The Tennis Handsomes

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Credit: Kyle Tsui

Now that Wimbledon is done and the Olympics are a week away, we’ve had a nice window of extreme American tennis. After Wimbledon, there are seven weeks of U.S. ATP events (branded the “US Open Series,” as if that means anything to anyone—tennis branding is a disaster). Europe is filled with events during the same time, and most everyone choses to stay in their home countries for this part of the summer, so the U.S. draws are all filled almost exclusively with domestic names.

They’re all here, and it makes things like this happen: This week, teenage Jack Sock (back, finally, after a groin injury) lost in an American dream quarterfinal in Atlanta again John Isner. Little hothead Ryan Harrison was knocked out in the first round by veteran James Blake. Andy Roddick and Isner battled it out in a semifinal, and Donald Young kept alive his terrible losing streak by falling to 22-year-old American Steve Johnson, who then put up quite a fight to Sock, all within a few Georgia afternoons.

Since no one else in the world is talking about him, let’s pause to discuss James Blake. Blake, who once thrilled the world by returning to top form after breaking his neck on a net post, only to then pull through some affliction that paralyzed half his face, has in the past two years made losing his most interesting art form, perhaps epitomized at Wimbledon 2011 when he paused while losing a match to yell at ESPN analyst Pam Shriver because she was talking too loud during play. And even though it was just last year that Blake hit a 125 mph forehand, the fastest ever recorded in the history of stupid power baseline play, this first-round win against Harrison is about as big a conquest as he’s going to ever get again. But Harrison at least made it to the doubles finals, proving that no matter how things shake out in a week like this, most of whatever lands is going to be American.

And then Roddick, Roddick Roddick Roddick, he who sweats so much that his own mailman once told him he would win more if he changed his shirts more often during play, sweated it out again in Atlanta yesterday and, in one of the stinkier displays of tennis we’ve smelled in a while (committing two double faults in the very first game, for example), went on to actually win the whole thing, his second ATP title in a month.

What this all means is that, even if it’s only a matter of statistics that they’re all making it deep into draws right now, the young Americans are feeling pretty good heading into the Olympics. Despite the most talked about pre-Olympics tennis news being the consistently horrible Olympic ID mug shots. Even more interesting? When the Olympics actually do start, the rest of the U.S. tournament schedule continues as planned, which means every top player in the world won’t be here—they’ll be in London. I can’t wait to see who actually shows up to these American things. You’ll read about it here. And probably nowhere else. 

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