Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Open Minded

For American sports fans, the news that Andy Roddick was eliminated in the first round of the U.S. Open Tuesday night was shocking.  Not because he was the #4 seed.  Or because he lost in straight sets to a guy from Luxembourg, of all places.  No, what’s most stunning to these fans was this: “The U.S. Open is going on?”


Things are much more low-profile in Flushing Meadow than they were in the days of McEnroe and Connors on the men’s side, Evert and Navratilova for the women.  Quck, name five men’s seeded players!  Okay, in addition to the already departed Roddick, you can give me Roger Federer and Andre Agassi.  Unless you assumed that Agassi’s retired and only plays in commercials with his wife.  Two more players?  Didn’t think so.  Even if I gave you 2nd-seeded Rafael Nadal, you’d say, “You idiot, he’s the shortstop for the Braves!”


As for the women, I have faith that you’ll name four: the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova (pause for the male readers to drool), and Lindsay Davenport.  I’ll even give you a clue for another.  The fifth-seeded woman is the defending champion and from Russia.  No, it’s not Sharapova – you already had your chance to drool!  The answer is Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Oh yeah, Svetlana Kuznetsova!  Like Roddick, she’s already been eliminated and is therefore no longer relevant to this article.


The largest factor for the U.S. Open’s diminishing popularity among Americans is that, well, there’s not much U.S. in the Open.  Of the 33 seeded women’s players (Why 33?  Is it a Rolling Rock thing?), three are Americans.  Yes, they’re three of the players you actually recognize – #2 Davenport, #8 Serena Williams, and #10 Venus Williams.  But no spunky, up-and-coming American gals among the next 23.  Where have you gone, Tracy Austin?


On the men’s side, once again, only three U.S. players are seeded.  But to be fair, the men’s seeds only go to 32, so the ratio is better.  And that’s even with skipping the #5 seed.  Seriously, the list of seeded men’s players on the official U.S. Open website goes from #4 Roddick to #6 Nikolay Davydenko.  Upon further research, it turns out that Marat Safin was the #5 seed but had to withdraw due to injury.  But come on, if you’re gonna seed the guy, at least put him on the website – don’t act like he doesn’t exist!  Marat, if you’re reading, at least I’m giving you your props.  Anyway, you’re all familiar with two of the American men: Roddick and #7 Agassi.  The third seeded guy from the U.S.?  Of course, it’s #25 Taylor Dent.  I think he either sang “Tell It To My Heart” in the late 80s or was Brad Pitt’s character in “Fight Club.”


The women’s draw is pretty wide open, with CBS praying that the finals involve someone from among the Williams sisters and Sharapova (all on the same half of the bracket).  I don’t think they’d be dancing a jig over a final between Amelie Mauresmo and Nadia Petrova.  Federer, the defending champion, is the clear favorite on the men’s side due to his dominant play over the last two years.  In fact, keeping in mind the blue surface of the courts, some feel the only way he could lose is if he has to face Boise State.


So now you’re up to speed on the U.S. Open.  No, not the golf tournament.  Oh, forget it!