A few predictions as we approach the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York (Aug. 31 – Sept. 13) and opening day of the National Football League.
* Roger Federer, the tennis world’s consummate pro, will capture his 16th major title and sixth consecutive U.S. Open title in Arthur Ashe Stadium in three weeks, leaving no doubt that the 28-year-old Swiss superstar is in a league of his own. Federer passed Pete Sampras in the record books for most major titles seven weeks ago after winning his sixth Wimbledon crown, defeating Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14 in the final. “It was an epic, a fun match to watch,” said Sampras, who was there to pass the torch. “Now he’s an icon. When you watch him, it doesn’t look like his working hard out there. He’s so smooth, a great athlete. If he keeps it going, stays healthy, he can (win) 18 or 19 before he retires. In my book he’s the greatest player ever.”
*Serena Williams, who should be on course to challenge Steffi Graf’s record 22 major titles, will capture her 12th major and fourth U.S. Open title. “I have never seen anyone express more willpower on a tennis court ever, than Serena,” said Billie Jean King after Serena beat her big sister, Venus 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, in the Wimbledon final. “She takes no prisoners.” But other early interests – fashion design and acting, etc. – kept Serena, 27, from acquiring the focus and single-mindedness to be the game’s most dominant pro for an extended period of time. Though Williams is clearly the women tour’s top pro, she’s not No. 1. If she captures three of the four major titles this year (she was ousted in the quarterfinals at the French Open), Serena still might end her career with as many major titles as Federer.
* Michael Vick — The Philadelphia Eagles won’t fall short in their quest for a Super Bowl title this season. Michael Vick will see to it. Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn’t thinking about Vick as his backup. McNabb wants Vick in the Eagles backfield on a regular basis, throwing or running, whatever the moment demands. Vick’s presence will make the Eagles the NFL’s most potent and productive offensive unit. Made to grovel on CBS’s 60 Minutes recently, Vick is eager to put his prison experience in the past and return to work. The sports world soon will understand that William Congreve, a 17th century playwright’s, paraphrased notable quote, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,” might also be true for some men, especially those like Vick, who was stripped of his livelihood, dignity and trustworthiness. He’ll gain all of it back and more if he helps the Eagles soar through its opposition in Super Bowl XLIV.
* Jason Campbell — He’s a good quarterback, but has yet to prove he can be a great one. And that’s why Campbell won’t make it through the season as the Washington Redskins top signal caller. With the presence of newly acquired defensive standouts, tackle Albert Haynesworth and rookie Brian Orakpo, the Redskins have assembled a formidable defense. Clinton Portis is a top shelf running back, but Campbell is a notch or two below superstar level. He has yet to take command of the Redskins’ offensive squad, possibly because he’s more focused on following coach Zorn’s script than he is about finding his own way into the end zone for touchdowns. Too often last year, the offense stalled inside the opposition’s 20 yard line and settled for field goals. By openly courting Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez, Redskins owner Dan Snyder made it clear that Campbell must do more if he expects to stay in the nation’s Campbell. Responding to the Redskins’ lack of confidence in him, Campbell told Sports Illustrated recently that “I feel like a piece of tissue they were flushing down the toilet.” Campbell will stay in Washington only if he focuses more on searching for and finding more creative ways to get the ball in the end zone. Which means he no longer should rely solely on his brain trust to come up with the right play.