Today, ESPN tennis analysts Chris Evert and Cliff Drysdale discussed the upcoming US Open on a media conference call. ESPN2 will televise 100 hours from New York starting Monday, Aug. 29, with other coverage across a variety of ESPN platforms, including ESPN3.com. Before the action, ESPN will televise the live announcement of the men’s and women’s draws during the noon ET SportsCenter on Thursday, Aug. 25.
Highlights from the call follow.
Q. Chris or Cliff, do you have any theories about why, with the exception of the Wimbledon champ, we haven’t had really young women winning Grand Slam titles in quite a few years now. It’s more older women. I wonder what you think might be going on there or if it’s just pure happenstance.
CHRIS EVERT: No, I think it’s a more demanding sport now and I think you just have to have more going your way, such as the mental aspect of the game, which is experience, dealing with pressure. Physically, I think that’s stepped up to a higher level with the fitness levels that the women seem to be in right now. And there’s maturity.
I agree with you. I think the days of the 15- and 16-year-olds winning Grand Slams, Tracy Austin, Martina Hingis, the days are over. Now I think it’s more of a physical and mental sport. You’re asked to be more of a well-rounded athlete in both the mental and physical aspects. The higher level, it just gets to a higher level.
You kind of see that when you look at swimming and you see somebody like Dara Torres.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: It’s interesting that the men are suffering. I’m not sure if ‘suffering’ is the right word, or having the same issue as the women are. The guys now seem to be much more mature winning the slams. You go back to Pete Sampras was 19 when he won his first US Open. Chang, 17. Wilander, 17. Those days I think for the men are over for the foreseeable future also.
Q. Do you have a theory as to why that might be? Is it a lot of the stuff that Chris said, that it’s more demanding, you actually have to know what you’re doing before you can handle something like this?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I think that’s part of it. The mechanics and the technique in the game have changed so much at the moment. I think she’s right on the money in saying that I think everybody’s a lot fitter than they used to be. There’s so much more emphasis put on the ability to play five sets and play seven matches in two weeks, like they have to do now at the majors. You know, I’ve asked myself that question a lot, too. I’ve asked my colleagues that question a lot. And I’ve never had a real satisfactory answer. It may be a temporary thing.
When I look at the young players, Ryan Harrison, he’s 18 years old, that’s fine, I understand that, he’s got a long way to go still. But what happened to the day when 17-year-olds were winning majors? That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure that we’ve answered it adequately. I’m not sure I have a proper answer for it, honestly.
Q. Cliff, I wanted to ask sort of a general question looking ahead to this Open, with the form of guys like Nadal and Federer of late, Djokovic’s shoulder, Clijsters pulling out. It seems maybe like this might be sort of an uncertain and wide-open Grand Slam tournament as we’ve had in a while on both sides.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I would not call it wide open on the men’s side, no. I think Djokovic, notwithstanding his shoulder issues, I think he’s going to be ready from everything that I’ve been told, and I think he’s going to be a clear favorite.
Just as an aside. An interesting thing for me that I’ve been saying all along since Nadal made his move, you know, two or three years ago and dominated the scene, that it was going to be a flat ball hitter, somebody who could hit the ball flat consistently. And we haven’t found that person until Novak Djokovic, because he’s a flat ball hitter. He keeps it wide and he can do it consistently now like nobody else has done really that I can identify in history.
As for it being wide open in the women’s field, if you take Serena out of the mix, it is totally wide open, as it has been all year. We’re in for a huge surprise for a winner, in my view. If you put her in the mix, I take Serena versus the field, and I say that’s a 50/50 call, Serena versus the entire rest of the field is a 50/50 call. If you take her out of the mix, then it’s wide open.
Q. Chris, your take on Serena and whether you see her as a pretty clear-cut favorite? Are you surprised or impressed at all with the way she’s been playing after as long away as she was from the tour?
CHRIS EVERT: Very, very impressed. We saw her at Wimbledon, and I think even though she lost a close match to Bartoli, Bartoli played out of her head. I think that exceeded, you know, people’s expectations, that Serena would do that well at Wimbledon after being out for a year and all her health issues. She committed herself. She practiced. She’s won two tournaments. That’s unbelievable. It’s incredible. Not to undermine the rest of the field, but it just shows that she’s head and shoulders above anybody else, again, when she’s healthy.
I kind of caught the last part of Cliff. I agree. I would take a healthy Serena as a heavy favorite in this year’s US Open.
Q. More on Serena. I cannot get enough. In particular, given all that you said, that Cliff echoed, as well, do you have any regret or lament or feeling about her being seeded 28th? If so, how is the average sportsfans who tunes in supposed to make sense of that?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I have a real problem with it. I was thinking about it this morning. I think it’s ridiculous. I think that the majors years ago, they allowed themselves the opportunity to reseed or not to go with the seedings according to the tour’s ranking system. I think this is a perfect example of what they should not do, which is go with the rankings. I think they should have seeded her a lot, lot higher. I feel very strongly about that.
CHRIS EVERT: I mean, they definitely went by the seedings, went by the rules. If she hadn’t won the two warmup tournaments, I would say, You know what, that’s fine, because they made a good judgment call. But you kind of wonder. I mean, it hurts the field is what it does. It really doesn’t hurt Serena as much as it hurts the other players. One of the top seeds will get her in the third round.
Yeah, I think they could have made a much better judgment call just on the fact that she won both warmup tournaments. I mean that’s shouting loud and clear, I’m back, I’m beating the field, I’ll still the best player in the world when I’m healthy.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I would have seeded her No. 8.
CHRIS EVERT: You have to protect her and the other players. It’s not only about Serena, it’s about protecting the other players, as well.
Q. I want to keep on the Serena theme. I can’t get enough Serena. I wanted to ask both of you, we talk about obviously how surprising it is, but really truly if you could expound a little bit about how surprised are you that she has been able to come back this way this summer? What were you expecting? The other part of the question is, do you think it’s more of a statement of what an amazing athlete she is or how much of it is also that nobody else in the women’s game is really stepping up at this point?
CHRIS EVERT: Well, I think both. I think not to cop out on an answer, but I think Serena’s incredible. Cliff and I were just talking about that. He asked me where would I put Serena as far as the greatest of all time. I said, You know what, I’d put her right up there with Martina and Steffi. She’s the best comeback player we’ve ever seen. If you look at the last 10 years, you know, she’s been out, she comes back. Even when she hasn’t been in shape, she can still win a Grand Slam. We’ve seen her win the Australian Open when she was, you know, 20 pounds overweight.
To me, she is an incredible athlete. She’s got the power. She’s got the speed. She’s got the mental toughness. There isn’t a chink in the armor there at all. Her health is her own worst enemy. Her health is her rival or competitor. Yes, it has impressed me. We should applaud her and really be amazed at the wonderful athlete and the wonderful gifts and talents that she has.
On the other hand, it’s disappointed me that nobody’s emerged this year because there’s been a pool of talent within eight or ten players that could have emerged. Caroline Wozniacki emerged as the No. 1 player, but she did it because she played a lot of tournaments and she was consistent and still didn’t rise to the occasion of being, you know, the real meaning of a champion: winning under pressure, winning a Grand Slam. So it has disappointed me. I see a lot of talent, but I don’t see anybody who really took advantage of it.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I’m glad that Chris talked about the conversation we had before the conference call. There’s nobody in history that I could put against her and say she would win. In other words, I’m calling her the greatest of all time because she has no weakness, not only no weakness, but she has so many strengths. She can come back, you know, like Kim Clijsters did, wins the US Open after a break. She has done it before. If you remember Miami those years ago after she had her knee surgery, that didn’t stop her from playing well down there.
I just think there’s no question that she’s the class of the field. There’s mechanical and technical reasons for it. They’re there for everyone to see.
CHRIS EVERT: And I have to say this. You know, my second choice would be Maria Sharapova. I sort of thought, Gosh, she was going to win Wimbledon. Really, everything was pointing to that victory. And she actually did not play well in winning the last tournament, but she won it anyway in the finals. It was because of sheer, you know, perseverance and gutsiness. I have to say she is the only other player that I see that really has the big weapons. If it’s a healthy Serena, again, Serena’s going to win. But Maria, if anything happens to Serena as far as a loss, an upset, something happens to her injury-wise, you know, I’d have to give the thumbs up to Sharapova because I think she’s mentally the toughest one out there.
Q. Chris, did you ever count her out at any point? Were there times in the last five years, let’s say?
CHRIS EVERT: Never, never, never. You know, as a matter of fact, I think that I was the one that sort of wrote that open letter to her. When was it? Five, six, seven years ago. It’s like, Serena, you could be the greatest of all time. At 30 years old you don’t want to look back and see you won five Grand Slams when you could have won 15. I thought that maybe she was being distracted and doing other things. But, no. Because she’s had so many breaks and so many rests, listen, she’s probably fresher than anybody else right now. She’s probably playing like a 25-year-old who’s played seven years on the tour. So she could even keep going. You know, it’s too bad for the women’s circuit that she has to pull out a lot. But, you know, it’s good for her longevity.
Q. How do you both look at what’s going on with Nadal this year? Had such a dominant year last year. Djokovic’s rise has done something to his psyche. How do you feel about how he’s handling it and how he looks at 25?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: You know, the game for me, it’s changed for both Federer and Nadal with Djokovic. You know, clichés and stuff. But unbelievable to me how Djokovic has changed the mix of the whole field because you take away — when somebody makes the kind of move that he’s made, it has an effect in the locker room because the rest of the field now takes a look at Federer and Nadal – your question is about Nadal – but they see those two in a different light, and they see they’re beatable by a guy like Djokovic who makes a move that he made. So I think that’s one of the issues. The other issues we’re not sure about. He’s just come out with this book that sort of identifies some of the issues he’s had in the past. But psychological maybe and physical also. Potential that this foot issue he talked about in the book is a problem for him. Outside of that, to explain his problems, I think it can be summed up in one word, and that is the man from Serbia.
Q. It’s very interesting to watch how he’s handling or not handling Djokovic compared to Federer. He solved Federer. He clearly has not solved Djokovic. Is it simply he’s butted his head against a guy he just can’t figure out?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: Again, I’m going to repeat myself. But to me it’s really an important point. I’m interested in the mechanics of this game and the strategy of it. I felt all along that a player who can hit the ball flat and hard, and do it consistently, that’s not an easy assignment, that’s not something that’s easy to do, that would cause him problems because he has so much spin.
Nadal has over the years adapted his game to his competition, there’s no question about that. But, you know, Federer doesn’t have the flat ball hit particularly off the backhand side, so that was a vulnerable side for him, and that’s how Nadal was able to get the better of him. But he cannot do that against Djokovic. He wants to. He wants to figure him out. But it’s going to be very difficult for him to do that, in my opinion, as long as Djokovic stays healthy because this kid has got the flat ball.
CHRIS EVERT: And I also see in Nadal’s improvement, he flattened out his shots. You know, that spin, the ball he hit was so heavy with so much spin, and that bothered so many people, and that’s what made him so great and so tough to beat. And it doesn’t bother Djokovic at all. It doesn’t bother him because he’s taller and, you know, he doesn’t mind those high shots. He has a good answer to that. But now they’ve become lower and they’re more in his power zone, so he’s returning the flatter ball that Nadal gives him. It doesn’t hurt him at all.
I think Djokovic has really nothing to be threatened by Nadal’s game right now. But I also think Nadal, there’s like a seven-year itch in tennis, where, you know, Nadal played seven solid years without many injuries and very physical. He played such physical tennis. He makes the game look really hard the way he works. I think it’s taken a toll on him, his body, mentally, maybe a little bit of tiredness there.
But I think he’ll work it out. I mean, he’s a champion. He worked out Federer. He’ll work this out. But it’s okay. You just got to have the little dips, kind of peaks and valleys, and you can’t always be on top of your game every single year.
Q. Cliff, I believe that you were saying all summer that you really would like to see Federer add a two-handed backhand. Am I wrong about that?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I said it once. Look, I think if you could go back in history, look at all the players, the competition he has now, I don’t want to overstate this case because on the face of it it sounds ridiculous because he’s done what he’s done. He’s definitely up there with the greatest of all time comments. I don’t want to sound like an idiot. But when you consider the opposition now and what they all do, I was sort of speculating once, asking my compadres, do you think sometimes he has sleepless nights over the fact that they have two-handed backhands that cause him trouble, he has this one-handed backhand that if he can get it high enough, it’s an issue for him. I did say that. I’ll get into a long answer to the question. At a certain time, until Chris, there was Jimmy Connors, and he at a certain time were the only two in the top 50 that played with two hands. Now it’s 90% of the players playing with two hands.
Q. I thought it was really intriguing, but has there ever been a player of his stature that you can remember who has added something so radical so late in a career?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: Let me try to answer that in a roundabout way. The reason that Djokovic is such a great player now, he added two things in the last 18 months. To me, it’s extraordinary. He added the serve. I’m not going to go into the details of it, but he changed his serve motion behind his head. He comes with a closed racquet facing to the ball. He definitely did more the palms down, racquet face down, on the forehand side as well. Those two things have made his serve if not better than anyone’s at least equal to the best in the business. And his forehand is now unmissable, which didn’t used to be the case. I’m not suggesting or speculating about Roger Federer ever even thinking about going to a two-hander. I was just sort — my mind was wandering. I was saying, Gee, I wonder if he ever wishes that he had a two-handed backhand.
Q. Chris, could you maybe assess the games of Andrea Petkovic and Kvitova. And, Cliff, I wanted to ask you about Andy Murray, his maturation process.
CHRIS EVERT: Well, Kvitova, I was stunned that she won Wimbledon. If you were to ask me the first week of Wimbledon, Could Kvitova win Wimbledon, I would have looked at you with crossed eyes. I was stunned. Especially the way she played in the finals against Sharapova, wow. I mean, moving is really not her strength, it’s her weakness, but she covered the court beautifully and hit winners on top of that. She really impressed me.
Somebody who has come out of nowhere that young to win two Grand Slams back to back, you know, I don’t think she’s going to win the US Open for that reason. But very impressive. She’s got a big serve and a big forehand. Of course, you know how I feel about those lefties, they’re always dangerous.
And then Petkovic, you know, I was impressed with her in the spring when I watched her on clay. Then she kind of fell out a little bit. When I watched her, yes, she was injured, but as much as I love that she’s feisty out there, she hits a big forehand, she’s got great groundies, but you got to have a better serve I think to really challenge the top. Listen, I’m one to speak. I didn’t have a great serve, but you didn’t need one in my day. I think for her, in this day and age, you need a bigger serve. So until she gets a bigger serve, I wouldn’t, you know, put my money on her as far as winning a major.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: Andy Murray, his story to me, look, he’s in the top four, but he’s number four out of four. If the other three guys are playing at the level they have been playing, then he’s going to stay at number four.
That said, in the tournament with a 128 field, there are always going to be upsets along the way. So if you give him a look, if one of those top three suffers a hiccup of some kind, then Andy Murray, the maturing process for him could be completed and he could win a slam.
I was very disappointed with him in the semifinal of Wimbledon because he looked, relatively speaking, like a second class player. When we were watching that match, I said, It’s going to be a while. In his game, there are some mechanical things that need addressing. The top four or five players have got a game that is as solid as a rock. In my opinion, his forehand side is a very big weakness. Until he corrects that, just from a mechanical standpoint, I don’t think he’s going to be able to make a move unless he gets some luck with the draw. That’s my feeling about Andy at this point.
Q. Chris, I was out at your academy yesterday and I want to talk about the future of American tennis as far as the girls. Lauren Davis and Madison Keys. Can you assess their potential. They’re both in the US Open, they got wild cards, and they earned it. Can you set their potential and talk about the experience of playing in the US Open for kids like that.
CHRIS EVERT: The thing hurting Lauren is her height. She’s 5’2″, but she makes up for a lot of that territory by being an incredible athlete, very much like Kim Clijsters. The way she moves, she’s a great little competitor. Again, she got into the Australian. I mean, I hope she does great. She’s got a wonderful outlook and temperament for the game.
Madison actually is working now with the USTA, but she was with us for six years before this year. She’s got a lot of power. I think when I look at her, I think she’s only 16 years old, I think she is the future of American tennis. I would put her against anybody as far as she’s got the power, she’s got the reach, she’s got the tenacity. Now it’s just a matter of getting her to become a little more consistent. But, you know, I’m very proud of both of them.
Q. Talk about your first time at the US Open, what it meant to you, what it can mean to these kids, win or lose.
CHRIS EVERT: It’s always great because it’s your country, it’s your country’s championship. It’s not like when you’re in Europe, you’re at the French Open or Wimbledon. I mean, you feel like really close to the crowds. You feel a lot of support. The crowds at the US Open are so supportive of American players, as well as every player, but a little bit more so with the American players. They’re going to have a lot of fans out there. They should just enjoy every moment and just remember why they’re there. They’re not there to take in everything. They’re there to get on the court and focus on what their job is, and that is to play and to try to win.
Q. Chris, I wanted to follow up on the open letter to Serena that you mentioned before. Back when you wrote that, I think it was 2006, she had seven slams, I think the general feeling among many in tennis was, Hey, you know, if you applied yourself more in tennis and really buckled down, didn’t have so many outside interests, you could put up Steffi-like numbers. Now she’s got 13. Do you think in a way she’s almost had the last laugh; that she’s been able to dip in and out of the schedule? You mentioned before it prolongs your career in a way.
CHRIS EVERT: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve often thought that. I go, Whoa. Yeah, she’s had the last laugh. Plus she’s been able to do all her business ventures, make a lot of money, supposedly gone to school, online classes, and then had fun in the process. She lives in L.A. She has her Hollywood friends. I mean, this is a woman who is living a full life, who is very multi-dimensional. So she’s dipped in and out, like you said, of the game. Still, when she’s been in the game, committed herself and been No. 1 and still won the tournament. But if I may say, it wasn’t because of the letter. But I think she did buckle down after that period because I think things were starting to get a little bit out of her control. I mean, that was a period where she was getting injured, then she was doing business deals. She was losing in the first and second rounds of tournaments. That should never happen to somebody like Serena Williams. She should have had more pride in that, her performances, and she’s a better player than that. But I think she did buckle down and she had a couple, three solid years after that. I honestly did think it put, with everything saying the same thing, I think it did put a seed in her mind and she committed herself a little bit more after that.
Q. Do you think when all is said and done that her numbers will be where they should be or will you stand back and say, She could have won more?
CHRIS EVERT: You know what, have no idea, because the big question is: How long is she going to play? If she plays a solid five more years, healthy and commits herself, she deserves those numbers. But if she would retire right now at 13, I would say she deserved to have won more.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I completely agree with that. Two quick thoughts. Remember, she started late. She never played any tournaments as a teenager or as a kid rather. She didn’t play any juniors, remember how controversial that was because her dad kept her out of that. Two, she’s in really good shape now. She looked good in the last two tournaments that she played and played so well at that I’ve seen in a long time. And she’s working hard. Even when she was injured in Miami this year, she came out to our club at Key Biscayne, and I was surprised and pleased at the fact that she physically, regardless of all the other things she’s doing, which you identified, she’s working hard physically, and I think she’s in really good shape. You’ve got to give her credit for that.
Q. Chris and Cliff, we’ve seen some impressing things from the young American women. Sloane Stephens made it to the quarters, and McHale beat Wozniacki the other day. Is there something bubbling up there? Also, I wanted to ask you on the women’s side your dark horse?
CHRIS EVERT: I think there are a lot of names in American tennis that in a few years, I mean, these players that you mentioned, Sloane Stephens, I love her game. I’m very impressed with her. Christina McHale has done wonderful. She had a good Wimbledon. She has done well by beating Wozniacki. She’s gaining confidence. CoCo Vandeweghe, she’s got a lot of potential, a lot of power. Then there’s Lauren Davis, the top junior players.
But, you know, everybody wants to know who the next champion is. I’m always caught off guard because it’s like, Okay, this is a journey. These kids are 17, 18, 19 years old, and they’re ranked like 100, maybe one of them is 50, 60, 70, 80. It’s still a long road to becoming the top 10 in the world. And I think it can happen in the next, you know, three years. But right now at this point I don’t see anything happening like this year. But I think there’s some really exciting and good, solid tennis players out there in the American field.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: If you want my pick for surprises, Sam Stosur for this tournament. She started to play well out in California. I’m not sure why she hasn’t done well on a hard court, but she may learn. She may learn here in the next couple of weeks. If there’s going to be a surprise, that would be the one I’d pick out.
CHRIS EVERT: You know what, Cliff, you’re so right about her. I never could understand why that clay court game couldn’t translate to a hard court ’cause it doesn’t look like she’d be a clay court player.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I can’t figure it out either.
CHRIS EVERT: I can’t figure it out. I guess, I don’t know, maybe it’s the spins. I don’t know, maybe the spins are different. But, you know, I don’t really have a dark horse. But she’s about as good as any pick, and I think you did a good job there.
Q. Could each of you compare Djokovic’s season so far with the all-time great seasons through history.
CLIFF DRYSDALE: Yeah, I feel very strongly that this is an historic year. I guess that’s minimalizing it. But I’ve got to make this point about what he has done so far. You win five of these 1000 tournaments that he has, five in a row, and you’ve got two Grand Slams under your belt, and it’s really important in my view to put in perspective the fact that he has had to play against the top players in the world week in and week out. He’s played eight tournaments, five 1000s, then he played three Grand Slam tournaments. He has still only lost two matches. That to me is the most significant thing when you compare the year that he’s had with, for example, McEnroe’s year when he lost only three. In those years, every year prior to the start of the Super 9, those years, which wasn’t that long ago, the players could and did duck each other, so you’d have Connors in one tournament, McEnroe in another, Lendl in another, and they’d get together in the slams.
The only point that I’m going to make is what makes it so much more unbelievable is the fact that in this modern game, you cannot duck the best players. And he has had to beat Nadal I guess five times and he’s had to beat Federer four times. Put in perspective, I think it makes the achievement even more remarkable.
CHRIS EVERT: Especially with such great champions as Nadal and Federer in this era, like you said, to be playing those players week in and week out. It is incredible, that consistency and that hunger and that eagerness that he seems to have had for every single match. I think it’s a testament to the mental part even more so than the physical part. You know, I actually think he lost before Wimbledon at the French, it helped him at Wimbledon. If he’s not injured, if it was just a little bit of a pull or whatever, his shoulder, you know, it’s probably going to help him for the US Open, too. He’s got to mentally rest, you know, because he’s winning so much.
Q. I would like to ask a question to Cliff. I’m interested in Andy Murray. You talked about the mechanical problem. Do you see that as something that can be resolved and something that has an association with Darren Cahill, Cliff’s friend, could resolve? Do you think Andy is progressing under Darren?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: First of all, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the question would come from Andy Murray with the accent (laughter). Look, I think he’s got a great serve. I think he’s got a great backhand. I think he moves as well and maybe better than anyone else of his competitors, very close to. My only serious issue, and you saw it at Wimbledon with his forehand side. He hits a forehand a little bit like Stefan Edberg used to. It’s a little late. He does not drop the racquet head just before he makes contact, like all — I’m putting sort of Del Potro in that mix, as well. They’re able to get into the ball with a loose-wristed forehand at the last minute. They hit it with a western grip. He is more sort of like an eastern grip. He’s a little tight. I don’t want to get too technical. Could you change it? Yes. It would take some work, though. I do think that he could change it.
As for Darren Cahill doing it, I know he’s worked with him somewhat, but I can’t answer that. That would be between Darren and himself. I have strong feelings, as I already shared with you, if he makes that adjustment, he’s going to win at least some slams, in my opinion. Even if he doesn’t, he’s still going to win a couple of slams before he retires.
Q. Who do you think he matches up with? Rafa has a problem with Novak’s game being flatter. Andy has done well against Novak. He won against a depleted Novak at the weekend. How do you think he matches up with him?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: I think he matches up well with Novak. It just depends on the day obviously.
Novak, in the big matches, in my opinion, in best-of-five, because of this technical hitch that I think he has anyway, is going to take him out. And I think that’s true of Federer and I think it’s true of Rafa, as well. That’s his problem. That said, if the draw opens up for him, I’m not answering your question, you were asking me specifically about Novak, they played a lot together, they know each other’s games very well, who was going to make the move against Nadal and Federer, and it turned out to be Novak. Andy is not far behind. For your sake, I hope he finds that forehand one day.
CHRIS EVERT: You know, he’s too good a player not to win a Grand Slam. It’s just unfortunate he’s in an era with, you know, the three greatest players. It will hopefully just make him more determined and become a better player than he would have ever become if those players hadn’t been in his era. I think everyone would love to see him win a Grand Slam.
Q. Chris, it seems like there are no more big rivalries like there used to be in women’s tennis. Do you think the women’s game is missing those great battles between two great players that generates more interest?
CHRIS EVERT: Well, I personally think rivalries do enhance the game and do bring more fans out to watch, especially people that maybe aren’t tennis purists. I think it does add a lot of excitement. You’re right. I mean, the men have it. Whoever plays, if Federer plays Djokovic or if Federer plays Nadal or Nadal plays Djokovic, you always feel like there’s a semblance of a rivalry or one starting or whatever.
But, you know, the last one was the Williams sisters. Even when they played, everybody felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable anyway. I think everybody did. They didn’t know who to root for. They felt the emotion and sort of the tenseness between the sisters.
But in answer to your question, yeah, as open of a field as it is now, there’s wonderful talent and a lot more depth and players from all over the world, yeah, I think when you had that Monica/Steffi, or Chris/Martina, I think that still made it more interesting, yeah.
Q. Can you talk about why the flat hitters is more important and does this mean that Djokovic will creep up in the standings towards the greats?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: Does that mean he will, yes, there’s no question about that. Obviously, if he keeps playing the way he’s been playing, that would be the most redundant thing I’ve said. If he keeps playing like this, there’s no reason why he couldn’t continue to win maybe not at the same pace as he is, because nobody is going to be able to do that.
But, look, there’s so much spin in the game today. Look, I’m not trying to say that Djokovic has got all flat and no spin, because he’s got a huge amount of spin, particularly off the forehand side. Rafael Nadal, as much spin as he has, we all talk about how with all the spin he has he’s able to get the ball up to everybody else’s shoulders, and that makes it really difficult for his opponents, which is true. That certainly has been an issue with Roger Federer over the years on his backhand side.
But there’s a downside to it. For him to be able to use that much spin and get that ball so high, he is eventually sooner or later, and usually sooner rather than later, going to get a short ball on the other side. When you get a short ball against a guy who plays like Djokovic and who can meet that short ball and play aggressively from there, which is exactly what Djokovic does. He can go down either wing and he can get the ball flat and wide away from Nadal.
Q. Is Kevin Anderson a flat ball player?
CLIFF DRYSDALE: Kevin Anderson is a big server. He’s a flat ball player, but he’s a Karlovic or an Isner. You know, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms in just how far those guys can go in the modern game. Because it’s now not just about the serve anymore, it’s about how you back up the serve.
I love his game. I figured you would ask about him. I think if I’m the field and if I’m the top four players that we’re talking about in the world, the guys that I would worry about if I were them would be a Karlovic or an Isner or joined now by Kevin Anderson. I’m paying him a real compliment because I think Isner and Karlovic, both those guys, are really dangerous.