There's a funny commercial airing about the U.S. Open
Series, a group of warmup tournaments that's billed
"the greatest road trip in sports." It ends with an
outtake from Maria Sharapova. She appears to stumble
over a line disclosing the prize money for the summer.
"Thirty million dollars?" she repeats. "That's it? I'm
getting off this bus."
She's joking, but it makes you wonder. Where has
Sharapova been this summer? Well, she hasn't been
spending a lot of time on the road. She played a
tournament and a half this summer, pulling out of the
Los Angeles tournament earlier this month with a shin
At least Sharapova's made an appearance. Serena
Williams is featured in a commercial on the bus trying
to choose the right earrings. Apparently, that's taken
a little longer than she imagined, what with the bad
thumb and all. She was entered into the Pilot Pen in
New Haven this week, but pulled out at the last
minute. Her status at the U.S. Open, the final stop,
is in question, too.
The women's number one, Justine Henin, has also
appeared in one tournament, winning in Toronto. Her
right shoulder's acting up, though.
It looks like there's a trend here. A lot of tennis'
big names -- especially the women -- are skimping on
this year's road trip. It's not just injury, either.
Henin apparently didn't sustain her injury until she
played last week. Venus Williams made no mention of
injury when she decided to play just one tournament
this summer. And she seemed so enthused about this
road trip in the ads, too. After a surprise
quarterfinal loss in San Diego, I guess she asked to
be dropped off at her house in Florida. So no Venus.
What about the guys? Well they -- Roger Federer,
Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, James Blake -- are
actually showing up at a lot of these tournaments, at
the risk of injury before the last Grand Slam of the
year. Why? Could it be because there's more
advertising dollars available to the women? Maybe the
women players aren't as fit as the men, as John
McEnroe theorized last week.
Whatever the cause, these "Road Trip!" commercials are
a bit misleading. They imply that Sharapova, the
Williamses and Justine Henin are coming to a city near
you. The reality though, is that Patty Schnyder's
played almost every tournament this summer, but she
isn't in any commercials. I guess someone's interested
in that cash. Especially when you consider that
Sharapova probably makes more money rolling over in
her sleep than Schnyder earns in a year of playing.