Tag Archives: tennis

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.

Lame Adventure 228: Blowhards and Underdogs

As much of the nation, or at least the nation’s media, focused on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11,  I primarily focused my weekend TV-watching on US Open Tennis played here in New York City, specifically Flushing Meadows, Queens.  The women’s final between three-time US Open champion, Serena Williams and Samantha Stosur, the 27-year-old underdog from Australia who had yet to win a women’s singles Grand Slam tournament (as opposed to Serena’s thirteen singles titles), was played Sunday afternoon.

I like both players very much.

Serena, who turns 30 in a few weeks, and was ranked a very deceiving 28, has made a remarkable comeback from a lacerated foot injury suffered in June 2010, and this past February she was hospitalized with a very scary sounding blood clot in her lung.  Couple her physical ills with her sister, Venus, having to withdraw from this tournament after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, Serena won a double dose of sympathy points from me by default.  Yet, my close pal, Milton, who is still in a recovery of his own from Novak Djokovic defeating Roger Federer in a heartbreaking men’s five set semi-final has loathed Serena for years.  What he loathes most is her personality.  He thinks she’s a jerk and it infuriates him when people assume that Venus, who is always gracious, is the same way.  When Serena last won the Open in 2008, as she was exuberantly jumping up and down, Milton called.

Thrill of victory Serena-style on September 7, 2008.

Milton:  My TV’s shaking.

The following year, 2009, during the second set of the Open’s women’s semi-final against Kim Clijsters, Serena displayed one of her notorious fits of bad temper.  She was already down a set, and the second set score was 5-6.  Serena was serving to stay in the match at 15-30.  Then, the lineswoman called her on a foot fault twice and the score was now 15-40; Clijsters had two match points.  Enraged, Serena profanely threatened to shove a tennis ball down that lineswoman’s throat.

Serena not making nice at line judge in 2009

This display of ugly antics awarded me another Milton phone call.

Milton:  Do you believe this?  She deserves to lose!

Just as he said that, she was smacked with a one-point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.  The victory went to a baffled Clijsters.

Fast forward to the present.  Throughout the entire 2011 US Open Serena has been the model of poise and power dominating opponent after opponent.  She had not dropped a set in her entire comeback run leading to the final.  Prior to the start of the match, Serena the Magnanimous announced that she was playing for her country in honor of 9/11.

I had been feeling neutral over who should win.  I’ve always had a soft (or maybe it’s a wet) spot for scrappy underdog Stosur, who has a powerful serve and a wicked forehand.  Her matches, all brilliantly played (including a riveting 32-point tiebreaker against Maria Kirilenko), received second billing.  None of her matches leading to the final rated network TV coverage. Only snippets of her semi-final were broadcast live since her match conflicted with the men’s semi-final where Rafael Nadal defeated Andy Murray.

Milton can recognize Stosur’s athleticism but he has issues with her highly toned arms; arms that make me drool.

Female Thor.

Milton insists that they look like a man’s.

Milton:  They make Rafa’s look wimpy.

Wimpy? Really?

When it came down to Serena playing Sam in the women’s final, the pressure was on heavily favored Serena to win her 14th title.  Since she was vocal about playing for her country on this historic date, the fans were fully on her side to make mincemeat out of the Aussie.  Even I, a rare American Stosur fan, assumed that Stosur’s luck was about to run out, so I was rooting more for my country(wo)man due to the symbolism of this day in history.  Then, the match got underway …

Serena served first and won her game, Stosur did the same during her serve, but then when it was Serena’s serve again, the unthinkable began, Stosur broke her.  When the score was 4-2, Stosur broke her again, and then she served for the first set, a set she won impressively at 6-2 in 31 minutes.  I thought:

Me (thinking):  Holy crap!

Stosur had all the momentum, but when Serena was facing break point on her serve in the first game of the second set, she flubbed.  She hit an obvious forehand winner but made the relatively innocent mistake of shouting at the ball, “Come on!”  Everyone knew why she had shouted at the ball.  She’s an aggressive competitor and was feeling frustrated with her game, which was sluggish.  I felt bad for Stosur was actually making mincemeat out of her.  Yet, according to an arcane rule, a player is not supposed to scream before the opponent makes contact with the ball.  The chair umpire, Eva Asderaki, correctly called the error on Serena and that gave Stosur both the point and the break.

Serena detonated.

Steamed Serena.

She berated Asderaki, and the crowd booed in her favor, rattling Stosur.  During the changeover, fuming Serena continued her tirade against Asderaki:

Serena: If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way,

[Serena confused Asderaki with another chair umpire she locked horns with over a controversial call back in 2004.]

Serena:  Because you’re out of control, you’re out of control.  You’re not only out of control, you’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside.  Who would do such a thing?  And I never complain!  Wow.

My full allegiance instantly shifted to Stosur as soon as Serena declared, “And I never complain!”  I am sure that gaining my positive vibes was all Sam needed to regain her focus and convincingly defeat Serena in two sets 6-2, 6-3.

Samantha Stosur's thrill of victory moment.

After her loss, in another display of no class, Serena refused to shake Asderaki’s hand.

Milton did not call, a sign that he resisted tuning in.  I considered calling him, but I thought better of it not wanting to raise his blood pressure.  If Serena was truly intent on being a sports hero and honoring her country with a victory on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, she should have suppressed her inner jerk, shut her pie-hole and played her guts out.

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.


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?