The Tennis Handsomes

All the Children Singing

All the Children Singing
Credit: mirsasha

The U.S. Open Tennis Championships are two weeks away, but let’s consider now the current state of the American men. Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, and John Isner are the biggest names, of course, and you can read more than enough about them elsewhere. Here, I assess the rest.

Could do well

Yesterday, when 20-year-old Louisiana hothead Ryan Harrison ran into a TV camera while losing his first round match in Cincinnati, he said, “Get the fricking TVs out of the way.” Ignoring the subtle beauty of the noun confusion there, no one thought it was a real issue—all the cameras were basically against the back wall anyway. Then, a few games later, Harrison actually ran into the back wall while chasing down another lob. Every week, I love this guy more. He isn’t afraid of anything, not even walls. (And for any girls under eight reading this, he also swims with dolphins! You’re welcome.)

Sam Querrey has had an interesting few years, what with a legendary umbilical cord infection soon after the fall through a glass table that almost sliced his arm off, but the past few weeks have been his best since he peaked in 2010 (we call it Pre-Belly Button, or PBB). His rise has been off the media radar because it’s been happening at events that aren’t grand slams, but expect him to make a run at the U.S. Open, and when he does, you can be all like, No duh, that’s old news; I knew that was gonna happen.

Before he started playing this year, Brian Baker took almost five years off and had something like a dozen surgeries while taking college classes and working as an assistant tennis coach at Belmont University. Then, out of nowhere, the guy makes a run at the French Open and Wimbledon this year and jumps almost 400 ranking spots. Not a bad few months. He isn’t tennis-young (27), but he’s new to most people. The operation (Tommy John surgery) that finally got his arm and hips right is used almost exclusively for professional baseball pitchers. Look for him to develop a mean knuckleball on the side.

Might win a match

Jack Sock has the name of some Gilded Age boxer. He’s 19, won the U.S. Open mixed doubles last year, spent most of this year nursing a groin injury (not a metaphor), and is now back to his usual promising and unpredictable results. He’s been working with Andre Agassi’s weird, pumped-up old trainer, Gil Reyes, so we can only hope he’ll soon be wearing a mullet wig and making eyes at Streisand in the stands.

Will lose quickly, immediately, and definitively

At 23, the immensely talented Donald Young is still qualified for his last name; that, I cannot take away from him. But the former junior world No. 1 can no longer win a match. He’s 2-18 for the year. Go ahead and forget him. That way, if he does make a splash at this year’s U.S. Open (like he did last year, and which he’s always capable of), it will only be that much more exciting.

Almost all of these guys will be playing in Cincinnati this week, then taking the next week off to find crappy midtown hotel rooms in NYC and try to remember how to take the subway to Flushing Meadows without having a panic attack. After that, the lights really go out on the tennis world until the Australian Open starts again in January. This is their last real shot to make a mark in 2012.

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