So New Haven is no more – at least not for the men. Instead this Connecticut location will revert to a women only tournament while the men fly south to Winston-Salem, NC. I have never attended New Haven, electing instead to go to the US Open. But this year I gave myself the assignment of checking out smaller tennis events. In keeping with this mission, I will not be going to NYC this year. Instead I will be in Winston-Salem.
I knew when taking this decision that there was going to be a risk. One of the problems with a tournament timed so soon before the US Open is that there is a chance that it will not attract the big names of tennis. Instead the top players tend to use the week before a Slam to rest, recover, and fine tune their game. And I can’t say that I blame them. Sometimes showing up to these pre-Slam events is just not worth it to the player.
In this vein, I was not at all surprised when Serena withdrew from Cincinnati with an injured toe. Having played hard enough to guarantee herself seeding at the US Open, Serena seems to have elected to bail.
Assuming that the toe injury is not life-threatening, would it have been worth it for Serena to press on and try to win Cincinnati? If you’re a fan who paid hard-earned money to attend this event, the response is a definite yes. But if you’re Serena, busy plotting your return to the biggest American tennis stage, it most definitely is not.
In this same spirit, I entirely understand why Mardy Fish has decided to bail on Winston-Salem. I am disappointed of course, but I totally get it. Indeed, when I decided to attend this event, I assumed that I would probably have to settle for the likes of James Blake and a handful of up-and-coming American wild cards. My decision to go had more to do with simply supporting this inaugural event than with any hope of seeing my faves.
I do not therefore feel short-changed by Fish’s decision to bail. I believe that he has more than done his part in promoting American tennis during this summer of 2011. His best chance of winning his first Slam would require him to spend the upcoming week resting and training, refueling himself both physically and emotionally. Besides, I’m sure that Mrs. Fish would like to spend some time with her husband.
Fish seems to be one of those men who thrive on being married. There is no doubt that he has been playing his best tennis ever since both he and his attorney wife reportedly decided jointly to give up the junk food and get into shape. Mardy is looking and playing better than he ever has at any point in his career. Perhaps marriage can also be credited for his new self-confidence, emotional maturity, and at long last willingness to get out from under the Roddick shadow. It’s been a long time coming.
Of course Fish’s presence would have been terrific for Winston-Salem. I appreciate his compromise of showing up on the opening day. And who knows, had he not already sealed the Olympus US Open series, he may even have considered playing this event.
But like Serena’s decision to save her toe, sometimes a player just has to be selfish and not think of the fans or the sponsors but of himself or herself. I have no quarrel with this. In fact I tend to respect this more than those players who traipse all over the world running down petty points to remain on top and end up having nothing to bring to a Slam. It’s so important to rest and refuel, so that you can peak at exactly the right time.
So Andy Roddick will be the top seed at this newbie event. This may very well be the first time that he has committed to an event the week before the US Open. Has he ever played New Haven? I don’t know if he is getting a sweet appearance fee for showing up in Winston-Salem, ( in which case, watch for him to bail as soon as he decently can), or whether he realizes that he needs the extra practice going into the US Open. After all, his only win this year came back in February in Memphis. Since then Roddick has done squat. I’m sure that his form is not where he would like it to be. I’m thrilled that the same cannot be said for Fish.