by Pete Bodo
I guess it figures. We have a brief lull before the beginning of the ATP World Tour Finals and all of a sudden we're awash in news—not Hewitt def. Fognini, 6-1, 6-2 news, but news of broad and general interest, like the fact that the USTA is going to do a major renovation of the National Tennis Center.
By the way, do you think that it ought to always be called by its full and, I suppose, proper name, which is the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center? I have a problem with that, despite my frequent use of the acronym, USTABJKNTC, which I admittedly do for the wicked purpose of drawing attention to length of this notionally "official" name.
I mean, why not add Jimmy Connors to the mix, in the name of gender equality, and then it could be the USTABJKJCNTC? I have no problem identifying Arthur Ashe Stadium by its full name, and I've even joined the crew that refers to the stadium as, simply, Ashe. But when you start piling on the names and acronyms it starts to get a little silly—especially when National Tennis Center, three simple words which you see here and there on the major highways leading to Flushing Meadows, seems to have so much heft.
It was ill-advised for the USTA to graft Billie Jean King's name onto the wonderfully to-the-point "National Tennis Center." It was a poor solution that smacks a little of bone-throwing, and surely Billie Jean deserves better than that. And now they're stuck with it, because what are they going to do, take King's name off the books? This also means they won't be able to name any of the new stadia after the godmother of American pro tennis; I mean, you can't just stick Billie Jean's name on everything, right? And they're surely going to want to find good names for the stadium that will eventually be built in place and on the footprint of the current Louis Armstrong Stadium/Grandstand, which of course was the original main stadium of the NTC.
That project is a few years down the road (and mandated because Louie is said to be sinking into the swamp that originally existed on the site), so let me get down on my hands and knees and beg the USTA to somehow keep the current configuration—meaning, keep the Grandstand more or less as we know it. I can't see a downside to this, as that court has contributed a great deal to the lore and legend of American tennis. It's also a wonderful place to watch tennis, at least if you annoy that irritating shadow created by the east wall of Louis Armstrong.
More immediately, the USTA will build a 3,000 seat stadium on the southeast corner of the NTC. That may be ready for use in 2012, but the USTA would like to get it done for next year's tournament. I can't help but take note of this bet-hedging on construction dates, because it reminds me of how the late, former USTA President Slew Hester promised to move the U.S. Open out of the West Side Tennis Club and into a public, USTA-funded, sprawling "national tennis center" in less than a full year. Nobody believed he could get it done. He got it done.
So come on, USTA, if old Slew could do it, maybe you can, too, given that he created the entire, present-day facility in fewer than 12 months, and all you're undertaking is the construction of a modest 3,000 seat arena. I say it gets named for either Connors or Chris Evert, although Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras backers also could make a strong case...
On a wildly unrelated note, did you see that Martina Hingis has decided to tell the world, "I'm not single anymore!" It comes across as a Sally Field "you really like me!" moment, but that's really just the way the media has presented it. All Hingis did was fess up that she was in a relationship (although with her, it's hard to know from one moment to the next) again after breaking off her engagement with lawyer Andreas Bieri last April. She's a lively girl, that Martina. Let's wish her good luck, or at least a good time.
And just when you thought it was safe to go back outside, John McEnroe has weighed in on the GOAT debate, noting that Rafael Nadal, with his mastery of Roger Federer and the addition of an Olympic singles gold and Davis Cup championship (two things the amazing Mr. Federer has not managed to bag), is pretty well-positioned to snatch the GOAT title right out of Federer's hands. McEnroe said, “There is an argument to be made that Rafael Nadal may be the greatest player eventually, even possibly now.”
You can throw away the first, self-evident part of that sentence; it's the final three words that make this a news story. This is bound to cause some weeping and gnashing of teeth among Federer fans, but let's face it: the debate isn't going to go away, and it seems that neither are Nadal or Federer, for the forseeable future. So how about we all mellow out and just enjoy the fact that both these guys are with us today, and are involved in what could become the rivalry to end all rivalries—even if they're not apt to share a bagel before going out to play a Grand Slam final, the way Evert and Martina Navratilova did before one of their U.S. Open championship clashes.
And did you see that Carlos Moya called a press conference today in Madrid to announce that he's retiring? Moya, who won the French Open in 1998 and briefly held the No. 1 ranking, hasn't played since May (foot injury) and is a recent father.
You don't earn a prominent place in tennis history just by being a nice guy, but the fact that Moya was much loved (and will be remembered as an all-time chick magnet) and still burned his name into the tennis history books speaks well of him. He's also a mirror-image of his pal and protege, Rafael Nadal, in that he's a natural left-hander who plays tennis with his right hand. That's got to be one of weirdest details in tennis.
Moya currently lives in Switzerland, which I assume is for tax-related purposes. Along those lines, care to guess how many French players now officially reside over there in Federer territory? Let's see—Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Arnaud Clement, Guy Forget...I got tired counting. But Michael Llodra still lives in France, although the way he's playing, who knows how long that will last? Nicolas Mahut has also chosen to stay in his native land. But we're unlikely to hear much about or from him until Wimbledon next year, when we're likely to hear too much. What if the ITF made it mandatory for players to live in the nation which they represent in Davis and Fed Cup? Bad idea, but not an unreasonable request.
And it looks like Larry Scott's Roadmap isn't a "ladies only" construction. This week in London, the ATP is poised to act on proposals to reduce the schedule by at least two but as many as three weeks, all at the back end, in order to create a longer off-season. And it's clear that promoters of the lowly ATP 250 events (41 in all) are feeling the economic pinch. They want to be able to offer a fourth wild card at their tournaments and to allow more results in 250's to count in the rankings, preferably during the post-Wimbledon period. They also want the right to deny housing to qualifiers ranked outside the ATP Top 500, which seems like punishing the poor in order to further enrich the prosperous.
And I would be remiss in ignoring that the Bondarenko sisters, Alona and Kateryna, have thrown in the towel when it comes to Fed Cup. Somebody got thrown under the bus here, although the battlin' Bondarenkos and the Ukrainian Federation claim it's by "mutual consent." It's time for some of the youngsters to get more involved, the two parties claim. This is a little bit like Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer, together with the Spanish Federation, deciding that the boys are going to sit out Davis Cup, in order to give younger players a chance.
Alona B. is ranked No. 36; Kateryna is No. 114. There isn't a Ukranian lass within 30 ranking spots of the latter, and that player—Mariya Koryttseva, if you must know—is older than Kateryna.
My only question, when I'm expected to swallow this reasoning, is "Just how stupid do you think I am?"