Posted on: March 26, 2008 4:53 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2008 7:56 pm

Grand Slam of the Americas

A few years ago, the Australian Open became the “Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific.”

It is now time for the tournament known as the Sony Ericsson Open, in Key Biscayne, Florida, to become the “Grand Slam of the Americas.”

The fact that it is not a grand slam event is mere technicality.

To remedy this issue, it could become one. It is already a masters series on the men’s side and tier 1 event on the women’s side. It would just require a small upgrade. And it would fit perfectly into the calendar, halfway between the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

The Sony Ericsson Open has changed name three time over the past decade. The event was initially known as the Lipton International Players Championships. In 2000, the title sponsor changed and the event was renamed the Ericsson Open. In 2002, it became known as the NASDAQ-100 Open. In 2007, the tournament was renamed the Sony Ericsson Open in a deal where the company will pay $20 million over the next four years.

Many people still call it “the Lipton.” I have even heard: “oh, the Nasdaq” when I mentioned its new name. This has become too confusing and cannot be good for business. Only few people care about tennis in the USA. Any confusion should be avoided. The Grand Slam of the Americas sounds so good, doesn't it?

If you think I exagerate, let me tell you about this little scene I witnessed earlier today.

Baltimore Ravens and former University of Miami running-back Willis McGahee was hitting tennis balls against Russia’s Elena Dementieva on a practice court. It was a photo-op set up by Sony Ericsson people. They are not dating. They had never met before. She made him look like a fool by the way, but that’s not the point.

Curious onlookers and avid tennis fans alike looked confused. Most of them knew the gorgeous and talented Dementieva. But, none of the people I got to talk to on the side of this court had heard about McGahee. Most of them even strongly believed that a sport called football should be played with the feet. You have probably guessed it by now, they were from Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina …

I am typing those lines, outside the media center, in the stands overlooking the main court where Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten is playing France’s Sebastien Grosjean. Even though, Grosjean has been a Florida resident for years, Kuerten can count on the support of the crowd, which, it must be said, is rather scarce today.

You see where I am going with this? Hang on, I have more.

Earlier today, tennis heartthrobs Andy Roddick and James Blake of the United States, were practicing together. I would be lying if I were to say that no one was watching. But the practice session between Guillermo Canas, last year’s finalist, and David Nalbandian, both from Argentina, that followed did attract true dedicated fans (and not only teenage girls with their Sony Ericsson camera phones).

Miami is known as the “Gateway to the Americas;” its tennis tournament should be the “Grand Slam of the Americas.”

I know that IMG people, who put together this event, will love my idea. I am willing to give it up for free, just remember where you heard it first.

Posted on: March 6, 2008 5:44 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2008 10:45 pm

Roddick and Connors finally split up

Andy Roddick and Jimmy Connors finally split up. It's about time.

It’s blunt and maybe harsh. But there is no other way to put it.

Ever since Roddick and the legendary Connors joined forces in the summer of 06, following a disappointing 3rd round loss to Andy Murray at Wimbledon, I have questionned the association.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to give Roddick any type of advice. No one, but Roddick himself, knows what’s best for him and his career. He is in charge and is doing pretty well. But still, why Connors?

First off, I still can’t figure out why he split up with Brad Gilbert in December 2004.

He started working with Gilbert after the French Open in 2003 and went on to win two masters series, in Montreal, Canada and Cincinnati, Ohio that summer. And of course, he concluded his winning run on his native soil with what remains his only Grand Slam title to date, at the U.S. Open in New York.

He also finished the season atop the ATP Tour rankings that year, becoming the second-youngest player to claim the honor since the computer rankings were introduced by the ATP in 1973.

Back to my initial question: why Connors?

Connors was a fantastic player. An amazing fighter. And definitely a bona fide superstar. He was also known for being a hard case. One of the greatest and most memorable personalities on Tour. But I have never heard anybody praised his technical prowess or his tactical adjustments. All that a coach is supposed to bring you.

What made Connors great was mostly his will, his relentless attacks from the back-court and his fighting spirit. His final run at the U.S. Open in 1991, where he lost to Jim Courrier in the semifinals is in everybody’s mind (or should be). However, no one remembers Connors for his flawless forehand or his devastating serve.

I am not saying he was a bad player. Far from it. He won the U.S. Open five times out of a total of eight Grand Slam titles. That’s enough to make you one of the greatest ever. He was also No.1 in the world for 268 weeks. Enough said.

Yet, nothing that made Connors great can be taught, or only at a very young age. What Gilbert brought to Roddick, which is “how to win the next match,” Connors couldn’t offer.

And it showed.

Category: Tennis
Posted on: February 29, 2008 3:53 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2008 10:44 pm

Andy Roddick An American Hero

Andy Roddick is a true American hero, at least in the tennis world.

The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary gives several definitions to the word hero. It can be “an illustrious warrior” or “one that shows great courage” or “the central figure in an event, period, or movement.”

If you want a more comprehensive definition you can go to m-w.com … later.

I’ll give you that Roddick may not be an illustrious warrior. Tennis is no war. But he has always defended the colors of his country with pride and courage in numerous Davis Cup ties, in a time when most tennis superstars would rather focus on their individual results.

The only other American superstar who, in recent memory, played for the U.S. with the same passion and dedication is John McEnroe. He later became captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team. His brother Patrick is now in charge of it.

"I've been extremely lucky. We've got a group of guys that love to play for their country, that love supporting each other, and that have answered the call every single time I've asked them," Patrick McEnroe said before the opening round against Austria earlier this year.

When John was captain, his main problem was to convince Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to play for their country.

Roddick’s commitment finally paid off last December when, along with James Blake and the Bryan twins, Mike and Bob, he defeated Russia to claim the first Davis Cup for the U.S. (still the most successful country in this competition with 32 titles) since 1995.

Since 2003, when he finished the season ranked N.1 in the world, Roddick has never fallen outside of the top six in the ATP rankings.

He has won at least one tournament each year since 2001; claimed a total of 24 titles in his career, including the 2003 U.S. Open, which makes him the 3rd most successful active player behind Roger Federer (53) and Lleyton Hewitt (26) and lost three Grand Slam finals in Wimbledon twice and at the U.S. Open last year, all to Federer.

Federer is the player who took over the No.1 spot in the world rankings on February 2004 and has yet to relinquish it as of today. And Federer is exactly what stands between Roddick and tennis greatness. Roddick will be 26 in August. Agassi won his 4th Grand Slam title at 29.

Even though he might never join the ranks of Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe or Jimmy Connors at the top of U.S.tennis world, Roddick is definitely a remarkable athlete.

Who can argue now with the fact that Roddick is a central figure in the world of tennis in the first decade of the 21st century?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com