Monday, July 7, 2008

Mon July 7: Reviewing (And Analyzing) An Awesome Sports Week

My first full week of blogging about world sports turned out to be one of the most action packed sports weeks that I've been through, and the way it ended this past weekend gave every sports addict no reason to quit.

Nadal Better Than Federer?
The computers still say that Federer is number one in the world. To me, the simple answer is yes (Nadal is better), at least for now.

I think when we look back at it, Federer will be one of the most decorated players in the sport of tennis with his outstanding winning streak and number of grand slam titles. But in my eyes, Nadal is currently the top player in the world for a variety of reasons.

He's been consistently number 2 before his wins at the French Open and Wimbledon this year. For the past three years or so its always been these two fighting it out during the heart of the tennis season. If anyone could stop Federer, it's Nadal (though Fed has lost to other opponents in the past). And its been so obvious that Nadal has been getting closer to that number one spot. His fitness has been getting better, he's well conditioned and during the fortnight at the all-England club, he's had to fight slightly harder than Federer.

Comparing the two roads to the final, Nadal had a tougher road (though not by much). The only seeded player that Federer had to defeat was Lleyton Hewitt while Nadal had to face three. Federer never gave up a set in his road to the final while Nadal gave up one against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in the second round.

And by beating Federer at his game, Nadal defeated long odds of capturing this title when you considered everything that happened. Nadal prevented Federer from winning his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title. And this year, Nadal has two grand slam titles while Federer has zero. Nadal captured the elusive double of French and Wimbledon titles. So while Federer will probably be remembered as one of the greatest, for now, he'll have to settle with being second.

The backcourt might have helped Nadal...
One important thing that I'd like to point out is that the backcourt was dustier than ever, which may have helped Nadal. As we all know, Nadal is a strong clay-courter and his record at the French Open shows this. At this year's Wimbledon, with the fewer amount of rain delays compared to previous years, the backcourt was roughed up a lot and much of the grass disappeared in that backcourt by the middle weekend. During finals weekend, when that backcourt looked more like a claycourt than a grass court, I noticed many athletes were slipping and sliding at the back court. And I'm sure that whatever moisture that was able to touch that backcourt before the "gremlins" covered it up during rain delays made the surface feel more like a claycourt than a grass court.

Now I'm not saying that the lack of grass at the backcourt greatly helped him, but it may have been a factor especially considering how close yesterday's final was. Federer made some noticable unforced errors and Nadal was able to get a lot of strong shots, including several running forehands. In reviewing yesterday's match, I was amazed at how quickly Nadal was able to travel across the court to retrieve balls that normally seems out of reach.

Wimbledon in Review...
Regardless of how it happened, it was a great final and an exclamation point on an awesome fortnight of tennis. Wimbledon 2008 will be remembered as the tournament of upsets and great weather that ended with rivalries that never failed to entertain the crowd. Congratulations to Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal and here's to what should be a great hardcourt season to come...

I was also lucky to have my first week of blogging coincide with an event that only comes every four years: The Olympic Trials. We've had so many great stories develop out of the past week of swimming and track and field trials, as well as a lot of questions concerning the selection of the U.S. Olympic team.

Track and Field from Eugene, Oregon
I'll remember the Oregon trio that was able to get to Beijing after a thrilling 800 meter race. I'll also remember staying up until 1AM in the morning here on the East Coast to watch all the drama unfold. We'll all remember how Tyson Gay ran the fastest 100 meters any human has ever ran in any conditions (9.68 in a wind-aided race).

I'll also remember the upsets and the triumphs. How Jeremy Wariner DIDN'T win the 400 meters and athletes who didn't previously make the team now have their one chance. Like Lolo Jones who made the team after winning the women's 100m hurdles. And if you watched yesterday, you'll remember how great America is after three runners born outside of the United States made the Olympic team in the 1500m race, led by Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat, America's best chance for a gold medal in that event.

At the same time, we'll remember how cruel the trials are, and possibly how unfair it is. We'll remember how Tyson Gay, days after his remarkable win in the 100 meters, was unable to qualify for the Olympic 200m race after pulling up in a quarterfinal heat with a severe leg cramp. No matter how successful your season was, if you don't do well at the trials, you can't go to the Olympics. It's a rule that I disagree with and that should be changed. If you don't automatically qualify, but you've had one of the most awesome seasons ever, I think an athlete should at least petition himself for the Olympics.

The other side of the arguement will say that it's not fair to those who did do well at the trials, who have worked hard to peak at the right time. And if Tyson Gay is going to have cramps days after the 100 meters, whose to say that he won't cramp up again during the Olympics?

That might be true, but should an athlete's ability to win gold at the Olympics be judged by just one race or one event? While I think it makes a great story for television audiences and should be a primary part of the selection process, Olympic team organizers should be a little more open to selecting team members.

Swimming from Omaha, Nebraska
First off, congrats to Omaha for staging a great team trials. The region has been plagued by numerous flooding and tornadoes and this was a great event to bring confidence and hope back to the heartland.

The swim trials were headlined by Michael Phelps, at least at the start of the event. He's probably the only reason why NBC sent Bob Costas to the event. And it's true that he deserved to headline the event because he won all five of his events, two of them in world record time. But when I look back at these trials, I'll remember the rivalry that Phelps had (and will have at the Olympics) with Ryan Lochte. We'll also remember the talent that America found in Katie Hoff, the young 19-year-old that may become the new face of American swimming alongside veteran Natalie Coughlin, who broke several world records of her own during the trials.

The 200 meter breaststroke, like the 200 meter dash in track, showed the heartbreak of the trials, when Brendan Hansen finished in a shocking fourth-place. Like Gay, Hansen will be unable to compete in the 200m breaststroke in Beijing.

But it appears that the most interesting story out of the swimming trials is that of Dara Torres, the 41-year-old swimmer and mother who will make her fifth Olympic Games. Apparently, she has become the inspiration of middle-aged people everywhere. I guess NBC can count on that demographic to be viewers of the swimming events at this year's Olympics.

But seriously, I respect her enthusiasm and her performance as an athlete. It just proves that at any age, a person can be an elite athlete. It's great for the sport and great for sports in general to see more age diversity. It also silences the critics who say that you can be too old to be an athlete. All Torres is guilty of is living her life to the fullest.

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees tied Mickey Mantle for 13th most home runs all-time, bringing him closer to being one of the best hitters of the game (in the regular season that is, postseason is a different story).

Meanwhile, Brett Gardner became the unlikely hero by hitting the winning RBI drive in a classic game between AL East Rivals. For New York fans, it was a rollercoaster ride that ended on a high note. More importantly, the four game series between the two teams was split two games each with the Yankees entering the final week before the All-Star break with a bit of momentum.

A blockbuster trade was made between the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers, regarding the American League Cy Young Winner CC Sabathia:

After the third stage of the Tour de France, it is the French riders who are enjoying success:

And finally, Sri Lanka can enjoy a national victory in the popular sport of cricket after their dominating victory over India in the Asia Cup final:

So a sports packed week comes to an end and things settle down a bit this week. Coming up tomorrow, check out my first post on the Tour de France and a little more attention will be paid to baseball as the All-Star Game approaches.

Thanks so much for reading. Monday always has the longest blog because I'll always look back at what is usually a pack weekend in sports. Hope you enjoyed my first week and I'm sure it will get better. If this is your first time here, leave a comment because I'm always looking for a way to make it better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey... Your review of the Wimbledon final is good. It was definitely one of the most memorable tennis matches and will probably be seen as one of the greatest upsets in sports.

I just wanted to argue against one thing... concerning the road to the finals for the two players. While its true that Nadal has played more seeded players in his path... whereas Federer has not... you should also note that a 'seed' does not really say much in a match. The ranking is sort of flawed in that... I mean, take a look at Safin... he's hardly ranked because he does not play many matches... however.. hes still better than a lot of seeded players... etc.

BEIJING 2008 Tentative NBC Schedule (BLOG POSTS BELOW...)