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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.

(click on ‘more’ for random thoughts)


Book Review: ‘Open’ by Andre Agassi April 19, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Book Reviews, Reviews.
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I’m supposed to be reading all the books I borrowed from the university library in preparation for my novel, but I couldn’t help myself.  My physical bookshelves are just about out of space, crammed with books I bought over the last couple of years but haven’t yet started reading, so naturally I went and bought some e-books as well.

As some of you may know, Borders in Australia is in administration and are offering discounts of up to 30% on their books, including e-books (which doesn’t make much sense considering it is the piling inventory that’s killing them).  So I went ahead and got myself a bunch of e-books, one of them being Andre Agassi’s controversial autobiography Open.

I know I like to make fun of Andre (as I did in satirical posts A and B, two of the most popular ever on this blog), but he’s always been one of my favourite tennis players and one of the most entertaining players to watch on and off the court.  And ditto for Steffi Graf, who also has this graceful beauty about her.

I never thought I would enjoy Open as much as I did, and I certainly never expected to devour this relatively long book (400 pages in paperback form) in just a couple of days.  To put it simply, Open is arguably one of the greatest sports autobiographies ever written.

Much of it has to do with the fact that Agassi simply lived a fascinating life.  He was a tennis prodigy that grew up in Las Vegas with an overbearing, terrifying father that forced him to hit 2500 balls every single day against a suped-up ball machine.  From the moment he was born, Agassi’s life was nothing but tennis, which he claims he hated, but it was all he knew.  He knew everything about tennis but nothing about himself or who he was.  When he became pro, he was essentially regarded as an underachieving, disrespectful punk, but by the time he retired, he was one of the most revered players on tour, an outstanding philanthropist, and widely considered one of the greatest to ever swing a racquet.

I won’t spoil the joys of this fantastic book by revealing anything more than that, because Open is a journey that sweeps up the reader and transports them into Agassi’s world.  It’s a world full of raw emotion, confusion and contradiction, but also filled with an unusual sense of fate and destiny (especially when it came to Brooke Shields and Steffi Graf).

There was a lot of hoopla when the book was released about how Agassi revealed he took crystal meth and lied his way out of a suspension and the unflattering things he said about some of his contemporaries (in particular his arch rival Pete Sampras), but all of that represents a miniscule part of the book.  They are explosive revelations, no doubt, but Open is so much richer than just those things.  I loved Agassi’s honesty, the way he described his relationships with some of the closest people in his life (particularly his right hand man Reyes) and his growth on and off the tennis court.

A big reason why Open is such a fantastic read is because of the way it was written.  The whole time I was reading it I kept thinking to myself: Wow, Agassi is a wonderful writer.  Is this seriously a guy that put zero effort in during school and left it altogether in the ninth grade?

As it turned out, Agassi didn’t really write the book, at least not the first draft.  He was honest enough to admit in the Acknowledgments at the end of the book that he acquired the assistance of Pulitzer Prize winner JR Moehringer, who moulded hours and hours of recorded conversations with Agassi into a ‘story’, which Agassi then worked on closely to punch into publishing shape.

Open is indeed a story, one that is expertly told and structured.  Each chapter has carefully defined parameters and themes, usually dealing with a mixture of Agassi’s tennis life and personal life.  It’s the kind of book that, even if you have a bit of an idea about what happened at various parts of Agassi’s life, you’ll still want to read on and find out the events from his perspective, through his eyes.

I guess the only ‘criticism’ I have of the book is that I wanted to know more about certain aspects of Agassi’s life because they were not discussed at length or not at all.  In particular, I didn’t think he dealt with his newfound wealth sufficiently.  We saw that he bought lots of new, expensive stuff, but we didn’t really get a sense of what he thought of all the money flooding into his life.  That said, maybe I’m being too greedy.  It’s not exactly easy to capture a person’s entire life in 400 pages.

My hat off to Mr Agassi (and Mr Moehringer) for such a great read.

5 out of 5

Awesome Nadal quotes from Aussie Open Final February 2, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Tennis.
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Rafael Nadal is the King of the Court and post-match interviews

Rafael Nadal is the King of the Court and post-match interviews

Rafael Nadal proved unequivocally in his 5-set epic over Roger Federer Australian Open Final yesterday that he is the true King of tennis right now (and probably will be for some time to come).

However, he has put so much effort into his tennis that his English doesn’t seem to have improved despite being on tour for almost 6 years now.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the guy – his tenacity on the court is unparalleled and he is one of the most gracious and humble champions ever.  And who cannot love the wedgie pull?  But every time I read a post-match interview I can’t help but laugh.  These days, whenever I talk about tennis I subconsciously start using ‘no?’ at the end of my sentences.  It’s awesome.

Here are some Nadal interview highlights from after the match (courtesy of the official Australian Open website):

Q. Number six Grand Slam. How special is that one for you?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, very special, no, for me. Is a dream win here, one Grand Slam on hard court. I worked very hard the last ‑‑ well, all my life for improve the tennis outside courts, well, outside of clay.

Very happy, no? Very happy for the title. Today was really lot of emotions on court. I was there with the best player I ever saw, like is Roger.

My uncle always told me Rod Laver was the best because he win two times the Grand Slam, the whole Grand Slam, the four in a row, and for like six or seven years he didn’t play. So for that reason he can be.

Everything was very special. Sorry was tough moment for Rog today. I know how tough must be there in important situation from him. But, you know, no, he’s a great champion. He’s the best. And he’s, for sure, very important person for our sport, no?

So sorry for him, but at the same time congratulate him for everything.

*  *  *

Q. Is there an explanation for the second serve where you seemed to have a little trouble?

RAFAEL NADAL: Trouble? For what reason?

Q. It’s softer maybe than usual.


Q. Some double‑faults.

RAFAEL NADAL: Double‑faults? How many?

*  *  *

Q. How does this compare to the first Roland Garros and Wimbledon?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, is different, no? Maybe, well, is the first Grand Slam on hard, so that makes very special. But at the same time, I didn’t have time yet for enjoy the title because I am too tired, no? I went to the locker room and I was dizzy.

So was very happy, but the same time tough, no?

*  *  *

Q. You proved yourself as a true king.

RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, no, no. Well, the true, no. I don’t know. I just win for sure an important title for my careera. But I no better five hours before than now, no? That’s the true, no?

When you win an important match, but you have to know before the match who you are and after the match you have to know who you are, too. You are the same, no?

*  *  *

Strangely, all of that makes sense to me.  Shows you don’t need to have great English to get your point across.  Keep it up Rafa – you are the undisputed King of tennis AND post-match interviews (though Roddick is pretty funny too).

PS: I’m still somewhat annoyed at the media’s portrayal of the Final.  Today, everywhere I look, all I can see on front pages of newspapers are pictures of a weeping Roger Federer.  That’s just terrible.  Not even a single picture of the champion.  That would make both of them feel awful and is just a total disservice to the great game they played yesterday.

Nadal wins the Aussie Open! February 1, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Tennis.
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Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer in 5 sets in the 2009 Australian Open Final to earn his 6th Grand Slam

I couldn’t resist my first tennis post after just watching the final of the Australian Open, in which world no. 1 Spaniard Rafael Nadal downed world no. 2 Swiss maestro Roger Federer in 5 stunning sets – 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2. 

With the win, Rafa earned his 6th career Grand Slam trophy, his first Australian Open title, and now has Grand Slam wins on each of the surfances (clay, grass and hard courts).  Roger, on the other hand, missed out on his first chance since winning the US Open last year to equal Pete Sampras’ record 14 Grand Slam wins.  He also fell to 13-5 in Grand Slam finals, all of his 5 losses coming against Rafa.

I kind of felt sorry for both players after the match (both were in tears).  I felt sorry for Federer because you can see just how much he wanted this one.  It was another championship where he played his heart out but couldn’t get the win against his younger and fiercer opponent.  It must kill to see the same guy thwart you every time – first on clay, then his favourite surface grass, and now even on hard courts.  At age 27, he still has plenty more chances, but each additional one that slips away hurts a little bit more.  On the other hand, I felt sorry for Nadal too.  He was the winner and yet the fans were clearly on Federer’s side.  Roger got the bigger cheers.  All the commentators on TV and radio could talk about was how Federer lost in his quest for no. 14, not Nadal’s amazing 6th Grand Slam victory at age 22 and the possibility that HE may be the one capable of winning the Grand Slam in a calendar year.

Seriously, at this point in time, you could argue that Nadal at age 22, who has now won on each surface, has just as much of a chance of breaking Sampras’ record as Federer has – as long as he stays healthy.  I used to always go for Federer in his head-to-heads with Nadal, but over the last few years Nadal has really grown on me.  He doesn’t have the effortless grace and technical brilliance of Federer, but he’s always been a super-humble champion who plays with so much guts and courage on every single point.  The guy always gives it his all and never gives up (even with those wedgies).  Every time Federer looked like he was starting to gain control, Nadal would hit right back.  All those break points he saved really made the difference in today’s final (and last year’s Wimbledon final).  And tonight, even when the fans were cheering the loser louder than the winner, Nadal was totally gracious about it (and so was Federer, by the way, but he lost, so he had to be).

I think when people talk about the greatest of all time in the next few years, Rafael Nadal’s name has to be in the mix along with Federer, Sampras, Laver and Borg.  The biggest argument you could make against Federer is that he’s never won on clay – and the reason for that is Nadal.  The other major argument is that he can’t be the greatest if he can’t beat his rival (Nadal now leads 13-6 all time, including 5-2 in Grand Slams) – again, that reason is Nadal.

I still believe Federer will equal or break Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams, but there’s also the possibility that Nadal will be the all-time Grand Slam winner by the time he’s done.

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