Tag Archives: rafael nadal

Lame Adventure 229: Superman vs. Super Duperman

I was pleased that the US Open Men’s Tennis Final was played on Monday allowing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic a deserved day of rest in preparation for this climactic match in this year’s tournament.  Yet, I was practically spitting blood when I heard that the start time would be 4 pm.

May I join you in your primal scream, guys?

Since I am a working stiff making ends meet in a get-rich-slow job, I still had to put in another 90 minutes at the grind before quitting time, and I had to invest another half hour in the commute home from TriBeCa to the Upper West Side.  I considered begging my boss, Elsbeth, to let me exit early, but she would ask:

Elsbeth:  Why?

Me:  I’m dying to watch the US Open Men’s Final.

Elsbeth:  You’re into golf now? [snarky] That’s a new development.

Elsbeth is not a sports fan, and for the record, I loathe golf.  Masochist that I am, I decide it would be best to avoid conflict with my superior about my urgency to kneel at the altar of bouncing balls and swinging rackets.  Therefore, I stick out the workday, a day I spend adhered to my desk crunching numbers with glazed eyeballs.  I encounter one Elsbethian interruption:

Elsbeth:  How do you spell Agnes?

When I am sprung at 5:30 I am aware that my beloved Rafa has lost the first set to Djokovic 6-2.  I could not have rocket-launched myself faster out the door than if my Jack Purcell badminton shoes were manufactured by NASA.  Emitting a trail of smoke all the way to the Chambers Street subway station, I deftly side-step two waist-high demon seeds pummeling each other with balloon bats but that maneuver makes me bounce off their mother’s heavily cushioned left hip.  Fortunately, she is immune to hyperactivity and the resulting G-force allows me to sail down the station’s staircase at warp-speed — just as an uptown express train arrives.  I emerge from the 72nd Street subway station at 5:51 where I’m greeted with a text from my buddy, Coco:

Coco’s text: Nadal needs to focus on his game not his wedgie.

My text back: Maybe u should b his coach.

Coco’s text:  Or at least take him shopping for briefs that fit.

When I reach my sanctum sanctorum, Nadal is trailing in the second set 4-3.  No sooner do I settle down than Rafa breaks Djokovic and the score is tied 4-4.  Yet, before I can emit a sigh of relief, Djokovic breaks back, the sixth time he’s broken Rafa thus far in the match.

Djokovic returning serve.

As Djokovic serves for the second set Rafa looks discombobulated.  Djokovic wins the set 6-4.  I stare at my TV in disbelief.

In the third set, Rafa seems to have rediscovered his game.  The points are long and the shot-making extraordinary.  Nadal fights back hard and breaks Djokovic’s serve at love.  The score is 4-3 Nadal.  Yet, Djokovic, who’s possibly playing the best tennis of his life, elevates his game, too.  Following a multi-stroke rally where Nadal brilliantly saves at least four Djokovic winners, Djokovic wins the game, looks towards his box with his family and friends and spreads his arms in a gesture of relief or maybe it’s winged victory.

Mr. Momentum.

Nadal might be thinking what I’m thinking (but in Spanish):

Me:  Djokovic looks invincible!  What do I have to do to beat this guy?

Rafa does exactly what he has to do, he gets the game to reach a tie-break, he never falls behind, and he finally wins a set.  Hola!

Psyched Superman.

I want to pray to someone that this match will go the five set distance and Rafa’s game will continue to improve but I’m an atheist.  Who do I pray to?  My long-dead mother, who, even if I had fallen down a well she’d shout at me:

My Dead Mom:  God helps those that help themselves.

Count her out.

What about my favorite Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison, conveniently in this instance, also both dead?  I’d feel like such a jerk asking them for a favor that has nothing to do with world peace or the sitar.

"I can't believe she'd ask us to do this."

Franz Kafka has always been one of my favorite writers.

Franz K.

A voice in my head that sounds exactly like Coco’s shrieks:

Coco:  Franz Kafka, who’s been dead what, 85 years, that wrote that weird story about the giant waterbug I was forced to read in high school?  Really?  Why the hell don’t you pray to someone practical like Arthur Ashe?

American tennis icon Arthur Ashe.

Imaginary Coco is right!  I should pray to Arthur Ashe.  Right now, Djokovic and Rafa are beating each other to a near-pulp in a stadium named in his honor!  Just as suddenly, I come to my senses and wonder why would a legendary sportsman take sides?  Arthur Ashe, who was integrity incarnate, would never do that.  I quit my pursuit of channeling divine intervention in Rafa’s behalf.

After winning his first game in the fourth set and leading Nadal 1-0, Djokovic is granted a medical time out to have his sore lower back massaged.  When they resume play, Djokovic breaks Nadal.  Then he proceeds to win his serve and Nadal sinks into a very deep 3-0 hole that he is incapable of escaping.

Super Duperman in flight.

Barely fifteen minutes later, Djokovic decisively wins the set and the match at 6-2, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1.  It was not the outcome I wanted, but the guy that played better deserved the victory.

Okay, Novak, you earned your trophy.

As dismayed as I was, Rafa, as always, was gracious in defeat.  I text Coco:

My text:  I love Rafa, class act.

Coco’s text:  Ass picking and all.

That’s the real Coco.

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Lame Adventure 147: Roger Federer’s Family Jewels

While continuing to advance at the Qatar Open this week, tennis maestro, Roger Federer, hit another between the legs shot winner.  The crowd went wild.  See below:

One day someone will likely assemble a highlight reel of the many variations of this extraordinary shot by this extraordinary athlete.  If this highlight reel exists today, I could not find it on YouTube.

As much as I enjoy seeing this shot, it scares me a bit, too, possibly because I know that I am a closet klutz.  Recently, while walking down the subway station’s steps, en route to work, I narrowly missed tripping over a woman’s gargantuan handbag that she was carrying so low, it could have doubled as a weapon of major destruction.  Had I caught my foot in her elephantine-sized satchel, I would have taken a flying leap down the rest of the concrete stairs, broken my nose and probably several select slow healing bones, as well as shattering my glasses, before tumbling onto the tracks into the third rail, and proceeding to fry to death while suffering extreme embarrassment.  I listened to my inner mother’s warning to resist doing anything idiotic, and ignored the urge to pass this blockade on feet but by practicing restraint, I did miss my train.

Back to daredevil Roger, I know well that he is an elite athlete, and although I am not a male of the species, my ovaries always jump into my throat a little whenever I consider the tragic consequences if Fed did the unthinkable, misjudged the speeding ball and hit it high.

<Shudder>

That horrifying mis-hit, and the viral video that would surely follow, would truly redefine the meaning of “the shot heard round the world.”

Fortunately, this living legend has already fathered twins.

The tennis world's Fred Astaire, Fed, and Gene Kelly, Rafa, pressing the flesh; will they finally meet in the US Open this year?

Lame Adventure 99: Ole!

This was not exactly the US Open men’s tennis final I had dreamed of watching when the tournament began two weeks ago when it still felt like summer in New York.  Back then, I longed to see Rafael Nadal battle Roger Federer.  Unfortunately, Federer fell to Novak Djokovic during a thrilling five set men’s semi-final on Saturday.  Yet, I was extremely pleased with Rafa’s victorious outcome in the exciting men’s final on Monday.

Pumped up Rafa.

I also welcomed the drama when Djokovic won the second set following the two-hour rain delay.  As much as I hate rain delays, I appreciated this one since it allowed me to see most of the match live on TV after work – one of the advantages of living on the East Coast that is right up there with superiority of the New York bagel.

After losing the second set, it seemed to me that Djokovic regained some sorely needed confidence he lost after dropping the first set, but Nadal quickly transformed into the Rafa Express subjecting his opponent to punishing endurance test rallies.  Rafa was practically spitting fire in his determination to win this contest.  Throughout these two weeks, he came equipped with both a radically improved serve and a level of focus that was so intense he all but beat the stuffing out of Djokovic with his laser beam mind.  As I watched them smash powerful backhand and forehand returns while emitting animal call-type grunts, I needed to pop an Aleve during a commercial break where Don Draper was once again hawking the gull winged Mercedes Benz.

In the fourth set, when Djokovic was down 3-1 and serving at 0-40, commentator John McEnroe wryly observed, “You have to endure the mental pain we’re watching Djokovic go through right now.”  Physically, he was looking pretty spent, too.  Yet, it is evident that Djokovic is an elite athlete and I agree with Rafa that Djokovic has what it takes to soon win another Grand Slam final – possibly while playing opposite Roger or Rafa.

After the match, ardent Roger fan Milton called to congratulate me on Rafa’s victory.  I asked if he watched.  He said that the rain delay was so prolonged he grew impatient and went to the gym, but he did catch some of the match there.  He thought it was an impressive final.  With Roger’s Grand Slam tennis season over for the year, I knew that Milton’s enthusiasm for this final was half-hearted.  It did not take long before he changed the subject.

Milton:  My brother broke my cast iron skillet.

Me:  How did he do that?

Milton:  I asked him that same question.

Me:  What did he say?

Milton:  He didn’t explain how it happened.

Me:  That’s really amazing.  How do you break a heavy cast iron skillet?

Milton:  I don’t know.  It’s not like a light bulb.

Maybe he smashed it in frustration like Djokovic did his racket?  Skillet abuse, anyone?

Lame Adventure 96: Brilliant, but fashion-challenged

Milton and I have both been glued to US Open Tennis.  He is a die-hard Roger Federer fan; “Fed” to Milton.  My guy is Rafael Nadel; “Rafa” to me.  We are both hoping that they will meet in the men’s final this weekend but in general, we do root for each other’s guy.  I am very aware that Fed is a sensational player, possibly the greatest player of all-time, a style icon, and overall, a class act.  It bothers me when he loses to anyone … but Rafa.

Milton is not blind to Rafa’s greatness, either, and he appreciates his athletic prowess, but when it comes to Rafa’s style or his trademark jock strap adjustment, Milton detonates.  Milton is certain that Rafa is incapable of ordering a glass of wine without tugging at whatever’s wedged in-between his butt-cheeks.  I am not a fan of this habit, but I pointed out to Milton that this quirk is an element ingrained in Rafa’s style of play.  What completely drives Milton over the edge is Rafa’s history of dreadful wardrobe choices.  Unlike my ability to defend the constant wedgie tugging I have to agree that pink shirts, plaid shorts, muscle tees, etc., are indefensible.

"I'll have the pinot grigio."

This year at the US Open, Rafa has introduced some serious improvements.  He’s added a powerful serve to his game, and he has also made some welcome style adjustments.  He has a new haircut, and a basic black outfit trimmed in yellow.  Milton, in fashion police mode, has been pregnant with comment about Rafa’s makeover.  Recently, we shared this email exchange:

Milton: I know your boy is still trying, and in some ways, the black works.  But what’s with the yellow, boat-like sneakers? Is he dating Sweet Caroline?

Caroline "Sunshine" Wozniacki wearing Stella McCartney designed black & yellow.

Milton: With the slimming black, and the oversized sneaks, Rafa was reminding me of someone, but I couldn’t figure out who. Then it came to me. See comparison below.

Rafa serving at the US Open.

Marvin the Martian -- Rafa's doppelgänger?

Me: Did you know that those Nikes he wears are inscribed Rafa in the back of the heel?  They are ghastly.

Nadal's Rafa sneakers.

Milton: He’s earned the right to have his name everywhere.  But the yellow.  He looks like a bumble bee on the Atkin’s diet.

Lame Adventure 94: Foot-faulting Through Life

Once again, a foot-fault call at US Open tennis was in the spotlight when ninth seed Andy Roddick blew a gasket at a line judge for (correctly) calling this error on him during his loss Wednesday night to his Serbian opponent, Janko Tipsarevic.

Andy Roddick not asking, "What time is it?"

When the line judge explained her call to Roddick, she suffered an ill-timed brain-freeze and mistakenly said it was his right foot, when she meant to say it was his left.  Therefore, he detonated, but his outburst was Sesame Street worthy when compared to the $82,500 fine-incurring profane meltdown that Serena Williams exhibited at last year’s Open.  The New York Times recounted Serena’s outburst of hysteric proportion as follows:

“[Roddick’s] tempest was nothing compared with the most remembered match of the 2009 Open, between the powerful Serena Williams and a diminutive Japanese woman named Shino Tsurubuchi. After Tsurubuchi called Williams for a second-service foot fault, landing her a point from defeat in the women’s final against Kim Clijsters, Williams angrily confronted Tsurubuchi at her post outside the lines, threatening to asphyxiate her with the aid of the ball in her hand.”

Translation: Williams said, while clutching a tennis ball for emphasis, “I am going to shove this fucking ball down your fucking throat.”

Composed Serena three days after outburst at book signing on 9/15/09 where no one had the guts to joke, "Foot-fault."

Tsurubuchi was not the line judge that incurred Roddick’s wrath.  Roddick’s loss sent him packing with his stunning Sports Illustrated swimsuit model wife, Brooklyn Decker, calling to mind the Fur Fish and Game assistant document shredder, Staten Island Plotnick, that I dated some years back, proving the new adage that we mate (or date) what we rate.

Mrs. Roddick

US Open Tennis and Wimbledon are my two favorite sporting events, but I do follow the other Grand Slam tennis tournaments as well, the Opens in Australia and France.  Even though her personality is deficient, I admire Serena’s athleticism, but as a human being, I prefer her sister, Venus, approximately one million times more.  I would love to see Venus, at age 30, win this year’s women’s singles final.  The fact that Serena withdrew claiming a suspicious foot injury increases Venus’s chances of capturing this top prize once again.

Ironically, the highest paid female athlete today is not the top seed, Serena, but number fourteen, Maria Sharapova.  In January she signed an eight-year contract with Nike worth $70 million.  Milton and I find this mind-blowing since she last won a Grand Slam in 2008.  Serena’s won five Grand Slam titles in the last two years.  Unlike Serena, Sharapova has a winning personality, and coincidentally, she looks like a model.  Sharapova easily won her match Thursday against Iveta Benesova.  If Sharapova reaches the finals against Venus, that would be exciting.  Neither of them has won a Grand Slam since 2008.

Without Serena playing, the women’s draw overall is much less exciting this year, but even without Roddick, the men’s draw remains very competitive.  The final I would love to see is Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal.  They have played each other 21 times, but never at the US Open, the only Grand Slam tournament Nadal has yet to win.  If this match happens, my allegiance will be with Rafa, but if Federer wins, and it is not because of a foot-fault call, I will be okay with it since I like him very much, too.

About Federer … what to make of this video?  Did he really knock the can off this guy’s head twice?  He will not confirm or deny it.  Hm.

Shoes are also news in the US Open.  Federer is wearing ones decorated with the New York skyline, which I much prefer over the pompous Federer crest blazer he wore in 2006 at Wimbledon.

Federer's New York State of mind tennis shoes.

Last year, the teenage upstart from Marietta, Georgia, Melanie Oudin, got very lucky when she somehow managed to beat three far superior players, including Sharapova, while wearing shoes inscribed “Believe,” until Caroline Wozniacki, wearing shoes invisibly inscribed, “Reality bites,” knocked her out of the running.  Yet, Oudin, a spunky blonde, was last year’s media darling.

Melanie Oudin's 2009 Believe tennis shoes

While serving as play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports during weekend coverage of the Open last year, Dick Enberg gushed that Oudin “is the kind of kid you wish lived next door.”

Oh, you really think that, Dick?  Clearly, you don’t know me.

This year Oudin wore tennis shoes inscribed “Courage.”

Melanie Oudin's 2010 Courage tennis shoe

She got knocked out in the second round.  I don’t think foot-faulting was a significant factor.  I do think if she let go of the shoe inscribing, and focused more on her serve, that might take her game in a more winning direction.  Of course, this is easy for me to say as I foot-fault my way through life.

Lame Adventures Woman Disgruntled Jack Purcell sneaker

Lame Adventure 68: Happy 6th of July

According to the American Heart Association, healthy American adults should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. This is about 1 teaspoon of sodium chloride (salt).  Keep this in mind and read on.

On Sunday, the Fourth of July, Milton and I were in our respective hovels situated on the East and West sides of Manhattan watching Rafael Nadal put a definitive stop to the Tomas Berdych Express at Wimbledon, so all was right in the tennis world once again.  Elaine, my company’s Marketing Director, is telecommuting and Skyping from the UK, so she was able to attend Wimbledon last week where she saw Roger Federer advance to the Quarterfinals when he soundly defeated Jürgen Melzer of Austria.

Roger Federer on the far side of the court at Wimbledon June 28th, 2010.

Victorious Federer waving.

Elaine basking in Roger's victory.

Two days later living tennis legend Federer was soundly defeated by Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

In response to Federer’s early exit from her homeland, Elaine emailed me, “I am TOTALLY GUTTED–I can hardly speak.”  Milton, who shares as deep a love of Federer as Elaine (they have similar taste in men) was more sanguine about the loss that sent shock waves throughout the tennis world, but possibly this was due to the fact that he was on vacation all of last week and was self medicating with Sangria.  It was not until Berdych blew a hole through Novak Djokovic, another player Milton adores for both his athletic prowess and his looks, or as Milton recently said of Djokovic’s face, “He’s part athlete, part Margaret Hamilton and I find that so sexy,” that Berdych finally succeeded to get on Milton’s nerves.

Novak Djokovic channeling his inner Margaret Hamilton.

Margaret Hamilton channeling her inner Novak Djokovic.

Milton declared that he hated “Berdick” (actually pronounced “Ber-ditch”) so much he was not going to watch the men’s’ final.  Rafa’s my guy so I was going to watch no matter what.  I was hoping for a massacre since I was being denied the match I most wanted to see – Federer vs. Nadal.  Yet, Milton did tune in, and although he was pleased that Rafa won, he pronounced the trouncing “boring.”

Possibly, Milton would have been more entertained had he switched the channel to that American tradition being broadcast live on ESPN, Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, sponsored by Pepto Bismol.  Viewers tune in hoping to see a competitor vomit, the exact reason why I tune out.  Odds are good that Milton would have found this monument to competitive eating boring as well since the reigning champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut could not compete against his archrival, Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi, of Japan.  These two are the titans of the competitive eating world, the overeating equivalent of Federer and Nadal.

This year, Kobayashi refused to sign an exclusivity contract with Major League Eating, the body that sanctions competitive eating events, so he was barred against competing on Sunday.  He tossed a fit after the competition and got arrested.  Although he was starving to compete, in jail he was served a single sandwich and glass of milk.  Kobayashi was released on Monday.  He is now claiming free agency, but it baffles me who is going to sign him if he does not re-sign with MLE.  Possibly the hapless Knicks will go after him when they fail to sign LeBron James?

Kobayashi in happier times flaunting a gut full of dogs.

Without having a fellow elite eater in his midst, Chestnut, who devoured 68 hot dogs and buns (or HDBs in competitive eating jargon), in ten minutes last year against Kobayashi’s 64 ½, gave a performance screaming, “diet!” on Sunday.  He ate a mere 54 HDBs.  Chestnut’s goal is to eventually eat 70 HDBs, but that might be hard for him to reach without a competitor of Kabayashi’s caliber and twenty pound stomach capacity to spur him on.

Victorious Joey Chestnut with his post-competition beverage of choice.

Since my gastroenterologist has tube steak at the top of the list of the 7,416 foods I am supposed to avoid, I researched the amount of sodium in a single Nathan’s hot dog with the bun – 684 milligrams.  After devouring 54 HDBs, Chestnut ate the equivalent of 16.05913 teaspoons of salt or one-third a cup of salt.  Writing that sentence alone was enough to make my heart race.  It’s doubtful that the American Heart Association will ever sanction this event, but maybe Ex-lax will come calling in 2011, and Kobayashi will get his crap together by then as well.  Whatever the future holds for the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, I am steering clear of the vomitorium.  My TV is going to remain tuned to Wimbledon.

Victorious Rafa giving competive eaters an idea.