(Dave Saffran/Sportsday Wire)
The 2015 US Open will undoubtedly best be remembered for the fact that Serena Williams lost in the women’s semi-finals last Friday to unseeded Roberta Vinci from Italy in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Vinci then lost in the final the next day to countryman Flavia Pennetta who announced her retirement following the greatest victory of her career.
This was the first US Open in which ESPN had the exclusive domestic television broadcast rights. For the past 46 years CBS broadcast all of the big matches. You have to believe that thoughts of harakiri must have crossed the minds of ESPN executives after Serena lost. Had Williams made it into the finals it would have been a ratings bonanza because she was going for one of tennis’s rarest feats–winning all four legs of the Grand Slam (Wimbledon, and the Australian, French, and US Opens) in the same calendar year.
Last Tuesday more people watched the quarterfinal showdown between Venus and Serena Williams on ESPN in the New York area than either the Mets-Nationals on SNY or the Yankees-Orioles on YES even though both of our local teams were fighting for their respective division titles.
At least ESPN honchos could console themselves knowing that they got the men’s final that they most wanted when Roger Federer met Novak Djokovic. Novak prevailed in four sets Sunday.
As per custom, there wasn’t much of an American presence on the men’s side but there was some minute progress. Last year there wasn’t an American male left standing after the sixth day. This year both John Isner and Donald Young made it to Labor Day (Day 8) before getting bounced.
Although he never won a Grand Slam event, James Blake, who retired two years ago, remains one of the most popular American tennis players of all-time. Blake grew up in Westchester, attended Harvard, and as he frequently made clear at many a post-match press conference at the US Open, is a big Mets fan.
It was a major embarrassment for New York when Blake, who was waiting in front of the Grand Hyatt New York for a car to take him to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, was manhandled by an NYPD officer in a case of mistaken identity for an alleged cyberspace crime.
It was a great idea on the part of the United States Tennis Association to host a free day last Thursday so that more people could experience the US Open and fill the seats for the usually sparse doubles matches at Louis Armstrong Stadium as well as the various side courts. One suggestion that I would make to the USTA is to switch Queens Day, in which performers from our borough get to show off their talents, from the week of the qualifiers to the Thursday before the Open wraps up.
This fact got overlooked on Sunday when the Mets won their 82nd game of the season after yet another one of their heart-stopping come-from-behind wins on Sunday in Atlanta. It is understandable that Mets fans minds are on bigger goals such as winning the National League East title but their 10-7 victory on Sunday guaranteed that the Mets would have their first winning season since they moved into Citi Field six years ago.
Former Mets general manager and current Sirius XM Sports air personality Steve Phillips was at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro was fired the preceding day and the knock on him was that he signed the team’s core of aging stars: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard to lengthy and expensive contracts that crippled the team in recent years.
I asked Phillips if it’s generally a team’s owner that dictates the big dollar contracts for key players and he quickly concurred. “Absolutely. The problem is that owners frequently forget who ordered that decision when things don’t work out or when a player’s skills decline in the later years of that contract. To the Yankees ownership’s credit, they haven’t blamed (general manager) Brian Cashman when they saddled him with a player that he did not want.”
Phillips chuckled when I quoted what Lee Strasberg’s character Hyman Roth philosophically said in “The Godfather II”: “This is the business that we have chosen.”
The Jets got the Todd Bowles era off to a good start by beating the Cleveland Browns 31-10 on Sunday. Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to lead numerous scoring drives and he did not turn the foot ball over.
Another plus for the Jets was that they committed very few penalties. It was clear that Bowles, their new head coach, had his team prepared. As much as I liked Rex Ryan, sloppy play that was characterized by needless penalties, was par for the course with the Jets during much of his six-season tenure.
Before Jets fans get too giddy however it should be pointed out that Gang Green got a big break when Browns QB Josh McCown, who had done a terrific job moving the ball downfield in the first half, had to leave the game before intermission after incurring a concussion. His backup, the controversial Johnny Manziel, did not have a chance to work with the Browns’ first team and that lack of chemistry with the offense was evident throughout the second half when the Jets put the game away.
I have a feeling that a number of Giants may have broken their televisions by hurling things as they watched the G-Men snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. The Giants had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but a bonehead decision by QB Eli Manning to throw an incomplete play-action pass from the Cowboys’ 1-yard line gave his Dallas counterpart, Tony Romo, a last chance to be the hero and he took advantage.
“The League,” a fun look at a group of friends whose lives are defined by their love of fantasy football, has not gotten the critical acclaim that it should. The show does have a dedicated fan base that watches it on Thursdays at 10 PM on cable network FXX as it has just started its seventh season.
There will be a Queens angle to next Sunday’s Emmy Awards. Woodhaven native Adrien Brody is up for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries for his portrayal of the legendary magician Harry Houdini in History Channel’s “Houdini.” Harry Houdini himself is buried in Glendale’s Machpelah Cemetery.