It’s quite disrespectful for both respectable players, but it’s too strong an impression to erase, when I saw Serena Williams and Zheng Jie at the net at the end of their game.

143lbs/1.78m vs. 126lbs/1.65m doesn’t seem like such great difference, but numbers can be deceiving.

(long overdue)

My first plan was to name this “Is this the year” again, but the few RSS subscribers of mine out there may think it’s just another mindless update (which I often do).

Then I saw the USA Today piece from Tumotor, and I know I have to use this line as my title.

In case you don’t follow the links (you really should), here’s the quote:

I happened to be at a resort lodge for a family reunion Sunday. The weather was beautiful, the lake inviting. But inside, the crowd was thick around the lobby television as two European men fought through a fifth set.

Some of these folks were not exactly tennis buffs. “This is for the world championship, right?” one woman asked her husband. “And which one is Federer?

What would John McEnroe say?

But she stayed inside, through every serve, every lob, every passing shot. They all did.

The greatest thing about language is its ambiguity. You can get a quick laugh from “which one is Federer”, but if you think more, it can actually mean a lot more, like, is Roger just a prelude to the real “Federer”?

He may be, but I do not want to listen to the main piece at all. Keep the prelude playing as long as can be, please…

Oh, and here’s another quote from the article that beautifully describes the beauty of tennis:

The thought occurred that you don’t need a week of Super Bowl hype or NBA pyrotechnics, or baseball’s heritage to make something so compelling, it is hard to take away your eyes.

Golf isn’t anywhere close, either. Putting is very intense, but for an outsider (I used to be) it seems pretty ridiculous: people make millions of dollars for doing THAT?! The recent US Open playoff was riveting not because of the sport itself, but because of the classic titan vs. nobody story, and Tiger is just too likable. (Digression: I suspect that the superstardom of Tiger and Jordan has some racial subconsciousness to it. White Americans love them as much as they ignore the race problems: see, some of you are doing great!)

Back to tennis. It’s heart breaking to see Roger lose. We started watching tennis when he started his streak, so by our definition tennis equals to Roger winning. It’s viscerally upsetting to see him play poorly and listlessly, and outright bizarre to see him lose a set, as if our living room were rearranged.

So this time we’re on our way to Mars relocation.

But it’s for the good of the game, and for Roger himself, too.

In the last couple of years, his only motivation was to break more records and become the greatest player ever. Grandiose as it is, I don’t think it’d really help at your opponent’s 4th championship point.

What would help, perhaps, is the primitive and instinctive desire of survival by killing the beast across the net.

Some of my more tennis-technical friends pointed out various aspects of the game that Roger must improve, just for Nadal alone: return of close-to-body serve, return of top spin, positioning at volley (lefty’s passing shots are usually the opposite of righty), etc.

Improvement used to be Roger’s greatest edge. He could adjust and improve within a set (recall his first Wimbledon championship). Then it became totally unnecessary.

Now, he has a lot of improvements to work for.

And the tennis world rejoices.

Nobody is counting Roger out when his best venues are coming up.

But I’m sure people are wondering “is this the year when it finally ends?”

The end of consecutive No. 1.

The end of grand slam history (before it’s made).

The end of an era.

I surely wish it’s not the case, but it’s not up to me.

No matter what, the world of tennis is so much better with Roger. Can you imagine a time when the Hewitts and Roddicks rule the land? We’d be better off watching mantis fight.

UPDATE 2009/06/08 It ended at 237, but he’s got a real chance of getting it back now.

I can never get American football. Although I think the National League is stupid for not having a designated hitter, a full team of designated hitters is way over board.

But I had a great time watching the 4th quarter of the Superbowl. I still don’t know all the rules, but that didn’t stop me from rooting for the local team–I guess you have to root for someone to really enjoy watching any sports.

And the whole thing has just too many elements of classics. Underdog vs. dynasty. Breaking or making history. Redemption of the aging and ailing. And of course, to top it all, the coming-of-age of a Southern boy who’s lived in the shadow of his father and brother and up against the Gisele-dating champion alpha male. Oh, and did I say New York beating Boston?

The Giants’ winning offense is a string of miracles:

  • 2:42 to go and a kick return of merely 14 yards. Ouch.
  • The 2nd 1st-down was a last-attempt running play in the dead middle that barely passed the line. Phew.
  • The next 1st-down was the most miraculous, with Manning running out of a sack with his shirt pulled out and throwing high for a 32-yard up-in-the-air catch by Tyree. This play is definitely the one that sets up the victory, to the extend that a over-zealous fan dubbed it “The Catch II” and added to “The Catch” on Wikipedia, only to be rightfully removed.
  • The next pass was right on the sideline, again barely cleared the 10-yard line. Amen.
  • The touchdown was actually a bit anti-climatic, as it’s first attempt and a very easy catch.

The media was all over Plaxico Burress’ prediction of 24-17, boy at least he got one number right! He could’ve got an dramatic run (and possible touchdown) at the end of the previous offense, when Manning spun out of a sack (a practice run for the miracle play later) and threw to him in an empty space, but Burress couldn’t catch it as he didn’t run as fast as he could.

Here’s the full NFL play-by-play for the game, for the records.

P.S. It’s Super Tuesday for a different reason–the victory parade! Broadway was already jam packed when I came to work before 9am, and the Parade won’t start until 11am. Go Blue!

He should’ve left in 2003. Despite the World Series loss, the Game 7 win over Bosox was one of the greatest games ever played. Wining the WS wouldn’t be much more significant.

Of course the historical 2004 collapse and 3 consecutive ALDS losses aren’t all his fault, or he’s at fault at all–he’s probably still the best manager out there, and nicest–too nice. I don’t think ESPN aired The Bronx is Burning this season only because it’s 30 years ago.

The Yankees has badly needed a shakeup since 2004. The downfall actually started in 2002 with Giambi, the first of a string of declining stars: Sheffield, Damon (I like him a lot, but still), Unit, Pavano, and alas, the habitual retiree. $19 million for 4 months, 18 games, 99 innings, 1584 pitches: $200,000 per inning and $12,000 per pitch?! Not a bad retirement plan, Roger that!

A-Rod is of course an exception. He’s still a rising star, and he’s a nice guy, to be sure. I’ll wholeheartedly applaud him when he breaks the home run and other records, and he probably saved the team from early oblivion this season. But 8 for 54 (0.148) in postseason starting from the 2004 collapse?

To be fair for A-Rod, great sluggers can never win games single-handedly. Hank Aaron only won one WS in 22 years, so did Willie May and Mark McGuire. Bonds has none. The only exception in the top-10 home run leaders is Babe, who of course is on a whole different level.

Great pitchers can, however. That’s baseball Rule #1. Or even an average pitcher who caught a glimpse of heaven. The Indians has three 15+ game winner, with whom the 3 playoff games were won. And a Yankees pitcher drove a plane into a building*.

The Daily News has a poll asking who should stay and who should go. Half are even split. Petite, Posada, and Mo got more than 80% stay. Giambi and Moose the opposite. Rocket got 95%–to go sit in Cooperstown.

It’s time the Yankees learn from those 3 young LCS teams.

[*Note] Sorry, I have all the sympathy for Lidle and his family. It’s a true tragedy. But the irony is still there.

UPDATE 10/17 “Shove it!” is on every paper on every street. It’s one more classy act from Joe, and unclassy move from Yankees management. Everyone is Dilbert, especially when you’re earning a cool $6.5 million, more than double of the next guy (Pinella $3 mil).

I love Joe, let’s get that straight, if only for the 12 years he endured and succeeded (for the most part) as half George Costanza, while 13 guys before him failed (no playoff) for 18 of 23 years. The next guy would have the toughest job in baseball, and will probably wither and wilt. So will the team.

And it’s all for the best.

See how many records you can find that Roger has broken and will break on this Wikipedia page on No. 1 ranking, among all tennis record pages.

The most stunning one for me is that his consecutive No. 1 (now at 189) = his total No. 1. Once he’s there, he’s there. It’s not entirely impossible if he ends at doubling Connor’s 160: 320-189=141, which is less than 3 years.

Of course Nadal and Djokovic and whoever coming along will make it tougher and tougher. But if he plays like this US Open, let them pray.

As Djokovic correctly acknowledged, Federer’s mental toughness wins. That’s another way of saying performing extraordinarily in tight, and more importantly, adverse situation. And that’s always what sets the legends apart from the journeymen. Any one can drive 350 yards now, but only Tiger can mostly save par when he can’t find the fairway in most times. Federer saved 5 set points in the 1st set. And the first 2 sets with Roddick were as close as it gets.

I probably watched too much US Open when I should’ve taken care of the baby and those infinite family things. We were watching by the end of 2nd set of the finals on Sunday and Zhuzhu was sleeping. When Djokovic double-faulted to get to tie break after Federer saved 2 set points I couldn’t help clapping my hands 6 times.

Half a clap would be enough to wake Zhuzhu up. And she made sure that I’ll remember that.

J scolded me for good, and I punished myself by not watching the rest of the match until the final point. There are things a hell lot more important in life than watching sports.

Even though watching Federer winning a slam gets pretty close.

Anyhoooo, I got to know the amazing burn-out of Borg from a related news. He retired at the same age of 26 after breaking many records of his time. Roger just passed Borg’s 11 slams by this US Open win, and burn-out is the last thing on his and everybody else’s mind.

Breaking every conceivable record is.

Roger has 3 to go.

Tiger has 5.

Alex-er 255.

Let’s hope that all of them can stay healthy and hungry for at least 10 more years.

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