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Big Sports Day: Klitschko beats Haye, Djoker beats Rafa, I exercise July 4, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Boxing, Entertainment, Misc, Sport, Tennis.
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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.

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Too bad for Li Na and Andy Murray! January 31, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Sport, Tennis.
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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

Posted by pacejmiller in Tennis.
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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

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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, 76, 6-4), Hewitt was not impressed.

“I wouldn’t call him a darkhorse 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.]

The Rafael Redemption: Nadal wins 2010 French Open! June 7, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Tennis.
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I’m ecstatic for Rafael Nadal, who just captured his 5th French Open title by downing Robin Soderling, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.  It was sweet revenge for Rafa, who defeated his one and only conqueror on Paris clay and is now a staggering 38-1 at Roland Garros.  He also reclaimed his number 1 ranking while preventing Federer from equaling Pete Sampras’ all-time record of 286 weeks at that spot.

Last year when Nadal shockingly bowed out of the French Open last year, paving the way for Roger Federer to win his first ever Grand Slam on clay, people were ready to write off the then 23-year-old as “past his prime”.  They said he was too one-dimensional, his style too prone to injury, and that he had already peaked.  But he proved them wrong once again, as he did by winning Wimbledon in 2008 and the Australian Open in 2009.  Now Nadal has 7 Grand Slam titles (5 French, 1 Wimbledon, 1 Australian) and 2 runner-ups (both Wimbledon).

While it is still waaaay to early to put Nadal in the GOAT discussions with Roger Federer (who has 16 Grand Slam titles and 6 runner-ups, plus that ridiculous 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-final appearances), is it conceivable that one day Rafa might overtake Roger?  Let’s have a look at the numbers.

Federer is turning 29 in August whereas Nadal just turned 24 a few days ago.  At the age of 24, Federer had just won his 6th Grand Slam title (at the US), having won each of his first 6 Grand Slam finals.  Before he turned 25, Federer captured his 7th, the 2006 Australian Open, came runner-up in the 2006 French, and won his 8th Grand Slam at the 2006 Wimbledon.  Barring injury, Nadal would be the heavy favourite to win the French for the next 5 years, and by the time Federer hits 30, Nadal should also be the favourite for Wimbledon.  He could conceivably also win one or two more Australian Opens, and even though he has never done very well at the US, let’s say he breaks through and wins one there.

If we assume Federer doesn’t win another Grand Slam in his career and Nadal doesn’t miss any more time due to injury (both pretty unlikely), it’s within the realms of possibility that Rafa could end up with say something like 10 French Open titles, 4 Wimbledons, 2 Australian Opens and 1 US Open (that’s 17 for you math geniuses).  Even if he doesn’t quite get there, and ends up with say 13 or 14 Grand Slams (still a long long way to go), with his current 14-7 record against Federer, including 6-2 in Grand Slams (and 5-2 in Grand Slam finals), that makes the debate whole a lot more interesting.  Federer’s all-court game, consistency on all surfaces, effortless style and grace will always make him the front-runner in GOAT discussions, but can someone be the greatest of all time despite having one guy getting the better of him the majority of the time?  Right now the answer is yes because Federer is so far ahead of Nadal, but what if one day that gap becomes only a couple of Grand Slams?

I’m already looking forward to this year’s Wimbledon.  Will Federer get another one or will Nadal consolidate his Paris victory?  Or will someone else (like poor Andy Murray) finally come through?  Can’t wait.

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