Let’s start with Menonomie, Wisconsin. This is where I am, not home in Los Angeles where I could be at the Mercedes Benz Cup tournament. Instead of watching Andre Agassi (USA) beat lucky loser Jean-Rene Lisnard (FRA), I’m sitting on a swinging bench next to the Red Cedar River watching bugs try to swim upstream and walleyes roll.
This is a small but very interesting town. Across the street is The Himalayan Institute, a Hindu education center run by a Trinidadian that houses disadvantaged students from Nepal and Tibet. Japanese is taught at the high school. Members of the Bridge Builder’s Club are trained to help fellow students who are facing difficulties in their lives by being good listeners and directing them to available resources. They never had anything like that in my high school. I could barely think about anything but my own difficulties.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have a large Hmong population. The Menomonie farmers’ market consists mostly of Hmong farmers’ produce. The Minnesota Thunder, a United Soccer League team, recently signed the first Hmong, Chou Yang, to a professional contract. In the U.S., that’s a sure sign of assimilation.
There are no Hmong players in the ATP top fifty but there are Argentine players, seven of them, and six Spanish players. Only Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG) is playing in the Mercedes Benz Cup and he’s reached the quarterfinals once in his last twelve tournaments. Only one player in the top twenty-five, Agassi, is entered. Taylor Dent (USA) dropped out after retiring in Indianapolis last week due to heat exhaustion giving Robbie Ginepri (USA) his first title of the year. Greg Rusedski (GBR) never made it, he’s injured.
In the first round, third seed Nicolas Kiefer (GER) lost to wild card James Blake (USA). Sixth seed Mario Ancic (CRO) lost to Paradorn Srichaphan (THA) who has been having a bad year. Seventh seed Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) lost to Ricardo Mello (BRA) after winning the first set 6-1.
Eight seeds, two injuries and three first rounds losses later, a thin tournament gets thinner. There are only three seeded players left. I’m sure the tournament director is not happy about that.
This is the second men’s event in the US Open Series. Things should improve when the rest of the world arrives.