Archive for the ‘Rafa Nadal’ Category

Britain's Murray kisses trophy after defeating Serbia's Djokovic in the men's singles final match at the US Open  tennis tournament in New York

The moral degradation of society continues unabated. This isn’t about barbaric laws, athletes committing crimes or authority figures abusing their power.

Professional tennis has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with us.

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Rogers Cup

With most of the Tennis world’s focus on Montreal, a Romanian in Toronto became more than just another runner up.

Sorana Cirstea’s week in Toronto will be remembered for the giants she slayed and the one she couldn’t. Along the way a supporters group that consisted of half of Bucharest and a smattering of folks who live to cheer for the underdog took over the grounds at York University.

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2013 French Open - Day Thirteen

At a certain point in the fifth set it became futile. A notebook covered in blue ink and coffee stains wasn’t going to help. Put down the pen and enjoy this, idiot.

A friend who considers sport a needless distraction sent me a text in the fourth set. This match had officially crossed over into the mainstream. Every so often tennis will do this, when those days streaming a challenger circuit tournament in Hamburg pay off. When John McEnroe declares it the greatest of all time–he’ll do that.

Hyperbole? Yes. But this one was up there. Grievances, contested calls, wonderful shot making and a fifth set that didn’t want to end — the first semifinal on a Friday afternoon in Paris had it all.

It was nice to see Rafa challenged last week, but this is what we waited for. The best clay courter of all time against the best player in the world. Roger Federer, a draw no matter his form, exited at the perfect juncture, possibly sensing that this one wasn’t about him.

Five sets and over four hours later Rafael Nadal heads to the final. Read the rest of this entry »

TENNIS-FRA-OPEN-FEATUREThe rain is putting a damper on things at Roland Garros. Delayed matches, half empty stadiums and the pungent odor of dead worms wasn’t what we expected on Sunday. Some things have gone to plan. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have coasted through their opening round matches–Nadal suffered a slight scare against German big man Daniel Brands. On the women’s side Serena Williams is showing no signs of faltering. Maria Sharapova thrashed Canadian youngster Eugenie Bouchard in a battle of now vs. future. The French continue to hate Victoria Azarenka, not sure they even know about Red Foo.

However, there were some suprises. Andy Murray created a twitter sensation from the sickbay. Former champ Li Na bowed out early, losing to an American also ran. In fact the Americans, men and women, have been a revelation thus far. Left for dead by tennis wordsmiths, chain smoking Parisian bus drivers and the casual fan, the representatives of the red, white and blue have been great. 14 of them–10 women and 4 men–advanced the second round, the most since 15 accomplished the feat in 2003.

And finally, Gael Monfils  managed two scintillating performances, somehow blocking out the part of his brain that murmurs insane thoughts at the most critical junctures.

Time for a bit of a correction. Rain aside it’s been pretty good. Let’s dig a little deeper.

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TENNIS-FRA-OPEN-GARROSThe French Open has always held a sacred place in this tennis fan’s heart. Parisians aren’t like you or I. Fact is, they’re better. Whether it’s smoking cigarettes in the stands or vociferously booing players for no discernible reason, they do things their own way. Refined jerks add so much more to the sporting landscape with their hooting and demonstrative  sighing than the casual fan. The game – nay, the world – would be worse off without them.

Here’s looking at you, Satan.

We head into the second major of the year with less questions to answer than expected. Rafael Nadal’s knees have withstood the rigors of the European clay court season. Serena Williams dispatched Victoria Azarenka with ease in Rome, proving the only person who stands a chance of stopping Serena from winning her second French Open title is Serena herself. The favorites have made an impressive case, one so strong that seeing someone other than Nadal and Williams leave Roland Garros with a garish trophy and fat check in hand will be quite surprising.

It’s the ‘others’ that will intrigue in Paris. The others being the group of players that have a shot – however fleeting – at knocking off the overwhelming favorites. On the men’s side three names come to mind, all with their own personal demons when it comes to taking down Rafa on clay, let alone at a major. Roger Federer will need divine intervention to win it all, and no, Robin Soderling is not walking through that door. Novak Djokovic is the only hope for the anti Rafa crowd and he’s coming off an uncharacteristic loss to Tomas Berdych. The Czech big man could be this year’s Soderling. Unfortunately the words ‘could be ‘ have been synonymous with Berdych’s career up until this point.

On the women’s side there is slightly more belief. Serena bowed out in the first round last year, losing to Virginie Razzano in one of the biggest upsets in French Open history. Azarenka will be there at the end, as will Maria Sharapova. Unfortunately for those two their head-to-head numbers against Williams are terrible (4-25 combined).

Two weeks in Paris awaits.

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TENNIS-ATP-MCO
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 »

FedThe 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.

I’m okay.

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 »