Serena Williams, US Open 2214

This is a guest post by Margaret

The Open already felt … uncertain, since one of my favorites couldn’t defend his championship.

An American attending an American tournament, when much had been made of the steadily vanishing number of Americans in the Men’s Singles Draw, I wondered if the tournament’s “big story” would be a victory for American players in Women’s Singles (Serena), Men’s Doubles (the Bryans, gunning for their 100th title), and Mixed Doubles (this is when Taylor (Townsend) and Donald (Young) had reached the quarters, but not yet lost in them) … even in the face of the American men seemingly unable to manage it.

Then Taylor and Donald lost.

And I reverted to having no clue what the “story” might be.

I heard Darth Vader’s Theme adapted to “Darth Federer’s Theme” at the US Open in 2007, its presence underscoring Roger’s relentless march through the draw like it did the original Vader’s stalking and sweeping through The Empire Strikes Back.

That theme followed the (alleged) Darth Fed’s come-from-behind 5-setter against Gael Monfils in those … quarterfinals … this year.

It sounded ominous to me, placed there. And not in a good way.

I wanted to call up the US Open DJ from outside of New York City where I was, and cry “Too soon! Too soon!” as many times as it took for him to shut it off.

We all know how that turned out.

But we didn’t know it when Roger took the court, guided – many would argue, to much-improved results over recent months – by his once-idol, to square off against another man with a score to settle with his sport who was also guided by his once idol … another variation on the “new story”, the theme of the once-kings positioning their new champions, near-champions, or renewed champions like chess pieces, the tight struggle for first-time crowns, or repeat crowns, or to create them kings above all (yes, Roger – please come back. We know you will play as long as we watch, and we will watch as long as you play. One more. Encore. Just one more).

I listened to a clip of Bud Collins commenting on the variety of Johnny Mac’s game, and another clip of Steve Tignor talking about how that one-handed backhand in combination with a frequent net approach in the modern game brought the upside to a player of so much more variety in his or her game at the same time that it brought the downside of much more risk.

I had the great good fortune to spend time with the Mens Champions Doubles Teams of McEnroe/McEnroe and Cash/Martin to witness exactly what Mr. Collins meant (yes, JMac fans, he’s still got it :-)).

Cash/Martin vs McEnroe/McEnroe

The ladies played on Ashe on their historic Championship Sunday. And I got to see them. In that same clip, Mr. Collins talked about Mr. Ashe’s enormous influence on tennis for the good, extending down to what he felt was an inspirational influence for the Williams sisters, both of whom serve now in an inspirational role for a new generation of athletes, and one of whom was looking to put another layer of historic lustre on that influence – if she could get past the Women’s Winner of the US Open 2014 Sportsmanship Award, who was looking for her historic first Slam title.

That – that I couldn’t know, in any match, whose strategy would prevail, whose backhand would prove more devastating, whose legs would last – was, through every match, what kept me pasted in front of any screen I could see it on for the duration of the time I couldn’t be there in person like I annually scrambled to set aside the time to do.

As we take a breath between the great Grand Slams, and warm up for the Davis Cup – we know what the stories are, already, for each of the personalities we follow.

We just don’t know how this chapter of them is going to come out.

And that is why we watch.

Sles, McEnroe, Clijsters and Bahrami

My reports on the Optima Open are finally online! This match took place on Saturday, August 16th (read my complete Optima Open report here).

Last match of the day: a mixed doubles exhibition with Kim Clijsters, Monica Seles, John McEnroe and Mansour Bahrami! It’s always a pleasure to see these great champions play and have fun on court.

Players entering the court:

Warm-up:

4-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, visibly happy to be on court:

Kim Clijsters and Mansour Bahrami

Kim Clijsters

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Henri Leconte

My reports on the Optima Open are finally online! This match took place on Saturday, August 16th (read my complete Optima Open report here).

Second match of the day: crowd favorite Henri Leconte against Greg Rusedski.
Rusedski won the match 7-5 6-3 but as expected Henri stole the show on court (let’s say Rusedski is not really a charismatic player…)

Rusedski and Leconte were both Grand Slam finalists: the Brit lost to Pat Rafter in the 1997 US Open final, and Henri lost the infamous Roland Garros 1988 final to Mats Wilander.
Leconte is now a commentator for Eurosport and has recently launched a padel club in Manosque, South of France.
As for Rusedski if I’m not wrong, he’s involved with junior players but I’m not so sure about that.

Henri Leconte

Greg Rusedski

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Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Cash

My reports on the Optima Open are finally online! This match took place on Saturday, August 16th (read my complete Optima Open report here).

First match of the day between two Wimbledon champions: Pat Cash (1987) and Goran Ivanisevic (2001).
An entertaining match with lots of interactions between the players and the public. Cash and Ivanisevic even tried to “corrupt” the line judges by offering them money. It was a lot of fun with some good tennis too.

Pat Cash

Goran’s impressive serve:

Goran Ivanisevic

Pete Sampras was the first player to pass 1,000 ace mark in a single season, but Goran still holds the record for most aces in a year.

Grandpa Cash, still looking strong at 49:

Pat Cash

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Optima Open 2014 report

Optima Open

I spent a day in Knokke-Heist, Belgium, last month to attend the third day of the Optima Open, the Belgian stop of the ATP Champions Tour. It was the second seniors event I attended this year after the World Tennis Day showdown in London last March (find all the recap here).

Situated in the heart of the country’s Flemish-speaking Flanders region, Knokke-Heist is considered to be one of Belgium’s most exclusive and affluent seaside resorts. Knokke-Heist is the perfect base for exploring the enchanting Zwin region, on the Belgian-Dutch border.

Knokke

Knokke

Knokke

The tournament has the typical senior event format: 2 groups of 3 players, with the winners of each group facing each other in final. This year the Optima Open also featured a star-studded mixed doubles exhibition event: with three former world number one, winnners of 20 singles Grand Slam titles in total, and tennis’ greatest entertainer, Mansour Bahrami completing the foursome.

Group A Group B Special guests
Fabrice Santoro Xavier Malisse Kim Clijsters
Greg Rusedski Goran Ivanisevic Monica Seles
Henri Leconte Pat Cash John McEnroe
Mansour Bahrami
Sabine Appelmans
Dominique Monami

All results on the official website (Malisse beat Santoro in the final)

Optima Open

Optima Open

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