Bill Mountford: Olympic Impressions

I suppose that I owe a apology to over a billion Chinese people.  Although, to paraphrase Arthur Ashe, I suspect that they would not care too much.  Way back when, I predicted that the majority of top-ten players, both men and women, would avoid the Beijing Olympics like the plague.  I was wrong.

It was hard for me to envision players flying from America to smoggy, humid Beijing and then back just before the US Open Tennis Championships.  These are professional players who (as Jim Courier once put it) eat what they kill.  There is no prize money at the Olympics and the US Open offers the most prize money.

In tennis, players grow up dreaming about competing in the majors and a lucky few harbor realistic thoughts of winning them.  Tennis at the Olympics always feels like an aberration.  It is has made the US Open Series this summer fairly impotent, and I fear that results in my beloved US Open will be particularly screwy due to burn-out and jet-lag.  Time will tell.

Meanwhile in Beijing, however, the Americans appear poised for a substantial medal haul.  Serena and Venus Williams are in opposite halves and an all-Williams singles final is feeling preordained.  James Blake has drawn the increasingly vulnerable Roger Federer in the quarterfinal.  If ever the American is to come through against the all-time great Swiss, this could be the time.  Bob and Mike Bryan have their eyes firmly set on taking home the gold, as an Olympic title is, literally, the only prize missing from their twin-sized bachelor pads.  Lastly, the L & L team of 1996 gold medalist Davenport and current No. 1 ranked doubles player Huber are also strong threats to medal.  The tennis event has been pleasantly compelling thus far.