10 Things to Look
for at The Open
Party Go Late?
ROGER FEDERER could
defend his title without losing a game. Serena Williams could rescue her career
from the abyss. Anna Kournikova could interrupt the women's final riding a pogo
stick and playing Heard 'Em Say on bagpipes. Ultimately, it won't much matter.
Ever since Andre Agassi announced that the 2006 U.S. Open will be his last
tournament, it's been clear that the year's final major will be a farewell
party masquerading as a tennis event.
The Matt Lauer
pretournament interview has been booked, the agassi and the ecstasy placards
printed. A USA Network producer has no doubt unearthed that Image Is Everything
commercial, as well as footage of the infamous Barbra Streisand "Zen
question is: How long will Agassi stick around? He's 36 and has finally started
acting his age. Beset by chronic back pain, he hasn't made it past the
quarterfinals of an ATP event this year and limps into New York with a match
record of 8-7. On the other hand, he was a finalist at the U.S. Open last year.
Buoyed by all the support, could he have one last magical run left in him?
2 The Best
SO LONG as Roger
Federer is in the draw, men's tennis events have tended to recall a line from
Dante's Divine Comedy: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter." Since 2004,
the Swiss colossus has won a preposterous 93.6% of his matches. But suddenly he
no longer stands alone. Unawed by Federer's incandescence, Rafael Nadal has
beaten Federer four of the five times they've played this year. While tennis's
chattering class has been debating whether Federer is the Best Ever, he has
struggled mightily with the No. 2 player. "Now he's the best," Nadal
concedes. "In the future? We're gonna see."
Federer-Nadal-Federal?-juggernaut has won eight of the last nine Grand Slams
and has all the required elements for an enduring rivalry. Their styles are a
study in contrasts. Federer, a righty, is a delicate pointillist; Nadal, a
lefty, an aggressive expressionist. It will take an upset to prevent them from
meeting in the Open final, and that match, played on a medium-speed hard court,
could tell us plenty about the state of the rivalry.
3 Can Jimbo Find
IT SOUNDS like the
premise for a lost episode of The Twilight Zone: Star player is featured in an
ad campaign about a mythical slump and then really starts losing and just can't
stop. It was at last year's U.S. Open that American Express ads put out an APB
for Andy Roddick's mojo. Then Roddick lost in the first round, and since then
his ranking has dropped from No. 3 to No. 12.