By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
August 25, 2011
At #48 in the world, Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu is currently 30 ranking points ahead of America’s Irina Falconi (#78), and light years ahead of France’s Iryna Bremond, hanging in at #109.
While all exhibit the staying power of the name “Irene,” (albeit with some variation), none are anticipated to produce, in Flushing Meadows, the power of the hurricane of the old-fashioned name, currently lurking far south of New York but weighing heavily on the minds of 2011 U.S. Open organizers just the same.
Possible hurricane Irene-related foul weather the first weekend of U.S. Open is only a minor sidebar to the churning wash cycle professional tennis is facing this year. On the men’s side, World #1 Novak Djokovic is nursing a shoulder injury that forced him to retire last week in Cincinnati. #2 Rafael Nadal is in a slump and seemingly awash in a Rafa, Inc. promotional surge. And graceful Roger Federer just hit the big 3-0—Happy Acres Village territory in pro tennis.
The skies aren’t any bluer on the women’s side. World #1 Caroline Wozniacki has yet to win a Slam, and seems to be distracted by a certain Northern Irish golfer (rhymes with Attaboy) now frequently sighted in her player’s box. World #3 and popular U.S. Open defending champion Kim Clijsters is injured and unable to defend her title, Serena Williams is a low-seeded threat—a Tropical Storm at the moment. And the rest of the women’s top 10 is a Maria Sharapova-led Masha-mash of Eastern European powerhouses and a couple of random Frenchwomen.
Regardless of the uncertainty in the tennis forecast for the final Major of 2011, corporate America continues to love pro tennis and the U.S. Open, its healthy TV audience, and the record breaking crowds at Flushing Meadows of 710,000+ year after year that make it the best-attended annual sporting event in the world. As entrants compete for the chance to bring home part of a U.S. Open-record $23.7 million purse—including a record $1.8 million apiece for the men’s and women’s singles champions—American and international brands are scrambling to be a part of the draw.