Thoughts on Blake, Hingis from soggy Roland Garros
Posted: Thursday June 1, 2006 3:01PM; Updated: Thursday June 1, 2006 4:48PM
James Blake is the lone American left in the men's draw at the French Open. His match was interrupted by rain on Thursday.
Submit a comment or question for Justin.
PARIS -- It's another rainy day here, and several matches have been postponed until Friday, so it seems like a perfect opportunity to unload some random thoughts and observations from soggy Roland Garros.
Is James Blake the lone great American hope? I was asked this question recently, and while I concede that American tennis isn't at its highest point and we are all deserving of some criticism in recent years during the clay-court season, there is some evidence that provides encouragement.
Blake is definitely one argument that we're doing OK, but he's already ranked No. 8 in the world. He has the ability to keep moving up in the rankings, but there isn't that much further to go.
When I think about young players who evoke a sense of hope in the next generation of American tennis, my fellow Californian Sam Querrey excites me. Sam turned pro last week, forgoing college, and while I generally don't advocate that decision, I completely expected and agree with his choice.
College tennis is an underrated tool that many Americans neglect, but that's not the case with Sam. He has already proven he can compete at a fairly high professional level, and the day-in, day-out competition and experience of playing against pros will help him reach his potential.
Querrey is an 18-year-old with a big game. He serves and returns well, and his skills and personality remind me a lot of Todd Martin. He has a very solid foundation and I believe he'll emerge as the leader of the next crop of American tennis talent.
Beware of Martina Hingis. With a dearth of healthy top-tier players in the women's game, the former world No. 1 could exorcise her past demons here. She's capable of beating anybody in the world. Already this year she has beaten Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams and claimed the first title of her comeback with her win at the Italian Open.
Many of the women who have the ability to beat Hingis have been unable to stay healthy or duly motivated, and that makes her one of the leading contenders for the French Open and every other tournament out there.
While everyone obsesses over the beauty/talent package that Maria Sharapova boasts, Ana Ivanovic from Serbia-Montenegro deserves due consideration. And in terms of value for the entertainment dollar, the doubles team of Gisela Dulko and Maria Kirilenko is hard to beat. They are undoubtedly the best-looking female doubles team in tennis history. The male equivalent? Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez.
Another popular question I get these days is whether Tim Henman is washed up. (He was eliminated Thursday by Dmitry Tursunov.) My answer is no. As a matter of fact, I think Henman will benefit from the doubters and the diminished expectations with the grass-court season fast approaching. The intense scrutiny on him must take its toll, but now fellow Brit Andy Murray is taking on some of that burden. Henman will still be very dangerous on the grass.
I practiced before Kim Clijsters the other day and we got to talking about something we now have in common: New Jersey. Recently engaged to New Jersey native Brian Lynch, whom she met while he was playing professional basketball in Belgium, Clijsters just purchased a house in Spring Lake, N.J.
I would be disappointed if Kim really does retire in the next couple of years, as she has hinted. She is an incredible athlete, and the last thing the women's game needs is for one of its best players to retire prematurely. Clijsters often speaks of the desire to be a young mother, and that's understandable. But with her just beginning to scratch the surface of her limitless potential, I hope she commits to at least a few more years of professional tennis.
That being said, I know the women's USTA leagues in New Jersey could use another competitive player and would be happy to welcome her to their team!
Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu might have the best-looking two-handed backhand in the game today. He is one of the few players that has the shots to hang with Rafael Nadal. With a partisan crowd behind him when they meet Friday, it should be a very entertaining match.
Speaking of Frenchmen, Gael Monfils is one of the most entertaining players on tour. Besides his blistering forehand and frequent chest-thumping, he is an accomplished dancer and is not afraid to break out impromptu moves on or off the court.
Outspoken ATP tennis pro Justin Gimelstob is a frequent contributor to SI.com. He's in Paris competing in this year's French Open.