But, we at S&S only care about one thing: the tennis. The sport may generally fly under the ESPN radar, but with two dedicated awards, three nominations in crossover categories, and a tennis legend as the namesake of the requisite lifetime achievement award, tennis gets its place in the ESPYs spotlight.
We break down tennis’ presence at the awards show with winner predictions and a quick look at the recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE
Maya Moore, NCAA Basketball
Diana Taurasi, WNBA
Lindsey Vonn, Skiing
Serena Williams, Tennis *
Serena’s taken this award before in 2003, and tennis players have won Best Female Athlete two other times: Venus Williams in 2002, a year before her sister, and Monica Seles in 1993, the award show’s first year. Serena’s got stiff competition with Maya Moore from UCONN’s undefeated team and Lindsay Vonn, probably the most popular choice in an Olympic year. However, with the award determined by fan voting, Serena is the most recent champion of the four, so she may be freshest in voters’ minds.
BEST RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Usain Bolt, 100 and 200-meter World Records
Brett Favre, NFL record for consecutive starts
Roger Federer, Most Grand Slam singles titles *
Connecticut Women's Basketball, Longest winning streak in Women's NCAA Basketball History
Isner vs. Mahut at Wimbledon, Longest Match in Professional Tennis History
Well, everyone loves a fast runner, so it may be tough to beat Bolt off the block. Again, Isner and Mahut is the most recent accomplishment, so fans may remember that record quickest. But let’s think this through: is three days of mediocre tennis the BEST record-breaking performance? Not so much. Our vote is for Federer—let’s just hope the two tennis noms don’t cancel themselves out.
BEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER
Juan Martin del Potro
Rafael Nadal *
Let’s be honest, del Potro is not even in the running. But the contest between Fed and Raf is somewhat debatable. It wasn’t until this year’s French, really, that Fed took that long-awaited nose-dive into a normal level of greatness. Before that he was, as I like to say, predictable as a robot. It’s nice that the competition is closer this year, and for that reason we bet on Rafa. He’s two grand slams in this year, and after some fumbly-bumbly tennis in the early rounds of Wimbledon, he was unbeatable in the final. Fist-pumping, somersaulting, hair-ruffling Rafa is pretty much the hombre.
BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER
Serena Williams *
So much love here. These three women just make us proud and giddy and thrilled to watch tennis every time we turn on the tube. Serena is the obvious win here, after a phenomenal comeback year and just the most beautiful power-game you’ve ever seen. Sigh. If there were an award for “Female Tennis Player You Wish Was Your Bestie,” they’d all win in our book. Congratulations, ladies, you’ve redefined heroism.
ARTHUR ASHE COURAGE AWARD
There’s nothing more badass than the ESPY award named for one of our favorite tennis legends, except for possibly the winners of said award, including Nelson Mandela (2009), Muhammad Ali (1997), and Jimmy Valvano (1993). The award, which does not necessarily go to an athlete, was given to another tennis legend only once, awarded to Billie Jean King in 1999.
The 2010 Arthur Ashe Courage award will be given to the family of high school football coach Ed Thomas, a local legend from Parkersburg, Iowa. Thomas was killed last June by one of his former players, Mark Becker, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The Thomas family is being recognized for their ability to forgive and develop a bond with the Becker family.
* indicate our picks