I rewrote this article several times after the attacks in Boston. Security at sporting events would be a tangential part of a story that focused on what ifs. What if Günter Parche could tone down his Steffi Graf obsession. What if security at the Citizen Cup was able to prevent one of the defining moments in tennis history from taking place on April 30th, 1993.
Security theater was made for sporting events. The act of waiting outside of stadiums for pat downs and a jaunt through the metal detector was a ritual most of us – save for the nervous 17-year-old with a mickey in his sock – paid no mind. We were safe because a group of part-time employees took a course over the weekend. Their presence did not ensure protection. It wasn’t about that. Seeing a police car on the street late at night – those officers could be dirty cops. Observing an accused murderer finally being caught – he could be innocent. We rely on aesthetics for reassurance. The bombings in Boston changed that, just like the bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Before Atlanta and Boston was Hamburg. An event marred not by a terrorist attack, but an unhinged, knife wielding man who would alter the future of women’s tennis.
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Guillermo Coria will be remembered for succumbing to an awful case of leg cramps during a bizarre 2004 French Open final. Gastón Gaudio beat Coria for the title, a fact that reinforces a statement that has been made Ad Nauseam during the last eight years: we are lucky.
Coria had a nice career, winning nine titles and making just under six million in cash over the course of nine years. He, along with Lleyton Hewitt, Nikolay Davydenko and others filled the void until the next generation was ready to take over. There wasn’t one seminal moment that indicated they had arrived –Roger Federer was winning titles all over the place after his breakthrough at Wimbledon– but Coria’s loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2005 Monte Carlo final would mark the beginning of a streak that will never be repeated.
Eight years and 46 consecutive wins later, Nadal’s reign at Monte Carlo is over. The man who beat him consolidated his grip on Men’s tennis with a victory that underlined what it takes to beat Rafa on clay: relentless consistency. So often the challengers, Federer and Andy Murray chief among them, sought to end points quickly, knowing they could not combat Nadal’s bulldog demeanor from the baseline. Novak Djokovic can. Read the rest of this entry »
The visual evidence indicated otherwise, but that didn’t stop him from responding to his vanquisher’s question with a smile and congratulatory pat on the stomach.
Coming in to their match against each other on Thursday night, both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer faced question marks regarding their health. As Federer departs for a lengthy hiatus that won’t see him back on the tour until May, the focus shifts to him, as the greatest player of all time stares mortality in the face. There’s an expiry date on excellence. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s sadly dark. Doha is the scene of some of the best Women’s tennis matches we’ll ever see. Unfortunately, due to religion, politics and general idiocy the constant balancing act, as one ‘advice blog’ puts it, is incredibly archaic.
The travel blog in question, you can find it here, made me do a double take. A section entitled ‘Making friends in Qatar’ wasn’t the harbinger of truth. That’s my fault. Naivety is awful. Read the rest of this entry »
Horacio Zeballos Jr. is not a star. He never will be. The 27-year-old Argentinian had appeared in one final prior to Sunday’s match and that was four years ago (he lost). Horacio made it to the second round of a Grand Slam three times. After winning the 2009 ATP Newcomer of the year award he sat at number 73 in the rankings.
A fan of ping pong, music and swimming, Zeballos isn’t mentioned on Mar Del Plata’s — his hometown — Wikipedia page. 80% of the crowd in Viña del Mar didn’t know who Horacio Zeballos was. Sunday wasn’t supposed to be about him. If anything, it would be about his role in providing an answer to the question everyone is asking: Is Rafael Nadal ever really going to be back?
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On Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will make his long awaited return, entering an ATP world tour 250 event in Chile. Tennis Channel will carry the match live at 4 PM. The major networks are leading their Tennis pages with the Nadal story. Undoubtedly, it’s big news. The sport needs Nadal on the court, not on the sidelines.
But why is he garnering the headlines today? The timing is curious considering a scintillating weekend of Davis Cup tennis just concluded. Led by Milos Raonic, Canada will make their first foray into the second round after beating powerhouse Spain in Vancouver. Sam Querrey battled back from a set down in the final rubber to send the States past underdog Brazil. The Czech Republic and Switzerland contested the second longest match of all time. Emergency replacement Fabio Fognini led Italy over Croatia, setting up a match-up with the Canadians on April 5th.
In brief, the Davis Cup creates story lines the tour cannot. Frank Dancevic is not going to beat Andy Murray at Wimbledon. That didn’t matter on Friday night, when the 151st ranked player in the world gave Canada a 2-0 lead. Nicolás Almagro and Radek Štepánek don’t play in Grand Slam finals. It’s a different story when their country is involved. The 2012 Davis Cup final was an epic, lasting four sets. Stepanek emerged in the end, and the Czech Republic captured their second Davis Cup title. Watching the ensuing celebration at the O2 Arena in Prague was pretty damn cool.
Unfortunately, the Cup is on the verge of irrelevancy. A wonky schedule and the absence of stars have combined to make it a non-event in the eyes of casual tennis fans and more frighteningly, the players themselves.
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