By Lloyd Carroll
The 2017 US Open certainly had a lot less star power than was expected even before the first volley was served on Monday. Last year’s champion, Stan Wawrinka, and the man he defeated in the final, Novak Djokovic were forced to withdraw earlier in the month because of injuries. Over the weekend both Andy Murray and Milos Raonic also had to pull out because of physical issues.
While America’s most prestigious tennis tournament is certainly diminished by the absence of the aforementioned highly-ranked players, it does improve the odds considerably for the American men’s contingent that features Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, and the top USA male player, John Isner.
The last American men’s tennis player to win the US Open was Andy Roddick back in 2003. Forget the Open for a second; no American male has won a tennis Grand Slam event since.
The cold reality is that no one has been able to succeed the likes of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras who were men’s tennis in the 1990s. When they retired, Taylor Dent, Robbie Ginepri, and Mardy Fish were the best American male players. While they weren’t slouches, they weren’t champions either. We’ll find out soon enough whether Isner, Querrey, or Sock will take advantage of a weaker field to finally break this fourteen-year jinx. As the title of a classic Elvis Presley song goes, it’s now or never.
Serena Williams’ dominance has masked the fact the state of American women’s tennis hasn’t been much better than the men’s side. With Serena missing this year’s Open because of her pregnancy the lack of depth is apparent. The highest ranked American female player is Serena’s sister, Venus Williams, who is 37. This is the time for Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and Coco Vandeweghe to prove that they are not perennial also-rans who are out of Flushing Meadows before the first week is completed.
Last Wednesday the United States Tennis Association held their third annual Queens Day. A stage was set up just outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium and performers from all over our borough performed. My favorite was the D.B. Rielly Band who performed a rousing Zydeco-style version of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.”
Queens Day coincided with the US Open Qualifiers tournament in which players competed for a wild card berth. It remains the best bargain in sports as there is no admission charge.
I think that it’s safe to say that no food purveyor was happier to see the US Open get underway than Pat LaFrieda who also has a kiosk selling steak sandwiches at Citi Field. Of course, September will almost certainly be a ghost town on the other side of Roosevelt Avenue given how the Mets season has deteriorated.
The United States Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals (the men’s tour) have long supported Aceing Autism in which adults and kids who are diagnosed with this malady can learn how to play the sport and improve their lives. Last Sunday Aceing Autism held a clinic at the Corona Park Public Tennis Courts located in Flushing Meadows Park and just a stone’s throw away from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Artist/toy creator Loretta Boronat donated My Pal for Tennis dolls to all kids who took part.