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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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.

Hewitt ridicules Becker’s man-crush praise

June 28, 2010 in Tennis

Boris Becker

One thing Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt loves is being the underdog.  He loves it when critics call him over-the-hill, when they say he is too short, too old, too injured — because it gives him extra motivation to prove them wrong.

Accordingly, when German great Boris Becker decided to develop a man-crush following the Aussie’s unexpected straight sets victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils at the third round of Wimbledon 2010 (6-3, 7-6, 6-4), Hewitt was not impressed.

“I wouldn’t call him a dark horse because he’s won the title before” Becker said with ardour in his eyes.  “On a good day, he’s still one of the best grasscourt players around.”

Hewitt did not enjoy the compliment.  “Of course I don’t consider myself a dark horse.  Look at me.  I’m white.  You know, I’ve always had a good record against guys like Monfils.  Look at him.  And look at James Blake.  Now you tell me what the similarity is.”

Of course, this reference harks back to Hewitt’s controversial attempt to get a black linesman removed during his US Open match against African-American James Blake back in 2001.

“It’s good to see him back and healthy and jumping,” Becker added.  “If there’s ever a fight in a bar, you’d want Hewitt in your corner because he doesn’t back off.”

Hewitt did not take a liking to this comment either.  He retorted: “Well I wouldn’t ever want Boris Becker in my corner on a night out.  I don’t want to turn around for a second and find out he’s impregnated my wife in the broom closet.

“And besides, Bec is too busy to be impregnated by Becker.  She’s got a photo shoot with a woman’s mag every week for the next 10 years.  It’s our main source of income now that I’ve fallen out of the top 25.”

These negative comments did not faze Becker from continuing his admiration for the scrappy Aussie with the tremendous endurance.

“…tennis is not only a game of height and power,” Becker explained.  “It’s a matter of heart — and Lleyton’s got one of the biggest on the men’s tour.  He has the heart and mind of a lion.”

“Why would Becker say I have the heart and mind of a lion?” Hewitt replied angrily.  “I’m a fair dinkum human being.  Lions are stupid and lazy, except for Simba from the Lion King.  Is he saying that I’m stupid?”

Desperate to prove Becker wrong, Hewitt promptly went out and lost his next match to Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“That’ll be the last time someone compares me to an animal,” Hewitt said happily after the match.  “The size of my heart is equal to the size of Boris Becker’s pecker.”

When asked exactly how big that is, Hewitt responded:

[PS: None of this really happened.]

Inside Agassi and Becker’s secret rivalry

October 31, 2009 in Best Of, Entertainment, Tennis

agassi admission

Few people know the real reason behind Agassi's drug revelations

[For my new post on the Agassi-Chang rivalry, click here]

By now everyone should know about Andre Agassi’s explosive admission that he used crystal meth (the dangerous drug otherwise known as ‘ice’) in 1997, tested positive, then got away with it by writing a simple explanation letter to the ATP.  However, very few people know about the underlying reason for this seemingly pointless admission – Agassi’s ongoing contest with Boris Becker to see who can dominate the tennis spotlight.

What? I hear you say.  Allow me to explain.

All one has to do is to take a look at the careers and post-career lives of these two great tennis champions.

First set

Boris Becker played 15 years of professional tennis, was number 1 in the world and claimed 6 grand slam titles.  Andre Agassi, on the other hand, stuck around for 20 years, was also number 1 in the world at some stage, and bagged 8 grand slam titles, including the rare career grand slam.  Strictly speaking, Agassi has probably had a slightly more impressive career based on titles alone.  Further, Agassi has a 10-4 record against Becker, including a 4-1 record in grand slam matches.  The first set goes to Agassi, 6-4.

Second set

However, the real battle between these two warriors took place outside the tennis courts.  Both men craved the spotlight, and it was only a matter of time before they started trying to outdo each other.

Boris Becker, with his attacking style, struck first, marrying famous photographer Barbara Feltus in 1993 by first getting her pregnant.  The couple also caused shockwaves when they posed nude together in a photo taken by Babara’s father before the wedding.  Becker had captured the spotlight of the tennis world off the court, and for a while, there was no one to challenge him.

Enter Andre Agassi, who either intentionally or inadvertently stole the spotlight from Becker with a high profile celebrity wedding of his own.  Agassi, the natural baseliner known for his defensive brilliance, took his time, dating actress Brooke Shields from 1993 (perhaps already with Becker in mind) and wedding her in 1997.  It was a stormy relationship that the media feasted on, snatching away the attention so dearly craved by Becker.  Easy second set for Agassi, 6-2.

andre-agassi-usa_06

Andre Agassi

Third set

Frustrated, Becker planned his next move, only to be caught off-guard by a pre-emptive strike from Agassi, who rocked the tennis world again by ending his marriage with Brooke Shields in April 1999.  Not to be outdone, a furious Becker initiated a separation from his own wife in December of the same year.  To kick it up a notch, there was the whole debacle surrounding the pre-nup the couple signed, which brought more media scrutiny than even Becker had hoped for.  Thanks to the messy divorce settlement, Becker finally edged Agassi this time in a tie-break, 7-6 (11-9).

Fourth set

From here, both tennis greats stepped up their games and took the rivalry to a new level.  First Agassi began dating one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, Steffi Graf, after the French Open champion’s ball in 1999.  Two of the greatest of all time dating?  It was a strange doubles combination, that’s for sure, but think about the kids they’d have!

But Becker brought his A-game this time and dropped a bombshell on Agassi and the tennis world by revealing that he had impregnated a waitress in the broom closet of Nobu in London after his last match in 1999 (following Wimbledon).  Just to milk it a bit more, Becker initially denied paternity, claiming that he was an ‘unseeded’ player, until a DNA test confirmed what he had known all along.

Nevertheless, the impact was undeniable.  Becker was king of the headlines once more, and as a result people barely flinched when Agassi and Graf married in 2001.  A big comeback for Becker, 6-1 in the fourth set!

becker

Boris Becker

Final set

From here, with the match tied 2 sets apiece (6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 1-6), the two men were exhausted and struggled to come up with new material.  Agassi and Graf started pumping out kids and made a few headlines when they played doubles together.  Becker, on the other hand, went through a custody battle and another broken engagement through which he was dumped by text message.  It was all very tame and both men were having difficulty coping without controversy.

Becker even tried to relive some of his best moments when he recently (a week before Agassi’s latest revelations) declared that the daughter he had with the waitress was actually conceived on an uncomfortable set of stairs as opposed to a broom closet.  Regardless, he admitted in shame that it was the quickest match he had ever played, prompting suggestions that there were other reasons apart from his powerful serve that earned him the nickname ‘Boom Boom’.  Indeed, the waitress recently likened Becker to a “runaway train” in her new tell-all book In One Breath (named after the length of the encounter).

Just when the two champions appeared to be heading down an endless fifth set with each unable to break the serve of the other, Agassi stunned the world with his latest drug revelations.  One of the greatest tennis players of all time not only took ice, but he had also gotten away with it!  Let’s not forget, 5 of Agassi’s 8 grand slams were won after 1997 – if he had been banned from tennis the way he should have, then Becker probably would have won their secret contest already.

The disappointment in Becker was apparent for all to witness in his latest interview, where he said: ”I’m the last person to throw stones, as there have been some difficult times in my own life (emphasis added), but to hear that he took crystal meth, that certainly puts a whole new light on Andre.  And it’s not a beautiful light.”

”There have been stories over the years about some tennis players taking drugs, but maybe they were just stories, and now Andre, a big star, has been so open about what he took and how he lied to avoid punishment. I’m struggling to think of anything else in tennis that comes close to this.”  At this point, Boris whipped out some old newspaper clippings of his Nobu scandal, but no one seemed to notice.

”Andre didn’t just take drugs, he also tested positive for drugs and then got away with it, and that’s not good at all for tennis, especially for the governing bodies,” Becker said. ”People are going to be thinking, ‘How could this happen?  How could he get away with this?'”

Clearly, the fact that Agassi ‘got away with it’ has plagued Becker, who added: “If it had been made public in 1997 that Andre was using drugs, his career, and his life, would have been very different.  He wouldn’t be where he is today.  Maybe his career would not have survived if everyone knew that he had taken drugs, and if he was banned from the tour for a while.  But no one knew until now, and it was after he took crystal meth that he played some of the best tennis of his life.  He won many grand slams after that.”

For the last person to throw stones, that’s certainly a lot of rocks!

Perhaps sensing that defeat was inevitable, Becker threw in a futile last-ditch effort, reminding everyone that in his own memoir, he admitted to washing down sleeping pills with whisky.  I’m sure he wanted to say: “That’s almost as bad as ice!”  Unfortunately, victory had already slipped out of his grasp.

Game.  Set.  Match.

Agassi defeats Becker, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (11-9), 1-6, 27-25, in their secret contest.

Aussie Tennis Scandal: Hewitt vs Tomic

September 17, 2009 in Tennis

The 'future' of Australian tennis: Bernard Tomic

The 'future' of Australian tennis: Bernard Tomic

I came across an interesting nugget of news today.  Lleyton Hewitt losing his cool is nothing new, but this time the subject of his fury is 16-year-old junior tennis sensation Bernard Tomic.  For those who don’t know who he is, look here, but in short, he is considered the real deal, the (only) future of Australian tennis.

Reports confirmed that at Wimbledon this year, Hewitt’s camp contacted the Tomic camp (who was playing in the Junior tournament) for a round of practice.  However, not only did the Tomic camp fail to respond, they flat out refused to hit with Hewitt the next day when Tomic showed up for practice.  Apparently, the Tomic camp believed Hewitt was ‘not good enough’ and said as much to their face. 

To make matters worse, when the Hewitt camp approached the camp of Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero, they were told that Tomic was shopping around for a practice partner and actually asked Ferrero if he could hit with Tomic.  In other words, Tomic needed a partner to play with and yet still turned down Hewitt’s invite.

Needless to say, a junior turning down the invite of a leading senior player on tour is a big no no in the tennis world.  It’s like running onto stage during someone’s award acceptance speech, stealing the microphone and pronouncing someone else a more worthy winner. 

The explanation from the Tomic camp wasn’t very convincing.  They denied the comment that Hewitt wasn’t ‘good enough’ and said that it was because Tomic’s upcoming opponent had a different style to Hewitt and it would not be beneficial to practise with him.  If that was the case, then why couldn’t they have just returned the call and told them that rather than ignore the invite and go around behind Hewitt’s back?  That’s just plain rude.  Like calling the President a ‘liar’.

hewitt

The 'past' of Australian tennis: Lleyton Hewitt

My theory, and it’s just a theory, is that Tomic’s father John simply doesn’t like Hewitt very much.  It was reported that he once said to Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald that he doesn’t think Hewitt has done enough for his son.  And perhaps he thinks Hewitt is a rude, loud, egotistical redneck who would be a terrible influence on his boy.

That said, Tomic is almost 17 and should have some balls of his own – and not let his father control his every move.  Tomic was actually suspended for a month in March this year for walking off the court in protest during a match.  But the decision to do so was not his – it was his father that ordered him to do so after complaints about the opponent’s continuous foot faults fell on deaf ears.  John Tomic also recently said that Tennis Australia needs to spend more money on Bernard now so he could be like Federer.

You would have thought that with an attitude like that, the two camps would have gotten on just fine.