The tennis world doesn’t quite need Roger Federer the way golf needs Tiger Woods, but when Federer is playing the casual fan gets interested. Greatness interests everybody. (Under Armour, for instance, is selling its brand of sports attire these days with a ballerina! She’s great, that’s what matters.) But Federer couldn’t deliver this time at the US Open and the casual fan won’t stick around to see who does. Even with his longtime nemesis Rafa Nadal out with an injury and only one man–17th seed Marin Cilic of Croatia–between Federer and another Grand Slam Final, the 2014 Open final eluded King Roger.
Nor could world No. 1 Novak Djokovic triumph in his semifinal. Djokovic, who shares tennis’s Big Four Lounge with Nadal, Federer and Scotland’s Andy Murray, couldn’t rise to the occasion. The Serb was sent packing by the charming Kei Nishikori of Japan, who as recently as a few weeks ago was practicing while sitting in a chair. (Nishikori just recovered from toe surgery.) Djokovic and Federer were the ostensible losers in these semifinals, but it’s really CBS that got clobbered. The network is planning to show the finals live from New York on Monday at 5pm. It hoped to have two of the biggest sports names on the planet playing. Now it has an unknown (Nishikori) against a little known (Cilic), neither of whom has been near a finals before. Real tennis fans will watch–it may be a classic–but the people interested only in greatness will find something else to do.