US Open Finale
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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Now that the U.S. Open has ended, so should the professional tennis season. The last Grand Slam of the year culminated in swirling drama in New York. On the women's side, the two best tennis players of our era, despite rankings that erroneously indicate otherwise, sisters of a close-knit family, Venus and Serena once again met as they had at Wimbledon. That grass-court final was an epic display of sublime athletic gifts as well as a compelling showing of mutual affection and respect. Older sister Venus prevailed at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club so it was storybook touché at Arthur Ashe Stadium when this time around younger sister Serena won the slam and the attendant $1.5 million.
On the men's side, the Open also brought a novelesque season to a fever-pitch denouement. The longstanding world #1, Mr. Suave, GQ cover-boy Roger Federer, showed signs of imperfection through the summer. Once again, he lost in Paris to the young matador from Mallorca, the clay-court genius Rafael Nadal. Fair enough. Nadal owns the red clay at Roland Garros. But then the Spaniard put on another masterful show on the grass at Wimbledon, the house that Roger built, and thus exposed deep disappointment beneath the usually unflappable Swiss cool. Roger somehow lost his forehand, once a lethal weapon, over the summer and was beaten soundly by a number of lesser players. The five-year Federer mystique had seemingly worn threadbare. But Roger found his polish in New York. By the final, the Federer fifth gear was beyond mortal parameters. The world's elite started chasing each other at the first Grand Slam in January, the Australian Open, and from there went from Dubai to the California desert to Rome and Paris and London and wound up in New York for the final showdown.
It's been a long road and they're tired now, these champions. As a matter of fact, some of them were obviously tired before the Open started. Nadal and James Blake, in particular, showed the wear-and-tear of many dozen tough matches over the previous nine months during the Open itself.
Now, the fall, is the time they should rest their weary legs and overworked wrists. September and October would be ideal months to get back to home and friends and family, enjoy an off season as do all other athletes, rekindle their desire to practice and play and then use November and December to improve a serve, sharpen the footwork, lay down a conditioning base for the long months of long matches that start in January. But no, now starts the anticlimactic European indoor series. The fans are eager but the players are weary. Then comes the year-end ATP Championship, an ill-conceived eight-man round robin, played mid-November to sparse media coverage, yet billed as the tour's grand finale.
First of all, it's played in Shanghai, a fine city, but hardly a tennis mecca. Secondly, this finale keeps changing names which has not been conducive to branding the event as The Super Bowl or the World Series of tennis. It's been the Masters, the Masters Cup, the Tennis Masters Cup, the ATP World Championship, and now the ATP World Tour Final.
And the women similarly finish their season in November with what they call the Sony Ericsson Championships, to be played this year in Qatar. Will you tune in? Will you remember the U.S. Open Champion of 2008 or the Sony Ericsson Champion of Qatar?
More tournaments mean more money for the tour organizers, that's clear. But they mean more injuries and a higher rate of burnout for the players. And for us fans, the old adage "less is more" definitely applies.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image of Serena Williams at the 2008 US Open: Rob Loud/usopen.org