The 2017 US Open certainly had a lot less star power than was expected even before the first volley was served on Monday. Last year’s champion, Stan Wawrinka, and the man he defeated in the final, Novak Djokovic were forced to withdraw earlier in the month because of injuries. Over the weekend both Andy Murray and Milos Raonic also had to pull out because of physical issues.
While America’s most prestigious tennis tournament is certainly diminished by the absence of the aforementioned highly-ranked players, it does improve the odds considerably for the American men’s contingent that features Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, and the top USA male player, John Isner.
The last American men’s tennis player to win the US Open was Andy Roddick back in 2003. Forget the Open for a second; no American male has won a tennis Grand Slam event since.
The cold reality is that no one has been able to succeed the likes of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras who were men’s tennis in the 1990s. When they retired, Taylor Dent, Robbie Ginepri, and Mardy Fish were the best American male players. While they weren’t slouches, they weren’t champions either. We’ll find out soon enough whether Isner, Querrey, or Sock will take advantage of a weaker field to finally break this fourteen-year jinx. As the title of a classic Elvis Presley song goes, it’s now or never.
Serena Williams’ dominance has masked the fact the state of American women’s tennis hasn’t been much better than the men’s side. With Serena missing this year’s Open because of her pregnancy the lack of depth is apparent. The highest ranked American female player is Serean’s sister, Venus Williams, who is 37. This is the time for Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and Coco Vandeweghe to prove that they are not perennial also-rans who are out of Flushing Meadows before the first week is completed.
Last Wednesday the United States Tennis Association held their third annual Queens Day. A stage was set up just outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium and performers from all over our borough performed. My favorite was the D.B. Rielly Band who performed a rousing Zydeco-style version of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.”
Another Queens Day highlight was 2016 Olympic medal winner Monica Puig conducting a thirty-minute clinic for kids who were attending camp at the Elmcor Community Center.
I think that it’s safe to say that no food purveyor was happier to see the US Open get underway than Pat LaFrieda who also has a kiosk selling steak sandwiches at Citi Field. Of course September will almost certainly be a ghost town on the other side of Roosevelt Avenue given how the Mets season has deteriorated.
The United States Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals (the men’s tour) have long supported Aceing Autism in which adults and kids who are diagnosed with this malady can learn how to play the sport and improve their lives. Last Sunday Aceing Autism held a clinic at the Corona Park Public Tennis Courts located in Flushing Meadows Park and just a stone’s throw away from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Artist/toy creator Loretta Boronat donated My Pal for Tennis dolls to all kids who took part.
At this past weekend’s Northern Trust PGA Tour tournament held at the Glen Oaks Country Club in Old Westbury. I noticed a number of golfers entering a huge trailer sponsored by Massage Envy, the national chain of health spas, following their rounds. These PGA Tour stars had a number of physical therapists working with them on stretching their muscles.
I spoke with the chief physical therapist, Jason Stodelle, who told me that golfers are keenly aware of the importance of stretching and massage because their livelihood depends on flexibility and mobility. Good blood flow is crucial for them to be at the top of their game.
While Massage Envy has a sponsorship agreement in place with the PGA Tour, it doesn’t have one with Major League Baseball. Nonetheless I had to ask Stodelle about the inordinate number of injuries that the Mets have incurred this year.
Stodelle said that he wasn’t surprised about either Yoenis Cespedes’s or Noah Syndergaard’s lengthy time on the disabled list since they make no secret of their pumping iron regiments. “Throwing a pitch or swinging a bat is not a natural motion. While there is a place of course for supervised weight training, overdoing it can be counterproductive to what a ballplayer really needs–flexibility and mobility. That’s why stretching is far more important for them.”
As I predicted, the hardest part for Floyd Mayweather wasn’t winning his boxing match over mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor but rather allowing it to go ten rounds before he earned a TKO. Floyd knew that his promotion partners and Showtime would both catch a lot of grief if he took care of business too early.
The Mayweather-McGregor fight greatly helped the Las Vegas economy at a time of the year when tourism is down because of the scorching temperatures.
The fight also helped the fashion industry as well. I received a press release that touted that Mayweather wore a robe designed by Philipp Plein into the ring.
Mornings have never been a robust time for sports programming but that may be changing. Next Tuesday at 6:30 AM Fox Sports 1 will be launching “First Things First” that will be hosted by former NFL wide receiver and ESPN personality Cris Carter, one-time Kansas City sports radio jock Nick Wright, and former “Weekend Today” co-host Jenna Wolfe. Expect debates, interviews, essays, and of course highlights from the previous night’s sporting events.
Fox Sports 1 is smart to get its morning show launched before ESPN christens Mike Greenberg’s AM show on January 1, 2018.
Aaron Judge may be getting some competition down the New Jersey Turnpike. Phillies rookie outfielder Rhys Hoskins belted 11 homers in his first 64 at-bats. He has been the bright spot in a very bad Phillies season.
Nathan’s Famous, the frankfurter company founded by Nathan Handwerker in 1916, is using sports to expand nationally. Last year it signed a sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball and this past weekend it was very visible at the PGA Tour’s marquee East Coast event, the Northern Trust Open, which was won by Dustin Johnson who edged out Jordan Spieth in a playoff.
If you are looking for a Labor Day Weekend getaway idea, the New York State Fair is going on right now in Syracuse. The last day of the fair will be Labor Day itself and the admission charge, will be $1. JetBlue has frequent service between JFK and Syracuse if you don’t want to make the five-hour drive.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of actor/comedian Jay Thomas last week. Many baby boomers who grew up in New York fondly remember him from his days as the morning jock on the defunct Top-40 radio station WXLO-FM which was better known as 99X. Back then radio stations encouraged their air personalities to actually have a personality.