Tennis ripped my attention away from the first NFL Sunday of the season.
Amidst all the excitement of the return of America’s last great vice, it was the U.S. Open Men’s Final that provided the most fun late Sunday afternoon and into the evening.
I love to watch professional tennis, especially the four majors, and I was exceptionally disappointed when Daniil Medvedev was down two sets to Rafael Nadal. But then he fought back, won the next two sets and was pushing one the greatest to ever play the game in the fifth set. That final set alone, chock full of impressive aces and even better daring shots, would have been worth the price of admission.
Medvedev, the 23-year-old Russian who agitated the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium last week, is sorely needed in men’s tennis. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to complete the upset and Nadal won his 19th grand slam.
It’s impressive what Nadal and his longtime rival, Roger Federer, have been able to do over their, seemingly endless, careers. It’s second in miracle feats behind Tom Brady still throwing touchdown passes with relative ease at 42. But I’m tired of it and I’m ready for some new blood to shake up the circuit and, boy, does tennis need some young players to join the big three at the top.
After Marin Cilic turned 30 last Septemeber, there is officially no player under the age of 30 that has won a grand slam event on the men’s tour. In fact, Dominic Thiem is the only other man under 30 to even win a set in a grand slam final prior to Medvedev’s epic comeback Sunday night.
Even in defeat, Medvedev announced himself as the next rising star in the men’s game. Yes, there are some others trying to come for the big three’s stuff — Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas just to name a few — but none of them have come close to knocking Nadal, Federer or Novak Djokovic from their thrones.
The passing of the torch has already happened on the women’s side when Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams at last year’s U.S. Open and the sport is better for it. Even now with Coco Gauff and Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, who swept Williams to win the women’s title on Saturday, the women’s game is excelling because young talent is rising up and captivating new audiences.
However, I’d still be hard pressed to count Williams out from, at least, reaching a final in any grand slam event.
I don’t need the younger generation on the men’s side to start immediately winning every grand slam event on the calendar, though I’d really like for that to happen, but I want to see someone other than Nadal, Federer or Djokovic in the same four grand slam finals every single time.
And I mean it.
Having someone else taking on Nadal instantly made Sunday’s final that much more appealing and I’m sure a lot of people tuned in to see if Nadal would lose. ESPN reported their highest-overnight rating for the U.S. Open Women’s Final because Williams was on the verge of an upset. People like to see impervious athletes get beaten even if it means ending that athlete’s mysticism.
There’s no danger in men’s tennis losing fans in the short term because the kids can’t top the kings just yet but, if the sport wants to attract new fans, they’ll need to have some of these up-and-coming stars play their way into some grand slam finals and win like they have on the women’s tour.