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

January 30, 2012 in Best Of, Sport, Tennis

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.

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.

 
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