Monday, August 29, 2011

US Open Preview

Personally, I don't get into the tennis all that much.  I'll watch parts of the major tournaments, but I'm much too unrefined to appreciate the delicate balance of power, speed, and individual creativity and craftsmanship the sport breeds (though, a few years ago, I was unemployed during the Australian Open and found myself staying up until four or five in the morning watching EVERY match that was on TV; and I haven't recovered from it since).

But Venkman doesn't operate like me.  He appreciates the finer things:  art, crisply pressed pants, meats and cheeses with wine, and the McEnroe brothers breaking down Roger Federer's latest loss.  With that, he offers a lesson on this year's US Open.

Alas, it is that time of year again when everyone has fuzzy little balls on the brain. The fourth and final major tennis tournament of the year, the US Open, begins on Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York. And if your anything like me, you’ve got a crap-ton of money in play with your local bookie as to the outcome of this hallowed tournament. Well, rest easy this year, because Uncle Venkman here to make sure you spend those dollars wisely. I’m about to take all the guess work out of the equation when it comes to betting on professional tennis (I know this has been keeping you up nights).

Those With a Legitimate Shot

1. Novak Djokovic

ATP Ranking: 1
2011 Record: 57-2
2011 Prize Money: $8,306,718
Best finish at US Open: Finalist 2007, 2010
Major Titles Won: Australian Open 2008, 2011; Wimbledon 2011

The Djoker is currently enjoying the most dominant season of tennis since John McEnroe finished the 1984 season with a cool 82-3 singles record in a year when he won both Wimbledon and US Open crowns. Should Djokovic go on to win the US Open, he would hold the titles of three out of four Grand Slams in one calendar year and have a very strong claim to the greatest individual season in the history of tennis.

What Novak has done in 2011 is nothing short of miraculous. Oddly enough, he attributes much of his newfound success to a new gluten-free diet. In case you were wondering, gluten can be found in pretty much every item in the grocery store, which leads me to believe the Serb sold his soul to the Prince of Darkness prior to the 2011 campaign. Regardless of his extra-curricular activities, Djokovic will be the odds-on favorite to win at Flushing Meadows.

2. Rafael Nadal
ATP Ranking: 2
2011 Record: 53-10
2011 Prize Money: $5,336,329
Best finish at US Open: Champion 2010
Major Titles Won: Australian Open 2009; French Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 Wimbledon 2008, 2010; US Open 2010

Any other tour pro would kill puppies for the year Nadal has had thus far, but the fact that he is 0-5 against Djokovic in 2011 makes this a very bleak year for the Spaniard. And to go ahead and twist the knife, all five of these losses occurred in the finals of a huge tournament with a massive purse: Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome, and the finals of Wimbledon. Expect Rafa to make the finals, but unless he brings something else to the party he’ll be handed ass-beating number six, courtesy of Derek Zoolander.

3. Roger Federer
ATP Ranking: 3
2011 Record: 42-11
2011 Prize Money: $2,596,439
Best finish at US Open: Champion 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Major Titles Won: Australian Open 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010; French Open 2009; Wimbledon 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 US Open 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Federer is on this list for one reason and one reason only: He holds more Grand Slam titles than anyone else in the history of the game. However, now 30 years of age, Club Fed hasn’t won a major title since January 2010. Also, Federer’s inability to best Nadal in a meaningful match raises an interesting question: Can a player really be considered the greatest of all time while being totally dominated by his closest rival?

Personally, I think Fed is kind of a douche and men who don’t sweat during physical activity are not to be trusted. Had he played in the era of Pete Sampras, I have no doubt Pistol Pete would have dominated Fed on the faster surfaces (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open). And, to put this matter to bed, Pete went out and locked down Veronica Vaughn. Fancy-pants Federer prefers to be the only tennis player ever to not take the model or supermodel path.

4. Mardy Fish
ATP Ranking: 8
2011 Record: 36-17
2011 Prize Money: $1,213,426
Best finish at US Open: Quarterfinalist 2008
Major Titles Won: none

Prior to undergoing knee surgery in the fall of 2009, Mardy Fish was hovering around #100 in the world and had never met a buffet line that wasn’t to his liking. Post-surgery, Fish dropped from 210 to 175 lbs and decided he wanted to make some serious cash on the tennis court. Mardy has been dominant during the summer hard court season, bagging a title in Atlanta and making the finals of Los Angeles and Montreal. At 29 years of age, this could be one of his few remaining chances to make a major final, but if not, he still gets to go home to his model wife.

Not a Snowball’s Chance in Hell

1.  Andy Roddick
ATP Ranking:  21
2011 Record:  22-10
2011 Prize Money:  $630,592
Best finish at US Open:  Champion 2003
Major Titles Won:  US Open 2003

“Andy is just so unlucky!”
“He tries so hard.”
“That guy just wears his heart on his sleeve.”
“He’s a blue-collar tennis player.”
“If Andy had played in another era, he would have at least 8 Grand Slam titles.”

Bullshit.  Roddick had a great serve and NOTHING else.  You can find better backhands at your local club.  Though he pimps French brands and fell ass-backwards into marrying one of the hottest women on the face of the earth, he’ll go down as one of the biggest disappointments of modern American tennis if for no other reason than the fact that thousands of children modeled their game after his own- all flash, no substance. 

(Ed:  I was unaware Roddick could inspire such emotion.)

2.  Gael Monfil

ATP Ranking:  7
2011 Record:  29-12
2011 Prize Money:  $824,423
Best finish at US Open:  Quarterfinalist 2010
Major Titles Won:  none

I just wanted an excuse to post this picture.

3. Andy Murray
ATP Ranking: 4
2011 Record: 34-10
2011 Prize Money: $3,016,664
Best finish at US Open: Finalist 2008
Major Titles Won: none

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wets the bed like Andy Murray. In three Grand Slam final appearances, Murray has won 31 games to his opponents’ 54.

4. Tommy Haas
ATP Ranking: 477
2011 Record: 2-8
2011 Prize Money: $98,687
Best finish at US Open: Quarterfinalist 2004, 2006, 2007
Major Titles Won: none

The former world #2 has struggled mightily this year after enduring season-ending hip and elbow surgeries during the 2010 campaign. It is highly unlikely that he’ll make any noise at the Open due to the fact that he didn’t receive an invitation to the tournament. Haas relied on wild card entries into most of the summer warm-up tournaments and failed to advance past the first round in 99.99999999% of these. Consequently, the US Open entry committee declined to punch his dance card. When asked for comment, Tommy waved a dismissive hand as he climbed into the back of a limo with seven European models.

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