Category Archives for "Opinion"

Roger Federer Wimbledon

The 7 Greatest Wimbledon Finals in History

7. Connors d. McEnroe (1982)

Jimmy Connors

Photo by: CliffCC BY 2.0

Score: 3–6, 6–3, 6–7(2–7), 7–6(7–5), 6–4

Reigning Wimbledon champion and #1 seed John McEnroe couldn’t defend his title, losing to #2 seed Jimmy Connors in 1982. However, he did help produce one of the most classic championship matches at the All-England club.

It was only fitting that they went the distance: Connors and McEnroe blistered past Mark Edmonson and Tim Mayotte, respectively, in straight sets.  Connors had also beaten McEnroe at the grass-court event in Queens three weeks prior, which no doubt helped his belief (does he really need a confidence boost with that fist pump?) that he could defeat the world’s #1 tennis player again.

Adding further motivation, Connors had been a finalist at the All-England Club 3 times, losing to Arthur Ashe in 1975, and Bjorn Bjorg in 1977 and 1978.  After a back and forth affair, Connors broke at 1-all in the fifth, and held throughout to notch the victory.

Interesting stats: The match took 4 hours and 14 minutes, which was the longest finals in Wimbledon history.  Both Johnny Mac and Connors won 173 points.  The victory was huge for Connors: his last grand slam title was the 1978 US Open.

Notably, Bjorn Bjorg did not play at the All-England Club that year in protest.  Bjorg took several months off the tour after losing to McEnroe at Wimbledon the year prior.  As a result, the 5-time Wimbledon Champion (1976-1980) was told by the Professional Tennis Council that he had to play Wimbledon Qualifying before he could play in the main draw.  Since he had been away from the tour, he had to play at least 10 Grand Prix events in order to be exempt from Wimbledon qualifying.  I’m pretty sure that helped Connors and McEnroe’s chances.

Here is some video of the last few minutes of the match.  Maybe you’ll pick up some Spanish while you’re listening too :-).

 

6. Graf d. Vicario (1985)

Steffi Graf slice backhand

Photo by: Chris EasonCC BY 2.0

Score: 4-6 6-1 7-5

Steffi Graf, the dominant German who barely ever hit a topspin backhand, dropped the first set before roaring back to defeat #3 seed Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. Vicario defeated Conchita Martinez, the defending champ and #2 seed, in another close semifinal matchup.

At 5-5 in the third set, Vicario’s service game went to deuce. Vicario saved one break point with a volley into the open court after setting it up with a drop shot.  However, on the next point, Vicario’s drop shot was not as successful; Graf hit a deep slice down the line to Vicario’s backhand, and picked off Vicario’s cross court pass with a drop shot volley.  Then, Graf hit a booming inside-out crosscourt forehand that Vicario dumped into the net to break Vicario.

Graf served her way to 40-0 after a Vicario unforced error.  The German served and volleyed on match point, and clinched her 6th Wimbledon title when Vicario missed a backhand pass attempt long.  Graf would win her 7th and final Wimbledon in a repeat finals matchup over Vicario the next year.

The 1995 Graf-Vicario Wimbledon final was one of the three-set classics of the women’s open era.

Check out a video of the last few games below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrsfeBIc1Bc

 

5. Djokovic d. Federer (2014)

Score: 6–7(7–9), 6–4, 7–6(7–4), 5–7, 6–4

Last year was a fantastic final.  I remember falling to my knees in disappointment  when Federer lost this match.  He had not won a major since the 2012 Wimbledon Championships (poor guy!) and many counted him out as too old and on the way to retirement.

Djokovic, though, looked headed for a fairly straightforward victory serving at 5-3 in the fourth set.  However, the Fed-Express managed to break Djokovic twice, and fended off a match point on his own serve thanks to a Hawk-Eye challenge.

Both men failed to convert break points in the 7th and 8th games of the fifth set.  However, serving at 4-5, Federer produced a forehand error at 15-30 and a backhand error on match point, and with that, Djokovic was the 2014 Wimbledon Champion. That is the closest that Federer has gotten to a major title since.

The match was played at a very high-level for just about all of the entire 3 hours and 56 minutes that it lasted.  Rafael Nadal, the #2 seed, was knocked out in the 4th round by a wildcard and then 19-year old Nick Kyrgios in 4 sets.

Here’s a highlight video of the match from start to finish.  I love highlight videos, especially when its a high-quality five-set Fed-Djoker match.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnCZjXaIl1s

 

4. Ivanisevic d. Rafter (2001)

Score: 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 2–6, 9–7

This final makes the list because it was a great match and an even greater storybook ending for Ivanisevic, who said he was retiring after Wimbledon.  The big-serving Croatian had lost 3 Wimbledon finals (1992, 1994, 1998), two of them in 5-sets, and was now ranked 125th.  He needed a wildcard to play in the tournament.

The last set made up for the relatively lopsided first four sets. Ivanisevic broke Rafter at 7-7, and then in the deciding game, both players found themselves at deuce.

Rafter hit a backhand-slice pass that floated just wide, and you have to love it when a thankful Ivanisevic made the sign of the cross, knelt down, and then shook his left-arm to signify that he needed one more big serve to clinch the championship.

However, Rafter came up with a beautiful topspin lob to get the game back to deuce.  Then Ivanisevic, after missing the first serve long, hit a great second serve in the same spot (down the T) that Rafter dumped in the net.

Ivanisevic missed the first serve wide, but the lefty hit a second serve down the T that Rafter once again couldn’t quite get over the net. With that, the Croat finally claimed his first Wimbledon title.

After a very gracious congratulatory hug by Rafter, Ivanisevic, predictable filled with emotion (let the tears roll!) jumped into the stands where his proud father was watching and the entire team of the 2001 Wimbledon champion embraced.

With the win, Ivanisevic jumped from 125 to 16 in the world rankings.  He also became the first wildcard to ever win a grand slam title.

Interestingly, Pete Sampras, who had won the tournament seven of the past 8 years, was bounced out by a young 19-year old by the name of Roger Federer.  Perhaps you have heard of the guy  :-)?

Check out the final moments of this historic final below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hECNfj5G_s

 

3. Nadal d. Federer (2008)

Rafael Nadal Wimbledon

Photo by: Eugene RegisCC BY 2.0

Score: 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5–7), 6–7(8–10), 9–7

After five straight Wimbledon titles, Federer encountered Nadal in the finals for the third-straight year.  This time, the Spaniard from Mallorca prevailed in an extremely tight five-set affair.  Federer no doubt deserved to hold his head up high; he nearly made one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history, falling just short in the final moments.

The match lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes, and was widely regarded as one of the greatest matches ever.

Unfortunately the light was fading fast towards the end of the match, and Federer later said he wanted to halt the match but chose not to.  It would have been tough on the fans, but hell, I would have if it was for a Wimbledon title!

At 7-all in the fifth, and 15-30 on Roger’s serve, Nadal hit a beautiful pinpoint crosscourt backhand winner.  Federer, as he had done all match, fought back to deuce.  However, on break point he hit a seemingly easy forehand approach shot just long to give Nadal the opportunity to serve out the match.

The final game again went to deuce.  In the final points of the match, Nadal hit a serve out wide to force a forehand error, and then Federer missed a forehand approach shot again (which seemed to bounce a bit awkwardly), this time into the net.  With that, Nadal won his first Wimbledon title.

This match is such a classic that Tennis Channel aired it on television last week.  Check out the highlights of this insane match below!

 

2. Williams d. Davenport (2005)

Venus Williams Wimbledon

Photo by: Tim SchofieldCC BY 2.0

Score: 4–6, 7–6(7–4), 9–7

In what I consider the greatest women’s Wimbledon final ever, Venus Williams won her third title at the All-England Club against a very game Lindsay Davenport.  The match was so close that Davenport had a match point of her own but could not convert.

Williams, the 14th seed, also defeated defending champion Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.  Davenport topped Amelie Mauresmo in three tough sets before facing Williams.

Lindsay broke at 1-1 and 4-2 in the first set, and withstood a mini-comeback by Williams to win 6-4.  However, the second set was razor-thin.  In the tiebreak, Williams won her first service point, then took both of Davenport’s service points to seize a commanding 3-0 lead. Williams opened up the court enough for a forehand down the line winner on set point.

At 7-7, ad-out in the third set on Davenport’s serve, Williams was able to move Davenport around the court once again and produced a backhand crosscourt winner to break the number one seed.

Serving for the match, Williams got off to a strong 30-0 start, and then hit a blistering backhand pass down the line to set up triple match point.

At 40-15, Davenport didn’t quite get into position on the sixth shot of the rally, and had to arm a forehand that seemed too close to her body.  As a result, Davenport dumped a forehand into the net, and with that, Williams claimed the Wimbledon title.

Check out highlights of the back-and-forth title bout below!

 

1. Federer d. Roddick (2009)

Roger Federer Wimbledon

Photo by: Nick WebbCC BY 2.0

Score: 5–7, 7–6(8–6), 7–6(7–5), 3–6, 16–14

I remember watching this amazing and historic match while I was at my buddy’s lakehouse in the summer of 2009.  The great American hope, Andy Roddick, against the Swiss Maestro Roger Federer.  I don’t think many people expected this one to go the distance, but Roddick put up a heck of a fight in this one.

77 games this final took (Yoda impressions, anyone?), the most amount of games ever in a grand slam final.

After winning the first set, Roddick played a blistering first 8 points of the tiebreak, winning six of them to take a 6-2 lead. However, with four chances to take a two-sets to love advantage, Federer engineered an amazing comeback by winning 6 straight points to take the tiebreaker.

However, instead of being deflated, Roddick realized how much of a chance he still had at winning.  He played a strong third set, falling just short, and then roared back to take the fourth set after breaking Roger in the fourth game.

The fifth set truly solidified this historic match as an instant classic, lasting 30 games.  At 14-15, deuce, Federer hit a slice backhand return that landed short but had a lot of spin, and Roddick responded with a mishit of his own that landed just inside the baseline.

However, Roddick paused momentarily when he mishit the approach shot.  As a result, even though Roddick’s approach shot landed in, the court was wide open, and Federer calmly scooped up the forehand past Roddick to set up match point.

After a missed first serve, Roddick hit a solid topspin serve that Federer chipped back.  Roddick then hit a well-struck inside-out forehand, but Federer stepped forward and responded with a very strong and deep backhand.

Roddick shanked a forehand out, and the match was finally over. Federer claimed his 6th Wimbledon title.  He added another in 2012 and now has seven. Not too shabby!

Here are some highlights of the match:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFF1zbG3GY8

 

I hope my post on The 7 Greatest Wimbledon Finals in History gets you pumped to watch Wimbledon for the next two weeks!  🙂

What are some of the greatest Wimbledon finals you think should have made the list? Comment below!

3 Rafael Nadal is my role model

Rafael Nadal is My Role Model: 7 Reasons Why

Rafael Nadal is my role model.  Sure, he has won 9 French Opens, 14 Grand Slams overall, and over 71 million dollars in prize money.  But Rafael Nadal also exhibits some of the top characteristics that I would like my child and those around me to emulate.  Below are 7 reasons why Rafael Nadal is my role model:

Reason #1: Humility

Every time you hear Rafa speak in an interview, what do you usually hear? “I’m sorry that he lost today” and “my opponent played very well” have become standard phrases from the King of Clay.

Contrary to the overconfident attitudes that dominate the airwaves, Nadal talks about how he has to play to his limit to defeat tough opponents and voices doubt about whether he can keep winning.  While Nadal may be full of confidence on the inside, even if he is crushing his opponents left and right, he is always a class act about it.

Reason #2: Tenacity

Watch Rafael Nadal play a match.  He will run down every ball, retrieve shots that people think are unretrievable, and make his opponent hit 5 shots that would be winners against 99% of the tour before whipping a running backhand cross court passing shot.

The Mallorcan has amazing wheels and you can tell by the squeaking of his shoes and his grunting that he is giving it everything he has.  Nadal does not have a huge serve but what he does have is the tenacity to grind out points and take the initiative when necessary.  Reason #2 why Rafael Nadal is my role model.

Reason #3: Family Values

Rafael Nadal is extremely close with his family.  His coach since he was 3 years old, Toni Nadal, is his uncle.  Nadal lives at home with his parents (he bought the house for them).  When his parents separated in 2009, he wrote that he was devastated, and that he had “lost all love for life.”

Nadal is also still dating the same girl that he had been seeing since he was a teenager.

In a world where about half of all marriages end in divorce, it is nice to see Nadal display love and affection for his family.  His family has helped him immensely in his career, and Nadal has stayed true to them.

Reason #4: He is a Winner

1 Australian Open title. 9 French Open titles.  2 Wimbledon titles.  2 U.S. Open titles.  1 Olympic Gold Medal.  4 Davis Cup titles.  Sound like a pretty decent resume, no?  Rafael Nadal is my role model, yes, in large part because he is a winner.

Most people pick role models who are very successful in their field of expertise, whether it be a mother who is great at cooking, a successful lawyer, or Michael Jordan.  Rafael Nadal has done amazing things throughout his career, and he has 66 titles to prove it. (Thanks Wikipedia!).

Reason #5: No Excuses

Do you ever hear Nadal whining about an injury?  Has he ever said that he lost because his knees hurt, or made an excuse when he lost to a much lower ranked opponent (which doesn’t happen very often anyway)?  Nope.

Go ahead and youtube any of his interviews and listen to him talk on television.  If Nadal loses, he talks about how well his opponent played, or about deficiencies in his own game. Nadal is a very admirable player in this regard.  There is a lot to learn from this.  Often times someone who fails will make an excuse.

What’s the big deal with this approach?  Someone who makes excuses does not analyze why they failed.  So instead of finding the real reason why you failed and taking steps to fix it, you ignore the problem and blame the outcome on something else.  Not very good. If you lose, you own up to it.  No excuses.

Reason #6: Perseverance Over Injury

Nadal is an inspiration because he has come back from injuries several times.  No one would have thought that after 7 months away from the tour with an inflamed knee he would have one of the best seasons of his career in 2013 and win both the French Open and U.S. Open.

Nadal was also sidelined with a wrist injury for 3 months in the later half of 2014, and had his appendix removed at the end of 2014.  Despite all the troubles, Nadal continues to train hard and battle for every point.

He had some setback in the early part of 2015 (loss to Fognini in semis of Rio and to Raonic in quarterfinals of Indian Wells), but I know he is going to battle back and go deep at the French Open.  Besides, the man has won the French Open 9 out of the last 10 years.  Who wants to bet against him?

Reason #7: He has the Best Fist Pump In Tennis

Well heck, who doesn’t like a strong fist pump?  I’ve seen Tsonga twirl around with his arms flexed in the air like he just won a doll at the county fair.  I’ve seen Agassi and Guga Kuerten draw hearts in the clay like they were sending a message to their significant others on Valentine’s Day.  And I’ve seen other players give fist pumps, but they pale in comparison to the vicious uppercut-vamos yell combo that would knock out Mayweather if he stuck his chin above Nadal’s fist (it would have made things easier for Pacquiao).

There’s nothing better than watching Nadal scramble all over the court, hit a ridiculous winner, and then give his signature fist pump for the crowd to enjoy.  This Nadal video will get you pumped up! (well, at least until the music changes to Nickelback at 2:41).

There you have it.  7 reasons why Rafael Nadal is my role model.

Do you think there is a better role model on the pro tour?  Disagree with my assessment of Rafael Nadal?  Comment below!

2

Top 5 Tennis Pet Peeves

As a tennis player, I take an immense amount of pride in the sport.  Unfortunately, there are people who disrespect the game out of plain ignorance or sheer stupidity.  The following is a list of tennis pet peeves that everyone should be aware of and take steps to correct:

Tennis Pet Peeve #1: Playing another sport on a tennis court

There is nothing more irritating than seeing a group of people kicking a soccer ball or playing lacrosse on a tennis court.  First of all, there is a reason why we have tennis courts: we can’t play tennis anywhere else.

You can go on any of the thousands of nearby fields or grassy areas and play baseball, soccer, lacrosse, or other sports.  Instead, by playing another sport on a tennis court, you are taking up one of the few courts available that are sought after by tennis players.

What’s worse, playing another sport on a tennis court can damage the court.  Tennis courts are expensive enough to build, but even harder to get repaired.  Tennis courts are made for soft tennis balls, not hard lacrosse balls, baseballs, or the like.

I see people ride their bikes (incredible) on tennis courts, which often leave black streak marks.  I have also seen lacrosse clinics held on tennis courts (seriously???).  Here’s an idea: why not practice on the same surface that you compete on? If you’re going to compete on a grassy field or on dirt for your sport, do us and yourself a favor; practice on it and leave the tennis courts for us.

Tennis Pet Peeve #2: Cheating

Certainly, we can all admire your will and sheer desire to win.  But by cheating, you are not only robbing a person who rightfully earned a point, game, set, or match, but you also show everyone that you lack integrity.

The downfall of most empires: cheating the people.  The downfall of marriages: cheating on your spouse. The reason that many kids get expelled from school: cheating on tests. You get the point (hopefully not because you cheated!).  When you form a habit, it becomes ingrained in your character.  And above all, it is really annoying and immoral to cheat.

If you see the ball hit any part of the line, it is IN.  By sticking to this simple yet often violated rule, you present yourself to the world as not only an honest and trustworthy tennis player, but also an honest and trustworthy person.  You don’t want to be referred to as “the cheater.”  It doesn’t do much good for your rep.  Cheating is undoubtedly one of my greatest tennis pet peeves.

Tennis Pet Peeve #3: Throwing your Racquet

Full disclosure: Yes, the author has thrown his racquet before.  Yes, the author has received a code violation for such behavior.  But has the author realized the error of his ways? Yes.  Will the author refrain from throwing his racquet in the future?  I’ll try my best 🙂

Regardless, throwing your racquet is a big mistake for many reasons.

(1) Racquets are expensive.  Playing tennis costs a lot of money (alright, the 1% can stop laughing now). Throwing a racquet, especially at certain angles, can crack a frame, leaving the racquet useless except to ward off house burglars and drunk people at tennis socials.  Racquet companies are not going to replace a racquet that has been voluntarily cracked (there is no crime of passion defense here).  Just because the pros throw their racquets doesn’t mean you should.

(2) Throwing your racquet can get you a code or point violation.  If you are playing in a tennis tournament and a referee sees you throw a racquet or smash it on the ground, you will get a point penalty or code violation.  If you accumulate enough point penalties, you can be defaulted from a match, or worse, banned from play competitively for a while.

(3) Abusing your racquet makes you look like a cry baby.  Yes, image is everything. And no, I am not trying to sell you a canon rebel from 1990.  What kind of grown man or woman needs to slam a 12 ounce piece of titanium to the ground to feel better?  Not you, that’s who.  Give meditation or breathing techniques a try if you have issues controlling your anger.

Tennis Pet Peeve #4: Unnecessary Grunting

It is one thing if you naturally expel air while hitting tennis balls, or the noises you make are a direct result of you working your tail off to get to a ball.  However, it is another thing when a tennis player shrieks like a hyena seconds after hitting a tennis ball. The latter is a well-known tennis pet peeve.  Personally, I am at my best when I expel air or grunt naturally when I hit a tennis ball.  However, I have heard shrieks that are surpassed only by the highest decibel levels often found at construction sites.  And I don’t think that type of grunting is necessary.

Grunting seems to put off a large number of tennis fans who come to watch tennis for its beauty and elegance, not to listen to shrieks and screams that would be better suited for the demise of a protagonist in a horror film.

If grunting helps your tennis game, and is a natural byproduct of your effort, then by all means go for it and grunt.  And if you are a loud grunter, but know in your heart that grunting allows you to play your best game, then I can’t blame you for your ear-busting habit.  But you won’t be the most popular chip off the old block for doing it.

Tennis Pet Peeve #5: Not Calling Out the Score

While this pet peeve is forgivable, this one still makes the list for a couple reasons.

(1) The audience won’t know the score.  For those of you who have supporters in the crowd, it keeps them in the dark.  Not everyone trained under the tutelage of Ms. Cleo in predicting the future.  If you call out the score (or update the scorecards) then people will follow and be more engaged in your match.

Otherwise, people spend half the time spreading rumors about what they think the score could be based on the last two points you just lost and the death stare you gave your opponent, even if they were the only two points you lost in the last hour (what a perfectionist!).

(2) It opens the door to cheating and/or forgetting the score.  We’re not robots, so we may forget the score if we do not call it out loud each time.  A savvy opponent may pick up on this and try to weasel the score in his favor.

(3) It slows down the match.  If the score is called out every point, as it should be, then there won’t be a need to recount past points in an effort to remember whether the score is 40-15 or 30-30.

That’s all I have for now.  I’m sure I’ll think of additional tennis pet peeves after playing some more tournaments in a couple months.

Let me know your biggest tennis pet peeves: comment below!