Mornin', everyone. Are you ready for some tennis?
Before I turn it over to you for day 1 of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (consider this the familiar Crisis Center post today, with an overflow post coming later if need be), I want to draw your attention to two things: our second (ta-dum!) Tennis.com Tennis magazine podcast, in which James Martin, Steve Tignor and I discuss the WTF. And second, and the return to action of Sam Querrey.
Sorry about the delay to the podcast; we had some technical issues to address, and as most of you know this is definitely a work-in-progress. But look at the upside - you can rail against us for the picks we made for the event (or celebrate, if we happened to pick your guy to win, which seems to be the kiss of death around here).
Querrey, you many remember, lodged a giant piece of glass in his serving arm when he sat down on a glass coffee table instead of the sofa at his digs during the Thailand tournament. This proved, among other things, that kids do the darnedest things. But we're not talking about garden variety goofy kid stuff here; he apparently came within millimeters of severing an important nerve - an injury that would have ended his career. Here's the blow-by-blow of how it happened.
BTW, Pat McEnroe, Querrey's Davis Cup coach, told me the other day that Sam has already been working - and with magnum force - on his fitness. He wants to be fully prepared to go all out when he starts to hit the ball like he means it once again.
From what I've learned about the USTA development program and the players it's shaping (Sam, while already a highly-ranked pro, is in the USTA fold), the motto for the next and perhaps subsequent generations of American pros will be: Pay the Price.
If the USA doesn't rebuild its flagging fortunes, it won't be for lack of effort - not on the part of the coaches, and not on the part of the players. The bar has been set very high for promising American juniors by McEnroe and his lieutenants, including Jose Higueras (who always knew from work; remember, he was the ultimate clay-court grinder in his days on the tour, and he achieved great success as the coach of one of the hardest working players in recent memory, Jim Courier) and Jay Berger, one of the great overachievers on the tour in his day.
The work ethic being implanted and promoted by McEnroe and his team should, among other things, give you an idea of just how tough it is to make it as an impact player on the tour these days for anyone who doesn't have the natural gifts of a Roger Federer or Pete Sampras. And maybe even for those who do. But that's a topic for another day. We have other business to attend to right now, so it's on to the WTF, our swan-song for 2009 (and how about that retro first-volley taken in stride after a big serve in the photo above?).