Before we get into the reasons you should watch the U.S. Open, let's start with a small caveat:
John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors are not coming back.
It's over. So over. Like Bjorn Borg's headbands. Been that way for more than a decade. If you want to relive the glory days of SuperBrat and Jimbo, put on ESPN Classic. Get ahold of this book. Or buy a ticket to the Old Guy -- er, Champions -- Tour.
Oh, and please, please stop complaining that tennis ain't what it used to be. Last time we checked, the Age of Pericles gave us democracy and the Parthenon, not wooden rackets and short shorts.
So move on already. Let go of the past. Embrace the present. Give today's players a chance.
To put things another way: During the early '80s heyday of the McEnroe-Connors rivalry, the Soviet army occupied Afghanistan. And guess who backed Osama and company's heroic struggle against the Red Menace?
Yep, the CIA. Plus Rambo.
Point is, things change. Tennis has, and mostly for the better. The talent pool is deeper. Players are fitter, and less likely to smoke during changeovers. The game itself is faster, harder-hitting, more intense. And blonde, leggy Russians are a dime a dozen.
Better still, nobody wears short shorts anymore. Except the aforementioned Russians. Who, as we noted, are blonde. And leggy.
Really, what's not to like?
Perhaps you're not convinced. Perhaps you're mesmerized by late summer's oh-so-compelling TV sports tableau: baseball call-ups, fat tubs of goo playing poker, please-don't-get-hurt-and-ruin-my-fantasy-team exhibition football.
Maybe, just maybe, you need a reason to kick back, pop a cold one and check out the very best that tennis has to offer. Well, besides Maria Sharapova.
Fair enough. We'll give you a reason. In fact, we'll give you 10.
The Artful Roger
Can't tell a forehand volley from a backhand pass? No worries. Just watch Roger Federer, whose fluid, stylish game makes tennis look like a sport that could be played wearing a smoking jacket while swirling a snifter of brandy.
Don't take our word for it. Ask Federer's peers. Gush is the operative term. Martina Navratilova claims the Swiss star is one of the few players she would pay to watch. McEnroe says youngsters should model themselves on Federer, which is a lot like saying budding ceiling painters should emulate Michelangelo.
Serena Williams simply calls Federer "perfect" -- a slight exaggeration, given the defending Open champ did surrender five whole points in a set en route to crushing Lleyton Hewitt in last year's final.
Andy Roddick has a phrase for Federer's strokes of genius: Roger being Roger. Like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, Federer is a casual fan's godsend, a singular talent whose sheer Úlan makes his sport instantly accessible.
Again, don't take our word for it. Find out for yourself.
Gaze upon tennis, ye male figure skaters, ye logo-spackled NASCAR drivers, ye Jesper Parneviks. And despair
Does it get much "better" than Rafael Nadal's pirate pants? Or how about these getups?