Djokovic downs Nadal in 2011 US Open Final!

September 13, 2011 in Sport, Tennis

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

Too bad for Li Na and Andy Murray!

January 31, 2011 in Sport, Tennis

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.

Federer crushes Murray in 2010 Aussie Final; why don’t I like it?

February 1, 2010 in Tennis

Andy Murray's face says it all: kissing the trophy like that was a total dick move on Federer's part

It was just another day at the office for Swiss maestro Roger Federer, who annihilated a game Andy Murray at the 2010 Australian Open Final in three sets, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11).  With the victory, Federer extended his Grand Slams record to 16, which is unprecedented in the history of men’s tennis.

Is there any doubt now that Federer, with two more Grand Slam titles than his nearest rival (Pete Sampras with 14) with many more competitive years left in his career, and having completed the career Grand Slam last year by capturing the elusive Roland Garros title, is the greatest of all time?  The one and only argument against him is his record against Rafael Nadal (ie if Federer isn’t even the best player of his era, then how can he be the greatest of all time?).  I don’t buy that for more than half a second.  If you still don’t believe it then you should check out this article (written before Federer won the 2010 Aussie).  Unless a guy comes along and starts smashing 230km serves with his dick, I’m always going to argue that the Fed Express is the GOAT.

But enough suction on Roger Federer for now.  I feel gutted for Andy Murray.  I don’t even like the guy that much, and I was hoping he would win.  It took me a while before I realised what that meant: I don’t like Federer anymore.

This is beyond strange.  For years I have supported Roger Federer and cheered him on in every tournament.  It was great watching his effortless play as he waltzed on towards history.  Even when he went up against players I liked more (like Michael Chang…just kidding), there was a part of me that still felt good when Federer won.

When Nadal came onto the scene and beat the crap out of Federer, I felt sorry for him and wanted him to win more than ever.  When Djokovic and Murray started beating him too, the same feeling rushed over me.  And that sobbing exhibition after losing the 2009 Aussie Open broke everyone’s heart (including mine and except Nadal’s).

However, somewhere between winning that 2009 French Open title to tie Sampras’ 14 slams and breaking the record at the 2009 Wimbledon, Federer started to lose his charm.  To me, anyway.  The hair flick after every point that used to be cool suddenly turned dicky.  His pre-match and post-match comments, which I used to classify as ‘confident but honest, proud but humble’, suddenly became ‘smug, arrogant and annoying’.

Almost overnight, I wanted other guys to beat him.  Murray, Djokovic, Roddick.  Either of the Williams sisters.  Anyone that may play against him, really.  And when Del Potro finally did it in the 2009 US Open Final against all odds, it was the first time I didn’t feel bad for Federer.  And yesterday, when Federer disposed of Murray in convincing fashion, it actually irritated me.

What could this possibly mean?  Has Federer become too dominant, too successful for his own good?  Is this bad for men’s tennis?  Does he need a Tiger Woods-style incident to bring him back to Earth?  (And let’s face it, there’s a pretty decent chance of that happening)

Please explain.

Federer massacres Hewitt (again) before Australia Day

January 25, 2010 in Tennis

Did anyone seriously expect a different result?

For the 15th consecutive time, Roger Federer has ripped the hearts out of the Australian public by annihilating Lleyton Hewitt –  6-2, 6-3, 6-4 – in the fourth round of the 2010 Australian Open.

On the same day Sam Stosur was handed a similar fate by Serena Williams (6-4, 6-2) on the women’s side.  A day before Australia Day.

You have to hand it to Hewitt though.  Despite not having beaten Federer since the 2003 Davis Cup, every single time he faces the man he talks it up as though he has a legitimate chance.  And the amazing thing is that every time, he has us believing it, even if it’s just for a split second.

There was a glimmer of hope in their latest match when Hewitt finally broke (back) Federer’s serve in the eighth game of the third set.  But Federer broke again immediately and sealed the match with ease.

The fact is – no matter how hard he fights, no matter how tough he is mentally – the physical gap between Hewitt and the top players of today is just too much.  He is still capable of cruising through the mid-tier players and beating the lower top-tier players.  Once in a blue moon, he could even beat a top top-tier player if mitigating circumstances are present (eg injury).  But in a grand slam event, Hewitt will need all the stars aligned to ever get close to winning again.

Nevertheless, even though he was just handed another drubbing, Hewitt is optimistic as he is returning to the top 20 in the ATP rankings.

“Obviously I’ve been able to work my ranking back up.  I feel good about that.  I don’t have a lot of points to defend really through to Wimbledon, the quarters there.  So I feel comfortable I can do some damage. The way I hit the ball tonight, I still think I could have taken a lot of other guys still left in the draw. That’s probably a little bit more frustrating.”

I think this is why, despite his less-than-ideal personality, Aussies still want to support him.  No matter how ridiculous his assertions sound (I mean, come on, does anyone think Hewitt can still beat the likes to Djokovic, Del Potro or Murray, let alone Federer and Nadal?), we want to believe Hewitt because he seems to honestly believe in himself.  And that’s an admirable trait.

Besides, who else are we going to support?  Bernard Tomic?

2010 Australian Open Predictions

January 19, 2010 in Tennis

Look, for some reason I can’t get revved up for the Australian Open this year.  I don’t know why.

It’s already started and I can barely force myself to follow the results, let alone watch it on TV.

Nevertheless, I sought advice from a tennis expert (okay, he’s just a friend who really likes tennis and has been quite spot on in the past, except when he puts money on it) on what he thinks will happen.  Here is what he said.

Who do you see coming through on the men’s side?

I expect Murray v Nadal in the QF for an epic match.  I also see Roddick making it to the SFs. I think Del Potro is not prepared enough to go far.

Davydenko or Verdasco to get through in the top half, but the winner is out of Nadal, Murray or Roddick.

What about the great man Federer?

As you know, I am as anti-federer as I have ever been now so I am hoping his GS semi final run ends here.

What about the ladies?

Elena to beat Henin in the next match.  Can’t help but think that if Elena didn’t have tennis player arms and not stayed in the sun all day, she’d be quite attractive.

Sorry, that’s all I’ve got.

 
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