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This era of men's tennis as good as it gets

David Ferrer of Spain reaches for the ball

David Ferrer of Spain reaches for the ball during his match against Kevin Anderson of South Africa in the second round of play at the 2012 U.S. Open tennis tournament. (Aug. 29, 2012) Credit: AP

Tennis history continued to unfurl at the U.S. Open Wednesday, even as one of the sport's chroniclers, Steve Flink, was signing copies of his new book, "The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time," on the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center grounds.

Less expansive than Flink's intriguing lists -- best matches, best players, best forehands and volleys and serves -- were the tournament's early-round results in men's action, none of which will be included in some updated Flick version. (They were, after all, just early-round matches.)

No. 3 Andy Murray cruised past Ivan Dodig, the 27-year-old Croatian ranked 118th, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

No. 4 David Ferrer and No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro reeled off straight-sets victories against, respectively, Kevin Anderson, a South African ranked 35th, and No. 116 Frenchman Florent Serra, a "lucky loser" from the Open's qualifying tournament called upon after David Nalbandian's late withdrawal because of a rib injury.

Also, No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic, a quarterfinalist here last year, reversed developments just in time for a 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over wild card Guillaume Rufin, another Frenchman, ranked 129th. And Lleyton Hewitt, the 31-year-old Australian who won the Open 11 years ago but now is ranked 125th, prevailed in four sets against Tobia Kamke, a 26-year-old German ranked 92nd.

Through it all, the estimations of definitive tennis moments and tennis skills provide an interesting sound track, and prominent among the debates is whether this indeed is the golden era of men's tennis. That isn't in the book, but Flink judges that "this is as good as it gets." (His top contender: Borg-Connors-McEnroe in the '70s and '80s.)

Flink, when asked, also is willing to weigh in on the best age of women's play (start with the Evert-Navratilova rivalry of the 1980s), the best "game faces" (Serena Williams, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Rafael Nadal), the most stylish players (Roger Federer, Andre Agassi; Maria Sharapova among the women), and the greatest Open tournament (1984, the year of the original Super Saturday).

Back to the here-and-now, old pro Tommy Haas, hardly feeling the best of all time after losing a five-setter to Latvia's Ernests Gulbis, who is ranked 153rd, still could appreciate a level of greatness at this year's Open.

Haas, the naturalized American citizen from Germany playing in his 15th Open and enjoying a No. 21 ranking as a 34-year-old, said he would be in a crummy mood for a few days after the loss. "But it's always great here," Haas said. "You're playing one of the biggest stages in tennis.

"To be seeded here and be in this position is fantastic. You know what, I love this game. Even days like today, this is part of the sport, even though I'm very, very frustrated. You look back at some of the wins and the feelings that gives you, the positives, the negatives, and it's always a roller-coaster ride.

"It can be brutal, but that's what you get to love about it."

New York Sports