Attention sports fans: The new year is filled with big-time events, including the first-ever NCAA football four-team playoff and the big championship game, NFL playoffs, outstanding NBA and NHL games and the Australian Open.
Speaking of the big event in Melbourne, house money is probably leaning towards picking Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams capturing singles titles. However, who else is in the running?
Last year, Li Na won the women’s singles crown but now has retired due to nagging injuries. Remember, Serena has not won this prestigious tournament in four years, so she may be the favorite. Still, there are many players who may stop her. Can Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova be a major threat? Stay tuned.
On the men’s side, Rafeal Nadal’s long layoff prevents me to pick him to win. Even though legend Roger Federer had an incredible 2014, I’m still leaning toward Djokovic. Andy Murray faded at the end of last season, and I firmly believe last year’s champ Stan Wawrinka was a bit of a fluke.
And I still am not convinced that Grigor Dimitrov is ready to claim his first Grand Slam title, but he will be in the hunt for the next couple of years. Other notable players on the rise are Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic (2014 US Open Champ). They have all the necessary physical tools and will create havoc for the next four or five years. Due to the immense depth in tennis, it will be fun to see who breaks through and captures their first Grand Slam title. I can’t wait.
College tennis wants to attract television viewers, and the powers-that-be have made significant changes. Former collegiate tennis players like me have been reluctant to embrace the new model. However, holding on to the past is not the right approach.
Heck, there are all kinds of tennis enthusiasts (including John McEnroe) who wish that we could turn the clocks back and play with wood tennis rackets. Why? McEnroe and others feel that there is too much power in the game today, and there is little to no finesse. And, with the “returners” dominating the sport, few players attempt to serve and volley.
In my opinion, today’s game is riveting, and power is an enhancement, not a liability. Just look at the positives with the new era: Nadal’s outrageous spins; Djokovic’s service return; Federer’s footwork; Wawrinka’s fluid and powerful one-handed backhand; Serena’s serve and her ability to cover court. The list goes on. How can one not be in awe of today’s unbelievable athletes?
As far as college tennis is concerned, it’s time for everyone to give this new idea a chance to succeed. First and most importantly, if ESPN incorporates the college tennis package into its weekly programming, there will be much more exposure, and it should grow the game.
Former collegiate tennis players dislike the abbreviated format: no warm up; one six-game set with no ad scoring for doubles and no ad scoring for singles contests; and 10-point tie breaks for many three-set affairs.
Hey, let’s move forward and hope that more students will support their teams and come out to watch for two plus hours.
As a former student-athlete in the Big Ten Conference, I supported the football and basketball teams and went to see their events. In particular, football games lasted three hours, and good ole “round ball” was only two hours.
Conversely, many of my tennis matches went on and on for hours. Tennis purists would argue that the longer the dual, the more exciting. Ok, a longer match can be exhilarating, but it can also be monotonous.
For example, if the opponent has dominated the doubles and four of the six singles matches, the fight is over. Coaches and teammates remain, but the fans are long gone and have moved on to their next activity.
In life, we have a bunch of whiners and thinkers; whiners constantly complain and never offer much more. Conversely, the thinker is an optimistic person who thrives on solving problems with insightful thoughts on many topics.
Just about everyone knows the scenario at work (water cooler area) with a small gathering of employees who incessantly complain about their jobs. Who wants to be labeled a whiner or complainer? Not me.
So, I urge every single tennis player to attend a college match at least twice monthly. Cheer on your favorite team and support the new format. Be the first one at the match and be the last one to leave.
Move forward — It is the only way to go!
Since 2000, Doug Browne was the Collier County Pro of the Year three times, and has been a USPTA pro in the area for 28 years. Doug was also honored in the International Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island) as Tennis Director during the 2010 summer season. Doug has been writing about tennis for the last 19 years.