Okay, so the men’s final in Rome was an avert-your-eyes blowout in which Rafael Nadal razed the game of Roger Federer. I’m still giving them a joint thumbs up because these two just don’t seem to quit, and no matter how...
Okay, so the men’s final in Rome was an avert-your-eyes blowout in which Rafael Nadal razed the game of Roger Federer. I’m still giving them a joint thumbs up because these two just don’t seem to quit, and no matter how often Nadal knocks out Federer (since 2008, the Spaniard leads 12-4), the Swiss all-time Grand Slam champion just keeps on getting up and coming back for more. Meanwhile, contenders and pretenders come and go, full of grand ambitions, good intentions, slick moves and—ultimately—excuses.
Starting in 2015, ESPN will be taking tennis into a world that was idle fantasy as recently as 1998, the year Federer won the Orange Bowl junior title. That is, an environment where the sport is presented on multiple platforms (broadcast and digital), a promised land so long sought by fans in this remarkably diverse, global game—a place where you, Mr. or Ms. Fan, will be able to watch any singles match that takes place at the U.S. Open, live.
This deal is a milestone not just for tennis, but mega-sporting events (e.g., the Masters, the Kentucky Derby, the Daytona 500) in general. And it doesn’t hurt that with a financial commitment of $770 million for an 11-year deal, the annual broadcast-rights income of the U.S. Open will basically double over the present payout.
Ernests Gulbis is at it again. The wacky Latvian blew a big lead over Nadal in the quarterfinals of Rome, eventually losing, 6-4 in the third. Afterward, he once again uttered what is becoming a familiar lament: “I thought I was the better player in the match, and also in the second and third sets (which Nadal won). . . He is solid and he didn’t do anything special and I made mistakes so he won.”
Nadal took the high road, as he usually does in such matters, although he did get it in a pretty good line without actually criticizing Gulbis: “If you hit as hard as you can, and hit every ball at 216 (kilometers per hour) or 220 and then that means being the best player then perhaps he was the best player.”
Ernie: If you make mistakes, dude, the other guy wins. And that means he was the better player. Get it?
The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s tennis team, which will play top-ranked UCLA today in the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, the Buckeyes shocked four-time defending champion USC—a reign that began when the Trojans beat the Buckeyes in the 2009 final.
The hero on Saturday was Peter Kobelt, who clinched for OSU after having lost the decisive match in similar situations twice in the past. The Columbus Dispatch reported that the Buckeyes rushed onto court to swarm Koblet when he clinched, so excited that doubles player Devin ran out of his shoes—literally. I’m going to have to see if we have that on video. . .
Serena Williams seems hellbent on dousing all this talk about Maria Sharapova having become the “Queen of Clay.” Last week she beat Sharapova 6-1, 6-4 in the final in Madrid, with the No. 1 ranking as well as the title on the line. This week she beat world No. 3 Victoria Azarenka—her immediate predecessor at No. 1—6-1, 6-3 in the final in Rome. Wasn’t it mere weeks ago that everyone was taking pains to point out that Serena hadn’t won a title on red clay since Roland Garros in 2002?
What difference does it make? Serena has been producing Nadal-like scores, while not exactly playing a Nadal-esque game. And that spells trouble for her rivals starting next week at the second Grand Slam of the year. Serena rides a 24-match win streak into Paris, and she’s 33-1 on clay since the start of last year—that one loss a shocking first-round upset inflicted on her at the French Open. “Last year I was feeling excellent on clay but didn't do that great at Roland Garros," she said. "This year I'm cautious and I want to work hard and stay focused and win every point I play, and not slack at all."