ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert, a former top-five player who has coached some of the greats (Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray), has changed the way the game of tennis is communicated. Best known for his unique nicknames and slang, Gilbert explains much of his lingo (like the terms "bagels" and "breadsticks") in a new series of YouTube videos for Voya, a sponsor of ESPN’s telecast of the US Open. Here, Gilbert offers a cheat sheet for this year's US Open, now just getting underway.
Djokovic is the men's draw winner.
"Djokovic got the best draw, looking at the men's quarters. Based upon the way Rafa's playing at the moment, and the way he handled him at the French [Open, where Djokovic routed nine-time champion Nadal in straight sets], I like Djok's draw."
Federer's new forward-rushing, kamikaze returning from just behind the service line defies belief — even for Federer.
"I was sitting court side in Cincinnati [at the Masters, in mid-August] — that return that went to his forehand at 3-1 in the breaker versus Djokovic was behind him. How he picked it off the cement and put it into play…let's see anybody else try to do that."
Last year's cautionary tale still doesn't change the certainty of this year.
"I never would have predicted in the history of the world Cilic beating Nishikori in last year’s [US Open] final. I hope we get some intrigue like we did last year. I hope we get one of these young players to reach quarters or semis. But I will be incredibly stunned if the winner isn't number 1, 2, or 3. The great thing about tennis is that that's why you lace up the sneakers. That's the element of sports that always makes it exciting."
Serena's path to history is paved with uncertainty.
"One thing I've learned at looking at draws over the last 35 years is that one day you can see an unbelievably brutal draw from Day 1, and it can play out that you have to play all those people. But sometimes you wait a few rounds and some of those guys who were going to make it tougher don't get there, and a draw can open up. A murderous quarter can be an easy quarter that you don't expect."
Still, Serena is much better than everyone else
"As long as Serena's in it, they're all playing for second place. Let's say she had lost to Heather Watson at Wimbledon; I could have then made a case for 10 or 15 women to maybe win the tournament. I still feel the same way. As long as she's in it, they're playing for second. But if she is going to stumble, I think it would be earlier than later. I'm rooting for her. I'm truly amazed that somebody at almost 34 can do this. The three biggest components in the women's game, she does them all better than anybody: serve, return, movement. Never seen that in the history of men's or women's tennis.”