The Slam Dunk of Tennis
~ Amy Lignor
Okay, the most fun we ever had was with John McEnroe. Why? Because the screaming and the stomping of his feet, and the throwing of the balls and racquets, actually made tennis interesting for the first time ever. His rivalry with Jimmy Conners brought about match-ups that are still the ones most remembered.
Then, Andrew Agassi walked onto the scene with his Sampson-like hairdo, and took the world by storm. He was fun, he was photographed, and he brought people back to their TV screens to watch tennis. Pete Sampras also beguiled, becoming a winner to the max.
Now, after this U.S. Open thrills and chills have settled, it is the men who actually came away from the event just as interesting as the women. Hard to do, considering the women had the unstoppable cheetah-clad Serena Williams to engage and enrapture the fans.
For the men, his name is Marin Cilic. He’s not a newbie to tennis, no; but he was the 14th-seed this year at the U.S. Open and gave the performance of a lifetime. He’s from Croatia, and his entire country must have shouted with pride and laughter when their boy walked in and worked his behind off to toss all the big names into the proverbial dust. Just like Agassi, McEnroe, and Sampras did once upon a time.
This was unexpected, whereas Serena winning for the women was practically a given before the games even started. Cilic is 25 years of age. And actually was higher up than Agassi when he made his comeback. Agassi actually won the U.S. Open when he was completely unseeded. Pete Sampras was the 17th seed in 2002, when he took it – but when it came to these two, they were professional players who had just slipped a bit.
The name ‘Cilic’ was not mentioned much at the U.S. Open…to begin with. There wasn’t really much of a point when players, such as, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were in attendance. But Cilic decided to dominate everything. He was fun and vibrant – perhaps figuring since he couldn’t go all the way (or the chances were slim for him to do so), that he could at least put on a darn good show while he was there).
Yes, he has won 12 ATP singles titles and actually moved up in the rankings to No. 9 back in 2010. But he was not counted on to do much here. First, Kei Nishikori lost to him in the Monday afternoon final. But his dominance in the finale is what history books are made of. Big names – THE names – this year at the U.S. Open: Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Nishikori, were stunned. Perhaps, they thought they were living in some kind of Stephen King universe, considering Cilic swept them all in straight sets, making him just one of four players to win the U.S. Open without dropping a set in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. And one stat that history will make sure is a big, bold entry in the world of sports, is the fact that in these final three rounds, Cilic actually won 123 of 147 first-serve points. Exactly! The three guys he swept found that stat a bit odd, as well.
A 66/1 longshot, Cilic seems to be a lot like Seabiscuit. He ran fast, he swept past the competition, and he worked his way up the rankings to make sure that when it was time to claim victory, his nose was across the finish line far before the others could wake up from their powerful nightmares to beat him
And, he has a personality. People are still talking about his delivery of the ‘Top Ten’ on Late Night with David Letterman. The cutie from Croatia is not just about strength and talent, he has humor built in – and somehow is quickly becoming the favorite of the tennis world.
It will be interesting to see how many t-shirts of Cilic will sell over Amazon, and how many people will be sitting in the stands for the next go round, watching the newest sports celebrity from Croatia.
Source: Baret News Wire