The U.S. Open is often a barometer of American tennis and its prospects for the future, but appearances can be deceiving.
We all know where Sampras went from there, but Oudin's case is entirely different. Deep down, I think she realizes she doesn't have the talent to consistently compete with the top players on tour. There's some insecurity in play, manifested in her performances under stress, suspect body language, and her after-the-fact admonishment of fans urging her on (not always delicately) from the stands.
At the height of tennis' popularity in the 1970s, you never heard
Oudin and Capra are delightfully young, with so much ahead of them, but I just can't imagine either making a serious dent on tour. In a sport consisting almost entirely of baseline specialists, playing in monotone with only traces of ingenuity, what can a young player do to improve? Hit the ball harder? I'd advise every young player to study
Harrison is quite a different story. It has become annoyingly common to hear outright indictments of the all-court game, claiming it simply isn't possible to play net-rushing tennis in an age of sophisticated racket technology. Don't bother going up there, in other words. You'll get passed into oblivion.
It sounds valid enough, and there's plenty of evidence around the tour, but it's hardly an absolute. Schiavone, for one, has defied all convention. She's out there alternating slice and topspin, leaping for outstretched volleys, hitting Federer-like shots between her legs with her back to the net. She's everything we'll never see in
We've seen many images of old-school tennis in the men's draw:
And then there is Harrison, that rarest of tennis creatures: He grew up with an open mind. Insiders have seen him coming since he turned pro at 15, but this was the first time he'd successfully qualified for the U.S. Open, and he arrived with an arsenal. Listen, when CBS'
Harrison doesn't necessarily fashion his game after
How encouraging that he spotted that opening at the age of 18, and had the tools to execute his plan. That's what makes tennis fans feel good, not two people crushing identical groundstrokes at each other from the baseline, and Harrison was just as impressive in his post-match remarks. He was devastated in the immediate aftermath, having blown three match points (at 6-3 in the fifth-set tiebreaker), but then he acknowledged the scene:
"I mean, that was incredible. There were some balls that I ran down, and win some points, just because of the energy and electricity that I felt from the crowd. The body felt good. I felt energetic. The crowd played an incredible part in that." He also admitted being "a tennis fan, a tennis freak. I follow it when I'm not even practicing. I just love watching it, being a part of it."
Judging from the reaction to Harrison's play -- from fans, media and USTA officials with an eye on tomorrow -- the feeling is mutual.