Selasa, 15 Februari 2011

A Tennis Tradition Like Few Others

This isn't exactly a boom period for tennis, and I didn't see a sold-out crowd on the days I visited the SAP Open in San Jose, including the final. It shoud be noted, though, that the tournament has a history dating back to the 19th century -- and that Milos Raonic's victory could be a sign of future greatness.

At 20, Raonic scored his first win on the ATP tour. In 1988, when the Bay Area tournament was based in San Francisco (and called the Transamerica Open), 16-year-old Michael Chang scored his first-ever tour victory here, and won his first and only major, the French Open, the following year.

John McEnroe was 19 when he won the Transamerica in 1978. It was just his second win on the tour, and he won his first major, the U.S. Open, the following year. Stefan Edberg also fit the pattern in 1985: 19 years old, third tour win, won his first major a few months later (the Australian, then held in December).

Who knows what this means for Raonic, but it's another shining-light moment for a Bay Area tournament launched way back in 1889, in Monterey. Over the years, covering much ground (including San Rafael, Albany and Berkeley), the list of champions included Ellsworth Vines, Fred Perry, Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Tony Trabert, Stan Smith, Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.

For readers asking for more tennis coverage, these are difficult times all-around for newspapers, most of which no longer have the finances or staff to attend the majors. If you're badly in need of a fix, I'm writing a tennis column for the Sports Illustrated website (, and the list is fully archived. Even if nobody's reading, it keeps me current with the sport. With people like Raonic, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Richard Berankis, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov coming up on the men's side, the game looks to have a pretty solid future.

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