By R.D. Ferman
Not long ago the Australian Open was looked upon as the forgotten major, but many now consider it to be the premier major tennis tournament. Looking back at the past few decades, the argument is actually pretty darn valid. The venue is second to none, prize money is now comparable to the other three majors, and it is no longer played over the Christmas holiday, which hindered player turnout.
Sure, Wimbledon has prestige and tradition with the white clothes, grass courts, and strawberries & cream, but the surface still favors fast pace players. The French Open is also unique in its own special way; however, the slow clay courts benefit backcourt players and the serve is marginalized. The hard courts in Flushing Meadows Queens are relatively neutral, but the atmosphere is pure New York City intensity. Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Patrick Rafter are the types that actually thrive in such an environment, but others like Bjorn Borg, Kevin Curren, Goran Ivanisevic, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, etc did not hide their discomforts.
The Australian Open is played on a neutral hard court surface, and while the fans are knowledgeable and passionate about tennis, the atmosphere is laidback compared to the US Open. This combination of neutral surface and relaxed setting make the Australian Open practically the most fair of the four majors; not one particular play style or personality is favored.
Mate got stiffed again. Australian Pat Cash will not be going to Newport this year. At least not to be enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Kind of a bummer. Cash won Wimbledon and was a member of two winning Davis Cup teams. Even better, he was just a really cool dude with an awesome net game. The only downer for the Cash Man is that he started the hideous trend of climbing up to the player guest box after winning Wimbledon in ‘87. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool back when it happened. Wimbledon and tennis needed that stunt at the time and Cash brilliantly pulled it off, mostly because he’s Pat friggen Cash. Sadly, almost every insufferable boor that has won a major since has copied “the climb.” It became an epidemic during the US Open last year when Kevin Anderson “climbed” after winning his semifinal match. I’m afraid that we must now call on the nominating committee to temporarily ban Pat Cash from the ITHOF ballot until a minimum eight consecutive major tournaments are completed where no champions “climb” up to the player box. Time for victors to act like they were expecting to win and act as such, or, at a minimum, be original.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal along with their supporting castmates (The Joke, Murray, Stan the Man, delPo) are now called the golden generation of tennis. It is becoming a worn out sports announcer cliche. Yes Federer and Rafa are great players, great guys, and great ambassadors of the sport. It’s a wonderful time to be a tennis fan! Still, I’m not ready to crown this group the best generation. The ‘70s with Nastase, Borg, Connors, McEnroe were not scrap medal. The 90s certainly didn’t suck either with guys like Sampras Agassi, Courier, Becker, and Edberg. The current generation is an awesome bunch, but tennis fans would be making a huge mistake by overhyping the current group over generations past.
Part of the reason I’m hesitant to crown the current generation as the best ever is the lack of American talent. I’m a patriot and I want to see Americans competitive in the final rounds (don’t come in with your “what about Serena” rants). But, the bizarre storyline down under this year has caused me to believe that the lack of American talent in recent years might have actually been a blessing. Why, because it shielded the pro tour from American political correctness.
As unknown American Tennys Sandgren, (yes that’s the dude’s name, fitting for this LeVar Ball era of sport parenting) progressed thru the draw, journalists uncovered his past tweets relating to so called ‘alt-right’ bloggers. A headline from one rag went so far to ask “Is Tennys Sandgren the First Alt-Right Athlete.” My immediate reaction was “ah yeah, bring it on”. Despite having serious reservations about this Sandgren fella, the media attention about this nonsense caused me to think about how much I couldn’t wait to march out to Court 17 at the US Open this year wearing a bright red MAGA lid and loudly cheer on Tennys. Not because I necessarily like him or his game, but because he aggravates all those who aggravate me. Then after Tennys stumbled thru a post match presser, I realized how the media snowflakes would not let the story end with Tennys. If this media dumpster fire continues to burn, by the time the US Open rolls around, every hippie with too much time on his hands will infest Corona Park on Labor Day weekend and turn the US Open into a scene resembling the ‘68 Democratic Convention. Nip it in the bud, Tennys. Please spend more time on the ball machine perfecting your game and less time tweeting politics. Life can be nice in the top 50, if you can get there.
Interestingly, the same time this story was playing out, a 2005 photo surfaced of then Senator Barrack Obama and Louis Farrakhan. The photo “journalist” admitted keeping the picture under wraps out of fear that if exposed, it would damage BHO’s political future. Fascinating how the media is radio silent about a photo of the leading figure of the Democrat party grinning ear to ear next to an extreme, radical, anti-Semitic, bigot, but all hysterical about aged tweets from the 97th ranked tennis player.
In the upside down world of journalistic priorities, outing a low ranked tennis player can possibly earn an aspiring pundit a Pulitzer Prize and drastically improve his status in “the Club”. People in “the Club” are the ones that get invited to speak on campuses, sit on Sunday morning news show panels, get invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner, and write editorials for the New York Times. Investigating Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and uncovering incriminating facts about them; however, is clearly the media equivalent of Pete Rose betting on baseball. Severe punishment will result; banishment from the mainstream segment of the industry.
See you in Paris!