Archive for the ‘Tennis’ Category

Isner and Mahut in epic battle at Wimbledon – longest match in history

June 23, 2010

John Isner of the U.S. and Nicolas Mahut of France are playing a marathon tennis match at Wimbledon. Isner leads Mahut 41 games to 40 in the fifth set.  It’s the longest match in tennis history.  Records have already been set for the longest set and match ever in number of games and length of time. Also most aces combined.

Isner, the 23rd seed, leads the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 41-40.  Watch it on ESPN2 to see history being made.

I once played a long set in a match that would determine who got the final singles spot on the high school tennis team. The loser would play number one doubles.  You had to play an 8-game pro-set, so the first to 8 games would win, but you had to win by two games.  So I ended up losing, 17-15.  It was my worst loss ever, absolutely devastating, because I felt sure I was going to play singles.  My mistake was going for a water break up 15-14.  I lost some momentum then.  But I ended up going 12-3 in doubles.  In singles I probably would’ve been closer to .500.

When will it end?  I have to go now, but I’ll guess that it’ll be something like 48-46.  Unbelievable and awesome.  What a great sports day with the earlier drama of the U.S. beating Algeria in soccer in the final minute to advance in the World Cup.

ESPN’s Coverage of the Australian Open

January 22, 2010

I have to give kudos to ESPN for its coverage of the Australian Open. Chris Fowler, Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert, Pam Shriver, Darren Cahill, and Cliff Drysdale all do an excellent job.  Even Tom Rinaldi is there doing features.

Mary Carillo is a little annoying to me, but a lot of people like her. I’ve never liked Dick Enberg for tennis because he feels he has to constantly compare it to baseball or fooball — “like a pitcher changing speeds” or “like an outfielder looking up at the ball” — as if tennis is a completely foreign sport and people won’t understand it unless you make those comparisons.

But I’m nitpicking.  They do the tournament great justice by doing their homework and conducting good interviews.  It’s just too bad that the time difference precludes a lot of people from seeing the tennis.

We even got a shot of Chris McKendry in the crowd.  I guess they’re getting her used to the sport and letting her do a few interviews.  (By the way, years ago I watched McKendry on the local affiliate in Washington.  I couldn’t believe she was on because she spoke so slowly, as if she were a kindergarten teacher.  I didn’t think she knew sports either.  Boy, was I wrong.  She is great on ESPN.  Absolutely great).

So Kornheiser and Wilbon can continue to mock every sport other than football, basketball and baseball by asking each other, “Do you care about this? Will you watch it?”  “No.”  I can’t wait to see them ridicule next month’s Olympics.

Ironically, Terrell Owens and Steve Smith of the NFL are both at the tournament.  Owens is there to watch his friend Andy Roddick, and Smith of the Carolina Panthers was watching friend John Isner defeat Gael Monfils.

It’s funny, ESPN talks of great rivalries like Magic-Bird and Crosby-Ovechkin, but they never mention the great ones in tennis — Borg – McEnroe, Sampras – Agassi, or Federer – Nadal.

Anyway, great job, ESPN, on the coverage of the Australian.

Using Disrespect to Motivate Yourself and Prove People Wrong

October 5, 2009

In sports, as in life, sometimes when you feel slighted and disrespected, it can give you extra motivation to do well to prove people wrong.

Michael Jordan was famous for it, Brett Favre is going through it now, and I’ve even used it myself for extra incentive.

“It” happens when people underestimate you.

A lot of people were put off by Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction speech last month, when he recounted many instances when people said he wasn’t good enough.  Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he never forgot it, so he became the greatest player of all time.  Writers said he’d never win a championship, so he won six.

In 1993, LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets scored 37 points against Jordan and the Bulls and supposedly said, “Nice game, Mike.”  Jordan vowed to score 37 points against the Bullets the next game by halftime and he scored 36 by halftime, 47 in all in just 31 minutes.  The funny thing is that Jordan admitted later that Smith never taunted him, but he just made the story up to give him extra motivation.

Now, just hours before Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings takes on his former team, the Green Bay Packers, there’s a lot of talk of revenge.  This is different than the Jordan situation, though.  While the Packers decided to let Favre go a couple of years ago in favor of Aaron Rodgers, it was partly because Favre kept going back and forth and wouldn’t give Green Bay a decision about whether he wanted to come back instead of retire.  When the deadline had passed with Favre deciding to remain retired, the Pack decided to go with Rogers.

Last summer before Favre signed with the New York Jets, it was clear his first choice was to go to Minnesota because they were one of Green Bay’s major rivals.  Favre wanted revenge.  He would like nothing better than to prove the Packers wrong.  But the Packers made the right decision.  Favre broke down at the end of last season, and though he’s having success this year, it’s mainly because he’s on a very good team.  And most football insiders know that Favre takes away as much as he gives, as he has more interceptions than any QB in NFL history (Click on “Quarterbacks” on the right side of the blog to see what I wrote about Favre a year ago).

Still, the idea of proving someone wrong can be very strong, and if you can use it as motivation, more power to you.

You see this most often in sports when an underdog uses disrespect as extra motivation to win.

Three years ago I wrote about why I like working with kids with autism under my first FAQ at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php:

I’ve always loved sports, and I root for the underdog. Anybody who has played sports or been a sports fan knows that when someone says you can’t do something, you love to prove them wrong. I prefer working with the kids who have the most severe disabilities because I love the challenge. One of the things I like most about working with kids with autism is the amount of progress that they have the potential to make.

I remember a time when an autism therapist asked why multiplication should be taught to a child who would never have a reason to use it.  About a year after that, the child mastered triple digit multiplication.

When I tried out for the junior high school tennis team in ninth grade, I was cut from the team.  I made the team the next year in high school, and during my junior and senior seasons I had a combined record of 23 wins and eight losses in doubles.  Then I lettered for four years at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University, albeit a small university.  I never forgot that the coach wrongly cut me in ninth grade and put other players on the team ahead of me whom I was better than.

Then in 2000, I signed up to play in a 4.0-level tennis league.  They told me I would play the first match and then I showed up and they said I wasn’t going to play the first match – I would have to watch.  So I went home, cancelled the check, and looked for a 4.5-level (higher level) league.  I found one and won six of the eight matches I played in doubles.  Some tennis board had to decide whether to let me play or not after cancelling the check and writing a new one.  Luckily, they did.

I’m not trying to compare Michael Jordan to me, I’m just saying that proving people wrong can be a powerful motivational tool.

How many times has the media counted someone out?  John Elway can’t win a Super Bowl (he won two).  Peyton Manning can’t win the big one (he won a Super Bowl).  Kobe Bryant can’t win an NBA title without Shaq (he did it last year).

Keep giving people motivation.  Keep saying they can’t do something.  But don’t put limitations on anyone.  I just searched on the word “limit” from the “Autism” category of my blog.  It came up three times:

I quoted from the book “Engaging Autism” by Stanley Greenspan:  “Schools tend to be very structured and to put a high priority on compliance and limit setting, rather than on engaging, interacting, problem-solving, and thinking creatively and logically.”

Then, from “Sports for Children with Autism,” which I wrote last summer:

“I never would have thought hockey would be a great sport for kids with autism because of the need to skate and handle a stick simultaneously, but it turns out that it can be great, and it just goes to show that we shouldn’t put limitations on anyone.”

And finally, this:  “A lot of people are familiar with the amazing story of Jason McElwain, an autistic teenager who scored 6 three-point baskets in a game for his high school team a few years ago. This type of success doesn’t happen a lot, but it would never happen if too many limitations are put on children who have autism and other disabilities who want to play sports.”

The Media’s Coverage of Serena’s Reaction: Sexism?

September 13, 2009

Last night, during the semifinals of the U.S. Open, Serena Williams was given a point penalty after arguing a foot fault call. The penalty gave the match to Kim Clijsters, who probably would have won anyway.

The call was the correct call, but it was unfortunate that the lineswoman called it at that stage of the match, since Serena surely foot faulted before.  Serena’s reaction was obviously unwarranted, as she was verbally abusive to the linesperson.

But the articles I’ve read about the match described Serena’s reaction as “bizarre” and “ugly.”  That may be true, but why the double standard for men and women?  Jimmy Connors did something almost as bad in 1991 but the media overlooked it and the crowd loved it.

Every year, CBS replays a match from 1991 when Connors beat Aaron Krickstein in the 4th round.  They replayed it again yesterday.  The match was a great match, and the fact that Connors was 39 and hadn’t played for a while and the crowd was really into it made it a famous match.  (By the way, the match is way overrated.  Connors won a match in the 4th round.  Big deal.  It’s sad that they always have to replay this match instead of an old Sampras championship match, for example).

Anyway, Connors hit a shot out that was initially called in and overruled.  Connors went nuts and verbally abused the umpire.  Then, for the rest of the match, Connors kept pointing at the umpire when he made a good shot.  So he taunted the umpire about 20 times, not just once, yet the media didn’t criticize him and the crowd egged him on.

Serena said she wanted to shove the ball down the lineswoman’s point, while Connors just unleashed an f-bomb and told the umpire to get out of the chair, so admittedly what Serena said was a little worse.

So I’m just saying that when Connors complained he was considered a hero, while the coverage of Serena was more harsh.  Part of this, but not all of it, can be explained by the fact that Serena’s point penalty ended the match, and what she said may have been a little worse than what Connors said.  Still, we have a double standard.  We accept it and even love it when men argue but when women do it we criticize them.

(Now, if it comes out that Serena really threatened the lineswoman by saying, “I will kill you,” which Serena denies, then she deserves the criticism.  But if not, it’s a case of glorifying men arguing while criticizing women for it).

Federer the best ever? Not so fast.

July 7, 2009

Yesterday, Liz Clarke wrote an article in the Washington Post about Rod Laver’s opinion on whether Roger Federer is the greatest player of all time.  Laver was non-committal; saying just being the best in his era should be enough for Federer.  Nowhere in the 565-word article does Clarke even mention Pete Sampras’ name.  This is an egregious omission, even though in the main article about the Federer-Roddick match, she did mention Sampras as one of the greats.

She says, “Both names, Laver and Tilden, have long been bandied about in the debate over who is the greatest to play the game. And a third — that of Roger Federer — was listed alongside even before Sunday, when Federer raised the mark for excellence by winning a record 15th major title.”  Stating “a third” without mentioning Sampras, who won 14 major titles, is very misleading – it makes it seem like there are now three great ones on the Mount Rushmore of tennis.

I’m not saying Sampras was better than Federer, but I think it’s premature to say that Federer is undisputedly the greatest just because he has one more major than Pete.  I am saying that Sampras was equally as good as Federer.  Sampras had Andre Agassi as a rival while Federer had Rafael Nadal.  Sampras was 4-1 vs. Agassi in Grand Slam finals while Federer is 2-4 vs. Nadal.  Plus, Nadal has been great for only a few years while Agassi was a top contender for most of Sampras’ career.  Sampras also faced Jim Courier, who had four major wins, whereas during Federer’s era, no one other than Nadal (six) has more than two.

As for their strokes, they are about even.  Neither had a discernable weakness, while Pete’s serve was a little better than Federer’s.  True, Federer won the French Open and Sampras didn’t, but the surface and balls at the French Open have been changed to give non-clay court specialists a better chance to win.

I also take issue with the talking heads at ESPN who automatically agree that Federer is the best without even mentioning that there could be a debate.  Maybe after all is said and done, Federer will have close to 20 majors and it will be more clear, but not just yet.  Just because someone has more Grand Slam titles than another player doesn’t make him better.  Agassi won eight and John McEnroe won seven.  Agassi also won all four majors and Mac didn’t.  Does that alone make Agassi better than McEnroe?  Not necessarily.  For what it’s worth, McEnroe also won 9 doubles majors.  McEnroe was also much more dominant than Agassi. True, Fed has been more dominant than Sampras, but the field isn’t as good.

By the way, Bjorn Borg should also be in the discussion, though my personal opinion is that his game was too one-dimensional as a baseliner to be considered the best.  Still, he had 11 Grand Slam titles, and he won all of them on the two most diverse surfaces:  five on grass at Wimbledon, and six on clay at the French Open.  Plus, during Borg’s era he had to play against McEnroe, Connors (eight majors), and Guillermo Vilas (four).

A lot of people think Martina Navratilova was the best female player ever even though Steffi Graf had 22 Grand Slam wins and Navratilova had 18 and Chris Evert also had 18.  I personally believe Graf was the best, but the point is, why do people automatically assume that Federer is the best just because he has the most majors, while most media types would say Martina was the best female player, so they use different criteria for women?

Back to the talking heads – Today on Pardon the Interruption, Mike Wilbon said that there was absolutely no debate that Tiger Woods is a better athlete than Federer.  Really?  Tiger walks a course and hits a stationary ball.  Federer is constantly moving for hours at a time and he needs to make a lot of quick movements in a split second.  He faced serves against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon that were up to 140 miles per hour.

It’s not even a debate.  Tennis players are much better athletes than golfers.  Would Tiger be able to move on the court like Federer?  No way.  You can be out of shape and still succeed at golf, but you need to be fit to play tennis.  Tiger may be a great athlete, but don’t say he’s unquestionably a better athlete than Federer.

Best Tennis Player Ever: Sampras or Federer?

December 4, 2008

Roger Federer is often called the greatest tennis player of all time.  Federer is only 27 years old, and with 13 Grand Slam titles, so he almost certainly will break Pete Sampras’ record of 14.  What bothers me is that Federer’s dominance of the sport over the last few years has people claiming he is the greatest player of all-time.  Why are people so quick to say that whoever is on top today is the best, forgetting about yesterday?  All I’m saying, is give Pete a chance.  Sampras won 7 Wimbledons; Federer has 5.  Neither won the French Open.  Both players had a great rivalry – Sampras had Andre Agassi and Federer had Rafael Nadal.  However, Sampras was 4-1 vs. Agassi in Grand Slam finals while Federer is 2-4 so far vs. Nadal in finals.  The two players’ careers were remarkably similar, but Pete still has the most Grand Slam titles.  So you can say Federer is a truly great champion but at least say Sampras was just as great. 


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