Carroll: Tennis Time Is Here!

The US Open officially gets underway at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows Park on Monday and it will be somewhat strange not having two longtime crowd-pleasers taking part.

Roger Federer had knee surgery in March and ironically it wasn’t tennis related. According to Roger, he slipped in his bathroom while giving his kids a bath. He insists that he is not retiring however.

On the women’s side, the glamourous Maria Sharapova is serving a two-tear suspension for testing positive for using performance enhancement drugs. And you thought that was strictly the domain of baseball players.

The big question of course is whether any American tennis player not named Serena Williams will still be competing at the Open after Labor Day. It has been awhile since that has happened.

The last American male to win a Grand Slam event was Andy Roddick who was victorious at the 2003 US Open. Roddick was at Forest Hills Stadium three weeks ago as part of his commitment to the New York Empire of World Team Tennis.

Roddick was a bit testy after I asked him whether Sam Querrey’s victory over Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in June was a fluke although it would make for a good story to tell his grandchildren. “I wouldn’t diminish his accomplishment by calling it a fluke,” Andy replied. Then again, he didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement to Querrey or the other high-ranking American, John Isner, to win the Open.

He sounded more upbeat when discussing the future of American tennis. “If you want to compare tennis to baseball this is as deep a farm system as I have seen in fifteen years.”

I asked Roddick if he was including Noah Rubin, whose dad is from Bayside and who grew up in Merrick, in that category.  He said that he had heard good things about him but he hadn’t watched him play enough to form his own opinion.

There will be tennis Friday evening at Forest Hills Stadium as the Orange County Breakers will be taking on the San Diego Aviators for the World Team Tennis championship. In addition to tennis, many renowned chefs including Marcus Samuelsson will be serving their gourmet cuisine that night.

The New York Empire finished their maiden season with a disappointing 2-10 record. The Empire were led by WTA star Christina McHale but the rest of the team were more or less no-names. Empire head coach and Douglaston native Patrick McEnroe knows that the Empire has to beef up their roster next season.

“The key to getting better players to join World Team Tennis is to find a way for them to earn points play here so that it can increase their ranking,” he told me at an introductory press event at the West Side Tennis Club for the Empire back in June.

You can’t blame Mets manager Terry Collins for expressing belief that his team will make the playoffs in spite of their putrid play since the All-Star Game in which they have seen their record dip below .500 more than once. With the advent of the second wild card berth teams can claim to be in the pennant race far longer than they could in the old days when only four teams from each league made it to post-season. If you are in Terry’s position you stay upbeat until mathematics tell you otherwise.

I was in San Diego the weekend that the Padres were visiting a steamy Citi Field to play the Mets so I listened to our Flushing heroes on the Padres’ flagship radio station, XPRS. The voice of the Padres is San Diego institution Ted Leitner who grew up in Yonkers and worked as a vendor at Shea Stadium. Ted is a good-natured unabashed homer who refers to the team he broadcasts as “My Padres.” He has a quick wit and is a fun listen.

The job of a radio pregame show host is to do whatever he can to get you to listen to the entire game by hyping any aspect about it. Ben Higgins, who handles that chore for the Padres on XPRS, is certainly honest to a fault. The pitching matchup in the first game at Citi Field pitted awful Mets starter Logan Verrett (who has since been mercifully demoted to the minors) against his equally putrid counterpart, Padres fifth starter Paul Clemens. “Tonight it will be Logan Verrett against Paul Clemens. That’s it. That’s all I can give you. There is nothing else to say!” Higgins said in humorous mock disgust.

The following night Higgins was a bit more serious when he was hosting the postgame show. He mentioned how that Padres announcers were impressed with the way that the Mets handled their first ever LGBTQ Night. “This was the first time that same sex couples were seen smooching on the Kiss-Cam and there were lots of cheers!” Higgins said with admiration.

Granted, the results of NFL preseason games are more or less meaningless but there is always going to be intrigue whenever the Jets and Giants play. It is with this backdrop that Jets quarterback Eugene Cyril “Geno” Smith faces the stiffest test of his NFL career.

Smith stunk up FedEx Field last Friday night when the Jets lost to the Washington Redskins while third-stringer Bryce Petty looked mighty impressive. It’s safe to say that if that scenario reoccurs on Saturday, Geno will be cut from the team. Smith was drafted by former Jets general manager John Idzik whereas Petty was selected by current GM Mike Maccagnan. I don’t have to tell you which QB is in a stronger position politically.

The conclusion of the Olympics means that it will be another four years until we get to watch water polo, badminton, and ping-pong on national television. The withdrawal pains are starting.

I have a feeling that very few Americans were biting their fingernails worrying about whether the Team USA men’s and women’s basketball teams would win gold medals, which of course, they did.

It seems as if more was written about miscreant gold medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte than about all of the sporting competition in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian government officials should be grateful to Lochte for this much. Thanks to him no one was talking about that country’s Zika virus problem.

Summer used to be a dreary period for the television industry. That’s no longer the case as evidenced by the CW’s decision to revive “MAD TV” and ABC’s green light to  reboot the hysterically funny and suggestive classic game show, “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin who is doing justice to the memory of Gene Rayburn.

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