The context of the US Open
The Tennis Context
Part of the fun of any tournament is the context in which it lives. Each match is bound and secured by specific conditions relative to a precise moment in time. There are always, in every match, unique factors involved, whether it’s the birth of a child and a player’s renewed perspective, the humidity level and how that moisture creates an advantage for one while taking away another’s, or the energy and fickle mood of the crowd. There are special conditions to each and every match, and it’s precisely why tennis creates such a riveting spectacle.
For example, when Roberta Vinci beat Serena Williams last year the result seemed to shake the earth of women’s tennis. The loss still reverberates today. However, Serena had just beaten Vinci a month earlier at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and imagine for a moment if those results were magically reversed: you know that Vinci’s win would have gone unnoticed. It was the stage, of course. It was the historical context of Serena’s quest for a Grand Slam and it was the special way in which Vinci won, which was by straight up outplaying Serena Williams.
(Hint: This type of moment is going to happen again at this year’s Open, to someone, so we highly recommend letting us take you there so you can experience it yourself.)
No Match Stands Alone
The context matters, clearly, and as we approach a US Open that will be filled with stories of all kinds—first week stories, underdog stories, statistical abnormalities, tales of food and drink and style around the grounds, rich portraits of off-court heroism and memorable displays of fifth set glory—it’s important to recognize who crafts those narratives and how the collective memory of tennis is shaped. It’s the press, the media, tennis writers, and ESPN newscasters. It’s your word-of-mouth and firsthand accounts. It’s in photos, the ones that are instantly iconic but also ones that take on significance as they age.
With this in mind, and to help everyone get excited for the US Open so that come Session 1, whether you’re traveling with us or not, you’re boiling with context and ready to hit the ground running, we’ve created a list of excellent things for you to read, listen to and watch by then. This list is by no means exhaustive, and is intentionally diverse, so if you have any additions, let us know.
BEST DESCRIPTION OF ROGER FEDERER
Roger Federer as a Religious Experience, by David Foster Wallace
MOST ACCURATE PORTRAIT OF WHAT IT’S LIKE TO PLAY A PRO IF YOU’RE NOT A PRO
In Tennis Love Means Nothing, by Nic Brown
BEST TENNIS SONG
Tie, between Lorde’s “Tennis Court” and CREAM’s “Anyone for Tennis”:
FUNNIEST TENNIS FILM
7 Days in Hell, by HBO. (With cameos from Serena, Johnny Mac and David Copperfield.)
MOST PREMATURE ARTICLE/ONE THAT ACCURATELY CAPTURES THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF CURRENT #6 VENUS WILLIAMS
The US Open: Is Venus Williams Out for Good? By Reeves Wiedeman, in 2011.
AND FINALLY, THE ARTICLE THAT BEST MAKES YOU BELIEVE TENNIS AS WE KNOW IT IS A CLEAN, FULLY OPTIMIZED AND BRUTAL VERSION OF SOMETHING ELSE CALLED REAL TENNIS
The Antique Sport of Real Tennis and the Woman Who Dominates It, by our friend David Shaftel, co-founder of Racquet Magazine.
We love this stuff. It’s art. It’s music and writing. And it contributes to the entertainment and to the cultural significance of this sport we love so much.