US Open: What We'll Be Missing
Many a tennis fan and Bleacher Report writers have lamented that Marat Safin is playing his final US Open this year. But while we're promised at least one more USO match featuring the Big Russian, there are a few other men we won't get to see at all at this year's event.
Here are a few, and why we'll be missing them.
Major Achievements: Former world No. 1, Roland Garros champion 1998, Australian Open finalist 1997, US Open finalist 1998, 20 career titles, led Spain to Davis Cup victory in 2004.
Why He Won't Be There: On hiatus since March due to injured tendons and hip.
Why We'll Miss Him: In the late-'90s there were many speedy Spaniards with heavy forehands, but Moya was the biggest (at 6'3), the biggest serving and showed the best results on asphalt.
Plus, in a sport full of good guys he was especially mensch-like.
Now 33, Moya has been displaced at the top of tennis' food chain, and his accomplishments now pale in comparison to those of Rafael Nadal, a kid Moya once mentored.
However, Moya hadn't shown any particular signs of slowing down until this spring, when he announced that an injury would keep him out of the game indefinitely.
We wish him a speedy recovery, and that we'll get to see him again whenever healthy.
Major Achievements: Former world No. 3, Wimbledon finalist in 2002, US Open semifinalist 2003, winner of 10 career titles.
Why He Won't Be There: He's still recovering from hip surgery earlier in the year and won't be able to play again until January.
Why We'll Miss Him: Nalbandian the Andean is probably the cleanest hitter on tour, along with Safin and Nikolay Davydenko. Also, aside from Roger Federer, his game is probably the most easily adaptable to all surfaces of any male player.
When he reached the Wimbly final in '02, it looked like a fluke. At the next year's USO, when he upset Federer and came within a point of stopping Andy Roddick, he suddenly looked like a credible threat everywhere.
He has since been to the semis at the Australian Open and Roland Garros (twice). Though he may not hit quite as early and hard as Andre Agassi, he has a similarly fine return and was once a threat at each event he entered.
Sadly, his fitness and offcourt training make young Agassi look like a paragon of dedication and good judgment. As his weight has increased, his injuries have mounted and results have tapered off.
He's still an exceedingly dangerous player, as his near-win over Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells demonstrated.
We wish him well in his recovery and hope he has at least one more deep run in a major.
Major Achievements: Former world No. 9, winner of five career titles, fourth round at the US Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open.
Why He Won't Be There: Srichaphan has not played since early 2007 due to a wrist injury.
Why We'll Miss Him: Thailand's Srichaphan was a huge boon to tennis in Asia at the start of this decade, as his explosive serve and hard, flat groundies were reminiscent of a young Boris Becker. Perhaps all he lacked in comparison to Boom Boom was great net coverage and clutch play.
Sadly, injuries have probably prevented those traits from developing. I say "sadly" because his almost gleeful aggression on-court made for thrilling tennis, and contrasted greatly with today's more patient style of rallying and defending.
Furthermore, Srichaphan's amiability and obvious devotion to his Buddhist faith were charming. Now 30, he still hopes to get on court again, but there's been little indication of when that will happen.
We wish him a return to the game when the time is right, and hope he hasn't lost his zeal.
(Not that we feel particularly sorry for him; he's still married to former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova and recently launched his own business selling—how does one put this delicately?—male performance enhancement products.)
Major Achievements: Former World No. 59, fourth round US Open 2008, one career title (so far).
Why He Won't Be There: Unable to play the last three majors of 2009 because of an elbow injury.
Why We'll Miss Him: After Srichaphan's absence, 19-year-old Nishikori has done the most to excite tennis fans on the world's largest continent. Though only 5'10", the young Japan native has an explosive forehand and remarkable feel around the court.
He upset James Blake in the finals of Delray Beach last year to win his first title, and then outlasted No. 4 David Ferrer in the third round of the US Open, becoming the first Japanese in the Open's round of 16 in 71 years.
At his size, Nishikori faces long odds of winning a slam, but his natural flair potentially make every major he enters more exciting to watch. Furthermore, he promises to be trendsetter for his nation's (if not his whole continent's) tennis hopes.
We wish him good health and many long years of success.
Long John Silver
Major Achievements: Former tennis community leader at Bleacher Report, currently the No. 1 tennis writer at BR, graduate student in energy economics.
Why He Won't Be Here: Currently on a well-deserved sabbatical
Why We'll Miss Him: A little more than a year ago I found a site called Bleacher Report that allowed me to write about tennis and share it with other sports fans. There were only a handful of people writing about tennis at the time, and most of them are no longer involved with it.
But I remember receiving regular, if not constant feedback from Long John Silver, the community leader. There were a lot of would-be writers dropping in back then, so it was understandable that he wouldn't lavish attention on any one of us; he was never that easy to please.
His exceptionally forward personality may not have been the type I'd want involved in the negotiations for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but having worked in the newspaper business, I could appreciate his honesty and integrity.
Praise comes infrequently from those who outrank you in nearly any media field, but when it does come you know you've accomplished something. Likewise, when after a few months of writing Long John brought me into his inner circle and called me his "mate," I knew BR would be a home for me.
Now we're heading into our final major tournament of 2009, and we're doing it without the man who shepherded our domain from its infancy. I have a good crew to work with as the current CL, and I owe much of that to the man who preceded me.
Thank you for fostering quality sportswriting in the past year, Long John, and we wish you the rest you need before we see you again around here. By the way, if energy economics doesn't work out for you, you'd make a great managing editor at a newspaper (if you can handle the pay cut!).
What We'll Have
Of course, we have more than enough to look forward to at the event ahead, with Roger Federer the overwhelming favorite for his unprecedented sixth-straight Open win. Behind him are a very strong cast: Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro look to capitalize if Federer's ship runs aground.
On the women's side, Serena Williams seeks her third major of the year, Dinara Safina looks to make her breakthrough, and Kim Clijsters will be looking to make a successful return to action.
We at the tennis domain will be providing comprehensive coverage of this year's event. Near the end we'll be providing opportunities to collaborate on Creature vs. Creature in the semifinal/final rounds.
Traditionally they've been the domain of the tennis community's top writers, but for the Open we're throwing the doors open to the whole community, so contact me if you want to be part of the CvCs.
Whoever wins this year's Open, let's make it the best coverage BR has ever provided for a big event.