The 2010 US Open—America’s Wimbledon, but with less rain—got under way last night. The opening festivities included fireworks, Gloria Estefan, Mike Bloomberg, two master-class thrashings by Venus “No Penis” Williams (wearing a black lace quasi-negligee in lieu of standard athletic wear), and perennial badass-turned-weeper Roger Federer. I was there for the second straight year, perched in the last row like a branched owl overlooking the event—equal parts sport and spectacle. Women in all styles of WASP-wear fanned themselves with programs, dads stroked their Venus-inspired daughters’ corn-rowed braids, boys bounced over-sized tennis balls, and I silently philosophized, wondering what David Foster Wallace would say. Wallace was arguably our greatest living novelist, but he was certainly our greatest living tennis critic. He wrote of the sport he loved with an inimitable mix of passion and cerebral analysis. He drooled over Roger Federer, once played through a tornado, and wrote an 1,100 page novel set at a fictional tennis academy. But now he’s gone. Someone needs to fill the giant void he left behind in the world of tennis writing. That man is Lil’ Wayne.
By this point we’ve all seen the amazing handwritten letter Weezy sent Sports Illustrated from prison, wherein he discusses his childhood crush on Andre Agassi, his current crush on Maria Sharapova, and his prediction that Andy Murray will lodge the biggest threat to Wayne’s favorite Spanish stud, Rafael Nadal. But does Lil Wayne have what it takes to wrest the Grand Slam title from Wallace? I matched up some of their writings in order to find out.
On Rafael Nadal Lil Wayne: “His Wimbledon performance was one of a kind. He simply plays with pure passion and leaves it all out there on the court.” David Foster Wallace: “For reasons that are not well understood, war’s codes are safer for most of us than love’s. You too may find them so, in which case Spain’s mesomorphic and totally martial Rafael Nadal is the man’s man for you—he of the unsleeved biceps and Kabuki self-exhortations.”
Winner: Lil’ Wayne. Wallace gets points for his poetry, but Weezy’s minimalism is clearly understood, and his point is in-arguably true.
On Understanding Limitations Lil Wayne: “One of the main reasons I enjoy the sport so much is because when I actually tried to play, it was unbelievably hard.” David Foster Wallace: “I thus further confess that I arrived in Montreal with some dim unconscious expectation that these professionals—at least the obscure ones, the nonstars—wouldn’t be all that much better than I. I don’t mean to imply that I’m insane: I was ready to concede that age, a nasty ankle injury in 1988, and a penchant for nicotine (and worse) meant that I wouldn’t be able to compete physically with a young unhurt professional, but on TV (while eating junk and smoking), I’d seen pros whacking balls at each other that didn’t look to be moving substantially faster than the balls I’d hit. In other words, I arrived at my first professional tournament with the pathetic deluded pride that attends ignorance. And I have been brought up sharply. I do not play and never have played even the same game as these qualifiers.”
Winner: Wallace. Though Weezy is once again clear and concise, Wallace wins for honesty and breadth of experience.
Tie Break – Predictive Ability Lil Wayne: “With Del Potro pulling out of this year’s open with injury, Nadal’s only threats are obviously Federer, Djokovic, and Roddick’s aggressive play, but the player who scares me most is Andy Murray, who’s beaten Nadal four times. Even still I say ‘Nadal Wins it all’” David Foster Wallace: “In the same emphatic, empirical, dominating way that Lendl drove home his own lesson, Roger Federer is showing that the speed and strength of today’s pro game are merely its skeleton, not its flesh. He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years the game’s future is unpredictable. You should have seen, on the grounds’ outside courts, the variegated ballet that was this year’s Junior Wimbledon. Drop volleys and mixed spins, off-speed serves, gambits planned three shots ahead—all as well as the standard-issue grunts and booming balls. Whether anything like a nascent Federer was here among these juniors can’t be known, of course. Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform—and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.”
Winner: TBD. Wallace doesn’t actually seem to make any predictions, other than that Federer is a genius, which has proven true, but might have already been true when he wrote the piece. Weezy, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to imagine the future. Only time will tell if he is right…