Friday, April 3, 2015

The Bet

So, last week, when most everyone was still hungover from two intense weeks of Indian Wells, a 16-year-old American girl, Ingrid Neel (rank: #765), upset another teen, Donna Vekic (rank: 85)  in the first round of Miami qualies. She then backed that up with a very close loss to Alison Van Uytvanck (rank: 115) and for a brief moment, people took notice.

One who took notice was venerated former pro, best-selling author, top-level coach, highly regarded commentator, and follower-of-me-on-Twitter Brad Gilbert. He tweeted:
I was a bit surprised that Brad, whom I hold in high esteem, would overlook the high level that young American men have shown in the last year or so, and so I replied:
Now, to say that Brad Gilbert's tennis acumen is superior to mine is like saying Stephen Hawking's theories of the time and space are better than my theory that the entire universe is just a figment of Sandra Bullock's imagination. (Yes, this might be the only time you see "Brad Gilbert" and "Stephen Hawking" in the same sentence.) But I just felt that he was giving the short shrift to some players of exceptional promise. So I suggested a wager:
And after a bit of badgering, Brad agreed to it!

Reaction from the twitterverse was swift and varied. Some thought I had this in the bag.
While others took a gloomier view:
(Although Jeff conveniently left out the part about that major quarterfinalist being 24 at the oldest, which is a rare phenomenon in the modern ATP.)

Anyway, to reiterate - here are the terms:

1) A US male
2) Who was 18 or younger as of March 23, 2015
3) Will make a grand slam quarterfinal
4) By the 2020 U.S. Open

Note that this leaves out some young players (your Noah Rubins, your Collin Altamiranos, your Mackenzie McDonalds) who could have great pro careers but who are just past the age cut-off.  But I feel good about my chances in no small part because, as Rustam pointed out, it's still a sizable cadre of guys with good athleticism, tennis smarts, and competitiveness. They'll push each other - and every time one succeeds, the others will take note and realize they can succeed at that level too. Which hopefully will lead to the twin key elements - work ethic and confidence - it takes to succeed at the highest level of tennis.

Most importantly, there's now a group of Americans playing for something much, much greater than mere individual glory or riches. They're playing for pride. My pride. (And my $500.)

So, friends and neighbors, what's your call? Will I get that coveted tennis lesson, or will some lucky charity be the beneficiary of my tear-soaked cash? And if I do win, who will be the one to secure me that hour? I've put together a poll (thanks, Colette, for the idea!) with the 10 players Rustam mentioned but if you want to suggest someone else, please do so in the comments.

And then let's root, root, root for these kids.

Who will win me my bet with Brad?

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