Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hey US OPEN! We are Here and Ready to Go!



Tomorrow, The Outer Courts arrives in Flushing, Queens to begin two weeks of coverage of the US Open for our friends at Tennis Channel. A year ago the notion of writing that sentence would have seemed beyond ridiculous. For just one year ago, Drew Franklin and I were mere humble bloggers and radio guys from the state of Kentucky, walking the streets and mumbling about John Calipari, Ashley Judd and Mitch McConnell. But now, thanks to the good folks at Tennis Channel, and you "The Outer Courts" readers, here we are, ready to descend on the grand spectacle of American tennis.

We do not know what to expect, but we do know that we are ready to go. For me personally, I am ready for one of the more difficult to predict US Open Tournaments in recent memory. On the men's side the prohibitive favorite coming into the tournament seems to be Rafael Nadal, who has dominated the hard court season in ways that would have been unfathomable just a few years ago. All of the top contenders to the Nadal throne have shown vulnerabilities, and the inconsistencies shown by Djokovic, Murray and Federer suggest that the draw has an openness to it that we haven't seen in recent years. Does Rafa run roughshod across the men's bracket, hammering forehands and picking the underwear out of his butt in a manner that makes him untouchable? Or does John Isner reach back and combine the unreturnable serves he showcased in Cincinnati with something resembling a return game and come through his ridiculously difficult draw. Or maybe, just maybe, this is the final beckoning hour like Pete Sampras gave us in 2002, and we see one last magical run by Federer, bringing his graceful game back to a Grand Slam title.

And on the women's side, can anyone touch Serena? Even as she lost the tournament in Cincinnati, it was still clear that her reign at the top of the women's game is as solid as she wants it to be. With Maria Sugarpova out of the tournament (by the way, was that really a thing? Did everyone really fall for the Sugarpova publicity cry and then report it as actual news when the woman was not even planning on playing in the actual tournament? One point Maria, zero points everyone else), the list of players capable of beating Serena seems to stand at one...herself. If she is focused and wants to win here, she does. The question for early in the tournament is whether Sloane Stephens can win her first two matches and set-up an Australian Open rematch that could place the national sporting eye firmly on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Here is hoping that happens.

But let's be honest. Chances are that you aren't here for any of those storylines. You are here to get the US Open covered in the most ridiculous manner possible, and that is what we are planning to do here on The Outer Courts. We never thought we would be here, but here we are and we plan on giving you a side of this event that you have never seen. We hope you come back and visit often, tell your friends and follow along as we experience the tournament the way you would, as a fan.

It all kicks off tomorrow with a fairly solid Day One in Queens.  Serena Williams and Roger Federer play in the nightcap, but solid matches exist throughout the day, including Venus Williams vs Kirsten Flipkens, David Ferrer vs Nick Krygios, Jelena Jankovic vs Madison Keys and Ernests Gulbis vs sanity. We will take you through the day and evening here and try to stay out of trouble in the process (doubtful). It should be a fun two weeks as we cover our first major with the same no-holds barred philosophy I saw showcased at dinner tonight in Manhattan. There, Brad Gilbert was eating at a table next to me and a woman to my left spotted the former American tennis player/coach and current commentator. As he ate with a group of friends, she looked at her companion and said, "he is much balder than I thought."

Yes, Brad Gilbert is much balder than we thought...and insights such as those are what the next two weeks will be all about.