It’s time to pay full attention to the US Open.
Yes I understand that football season begins on Thursday night, and everyone wants to see the banner being raised and more importantly 70,000 towels with Roger Goodell’s clown face on them. Hell I hate the Patriots and I want to witness that spectacle myself.
But Thursday night is also a historic night in New York City, as four American women – Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, and Sloane Stephens – will be competing in the semifinals of the final Grand Slam of the year.
As a tennis fan, the spectacle that will be occurring at the same time as the first NFL game of the year is much more unlikely and important than seeing a bunch of fans wave a towel.
Not since the 90’s have we had a group of American players contending for major titles, and that was on the men’s side (Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and Michael Chang). After that wave of home-grown talent, we had Andy Roddick, but we’ve been searching for a top male American player for the entire decade.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have the Williams sisters on the women’s side, who have combined for 30 Grand Slam titles. But the question of “who’s next” has been discussed for years, especially with the duo reaching their late 30’s and with Serena just having her first baby.
Now we not only know who’s next, but there’s a 75% chance that they’ll be holding up the title this weekend.
As I’m writing this, there’s a chance that NYC tennis fans could see Roger Federer play Rafael Nadal in the men’s semifinals, which would be their first ever meeting at the US Open. When the men’s draw came out prior to the start of the event, that potential matchup was the talk of the tournament.
But what happens 24 hours earlier – on Thursday night – is way more important than the 38th meeting of maybe the best rivalry in tennis history.
Fans have wondered how the sport can gain popularity and traction in the crowded American sports scene. This is it. Having an American woman win the US Open is the big story that the game desperately needs.
If Venus can win her eighth major at the age of 37 after dealing with an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome, it would be one of the most unlikely and inspiring tennis stories ever.
If one of the other three females can win the title, we’d have the next young American tennis star. All three players are 25 years old or younger (Vandeweghe is 25, Stephens is 24, and Keys is just 22), and they all have the vibrant personalities that the game also desperately needs. Some fans think Vandeweghe comes off as cocky and brash, but I believe that would make her an even bigger draw and could draw more casual or non-tennis fans to the game.
If Nadal or Federer were to claim the US Open crowd, we’d probably be talking about the final Grand Slam for a few days next week.
But we’re guaranteed to be discussing the women’s side of the event for not only days, but weeks, and even months and years to come.
Historical events in sports are unpredictable. You never really know when you’re going to witness something that you may have never seen before.
Thursday night at Flushing Meadows in NYC is something that tennis fans haven’t seen since 1985 – four female American semifinalists at a Grand Slam.
Those ladies deserve our attention.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)