NEW YORK – Ever wonder how Billy the Kid would have done with a tennis racket instead of a shotgun? The Kid, known as a withdrawal artist to the bankers of Lincoln County, New Mexico, showed his quick, greedy hands to advantage in practicing his craft in the neighborhood of the Tombstone’s infamous OK Corral.
Who knows? Maybe the Kid might have preferred serving aces through the rich folks on their plush grass courts at Newport, Rhode Island. Those well-coiffed lawns were easier on the feet than prairies, the food was better and the Kid could have been an earlier-day Bobby Riggs, hustling the robber barons for millions.
Easier than the celebrated Shootout at the OK Corral. Where the local lads, like the Earps and the Clanceys, were lobbing lead, not cotton balls.
It was 1881, and nobody had tipped off dear Billy that shotguns and shootouts were passé, and he could get his photos on the sports pages back East. Even though Wyatt Earp or one of the others finished Billy with an overhead smash, the little criminal may have dreamed of a better life.
Only a few days before Billy’s death, July 14, the big sports story in the US was the launching of the US Tennis Championships at the Newport Casino, August 31.
“This year’s version was the 130th birthday,” said Doug Stark, curator of the Tennis Hall of Fame’s Museum. “Of course we’re saluting the tournament that became the US Open.”
So here we were, yesterday, at Flushing Meadows, as another US Open rolled into view, one more Shootout, if you will, at the USA Corral.
Neither Billy the Kid nor Dick the Harvard was available for interviews.
But they were the boys of 1881. Bostonian Richard Dudley Sears, a 19-year-old Harvard student, won the first seven US titles. Billy Bonney had the shots to be a champ of something, but never quite was. Bad companionship? Might have done better with a Harvard education.
Dick Sears, the proper Bostonian, possibly had a yen to be a cowboy. Never can tell about a Harvard guy. He and Billy might have been an awesome Partnership.
As the fourth major whizzes by, the too-long season is showing wear and tear. Even the young, such as the impressive Wimbledon champ, Petra Kvitova, was unimpressive as could be. The Czech 6-footer was pushed all over by Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, and Wimbledon finalist Maria Sharapova barely escaped English teen-ager Heather Watson, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
It was Ryan the Kid – 19-year-old Ryan Harrison – who was supposed to show us a lot. But his opening round was a timid loss to Croat Marin Cilic, 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
But it’s Mardy Fish and the indomitable Serena Williams (underplayed because of her injuries) who give the Americans a chance at their own OK Corral. Otherwise it looks like another tourists holiday – but all with problems. Rafa Nadal, the defender, has made the startling statement – particularly for a great athlete: “Djokovic is in my head. I’ve got to solve it.” After losing five straight to Novak, Nadal is desperate for a solution. The Croat’s long distance run to No. 1 may have slowed him with strained muscles — but he’s also an award winning actor.
Federer? He’s lost the key to No. 1 of late. Andy Murray doesn’t seem able to crack the ice of pressure.
So, whom do I like? Strange maybe., but it’s 27 year old Serena and Roger the 30-year-old Kid.