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Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, points out distractions in the crowd during his match against Steve Johnson, of the United States, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, early Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, points out distractions in the crowd during his match against Steve Johnson, of the United States, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, early Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)|Associated Press
Tennis

U.S Open Notebook: Abrams reflects on TV blowhards, the Kyrgios circus, Nadal's clear path, who should retire, Chris Evert's name & more

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

Fake news

Most of the tennis announcers are homers. It doesn’t matter who they’re talking about, but if the player is American, there’s never an end to the praises given. Wanna talk about Venus? She’s the best. Or France Tiafoe? Great player. Danielle Collins? Great American star. How about Tennys Sandgren? Terrific competitor. Why can’t we just all talk and face the truth about all of the players? Brad Gilbert, spend more time ripping those who deserve to be ripped instead of giving them all cute little nicknames. Pam Shriver, stop talking about how great the women’s game is. It isn’t. It’s just better than it used to be. Darren Cahill, you’re a great announcer, but could you say a little something that’s either controversial or your real opinion? Patrick McEnroe, isn’t it about time you took the blame for the horrible state U.S. Men’s tennis is in? After all, weren’t you the Head of Development for the USTA? Give me more John McEnroe. I know he calls all the first and second round losers journeyman, but isn’t he right? Whether you like John, or not (and if you know him he’s hard to like), he’s the best announcer out there. I wanna hear it like it is, not all covered with Splenda, like the rest of them present it.

Curious about Kyrgios

And what “notes” section would be complete without a mention of Nick At Night? Watching Nick Kyrgios is a true spectacle. You really can’t say much negative about his tennis, as he is gifted beyond belief. In his after-midnight first round win against Stevie Johnson, he regularly hit first serves over 140 mph and second serves above 130 mph. He played a tactically perfect match in which he attacked Johnson’s strength, his forehand, but mixed in wonderful drop shots, forehand howitzers clocked at around 109 mph, and even some terrific volleys. But it’s hard to mention his name without also confirming his strange extra-curricular activities. He, as always, maintained a strange running monologue with his supporters, showed displeasure at the umpire, and even rubbed a towel between his legs and under his arm pits before tossing it into an adoring crowd. The guy is a traveling circus, and I, for one, want to catch the whole act, craziness, obscenities, and disgusting gestures included. And the more he gets fined, the more everyone else wants to see him, too!

Nadal finds his path cleared

The bottom half of the Men’s draw has already been demolished after just two days. Guys who have been identified as future champions went down in the first round to open up the draw to either Rafa Nadal or to any other man who can get out of that half. Gone are Stefanos Tsitsipas, to Andrey Rublev and a bad case of cramps, Karen Khachanov, to another round of failed expectations, Dominic Thiem, to the slow strangulation of wildness, and Roberto Bautista Agut, to the crushing serves of Mikhail Kukushkin. Left in Nadal’s half are Sascha Zverev, although he looked awfully shaky in his first round win over Radu Albot, Nick Kyrgios, after his awesome display of power tennis last night in his win over Stevie Johnson, Marin Cilic, who destroyed Martin Klizan in three, and John Isner who rolled over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez without needing a single tiebreaker. The top half is left relatively in tact, with the loss of only Taylor Fritz, who fell to the serve-and-volley of Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, and the Fabulous Fognini, who got served off the court by Reilly Opelka.

Rooting for Roger? Get real

For those who are rooting for Roger Federer to win this tournament, and there are many, be realistic. The legend is almost 38 years old, but more tellingly, he hasn’t won this tournament since 2008. That’s 88 years in dog-time. There have been five different U.S. Open champions since Federer last won the title (del Potro, Nadal, Djokovic, Cilic, and Wawrinka), and that time has spanned parts of three different Presidential administrations.

American men look primed for a resurgence . . .

The United States is at a low point in terms of both competitors and top players, having only two seeds in the list of 32 (Isner and Fritz), but the future looks bright for the Men. With Jenson Brooksby, Zach Svajda, Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda, JC Aragone, Govind Nanda, JJ Wolf, Brandon Nakashima, and Martin Damn, the cupboard is full. The future looks bright. Better start wearing shades.

. . . But other American hopefuls have fallen

The sidelines are littered with failed U.S. prospects. Its’ time to say goodbye to Donald Young, who was probably just too small to make it big in the pros. Melanie Oudin has been a one-hit wonder for almost ten years now. Cici Bellis appears too frail to fulfill her potential. Stefan Kozlov and Michael Mmoh are stuck playing Challengers. Ryan Harrison is done. Noah Rubin seems to have shot his load. But the beauty of tennis is that there are always new players ready to take their shot, and we’ve got a bunch of them.

Has marriage ruined Sloane Stephens' game?

What’s wrong with Sloane Stephens? The 2017 U.S. Open champion, who has been a bright flower in the pantheon of sheltered and entitled athletes, has become a reclamation project, and fast. Ever since she got married this summer, Stephens has become moody, angry, and sloppy. Her court play has been an enigma, to say the least, and she’s just searching for a win somewhere. Her first round loss here in NYC bookended a horrible summer in which she was unaccustomedly sardonic. She did manage to pocket two Wimbledon wins after two years of not making it out of the first round, but seems unhappy. Frankly, I’d be happy just to see her smile again.

Our wish for Genie? Retire

Canadian Genie Bouchard is clearly done. She lost in the first round here, and can’t buy a win. It’s hard for an athlete, especially a fan favorite like Bouchard, to know when to hang ‘em up, but it's time for Bouchard to realize that her window has closed. She’ll have plenty of opportunities in other professions, perhaps in broadcasting or modeling, but she no longer can compete on the WTA Tour.

Maria, it's time to retire, Maria

Talking about a player being done, isn’t it about time we bury Maria Sharapova? After her 15-month mandatory drug suspension she has not shown the game that we grew accustomed to from her. It’s sorta funny in that she still has the same fire, but it’s like watching little Simba roaring like big, bad Mustafa, with plenty of ill intent, but without the ability to fight the fight. Let’s put her out of her misery and pack her off to some deserted island for really tall women.

Greek God not ready for Olympus yet

Stefanos Tsitsipas is burned out. The Greek God no longer seems to play with the glee he showed early this year, seemingly overnight turning his passion into a lunch pail job. It’s not unusual for pros to need breaks, and Tsitsipas needs one badly, right now. He has all the talent in the world, and he is tomorrow’s champion, but he’s got to get through today first.

Investing in women tennis players? Sell short

Boy, I love Lauren Davis and Camilla Giorgi, but is it time to say goodbye to women players under 5’10”? Much has been said about how tall all the men are, with two of the top three Americans measuring taller than 6’10”, and the third at 6’4”, but it’s not just the men. All the players are big these days, and looking at Venus Williams, Karolina Pliskova, Maria Sharapova, Vika Azarenka, Maddy Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, Petra Kvitova, Aryna Sabalenka, Naomi Osaka, and Danielle Collins who are all 5’10 or taller, it’s getting awfully difficult for smaller ladies to compete. With the exception of Ash Barty, it seems like the WTA is a circuit for giants.

Coco getting even hotter

Coco Gauff is the real deal. She has had a lot of press, and the expectations for her have been huge ever since she was 13. I was not terribly impressed with her in her Wimbledon debut, when everyone else was singing hosannas her way. I thought that she was pretty much a defensive player with not much in the way of offense or aggression, but I’ve changed my mind after watching her win her first round match here in the Apple. She beat another rising star, Russian Anastasia Potapova, after dropping the first set in a most impressive fashion. If she’s not a star already, she will be one. She’s a terrific player, and she’s an absolute delight. What else can American tennis ask for?

Chris? Chrissie? Whatevert?

When did Chris Evert become “Chrissie” Evert? First, it was Chris Evert. Then it became Chris Evert Lloyd. Her affair with Adam Ant ruined that one. Then she became Chris Evert Mills. Her affair with Greg Norman doomed that one. Then she became Chris Evert Norman. And now it’s Chrissie Evert, an appropriately cute name for a 64-year-old. If you know what’s next, could you please let me know?

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