The 2009 U.S. Open is underway at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. While the annual event brings millions of tourist dollars and worldwide attention to Queens, there must be understandable concern on the part of the United States Tennis Association over the lack of American players who can win the big trophies.
USTA executives certainly realize that the rights fees that they are able to generate from their various broadcast partners, CBS, ESPN and the Tennis Channel, are dependent on TV ratings. While there may be a few foreign players, such as 15-time Grand Slam event winner Roger Federer and his chief nemesis, Rafael Nadal, who transcend nationality and bring in huge ratings, there is little doubt many Americans want to see one of their own bring home the hardware or they simply won’t watch. If you need any evidence of this, just check out the paltry Nielsen ratings for Major League Soccer or for the New York City Marathon where an American hasn’t won since 1982.
On the women’s side, most of us would be hard-pressed to name an American player whose last name is not Williams. On the men’s, there are a few Americans who may throw a scare into either Federer or Nadal. Andy Roddick, the last American male to win a Grand Slam event, the 2003 U.S. Open, made Federer work deep into overtime at Wimbledon this past June and became a folk hero in his valiant defeat. Even curmudgeonly David Letterman wished him luck in regaining the Open title.
The up and coming American player who has generated the most buzz recently is Sam Querrey. It’ll be interesting to see if Querrey can successfully challenge the big boys at the Open or if he’s destined to be another glorified journeyman a la the overrated James Blake.
Forest Hills native Ian Eagle will be spending a lot of time in Queens, broadcasting matches and doing studio work as well for CBS and the Tennis Channel for practically the entire tournament. The hardest-working man at the Open, for my money, is Marc Ernay who will be spending at least 14 hours a day calling matches for usopen.org and doing his regular sportscasts on 1010 WINS radio. Ernay is also a longtime adjunct professor of communications at St. John’s University.
Boys and girls from the Queens Community House were among those who took part in Citi Field Kids Day last Monday. Not only did they get to see a Mets matinee but they were given a tour of the ballpark and treated to baseball videos and motivational speeches from Mets bench coach Sandy Alomar and SNY sports anchor Michelle Yu.
The best lessons, though, may have come from the field that day. The kids quickly learned that even Major League players can look like Little Leaguers when in the first inning Phils second baseman Chase Utley dropped an easy pop-up and then threw the ball away down the left field line. The Mets’ Angel Pagan showed that you should never take anything for granted as he ran full speed around the bases and scored on what should have been an easy out.