Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good Morning Chicken Little, The Sky Has Fallen

Not so fast there Chicken Little...if you watch TV, listen to sports radio or read the newspaper you undoubtedly have heard that Rafael Nadal beat world number one, and potential GOAT, Roger Federer in the finals of Wimbledon a few weeks back. Much has been said about this was the greatest match ever played, it was the passing of the proverbial torch, Federer is now mortal, Nadal is going to win 20 Grand Slams and so on and so forth.

These types of broad, media driven statements can annoy me to no end. They also provide the non-tennis following contingent opportunity to speak up at the water cooler like they have any idea what they're talking about. No offense, but I don't play golf and I certainly don't become an expert because I saw the highlights of Tiger winning the US Open on SportsCenter. Just like any sport, tennis is full of nuances, contradictions and red herrings.

"This was the greatest match ever played"

This type of a statement is a true compliment for both Nadal and Federer. Their match consisted of unbelievably high quality tennis for four and half hours through two rain delays and impending darkness. There were amazing points where Nadal and Federer came up with spectacular shots to save break and match points. But was this the greatest match ever played?

Every few years we hear TV announcers proclaim a match to be "the greatest match ever played". Most recently it was the five set, barn burner between the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and Lleyton "COME ON" Hewitt at the Australian Open that went lasted until 4:33AM. Or maybe the US Open match between American men Andre Agassi and James Blake a few years ago? The bottom line is that there have been many memorable matches and they will be measured in history not only based on their outcome but their impact on the sport as a whole.

The Federer-Nadal match has the potential to elevate the state of tennis in the eyes of Americans who typically don't watch tennis on TV or kids who are busy playing other team sports, or worse, video games. TV viewership was up 44% over last year's Federer-Nadal clash and in Britain, roughly half of the nation's TVs were tuned to the match. And, to my dismay, I received countless emails from non-tennis playing colleagues and friends about the match. So was it the "greatest match every played?" only time will tell, but it was certainly one that will be replayed during every rain delay on an NBC tennis telecast for years to come. Too bad neither player receives syndication royalties. :-)

In the words of Dennis Miller, "But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong".

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Return to Normalcy

After a few crazy months of tennis, it seems order has finally been restored. Federer has won his first tournament this year and has made the finals of two other clay court events. Rafael Nadal, although not as invincible as he once was on clay, has raised his game to take on all challengers.

Yesterday, Novak Djokovic and Rafa met in the semifinal round of the Masters Series event in Rome. Nadal had to win this match in order to retain the world number two ranking behind Federer. Although he got off to a slow start and was down an early break, Rafa raised his game and took the match in three sets - clearly dominating an exhausted Nole in final set. How much did this win mean to Rafa? Serving at match point, Nadal chased down a drop shot from Nole but it was ruled to have bounced twice before he could get there. Nadal quickly snapped at the chair umpire thinking that he had reached the ball in time. It was an interesting response from Nadal who is often expressive on the court but never directs his emotions at his opponent or the "staff". After a few chances, Nadal finally held and won the match. Although he won't say it, I'm sure Nadal was thinking "I adjust my wedgie in your general direction Novak". (A little Monty Python humor goes a long way.)

I believe this is a turning point for Rafa. It will be interesting to see how he does throughout the clay court season and into Wimbledon and US Open Series.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Wanted: Model to Wed

Well, well, well. Pigs have flown, hell has frozen over and I'm going to look for that hot cheerleader from high school who wouldn't go out with me...Andy Roddick has beaten Roger Federer. 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in the Sony Ericsson Open. The newly Sports Illustrated swimsuit model engaged Roddick is the second newly engaged American player to bounce Federer in consecutive tournaments. The first was courtesy of Deal or No Deal briefcase model engaged Marty Fish at Indian Wells two weeks ago. (You couldn't make this sort of thing up if you tried.)

Right about now I'd love to be the proprietor of a Zales in Key Biscayne Florida. I'm willing to bet there is a line out the door of American tennis players. Imagine Robby Ginepri, James Blake, John Isner and Sam Querry lining up to buy engagement rings and then hitting the town looking for some kind of model to propose to. Heck, who knows if they even have to be hot. I can see Querry throwing the rock to some professional foot model for women's plus size stockings. (Not that there is anything wrong with your thang boy!)

First, you have to hand it Andy. He served tremendously well tonight and played the big points better than Federer. Roger didn't play that poorly, he just went flat after 3-all in the third set. Federer has to be asking himself some serious questions after his less than stellar start to the season. Is it the mononucleosis? Is everyone else getting better? Is Fed getting worse? Is Mirka preggers?

Whatever the problem, the solution is simple. Federer needs to reapply himself. No more hitting with juniors and playing expos with Pete Sampras. No more hobnobbing with Anna Wintour and posing for the cover of Men's Vogue. (Seriously dude, you've circled the metro globe twice in one year.) I think Feds should put a moratorium on double dates with Tiger. Besides, Tiger's focused on winning another green jacket and I doubt he wants Feds current funk to rub off on him. Here's a novel would be a good time to revisit the idea of getting a coach. I hear that Brad Gilbert and Jimmy Conners are available, not to mention the well qualified Darren "Killer" Cahill.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not hating on Federer as he's one of my favorite players. I still believe he has the potential to be the greatest of all time (GOAT). But just like another one of my favorites, Andre Agassi, Federer has been distracted from the game and it's provided ample time for others to catch up to him.

Then again if he wants to take an alternative approach, maybe he should just get engaged! :o-

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Briefcases, Models and Swimsuits

For the past few years, my sister in law has had a major crush on Andy Roddick. Well Monday was a sad day for her as People magazine announced that Roddick is engaged to swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. In related news, half of Roddick's fan base just left the building. What's interesting is the timing of his engagement. He said it happened a "few weeks ago" which would coincide with he and Jimmy Conners parting ways as player and coach. I guess Jimmy figured Andy was no longer going to be an enabler of his playboy ways. ;-) (I kid the Jimmy Connors)

You've got to hand it to the Americans. Marty Fish is engaged to a briefcase model from Deal or No Deal who moonlights as an attorney, James Blake is dating a Victoria's Secret model, and now Roddick is engaged to a swimsuit model. May I also add that Roddick was the first one to "date" Sharapova on the tour? This guy gets around more than Martina Hingis. Bravo!

If you read my Palm Springs post or watched SportsCenter last weekend you'll remember that newly engaged Marty Fish beat Roger Federer in straight sets at the Pacific Life Open. I wonder if Andy, who is 1 and 15 lifetime against Federer, thought Marty might be onto something and went out and threw the rock. We'll find out Thursday as Roddick and Federer play in the Quarters of the Sony Ericsson Open. I'm doubting Feds will give him an engagement present win.

Did anyone else hear that Federer's girlfriend is preggers? If so, you're the man Fed, but keep in mind what happened to Pete after his first kid.

My pick: Roddick gets Federeratred again 7-6, 6-3


Palm Springs & The Pacific Life Open

Laura and I just got back from the desert city of Palm Springs - Rancho Mirage to be exact. It's a long way to go for warm weather but we had good reason - The Pacific Life Open tennis tournament. Outside of the Grand Slams, the PLO is one of the largest tournaments in the world featuring both the top men's and women's players. This was our second trip to the area for the tournament.

As is always the case with Laura, her travels proved interesting. She was coming from Boston and had a lay-over in Las Vegas. They almost cancelled her connecting flight because they were painting the runway in Palm Springs! Luckily the plane left about 30 minutes early and landed before the painting started.
We stayed at the Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa. The picture above is from our balcony and the one below is of Shoomer assuming her standard vacationing position.

During our trip I was able to play tennis several times at the nearby Mission Hills Country Club. Wow, what a nice place!

We had tickets for the Men's Quarterfinal and Women's Semifinal matches on Friday, the Men's Semis on Saturday and the Men's and Women's Finals on Sunday. We purchased tickets off of eBay and they were fantastic. The tickets also included a free parking pass for one of the close in lots and free tournament program vouchers! For the Palm Springs uninitiated, I have one bit of advice - wear sunscreen. Luckily we were prepared after a quick visit to Walgreen's.

We saw some great matches including Marty Fish's three set win over David Nalbandian from Argentina and then his dismantling of the Greatest of All Time (GOAT ), Roger Federer.

We also saw Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets. On the women's side, we saw a lackluster performance by Maria Sharapova against Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sharapova lost in three, but honestly she was not on her game as her shoulder is giving her problems again.

In the finals we saw Kuznetsova play Anna Ivanovic (sorry, pause to stop drooling). We also saw Kuzey play in last year's final where she lost to Daniella Hantuchova (drooling again). Anna took it to her in straight sets. Although Anna played well, the Serbian fans were really roughty and disrupted the match multiple times. During match point between Kuzey's first and second serves someone yelled out causing a delay in play. I'm surprised she didn't double fault, but she did throw in a 68 mph duck that Anna crushed to win the match.

On the Men's side we saw an inspired, but obviously tired, Marty Fish take on the future world's number one, Novak Djokovic (aka the Joker). The partisan crowd was really behind Fish, but he couldn't buy a first serve. The first set went quickly. In the second, Marty raised his game and took the set.

I think the guy behind us was a TV writer trying out new material. He consistently yelled out one liners in support of Fish that got huge pops from the crowd. Just a sampling from what I recall:

"Come on Marty, don't let him reel you in!"
"Come on Marty, the big Fish always breaks the line!"

Of course there was also the obnoxious fan who would yell out "Go Fish!" every time Marty would miss a first serve. I think this was in reference to the card game Go Fish which kind of made it funny although still very rude. There was also a lady in the box behind us with a fishing rod complete with fake fish. Not sure if this was suppose to inspire Marty or not. Although Marty put on a great effort he ran out of gas in the third and evaporated into the desert air. That being said, this was a good showing for him - not to mention that he's engaged to a "briefcase" model from Deal or No Deal (I seem to recall that she's briefcase number two). All in all it was a great trip and a wonderful tournament. :o-