The Tennis Handsomes

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Open

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Open
Credit: Bridget Samuels

Olympic tennis takes some getting used to. Usually tennis players compete for no one other than themselves, and so fan alliance concurs. We attend primarily to see who we like, not just who’s from home, so patriotic rooting can be a readjustment. Add to this an Olympic crowd at Wimbledon that is decidedly not a Wimbledon crowd (these Olympic fans actually murmur among themselves during play, gasp), a best-of-three set format, and towels that aren’t those hideous green-and-purple items, and things just seem a little off.

London isn’t the only site of play that has gotten a little odd. Because the top few tennis players from each country are in London for the games, the ATP events they usually crowd are now left wide open for those who didn’t make the Olympic cut. Hence, for the first time I can remember, the main tour event this week—the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles—featured a No. 1 seed whom I had never even heard of: Frenchman Benoît Paire. At No. 47 in the world, Paire was the best player to show up in LA. (Monsieur Paire, pardonne-moi, but you have apparently reached No. 47 without doing anything that would make me ever notice you.) No bother; American journeyman Michael Russell promptly knocked Paire out, and then, in the finals, big Sam Querrey won the tournament by dropping just two games. That’s an-all out non-Olympic ass-kicking.

Querrey is so lovable. He’s goofy and tall, his mouth is too big, he hits a huge serve, and best of all, he drives what he calls his “dream car,” a blue 1974 VW Vanagon that he got when he was 15.

Why the U.S. sent Donald Young to the Olympics instead of Querrey, I’m not sure, considering Young is in the middle of a legendary losing streak, but I’m hoping Querrey’s win over the depleted draw in LA can boost his confidence leading into the U.S. Open in August. Even more, I’m glad he won so that I can once again mention his legendary injuries of yore: an infected umbilical cord preceded by severe wounds sustained from falling through a glass table while tying his shoe. Doesn’t get much better than that.

By last night, the first losers in London had already departed the Olympic Village and flown in for the Citi Open in Washington, DC, making the draw there a bit more conventional than it was LA. But thank you, Olympics, for weirding up the last week of July.

Nic Brown is the author of the novel Doubles and the story collection Floodmarkers. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Harvard Review, and Epoch, among many other publications. He is currently the John and Renee Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. More by Nic Brown