Nole, Rafa, Nole’s Girlfriend and Vlade Divac!

January 30, 2012 in Best Of, Sport, Tennis by pacejmiller

Greatest.  Tennis.  Match.  Ever.

As a new father I have about 10 minutes to spare, so I’m going to blog about what’s been on my mind — last night’s EPIC Aussie Open Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.  The two fighters went toe-to-toe like to heavyweight sluggers, absorbing killer blow after killer blow in the longest grand slam final and longest Aussie Open game of all time.

The Djoker came out on top in the end, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, but Rafa’s valiant efforts won him a lot of fans.  It was a see-sawing battle that shifted momentum numerous times.  Just when I thought Rafa was finally going to get over the hump against Nole, Nole fights back to dominate.  And just when a Nole victory looked like a mere formality, back comes Rafa.  Then there was the brief rain delay which I thought was going to kill Rafa’s momentum, but it only made him stronger.  And when it looked like Rafa was going to put it away, back comes Nole again to steal the match from the grasp of defeat.  I had no favourite in the match, so I was just glad to be a witness.

Everyone’s talking about this fantastic tennis match, so instead of my usual waffle I’ll just toss in some random thoughts:

  • Let’s face it, Nole’s girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, was one of the main reasons so many millions of people stayed up watching the match last night all the way until the end.  It certainly was the reason why my blog (which wrote briefly about her once), got so many hits overnight.  It was hard not to notice her — the freaking camera zoomed in on her on every single break in the action!  Kudos to the television crew for knowing what sells.  Nole’s victory is even more amazing considering how difficult it would have been for him to focus on tennis with her around.
  • That said, message to the TV crew for next year — go easy on the super slow-mo.  Super slow-mo on Jelena Ristic jumping up and down is fine, but super slow-mo on Djoker’s and Rafa’s faces as they crack massive forehands?  Not so much.
  • Speaking of Jelena, she seems to have embraced the role as tennis’s no. 1 WAG.  She always seems to wear cobalt blue, except the dresses are getting more and more expensive.  I wonder if she has clothing sponsors.
  • Huge surprise last night as I was watching the match.  On the odd occasion the camera panned away from Jelena, it landed on a bearded giant behind her that made me do a double-take.  Was that the biggest flopper of all-time, Mr Vlade Divac?  As it turned out, it was.  I have no idea why the retired basketball superstar was in Djokovic’s camp.  These Serbian athletes must be real close.  Maybe Nole learned some of his flopping mental tactics from Divac.

The big dude on the left

  • What the heck was the deal with the rain delay?  Seriously, the thing has a roof.  It looks like it might rain.  Why take the risk?  And how laughably primitive was the ball-boy brigade that wiped down the court on their hands and knees?  You would have thought someone (probably Japanese) would have come up with an ingenious contraption to suck all that moisture up in a jiffy.
  • Excellent post-match speeches at the award-ceremony too.  Rafa was awesome in defeat and super gracious, and the usually amped up Nole was also very kind with his words — both men were probably too tired to do much else.  Seeing them handed bottles of water and stools to sit on while that hilarious Korean (?) fella from KIA Motors rambled on said it all.  Then again, I felt like I needed to lie down after listening to that guy too.
  • Lastly, I just want to reiterate what a pleasure it was to watch the match.  These dudes are physical freaks.  How can someone crack the ball with so much force while running all over the court for almost 6 hours?  That’s just mind-boggling.  Especially for someone with bread stick arms like the Djoker.  I get a sore wrist from three consecutive two-handed backhands.

Djokovic downs Nadal in 2011 US Open Final!

September 13, 2011 in Sport, Tennis by pacejmiller

The current undisputed king of tennis, Novak Djokovic

I want to work on a few other posts I have lined up, but the tennis news just keeps flooding in.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, or the Djoker or Nole, or whatever you want to call him, just overcame Rafael Nadal to win the 2011 US Open title, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.  It was a fantastic final with lots of long rallies, running all over the court, and plenty of spectacular shots.  Nadal fought valiantly to bring the third set into a tie-breaker, which he won comfortably, 7-3, but the fourth set was a total annihilation.  This is the Djoker’s first US Open title following two previous finals losses, including last year’s final to Nadal.

The win continues a memorable run for Djokovic, who also captured his second Australian Open and first Wimbledon title and made the French Open semifinals this year.  For the season, he now has 10 titles and a 64-2 record, which gives him a remarkable 0.969 winning percentage, and if he does not lose again this year, will finish with the best single season winning percentage of all time (currently held by John McEnroe, who went 82-3 in 1984 for a 0.965 winning percentage).  Unbelievable.

Some people dislike Novak for his seemingly cocky demeanour, but I like the guy.  I think he brings a bit of spice to the game, which has been dominated for far too long by ‘nice guys’ like Federer and Nadal.  That said, I also like Rafa too, so I wasn’t going for anyone in particular in these finals.

I love how unpredictable tennis has been lately.  I remember when Nadal captured the French, Wimbledon and US Open last year and it appeared he was on the fast track to catching up to a sliding Roger Federer, or at least getting close enough to make the GOAT discussion even more interesting.

Then Djokovic suddenly takes his fitness and mental aspect of his game to a whole new level and becomes an absolutely unstoppable killer on the court.  Djokovic is 6-0 against Nadal this year, all in finals, and probably would have made it 7-0 and a ‘Grand Slam’ if he hadn’t dropped the French Open semi against Federer.  If Djokovic can keep this level of fitness up, there is no reason why he can’t continue this kind of run for at least another year or two and push his Grand Slam total into double figures in a hurry.

With Nadal as Federer’s kryptonite and Djokovic as Nadal’s, we now have a very interesting triangle of power, with Djokovic at the apex.  Now if only Andy Murray can do something — anything — to make it a quadrilateral…

PS: It is clear that Djokovic is also dominating the WAG category in men’s tennis as well.

No Djoke; girlfriend Jelena Ristic at the final

Stosur’s guns overpower imploding Serena for US Open title

September 12, 2011 in Sport, Tennis by pacejmiller

Most people, even Australians, gave the inconsistent Samantha Stosur an outside chance at best of defeating the seemingly unstoppable Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open Women’s Final on the 10th anniversary of September 11.

But what they didn’t count on was Sammy’s massive guns to flex at all the right moments, delivering a shockingly easy 6-2, 6-3 victory and spoiling Serena’s latest ‘comeback tour’.

Seriously.  Take a look this woman’s arms.  P90X can’t get these results.  Even Rafa Nadal is jealous.

Are those real?

Unfortunately, the media has tried to overshadow Sammy’s historic win with scandal.  According to reports, Serena Williams had a meltdown against umpire Eva Asderaki, reminiscent of that time in 2009 when she threatened to shove her scrotum down the throat of a lineswoman who called a foot fault against her.

Down a set and facing break point in the first game of the second set, Serena belted a huge forehand and shouted, ‘Come on!’ as Sammy reached for the ball and failed to return it.  However, instead bringing the game back to deuce, Asderaki awarded the point (and hence the game) to Sammy.  The reason?  Asderaki believed Serena’s outburst was intended to hinder Sammy’s ability to complete the point, and had therefore infringed the ‘no hindrance’ rule.

Serena: 'Talk to the hand.'

Then, also according to reports, Serena went on another one of her famous tirades against Asderaki that lasted quite a while.

However, upon closer inspection of the video and transcript, I am certain that a mistake as been made here.  The truth is, Serena Williams was actually talking to herself, and not Asderaki, when she launched those insults.  And everything she said was true.

Don’t believe it?  Let’s take a look at exactly what Serena said.

‘I’m not giving her that game.’ — She was absolutely right.  Serena did not give her that game.  Asderaki did.

‘Aren’t you the one who screwed me over last time here? Do you have it out for me?  That’s totally not cool.’ — Serena could have only been talking to herself here because she was the one that screwed herself over last time, which, we can all agree, was totally not cool.  Besides, the person that called the foot fault on Serena last time was a lineswoman, and the umpire that time wasn’t Asderaki.

‘We’re in America last time I checked.’ — An utterly true fact.  Pure genius.

‘You’re out of control, you’re out of control.  You’re not only out of control, you’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? — Pretty much self explanatory.  Besides, who else would know what Serena looks like inside apart from herself (and her physician)?

Go Stosur!  Time to jump on the bandwagon.

Big Sports Day: Klitschko beats Haye, Djoker beats Rafa, I exercise

July 4, 2011 in Boxing, Entertainment, Misc, Sport, Tennis by pacejmiller

Djokovic eats some grass after winning Wimbledon

Yesterday was a big sports day for me.  The biggest heavyweight boxing match in years, Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye, took place in Germany, while the biggest tennis match of the year, the men’s Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, took place in England.  I even played some casual basketball (club game cancelled) and went for a walk.  Big sports day for all of us.

(click on ‘more’ for random thoughts)

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Too bad for Li Na and Andy Murray!

January 31, 2011 in Sport, Tennis by pacejmiller

What a fantastic weekend of sports.  I’ll start off with the biggest news — the Australian Open.

I’m not much of a tennis player (the fact that I won two consecutive ‘Most Improved Player’ awards at school and still suck says it all) but I do love watching it, especially the Grand Slams.  Unfortunately, both players I was rooting for lost.

Women’s Final

Sadly, Li Na won't be able to celebrate Chinese New Year with a Grand Slam title

In the women’s, Belgian Kim Clijsters beat the sentimental favourite, China’s Li Na in three thrilling sets (3-6, 6-3, 6-3) to claim her first Australian Open title and her fourth GS title.  As a friend of mine told me recently, GS finals usually disappoint, but this one really didn’t.

Clijsters has long endeared herself to Australians and earned the nickname “Aussie Kim” because she once dated Lleyton Hewitt (when he was the world’s top player and did toilet paper ads on TV) — and managed to keep that nickname long after they broke up because she actually wins (kinda like how Russell Crowe is Australian when he wins Oscars and a New Zealander when he throws phones).

Li Na is also a fascinating story because she’s the best tennis player China has ever seen and will probably inspire a whole new generation of Chinese tennis players.  She’s funny and charismatic too, which is a bonus.  At 28, Li is probably heading towards the twilight of her career, but the current world no. 7 is certainly not done yet.  She had actually defeated Clijsters in a tournament just before the Australian Open and won the first set of the final in dramatic fashion.  However, in the end Clijster’s poise and experience guided her to victory.

I would have loved to have seen Li take out the trophy because it would have been quite historical, and more importantly, I find it extremely embarrassing that Aussies latch on to “Aussie Kim” simply because she’s a winner.  But then again, when the media makes a big fuss because Bernard Tomic didn’t get completely wiped off the court by Rafael Nadal (well, it was in straight sets), I guess they do need someone to root for.

Men’s Final

Sadly, this unappealing expression will continue for Andy Murray

It was great to finally see a GS final that didn’t involve Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal (as much as I admire both men).

But this was an intriguing matchup.  Novak Djokovic was searching for his second GS trophy (having won the Aussie in 2008) and Andy Murray was looking for his first (having lost two finals to Federer before, including last year’s Aussie final).  The two came up the ranks together as juniors and have been friends forever.  With Federer declining and Nadal a potential timebomb because of injury concerns, this was the perfect opportunity for one of them to step up.

My wife dislikes Djokovic because, let’s face it, he looks like and sometimes acts like a bit of a dick.  But I actually quite like him and thought he has embraced the occasional villain role quite well.  And he’s one heck of a player too.

However, on this occasion I was definitely going for Murray.  I felt sorry for the guy after he lost to Federer twice in previous finals, despite being a legitimate chance in both matches.  He, like Tim Henman before him, must have been feeling the pressure of all of Great Britain on his shoulders, so I wanted him to finally relieve that tension.  Besides, he’s too good of a player to never win a GS.

But this one turned out to be competitive but one sided.  Perhaps it was the experience from winning one before, but Djokovic just seemed so much more comfortable than Murray, who served poorly and failed to execute the big shots.  Luck certainly played a part in it — Djokovic’s shots were landing on the line and Murray’s were hitting the net.  In the end it just wasn’t Murray’s day (6-4, 6-2, 6-3), and it looks like that perpetually frustrated, constipated look on his face will live on for yet another GS tournament.

Nevertheless, a good start to 2011 and a great end to the week!

PS: I wouldn’t feel too sorry for either loser though.  The winner took home AUD 2.2 million while the loser got AUD 1.1 million.

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