The year was 2002, and playing in the finals of the indoor tournament in Memphis was James Blake--making his ATP final debut--and Andy Roddick, already a perennial top tenner at that point. Roddick won in three tight sets, but it was like a breath of fresh air for U.S. men's tennis.
Now, eight years later, these two are playing in the first round of the same event, where Roddick is the top seed and Blake enters outside the top 50. The years since that final-round matchup have been interesting ones for the two: a slam win, top 10 ranking finishes, a Davis Cup title, double-digit titles for both and millions in the bank. And it's great to see both of them still going at it out there.
But it's also a way different indicator for the future of U.S. men's tennis than it was back then. As I mentioned, Blake's out of the top 50 and if you know a way that he can break back into the top 20, seeing as how he's going to be matched up against top guys early on in draws, you're a much better tennis prognosticator than I am! As for Roddick, he still has some top-10 tennis left in him, and I hate to say this since I'm a fan, but I don't know how he's going to add to his Slam haul.
I guess I shouldn't be too doubtful: After all, Blake did bang it out with Juan Martin del Potro at the Aussie this year, and Roddick is coming off a final-round appearance in San Jose over the weekend. And I hope they have a great match here. It's still the mark, though, of a different direction in their careers and a far cry from that Memphis final all those years ago.