FLUSHING MEADOWS – Selling newspapers in this town is a challenge, so as the United States Open tennis tournament plowed into its third round of play, the headlines read “CUCKOO for COCO” and other assorted 60-point nuggets to capture a youthful imagination and coax a buck-fifty from the typical New Yorker.
Coco Gauff played her way into the hearts of tennis’ toughest fan base and she’ll get to play another day after Coco Got Smoko’d Saturday night against the world’s No. 1 in Naomi Osaka.
Today, just as they did on Friday, tennis’ two “Greatest of All-Time” players each stepped out to the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium to play consecutive matches in the same arena, and the same surface, to little, if any, fanfare.
At Noon, Switzerland’s Roger Federer began a straight set dismantling of Great Britain’s Daniel Evans as fans streamed into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on a gorgeous Friday morning. Federer needed only one hour, twenty minutes to take the match, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, winning the way he so often does as the most accomplished male tennis player in history.
At 1:30pm, on the same Arthur Ashe Stadium court, Serena Williams of the USA dispatched Carolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. Williams, needed one hour, 14-minutes to take the match, 6-3, 6-2 after Muchova competed mightily for a 3-3 tie in the first set before Williams turned-it-on for the win.
And, there it was – the two GOATS – back-to-back on the same court in the same joint. Just when has that ever occurred in any other sport?
After considerable research and discarding worthwhile suggestions such as Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam playing at the 2003 Colonial golf tournament in Fort Worth, Texas or an obscure boxing card of 1977 when Roberto Duran was on the undercard (vs. Javier Munez) before the greatest, Muhammad Ali, took on “The Lynx of Montevideo” in Alfredo Evangelista in a May 17th boxing card at the Cap Centre in Landover, Maryland, the only possible comparison to today’s Roger Federer – to – Serena Williams tandem of greatness was the track and field events of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles (1984).
At the Summer Games of 1984, 400m hurdler Edwin Moses won a Gold Medal as he dominated the event for some nine years, nine months and nine days to gain the lofty title of the Greatest Hurdler of All-Time. Meanwhile, Carl Lewis stepped out to the same Olympic Stadium, the Coliseum in LA, to win Gold Medals in the 100m, the Long Jump, the 200m and as the anchor of the United States track team in the 4x100m relay. Lewis’ performances surely rank him as the greatest sprinter and, in nearly all precincts, as the greatest track & field athlete of all-time.
The interesting comparison of Roger & Serena to Edwin & Carl comes with a very apt recognition of the length of time all four athletes have excelled. Quite simply, they’ve all “brought it” time-and-time again.
While the Olympic Athletics stars performed with much fanfare and a 93,607 capacity venue and global Olympic TV audience, the two tennis greats today performed in a 23,771-seat love-fest at Ashe, each having earned the lofty title of the greatest while performing in what sports historian David Goldberg so properly described as an epic event of “quiet enormity.”
Such is the struggle of the USTA as it stages the greatest tennis tournament of the year, each and every year, as NCAA College Football kicks-off and the National Football League tees-up a season, this year cranking the promotional engines behind its special NFL 100 season.
The PGA Tour folded its deck and its tents, condensing the complicated and confusing FedEx Cup Playoffs into consecutive three weeks to avoid any conflicts with the NFL.
Tennis holds forth at this wonderful venue in Queens and record, capacity crowds now fill the grounds where Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert volleyed tennis balls back and forth in stadiums gone bye.
Bill Russell and Michael never played together, nor did The Great Gretzky and Bobby Orr. While the Great One and Earvin “Magic” Johnson might’ve played in the same Fabulous Forum, only one of those two can be considered the GOAT.
Jack Nicklaus all-time greatness certainly disqualifies anything Woods and Sorenstam might’ve done at The Colonial, right? Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were New York Yankees teammates but only one can be the GOAT. And, of course, Tom Brady never shares the turf of Gillette Stadium when the New England Patriots perform.
Nearby, New Yorkers might reminisce about the time 50 years ago, just across Roosevelt Avenue, at Shea Stadium in 1969, as Joe “Willie” Namath led the Jets and Tom “Terrific” Seaver pitched the Mets to the World Series, but any Mets fan worth his weight in Mr. Softee knows Jerry Koosman won the two most important games in Mets franchise history, not Seaver.
So, thoughts of the GOATS begin and end today.
The two GOATS playing back-to-back, and barely a soul noted the epic moment in sports.
Here Now, The Notes: (Staff and Wire Service Notes) – The NHL, satisfied with the current labor situation, announced Friday that it won’t reopen the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with its players next year. … Facing a Sept. 1 deadline to decide whether to opt out of the last two years of the CBA, the league issued a statement indicating it plans to leave the deal in place. … “Based on the current state of the game and the business of the game, the NHL believes it is essential to continue building upon the momentum we have created with our Players and, therefore, will not exercise its option to reopen the CBA,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Rather, we are prepared to have the current CBA remain in effect for its full term — three more seasons through the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. … “It is our hope that a continued, sustained period of labor peace will enable us to further grow the game and benefit all constituent groups: NHL Players, Clubs, our business partners and, most important, our fans.” … The announcement does not ensure long-term labor peace, however. The NHL Players’ Association must decide by Sept. 15 whether it plans to reopen the CBA, which then would expire on Sept. 15, 2020. … The NHLPA said in a statement, “Today the NHL advised the NHLPA that the league will not exercise its early termination right under the CBA. The NHLPA now has the same option. We will continue to discuss this matter with players as our September 15 decision approaches.” … According to ESPN.com, the players have several key issues they want to address that possibly could lead to a request to reopen the CBA. … The players reportedly want to be guaranteed the right to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics after the NHL barred them from participating in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Also, ESPN reported that the players are unhappy that part of their salaries goes back to the owners to cover possible shortfalls. … The NHL has endured five significant work stoppages related to labor disputes since 1991-92, including the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.
The Kansas City Royals reached an agreement to sell ownership to a group led by local businessman John Sherman, the club’s current owners announced Friday. … Royals owner and CEO David Glass and his family had been in negotiations to sell for a reported price tag of about $1 billion. … “The decision to sell the Royals was difficult for our family. Our goal, which I firmly believe we’ve achieved, was to have someone local, who truly loved the game of baseball and who would be a great steward for this franchise going forward,” Glass said in a statement. … “In John Sherman we have found everything we were looking for in taking ownership of this franchise.” … Glass, who turns 84 on Monday, bought the team for $96 million in April 2000. He had served the previous 6 1/2 years as CEO and chairman of the team following the death of founding owner Ewing Kauffman, for whom the Royals’ home stadium is still named. Glass’s son, Dan, is the Royals’ president. … Sherman, 64, has been a part-owner and vice chairman of the Cleveland Indians since 2016 and will divest himself of that team. He is the CEO of Kansas City-based MLP Holdings and is on the board of trustees for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. … “We’re very supportive of John and his group reaching an agreement to acquire ownership of his hometown Kansas City Royals,” Indians owner and chairman Paul Dolan said in a statement. … “His acquisition of the Royals is good for the game of baseball and I wish him the best. John has been a great partner of ours since 2016 and we are grateful for his contributions to our organization in his time with us.” … The agreement will be subject to approval by MLB owners at their meetings in November. … “As for my family, it has been an amazing run since we gained control of the franchise in 2000,” Glass said. “I will miss this more than anyone realizes because I grew up loving this great game and was awarded a fantastic opportunity to own one of the 30 Major League clubs.” … Los Angeles Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs died from an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol, the Tarrant County (Texas) Medical Examiner’s Office said in a report released Friday. … According to the examiner’s report, the painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone, as well as alcohol, were in Skaggs’ system when he was found dead in his hotel room in Southlake, Texas, on July 1 prior to the Angels’ series against the Rangers. … Per the report, Skaggs died by choking on his vomit without signs of trauma. He was 27. … Skaggs’ family released a statement Friday, and in it claimed that an employee of the Angels may have been involved in “the circumstances surrounding (Skaggs’) death.” … “We are heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol,” the statement said. “That is completely out of character for someone who worked so hard to become a Major League baseball player and had a very promising future in the game he loved so much.”
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Field Level Media, GraceNote, and Digital Sports Desk staff reporting contributed to this column.