Monday, December 1, 2008
Well, it's not all completely null and void in the world of tennis this week.
The BlackRock Tour of Champions wraps up its season in London this week with the BlackRock Masters Tennis event. I've been meaning to write something about this tour (and to use that headline!) forever now!
This event is like the other stops on the tour and goes with a round-robin format: In one group, you have Greg Rusedski, Guy Forget, Pat Cash and Stefan Edberg going up against each other, while the other one pits Jeremy Bates, Cedric Pioline, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras head to head to head to head.
This season on the BlackRock tour has been pretty good, particularly if you've been a fan of the game for a while. It was great to hear of Sampras stopping by for an event or two; and a couple of guys I really wasn't expecting to see play much—Edberg and Patrick Rafter—also broke out the racquets. Michael Chang and Yevgeny Kafelnikov made their debuts, too. Marcelo Rios, who absolutely dominated last year, scaled back on his play this year and Goran Ivanisevic is at the top of the rankings this year.
Now, I really dig this tour, but I think some guys you could definitely do without seeing in singles competition—and I hope I'm not committing blasphemy to the tennis gods—such as Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas. Whenever I see that those two are in an event, my interest level drops about 50 percent. I mean, really: What chance do those two have against the serves of Ivanisevic and his Wimbledon-winning buddies, Michael Stich and Richard Krajicek, who can both still bring it? I know there's been some complaining among the oldest and most out-of-shape players about these younger guys on tour, but I'd much rather see the stars of the late '80s and early '90s anyway.
McEnroe, though, is an exception to that rule: I don't know if anyone else thinks this, but that guy is an athletic freak! He looks like some average Joe, but think about how he plays the game: the eyes, the hands, the reach... all tools that still help him succeed.
Anyway, if you get a chance to somehow watch any of the action in London this week, I'd recommend doing it. I think you can at least catch highlights on the BlackRock Masters site. And a tip (one Englishmen can be proud of): Watch out for Jeremy Bates here. Back when they were all on tour, the other guys would have chalked him up as a guaranteed win, but now everyone's a little slower and more on the same level. Plus, he's got the home crowd behind him. I'm sure he'll be looking for a little payback!
(Photo: Getty Images)