- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

The U.S. Open is not for the weak of stomach. And that's without mentioning Serena Williams.
Common sources of gastric distress include but are hardly limited to a raucous New York crowd, muggy weather, tenacious opponents, noisy LaGuardia flyovers, the less-than-bucolic ambiance of Flushing Meadows and the possibility of sharing a table with Damir Dokic, particularly if Restaurant Associates happens to be serving $10 salmon.
(Which is actually a steal, given the standard concession prices around Ashe Stadium.)
To that nausea-inducing lineup, this year's tournament adds an unlikely new cleanup hitter: a three-set exhibition match between tennis geezers John McEnroe and Boris Becker. On Stadium Court. In prime time. Following the Super Saturday women's final. For a winner-take-all prize of $100,000.
Forgive us for gagging on our $8 cheeseburgers, but as Serena might say, Bleahhhhh!
Granted, it's not as gut-churning as golf's "Battle at Bighorn." Or the average pay-per-view heavyweight bout. Or even weekend reruns of the made-for-network "Superstars" competition.
But for the love of Billy Sims, it's pretty darn close.
Nostalgia aside, fans of high-level tennis should dread the possibilty of watching McEnroe and Becker grimace, grunt and gimp their way through more than an hour of subpar senior dreck. After all, we've already seen the best the formerly dynamic duo has to offer a six-hour, 21-minute Davis Cup duel that stands as the second-longest match in tennis history. And that was back in 1987.
Put it this way: You don't see the MCI Center booking a Fine Young Cannibals reunion concert, do you?
Then there's the money all six figures of it. For what? McEnroe is one of the most attention-loving individuals in the history of the planet, a grasping, look-at-me loudmouth for whom a day without headlines is like a day without oxygen. As for Becker, he's merely in the process of rehabbing a once-golden public image sullied by extramarital affairs, divorce and broom closets.
When it comes to watching, they should be paying us.
Worst of all, "Becker-McEnroe 2: It's All About the Money" threatens to overshadow what figures to be a compelling women's final, the first to be televised in prime time, as well as two excellent men's semifinals.
With that dicey transition out of the way, let's take a look at this year's draw. Enjoy two weeks of Heineken commercials:

FAVORITES

Patrick Rafter: Sentimental favorite and previous two-time champ has been scintillating since his heartbreaking loss at Wimbledon, reaching the finals of two Masters events and capturing a third. If he can finish, could be the last true serve-and-volley winner.
Venus Williams: Not on the same sort of roll as last year, but playing and serving well enough to defend her crown. As always, biggest danger is beating herself.

CONTENDERS

Gustavo Kuerten: Clay-court king has looked great on hard courts but suffered a pulled rib cage last week. Lost in the first round last year.
Andre Agassi: Aussie Open champ endured a schizophrenic summer, trouncing Pete Sampras in Los Angeles before bombing out in Montreal, Cincy and Washington. Awesome if he's on; agonizing if he isn't.
Marat Safin: Defending champ still rounding into form after an injury-ridden spring. The farther he goes, the better he'll play provided his health holds up.
Jennifer Capriati: Comeback queen a bit whiny as of late, but powerful game gives her a solid shot at third leg of a Grand Slam. Shaky first serve could be a problem.
Lindsay Davenport: Solid summer is a good sign; lack of pre-tournament pressure even better. Must dominate her service games to beat Venus Williams, though.
Serena Williams: Erratic play this year a far cry from 1999, when she dominated the draw en route to the title. If she finds her old form, watch out.

LONG SHOTS

Lleyton Hewitt: Sooner or later, experts say, fist-pumping mighty mite is going to win a Slam. We say later.
Andy Roddick: To paraphrase the film "Boogie Nights": "You're not the boss of my serve! I'm the boss of my serve!"
Roger Federer: Ace-mongering Swiss teen has all the tools but hasn't played since Wimbledon, where he dumped Pistol Pete.
Goran Ivanisevic: Good Goran: He'll go far. Bad Goran: Early exit. 911 Goran: Who knows?
Monica Seles: Fitter Monica playing her best tennis in years. But does she have the stamina to beat a series of big babes?
Kim Clijsters: Hewitt girlfriend/ lookalike smacks the ball with the best of them and probably will win a major before he does.
Justine Henin: Smooth, sweet, eviscerating one-handed backhand a major weapon for diminutive Wimbledon finalist.
Amelie Mauresmo: Inconsistent talent approaching put up or shut up territory.

NO CHANCE

Pete Sampras: Starting at quarterback for your Kansas City Chiefs: Joe Montana.
Martina Hingis: Most crippling power shortage this side of California.


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