I’m a bit late on this, granted. I watched what I could last week as the men competed for the Western and Southern Open (the Cincinnati Masters) in New York City in front of empty seats. Such is the state of the game.
My take on the empty seats, does this mean much, should we discount the tennis, etc.? Fuck no. We have tennis again, sports again around the globe. We have events among mostly decent people to distract us from the indecency of the world.
I think there’s perhaps even an element of purity to the sport, any sport, played without a live audience.
Soccer was the first sport to get back to business, the Bundesliga having started back in May.
Piping-in the crowd noise to these matches has worked for me. I’m focusing on the play. For the NBA, I remind people that these players have grown-up and continue to play against each other in practice, in the off-season, etc., without a full venue, in an empty gym or in a city park, without the flash and overpriced seats. Baseball has seemed a little odd, but the boys are playing. Tennis for sure seems like a different enterprise, all together, but we’re managing. They’re playing. I will take the grateful route here and hold my complaints for something else. Nice to be able to see some real competition, which remains real for most of these athletes. Hockey I should mention, as well.
Pure sport, pure competition. You can still see the players, of different sports, thrive in the Covid-crowdless atmosphere.
Soccer has been a very pleasant watch. English Premier League play resumed shortly after the Bundesliga, along with other professional soccer league play; matches were made-up, champions crowned, etc.
I must say, dear readers, this blog will likely take up covering EPL and other international soccer as we get underway in a few weeks! Soccer is my first sport, the one in which I most advanced, playing university level, even competed a term for Queen Mary College of the University of London, the only American to see much action I can assure you. And I played well, mind you, rewarded heartily for my efforts with ample pints and good cheer with some very smart lads.
When my family and I were in London in summer 2019, my son and I toured a few of the soccer stadiums, really just doing fully paid tours of Stamford Bridge and Etihad (yes, we trained to Manchester for the day). To make a long-story-short, I took a liking to Chelsea (even though I didn’t care much at all for their last run with Hazard, Diego Costa, Giroud, et al.). The west London grounds, pitch, etc., and the signing of Christian Pulisic all have me quite interested in Chelsea futbol. His play down the stretch was marvelous, world class, but let me get right out front here and say that I don’t trust Lampard — I think his affinity for Mount is obvious and seems, in my limited view thus far, to hurt Pulisic. Sure the American has had some health issues, but I don’t trust Lampard (despite a decent finish by the Blues in 2020).
For what it’s worth, Chelsea has had some good signings for 2020/2021: Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Timo Werner, and Hakim Ziyech. In the end, Pulisic’s No. 22 will be given to Ziyech, who wore that number for Ajax, so Pulisic will be given, allegedly, No. 10. Perfect.
Yes, the Champions League finish was good television, too. I loved seeing the surprising but brilliant attacking football from Leipzig, who vanquished favored Atlético though I was sorry for my son’s cherished side in Man City who came-up empty against Lyons (I am not a Sterling fan, which I have shared with my son for some time — seeing him miss that empty netter equalizer was terrifying — for City fans — and almost expected. Unbelievable choke; but City was awful really).
Bayern just showed their class against another over-inflated talent in Neymar and Co. I have to admit: Neymar is uber talented, no question. But his misses (he had several against Atalanta!) and his performance in the final are too much evidence of said over-inflation.
Stay tuned for some soccer coverage, folks. Nice to see the organizations or European soccer handle their return to the pitch and competition with near flawless professionalism. Bravo.
Back to the tennis: I am really just watching Djokovic at this point. To be honest.
His main threats, Fedal, are on vacation/quarantine, still, though that probably doesn’t even matter at this point. Reminder: his win in Cincy last week both keeps his undefeated streak in 2020 alive (all the oddities aside) and he has now won every Masters event at least twice. No other player has won all of them once.
The undefeated Serb’s title at the Cincy Open (in NYC) was a very interesting watch, I thought. We’re not even sure about form at this point, with any of the players. But Novak continued to find his. The RBA SF was like a card game between two wily veterans. Novak’s injury woes (neck and stomach) might have upset the Spaniard a bit. But that’s the game, Mr. Agut. Novak simply finding a way; mixing-in some brilliant clutch tennis is always a good watch.
I can’t imagine him losing at the US Open, as we’re underway there. First, who is going to beat him in Bo5 when most of these athletes are without match fitness? For those who embarrassingly champion the Bo3 format for the men at Majors, this was your best chance since the field will probably implode by week 2 given the lack of endurance and form from many players. Either way, Novak appears an unbelievably massive favorite.
Thiem’s play at Cincy was very disappointing. I did watch some FAA tennis and continue to like some of what I see, sometimes, but his match against the gritty American Sandgren exposed the Canadian, again. We’ll just say his serve is an abomination. Get some coaching, young man!
Sure, Milos looked good in Cincy, Zverev and Medvedev could be threats NYC, Thiem could make a run, perhaps. Tsitsipas is probably the 2nd favorite of this tournament, after discovering that Medvedev has some quarantine issues, actually. I read today he can play his matches but can’t practice as they want him to self-isolate due some some exposure to Benoit Paire, who has tested positive for Covid.
We will certainly be watching and writing about these upcoming matches — several more today, of course, as they finish R1.
Thanks for reading. It’s nice to be back.