Middle School

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 /by

96620377 By Ed McGrogan

The weeks in February seem to repeat themselves, at least on the ATP tour. Do Costa do Sauipe, Rotterdam and San Jose 'feel' any different to you than Buenos Aires, Marseille and Memphis? Not to me.

It might be because of the inevitable lull that follows a Grand Slam tournament, but there's a tangible explanation for this monotony: The playing fields are generally the same, week after week. Seven of the eight seeds—and all of the top five—in San Jose are also playing in Memphis. There's lots of similarities in the European and South American events as well.

Although these draws have a sense of déjà vu, thankfully, many of the world's top men are participating. The only notable omissions have been Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who rarely surface post-Oz until the Masters events.

What can we learn from this batch of tournaments? Nothing definitive about the tennis landscape, because the players are ostensibly separating themselves into three mini-tours. (For those of you—and I think Pete is one such proponent—who have called for the creation of smaller tours around the world that convene at the Slams, this is what it might look like.) But you'll sure be able to tell who's playing best amongst the group of Roddick, Verdasco, Stepanek, Haas, Berdych et al.

Is this a good or bad thing? I don't think that this sameness makes for the best entertainment for those following from afar on their computers. But it still works from a local point of view. February is the month of the year in which I lived down south, closer to these events. For a relatively cheap price, you can see very good tennis from an intimate perspective, without all the showy celebration that accompanies the bigger events. Plus, there's the improved weather. (Tonight, I'll be braving the snow and the 1 train on my way to the indoor courts on 218th St. in Manhattan.)

February reminds me of the first days of middle school, when kids from each of the area's elementary schools are lumped together for the first time—those who are familiar with each other tend to stick together. But eventually—come Indian Wells and Miami—we'll find out who the big men on campus are.

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