Thursday, October 18, 2007

RANT: The Future is Now

I'm always looking for the bigger and better in life. I grew up in Montana and my eyes were constantly fixed on the cities of the future: Seattle or San Francisco would be where I would go to college, there was no question about it. So after three-plus years in Seattle, my tendency has been to think: What next? New York? London? Paris?

It's a common theme for many individuals: the grass is greener, the buildings are taller, the paycheck is bigger and life is better than what we have right now.

Yet for the ATP Tour, I would argue that the tour is experiencing some of the best rivalries - both established and forming - that is has seen since Agassi/Sampras or McEnroe/Connors.

Mind you that I'm a 21-year-old college student who missed tennis' heyday in the 70s when top players were comparable to rock stars and tennis experienced class A treatment as a sport to be reckoned with.

Besides the US, however, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are international superstars. Novak Djokovic is on his way there. Andy Roddick reaches all markets, as does James Blake. Andy Murray is the savior of British tennis, while an entire wave of successful (and personable) South American players are making their names (and games) known on the tour.

Two-and-a-half years ago Nadal played a man named Mariano Puerta in the final of the French Open. The tennis world was buzzing; not because of the Nadal-Puerta match-up, but instead because of the Spaniard's defeat of Roger Federer in the semifinals: four sets of tennis brilliance.

As much as tennis has deteriorated over the past couple of decades with the power game, astounding racket technology and often a loss for respectable strategy (other than hitting the ball as hard as possible. See: Gonzalez, Fernando), the game has also seen a rise in the anti-modern culture.

Federer slices, dices and plays every shot in the book with his cool and calm demeanor. Nadal runs everything down, looking more like a fighter ready to go twelve rounds than a country club tennis boy. Djokovic can be creative and Murray's funky style has the Brits talking Wimbledon title in the near future.

The fact is, the future of tennis is now. Players like David Ferrer and John Isner can keep us on our toes, but the leading acts of the 21st century have taken center stage, and I don't see their curtain call coming any time soon.

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