DOWN WITH ‘APATHETIC’ SERVES AND OTHER DISMAL REALITIES ON THE EVE OF THE U.S. OPEN
WHEN APATHY SAYS HOWDY TO PATHETIC: After a dismal offering from Novak Djokovic, commentator Jim Courier said, “That first serve was apathetic.”
SHOUT-OUT TO THE GOLDEN ERA: While comparing today’s players to those of his era, Courier said, “These guys are just better than we used to be in so many ways.”
AND IF LEBRON JAMES, DWAYNE WADE AND CHRIS BOSH WEREN’T AROUND, OKLAHOMA CITY WOULD BE NBA CHAMPS: Reflecting on the Big Four of the game – Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray – Tomas Berdych said, “If there weren’t those four guys, there would be [more] chances to do better.”
THE ‘DJOKOVIC-IAN’ SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: The laser-like cross-court forehand return of serve Novak Djokovic blasted when he was down match-point in the semis to Federer at last year’s Open has become the most stunning, most dissected shot in memory. No, it is not Bobby Thompson’s 1951 pennant-winning “Shot Heard Around the World.” Com’ on, this is “just” tennis. The shot was in the semis and Federer had another match point which he flubbed. (Even Roger suffers nasty net cord errors.) Still, Novak’s shot was a brave, bold stroke of genius emblematic of the extraordinary confidence he displayed in his December 2010 – September 2011 run, the hottest 10-month streak in the annals of the game. Still many dismiss it as an almost-lucky, go-for-broke, nothing-to-lose blast. “It was a fluke shot,” said Jim Courier. “You don’t make a living off it. You make a match out of it.”
RAFA’S FESTERING WOUND?: Sometimes it takes a while to get over a huge loss. It took Federer some time to recharge after his loss to Djokovic last year at the Open. The scar Andy Roddick suffered after losing to Federer at Wimbledon in ’09 was slow to heal. We’d bet McEnroe’s loss to Borg at the ’80 Wimbledon still stings a bit. More recently, Rafa Nadal has been sidelined for two months with his bum knee and hasn’t played a match in two months since losing to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon. That’s a long time to have a loss festering within you.
IF YOU CAN MAKE IT IN CINCY YOU CAN MAKE IT ANYWHERE: Courier said that when Federer went out on court to play the Cincy final, the roar that greeted him was, “the biggest cheer I’ve heard for a non-American walking into an American stadium.”
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Courier noted that, “No one at the top of the game has managed everything as well as Federer.”
FOREVER YOUNG: When Donald Young first emerged, John McEnroe said the then14-year-old would be in the top 15 in three or four years. It never happened. The Chicago native’s highest ranking was No. 38. One of the nation’s leading junior tennis observers compared Young to the great icons of the game, saying that, “From Connors on, none of the juniors reached the level of sophistication of Young’s game. His accomplishment at 14 is astonishing. It’s the best I’ve ever seen.” Young himself asserted he didn’t want to be the Tiger Woods of tennis, he wanted to be the Donald Young of tennis.
An athletic, appealing rising African-American lefty with a big serve and fabulous hands, Young won the Wimbledon junior title, but soon became more renowned for infamous incidents than his occasional shock wins. Critics insisted he should break away from his controlling parents. Others questioned his work ethic, and there was an X-rated rant against the USTA when he didn’t get the Grand Slam wildcard he thought should have been his. And once, when he lost a match to Amer Delic in Delray Beach, he heaved his racket out of the stadium – a more-than-impressive feat that many others could not duplicate. All the while, tournament directors courted him. Here was a kid who could attract fans.
The problem was that time and again he lost in the first round. One year he fell 10 times in his openers.
And guess who will (not-that-young anymore) Young face in the first round of the Open? That would be none other than Roger Federer. If Donald beats The Mighty Fed it will be as monumental an upset as the No. 100-ranked Lukas Rosol shocking Rafa Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon in June. But rest assured that if Young slays the Giant Swiss and decides to heave his racket in joy, he won’t be able to toss it out of Ashe Stadium. It’s too big.
NCAA DROPS CONTROVERSIAL CHANGE: The NCAA is funny. They allow aluminum bats in baseball but cling to an antiquated bowl system in football. Recently – to cut down on the unpredictable and hefty lengths of college tennis matches – the NCAA proposed changes which drew considerable fire from traditionalists. Now the NCAA has backed down from implementing a controversial decision which would have replaced the third set of singles matches and decided them with a super tiebreaker. A similar move to shorten doubles matches was also derailed.