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US Open, Hold the Americans Please       Share

26 August 2010

The US Open is the last in a series of four major tennis tournaments held every year.  The US Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open are referred to as the “grand slam” tournaments.  The tournament will be held over the next couple of weeks from August 30th-September 12th.   Barring the unusual or noteworthy, don’t expect a lot of coverage from us unless you ask for it.  Tennis tournaments can be a real snooze-fest, especially because of the lack of star power or compelling storylines at this year’s tournament.
 
One reason why the tournament won’t be discussed very often around the water cooler is that there are very few US stars in tennis, especially on the men’s side.  The 80s had John McEnroe, as famous for his tournament victories as he was for throwing temper-tantrums on the court when a referee made a call he did not agree with.  You may recognize McEnroe from a fairly lame commercial on television for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in which he yells at the rental car representative. Ha ha.  The 90s had Andre Agassi, who was married at one time to model/actress Brooke Shields and was known for his flamboyant attitude and lifestyle.  Well, in the 2000s and 2010 we have…no one that most non-sports fans would recognize.   
 
There has not been a US winner on the men’s side since 2003.  The only female US winner in the last seven years, Serena Williams, will not be in this year’s tournament because of an injury.  The only compelling storyline going into the tournament is that Rafael Nadal, the men’s #1 seed, has a chance to achieve the career grand slam which means that at some point in his career he has won each of the four major grand slam tournaments.  Nadal seems to have a tough time at the US Open, however, as he has never made it past the semifinals.  You can bet that television coverage will feature highlights when Maria Sharapova plays.  While she is a great tennis player, the fact that she has been in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and is the spokesperson for Nike, Canon, and Cole Haan should tell you something about why most men like to keep up with her, um, tennis performances.

The Basics

Tennis is a game with its roots in England where you hit a ball over a net to your opponent, hoping he will either hit it to you, out of bounds, or miss the ball, allowing it to bounce more than once on his side of the net.  The scoring is simple, but like many things English, it’s unnecessarily complex. 

Most tournaments require a player to win a best of 3 or 5 sets.  Each set requires a player to win six “games,” with at least two more games then his opponent.  A game is decided by a player earning at least four points with a two point advantage.  This is where the absurdity starts.  Zero points is called “love”, one point is scored as “15,” two points is “30,” and three points is “40.”  Four points is called “game.”  If two players both have at least 40, it’s called “deuce.”  After this, if a player scores a point, he’s said to have “advantage,” and must score another consecutive point to win.  If the other player ties, it’s called deuce again.  See what I mean?  In actuality, the scoring has French origins, which probably makes most of us say, Ok, now I get it.  The bizarre explanation of the origin of the scoring system is too lengthy for me to get into it here, but if you must know, shoot me an email and I’ll try to break it down for you.

 Send comments to: Leroy@notasportsguy.com

Maria Sharapova

Terminology:

Deuce: A tie when each player has at least 30 points.
 
Love: Zero points.
 
Advantage: When one player has a one point advantage over his opponent, but both have at least 30 points.
 
Doubles: A tennis match with two players on each side.  “Mixed Doubles” feature one man and one woman player on each side.
 
Forehand: a stroke on the ball where the stroke begins on the same side as the hand holding the racquet.
 
Backhand: a stroke on the ball where the stroke begins on the opposite side as the hand holding the racquet.

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