striking the ball either with a forehand or backhand. Also on the list of “Don’t’s” was never to take a swinging volley, or leave your feet-except when reaching for a lob. Both of those gems have gone by the board since top players now not only swing at volleys but actually run through them. As for leaving your feet, it is currently de rigueur to do so on both your servers and also to hit powerful winners.
Most impressive facts of the entire 2017 Tennis Season have been the rise of a host of teenage future superstars and the equally intimidating factor that players six foot six and above seem to have an enormous advantage over their shorter opponents.