The ESPN network, which is showing 100 hours of live US Open tennis on ESPN2 (and 400 online at ESPN360.com), hosted a conference call recently with two familiar voices from the commentary booth: Cliff Drysdale and Pam Shriver. Both had some interesting things to say on the biggest, fattest and meatiest stories going into the US Open. Here’s some food for thought:
Will Roger Federer continue to be a lean, mean, Major-winning machine?
Cliff Drysdale isn’t sure:
My general question about Roger Federer is: What keeps him motivated at this point? He’s now the daddy of twins and he’s accomplished just about everything he has to accomplish. Does this lead to him being fat and satisfied and happy or does it motivate him to continue to win? I don’t know the answer to that question. I think that’s something that will be answered in the next couple of weeks.
Pam Shriver says Federer won’t be popping bonbons anytime soon – he’s still too hungry for tennis:
I think we already know the answer. I think Federer’s hungry as ever. Whether it’s Navratilova or Graf or Evert or McEnroe or Connors, to me that’s what sets the greatest of champions apart: It’s never enough. They’re always hungry for more. They’re greedy beings and that’s what makes them great champions.
Rafael Nadal’s health is still weighing on everyone’s mind going into the Open. Pam Shriver proposed this surprising/shocking solution to Nadal’s knee problems:
I think Nadal should look at Andy Roddick and the 10 to 15 pounds he’s lost. Even though Nadal is one of the fittest players of all time – when you have knee problems any 2, 3, 5, 8, 10 pounds you can become leaner takes a ton of stress off (the body.) I think after the US Open he’s got to look at – without losing strength – perhaps losing some weight.
Cliff acknowledged that Nadal’s “workhorse” ways were wearing him down, physically, but said the knees were only the half of Rafa’s worries:
There’s one other issue that we need to look at. Nadal’s getting better – I understand that. But there are more players that are improving, as well. For example: Andy Roddick is better, Djokovic is still improving, Del Potro is without a doubt improving and Andy Murray clearly is. And these are all players who play with a kind of game that can take a Nadal down: Flat ball hitters and very aggressive, strong guys.
As for the ATP’s own Valerie Bertinelli, Andy Roddick’s new physique has boosted his aura as well as his game. A year ago, I doubt Pam Shriver would have said this: “I feel like if Roddick stays on course – which he has every indication of doin – he’ll slip in another major or 2 before he’s retired.”
Chew on that!
On the women’s side of the tournament, Serena and Venus remain the favorites in what Shriver called the “bottom heavy” side of the draw. In the top half, it’s shaping up to be a battle of the Russians with Sharapova, Safina and Dementieva as the top contenders.
Cliff Drysdale gives Dementieva “a 35% chance” of winning the entire tournament, calling her “the best groundstroker in women’s tennis” with a serve that’s “unrecognizably” improved.
Pam Shriver says it’s do or die time for Dinara Safina, who she thinks has been “terribly bruised” from her flame outs in majors this season:
For the No. 1 player in the world she’s shown tremendous vulnerability. And I think having a good US Open and playing some big matches well is going to be really important for the rest of her career in the majors. She’s obviously proven herself at the regular tour level. She’s one of the hardest hitters if not the hardest hitter on the tour. But you can’t be that mentally frail and break down emotionally and expect to win majors.
You’ve heard what the talking heads have to say– now how do you weigh in?