The name, Michael Jordan sparks images that reflect the biggest sports icon in any of the four major sport industries played in North America. Just hearing his name, or seeing his Nike shoe logo depicts images of Jordan playing the sport of basketball and dominating on a level that no other player could ever reach to.
Travel to Europe and you may see someone who may match the strangle hold on a sport that Jordan once had on basketball. In the sport of tennis, Switzerland native, Roger Federer is the best. His ranking as number one in the world proves that but for fellow Swiss native and Islander defenseman, Mark Streit
he explains that Federer is much more.
“He is a king,” Streit said of Federer’s status in Switzerland. “He is the best tennis player to have ever played the game. He is all over the newspapers and everybody loves him not only because he is such a great athlete but also because he is just a down to earth, nice guy. With all of the fame he has, he doesn’t have a big head and he is really respectful to everyone.”
On Monday night, Streit had the chance to attend one Federer’s match against Tommy Robredo, which Federer won in three straight sets. Immediately following the match, Streit was ushered down to the locker-room area where he was granted the opportunity to meet his country’s biggest sports icon.
“We spoke a bit about our individual sports and how they differ in a way,” Streit said. “Playing hockey, everything is planned out. You know your schedule the first game of the season and where your last game will be.”
“In tennis, it is totally different. You go to a tournament and you don’t know when your first or last match will be because you don’t know how far you’ll go. He said that is one of the toughest things because you can’t really schedule anything. For them, they have a lot of travel all over the world so they bring their family, coaches and trainers with them. It takes a lot of work and you have to be both mentally and physically strong.”
For Streit, tennis is a passion that began when he was five or six years old when his parents first put a racket in his hands. Ever since then, he recalls watching numerous Grand Slam events with the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl.
“I try to play tennis at least once a week,” Streit said. “It is tougher to get out and play during the season but over the summer I get out there as much as possible.”
The overall experience of attending the U.S. Open was enough for Streit but to meet the Federer topped off an incredible night that he won’t soon forget. Great DanesFrans Nielsen
was also at the U.S. Open on Monday night, supporting a fellow Denmark country-woman, Caroline Wozniacki who is currently ranked eighth in women’s singles. Wozniacki went up against a higher ranked, Svetlana Kuznetsova (6th).
“Last night’s match was very exciting,” Nielsen said. “Caroline lost the first set 6-2 but was able to rally back to win the next two, both in tie-breakers so it was really exciting. She is a great athlete and I think she has a pretty good chance to go a long way because she’s will be the only ranked player in the next two rounds.”
Nielsen, like Streit, has been a tennis fan his whole life. Some of his best childhood memories were watching the Wimbledon Grand Slam. With the U.S. Open taking place right here in New York, it gives the Islander forward the chance to see some of the best tennis talent in the world. With Wozniacki representing Denmark, as he does in the NHL, Nielsen has met the up-and-coming tennis star and has had the privilege of sitting in the family seating area.