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

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

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

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.

Rafa Nadal captures his second Wimbledon crown!

July 4, 2010 in Tennis

It felt like yesterday when Rafael Nadal defeated Robin Soderling to claim his fifth French Open title.  Well, he has just won the second Wimbledon and eighth Grand Slam title of his career, defeating Federer conquerer Tomas Berdych in the final, 6-3. 7-5, 6-4.  Having turned 24 a month ago and with Roger Federer in decline, is it out the question to assume that Nadal would one day become the greatest of all time?

I understand why people like Roger Federer, but I don’t really get a lot of the negativity towards Rafa.  The guy may have started off somewhat one-dimensional, but you don’t get to where he is today without having an all-court game.  Rafa has evolved over the years to capture Grand Slams on all surfaces.  He has worked on his serve and backhand, and has ramped up his already unparalleled lefty forehand, court coverage, and determination.  Despite all of this, he remains absolutely humble and sincere — what is there not to like about this guy?

Federer, after capturing the Australian Open at the start of the year, has looked more mortal than ever before, losing to guys you would usually expect him to beat in Grand Slams.  While I think it’s too early to write the guy off just yet, especially with the US Open still left on the calendar, you have to start wondering whether Nadal, halfway to Federer’s 16 Grand Slams, may one day exclipse him.  If he does, then I can’t see how he cannot be the GOAT, considering his imposing record against Roger.

A few years ago, some thought that guys like Djokovic and Murray would continue to grow and overtake Nadal, but it seems those guys have peaked — at least for now.  Of course, the main concern about Nadal, as it always has been, is his health.  He has already missed significant time with his knee injuries, and there have been whispers of more issues this season (though they do not have appeared to have affected him too much).

Let’s hope Nadal can stay healthy and continue to make men’s tennis exciting to watch.  I’d very much like to see how far he can take things.  I remember after the epic 2007 Wimbledon final when Federer said that one day Rafa was going to win them all.  How right he was.

Luck no. 13: Soderling stuns Federer at French Open!

June 1, 2010 in Tennis

Nobody beats Robin Soderling 13 times in a row.  Nobody.

In the most unexpected result since he ousted 4-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open last year (becoming the first, and so far, only man to beat Rafa at the French), Robin Soderling delivered another shock bomb today when he defeated world no. 1 Roger Federer, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

It was sweet revenge for Soderling on a couple of levels — first, he had never beaten Federer in 12 previous attempts; and second, he lost to Federer in the French Open final last year (after which he said that before the match that he “yokingly” said that “nobody beats me 10 times in a row” — of course, he lost another couple of times to Federer after that, extending the streak to 12).

The stunning upset in the quarterfinals also brought an end to Federer’s remarkable 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semifinals.  The next closest is Ivan Lendl with 10.  And if Nadal wins the French (and let’s face it, he probably will), Federer will lose his no. 1 ranking, robbing him of the chance to tie Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at that spot.

Good for Soderling.  All streaks have to end some time.  This French Open has now become a redemptive quest for Rafa — or perhaps the crowning of the official giant slayer in men’s tennis?

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.