The current state of tennis is, well how can we put this, nothing short of extraordinary.
Look at the top four players in the world. They need no introduction.
All four are otherworldly.
Name someone who would like to face off against one of these four on any surface.
I dare you.
My fellow citizens, the state of our sport is strong.
We have four ambassadors who carry on our good name across sea to shining sea, clay courts to hard courts, and hard courts to grass courts.
I am here to tell you today that while at times it may seem like a four man show, it is not.
It is comprised of over 100 individuals who play week in and week out.
Men who leave it on the court and come back the very next week saying, “Please sir, I’d like some more.”
Men like Andy Roddick, who at 26 years of age called Larry Stefanki and asked him to make him a more complete player.
Men like Nikolay Davydenko, who play every week and never moan and groan about playing conditions, scheduling, or gambling allegations.
Men like Fernando Verdasco, who are not afraid to step out of the shadow of a phenom and express to the world, “There is more in Spain than a man from Majorca.”
These men are what make our sport great.
Take a look around, not since the '70s and early '80s has the competition been so stiff.
To win a tournament it is conceivable that a player may have to face Roddick in the quarterfinals, Andy Murray in the semifinals, and Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the finals.
This is a sport at its peak.
A sport that has seen an upswing in popularity, and while it seems that it may be because the efforts of two men, don’t be fooled; it is the collective effort of all the men on the tour.
I encourage you, go to your nearest ATP tournament.
You’ll be shocked.
I am willing to bet that you will, too.
More than likely you’ll meet a few of these players.
You’ll be able to shake their hands and watch them practice.
Take a picture or get an autograph.
The state of our sport is strong, but the state of its players is even stronger.
At Key Biscayne, it was not uncommon to see Verdasco or Murray stopping to pose for a photograph.
Or perhaps Federer signing a few autographs.
You’ll even be able to join in the mob that follows Nadal everywhere he goes.
My fellow fans, the state of our sport is strong and it is growing.
We have new faces and new names to go along with the tried and true.
Names like Marin Cilic or Giles Simon, names you may not know, but soon will.
I would like to tell you all that while at the end of the week we may grow accustomed to seeing the same two faces battle for the championship, we need to recognize the efforts of everyone involved.
So I challenge you.
I challenge you to read up on an ATP player outside of the top 30. Check him out. Watch his rankings and learn his story.
You may stumble across the world No. 51 and watch him blossom into the world No. 1, as I have been so fortunate to have witnessed.
But, above all, appreciate our sport and appreciate the great players who allow us to share in their magic.
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