‘Killer’ Cahill has been revealed as a big sweetheart by GV Girl, who met him at the Taste of Tennis event in Manhattan last month and says that in spite of the presence of Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal, the highlight for her was chatting with Cahill. You can read her article on the event at Talk About Tennis, with photos by the Fabulous Mariya. GV Girl also reports that the Saturday tailgate at the Open was great fun, with 9 TWers in attendance. Keep those US Open pics (and others) coming!
This post-Slam week, since we were constantly reminded that the US Open posted its highest attendance ever, I pay tribute to that terrible beast without which the sport cannot exist:
The casual fan.
When I say a casual fan, I don’t mean the chatty fan who made my ears bleed during Safin-Dancevic; I mean someone who actually watches tennis, maybe just the Slams, and retains some names and results. Maybe he or she just channel-surfs their way to the Slams, or watches them when there’s nothing better on. Maybe he attends once in a blue moon, or occasionally reads a tennis article in the sports section.
My dad is the casual fan par excellence, and has been watching tennis for a few generations of players; he mentioned to my surprise the other day that Borg played with a wooden racket. Dad is always pulling out random observations about tennis that surprise me, because one of the hallmarks of the casual fan is that he knows what he knows very well, but it’s in rather a scattergun pattern. Dad knows about double faults, but I’m not sure that he knows exactly what a let is. He knows the terms forehand, backhand, drop shot, and smash, but probably not inside-out forehand, kick serve, slices, or lobs. He knows that Federer wins a lot, but not that he lost the 2005 Australian Open. He knows that Maria Sharapova grunts. Loudly. It makes him long for the days of Chris Evert, who he found gracious and ladylike. He read my post of a few weeks ago and asked, “How do you know about Evonne Goolagong?” And he misses (don’t we all?) the commentary of Vitus Gerulaitis.
The other hallmark of the casual fan is that based on very little evidence, he will be even more ruthless in his commentary than the fanatic, who will slice and dice stats for hours. On Serena Williams, predicting a win: “Bigger, stronger, hits harder.” On Roddick-Federer US Open final 2006, predicting a Federer win: “That one’s straight sets. The skill level is just not there.” (Hey, I didn’t say he was always right.) On Justine Henin: “Gets no attention, huh? [pause] Not a pretty girl.” On Marat Safin: “OHHHH, that guy, he will never win another Slam. Old now, too.”
His favorites are picked by some weird combination of results and demeanor. We tuned in to Federer-Hewitt (Cincy) on TV, and Dad said, “Hey, it’s little Clinton!” I turned around and gave him a very peculiar glare. Dad maintained stoutly in the face of it that Hewitt looks like Bill Clinton—and I will acknowledge that in general facial shape and so forth, Hewitt looks more like Clinton than any other world leader, past or present. Dad happily continued, “I always liked that guy! Too small though; can’t win any more.”
I was flabbergasted. Dad still hates John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. The brash, loud-mouthed, combative personality is, to say the least, not his type; he doesn’t like Nadal either, which seems to be due to some combination of the long pants and the grunting, and he’s starting to develop a healthy dislike of Djokovic.
But you see, Dad watches just little enough tennis and mutes the commentators just frequently enough never to have heard about Hewitt’s, uh, unpopularity. And Hewitt can often be seen yelling more at himself than at an umpire or a linesman; he even has those almost totally silent matches, especially these days. What’s more, Hewitt is one of those counterpunching, grinding players a fan can cheer on to what feels like an upset, even when it isn’t.
Dad likes upsets. He was waiting gleefully for Nadal to crash out of the US Open. But he also admires excellence. He thinks Federer’s backhand is the most amazing shot ever in tennis, though much less precise this year than in the past. He also wishes Federer would stop this “nonsense” with his clothes. The day outfit was pronounced normal, nice-looking, and acceptable, the night outfit ridiculous to the point of making him change the channel.
And this past weekend, Dad was too busy watching soccer friendlies on Univision to be bothered with the US Open finals.
So Arlen Kantarian, meet your worst nightmare: my unpredictable, judgmental, non-Lexus-owning, Canon-owning dad, the stuff that Nielsens are made of.