Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Double Fault at the French

This past January, I - along with probably a healthy number of other American tennis fans - prepared for a great year. An unseeded Serena Williams opened the flood-gates and swept away Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open. It was the first title for any American - male or female - in any Grand Slam in two years.

But that match would only be the beginning. Heck, even Andy Roddick advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Aussi before running into the speed bump - er, the brick wall - known as Roger Federer. It looked like 2007 was shaping up to be a great year for American tennis.

To kick off the French Open, Serena Williams fought off a rain delay and a sluggish start to advance in a come-from-behind win. A day later, Venus moved on to the second round. The Williams Sisters are key for American tennis to comeback into the limelight. It's not going to be easy, especially after the retirement of fan favorite Andre Agassi, to get the county on the edge of their seats over tennis, but it's possible.

If it's going to happen, then the Williams Sisters need to lead the charge. But they can't do it alone. They need help from the men's draw.

And with Andy Roddick seeded No. 3 and fellow American James Blake not far behind at No. 8, this year's French Open will featu- wait, what? Hold on, I'm in the middle of telling the world how great American tennis will be this year. Uh huh. Uh huh. Oh I see. Hmmm.

*cough* *cough* Uh, about that...

During the FIRST ROUND of the French Open, No. 3 Roddick lost to unseeded Russian Igor Andreev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. The eighth-seeded Blake found himself up-ended by unseeded Croatian Ivo Karlovic. The two best American men got embarrassed in the first round. Not so much embarrassed by the score; both matches featured a total of eight very close sets. But they were more embarrassed because of the disappointment the two loses mean to American tennis fans.

It's true clay isn't the favored surface for either Roddick or Blake. It's also true that no one outside of a completely in-the-zone Federer will knock off Rafael Nadal on his surface he loves more than fish love water.

To start the French Open, the American men went 0-8 (only one American man is left in the draw). There are no American men left to cheer for. There will be no American men advancing to even mediocrity in this tournament.

And until Roddick or Blake or a new up-and-coming American tennis star break through Federer's strangle-hold and win a title (or, hell, just make it to Slam quarter-finals consistently), there will be nothing to truly captivate the nation when it comes to tennis.

I can only hope Venus and Serena take care of business in their draw. After all, that duo held the tennis world hostage for years. If American tennis is going to make any sort of a comeback, then it all falls on the two sisters - the only two Americans - capable of putting the sport on their back and bringing it back into the spotlight.

NOTE: As of this morning (last night in France, the final American man in the draw was eliminated, leaving the US men 0-9 in this year's French Open.

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