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Tag: tennis

Not Fade Away


Over at Grantland, Brian Phillips has a nice story on Roger Federer:

He likes doing this; that’s the point. Being on tour, being competitive, being celebrated: This stuff feels more satisfying to him than the lonely relishing of some legacy in which he had a better head-to-head record against Djokovic. So why not keep it going as long as he can? And not to get too dogmatic about what’s basically the story of a person liking his job, but isn’t that the model of grown-up maturity that we should want from an elite athlete? So often, great players in their late careers wind up eclipsed by their own narratives, their choices constrained by a whole complex of considerations involving memorialization and pride and morning-sports-zoo yell. Think about, say, the question of Kobe’s retirement — how free does that decision feel? There’s an entrapped feeling around Kobe that Federer seems to have sidestepped. And fine, maybe he wouldn’t have sidestepped that so gracefully if his decline hadn’t been so gradual, but then, that’s also part of the point. He’s living the life he actually has, not some portable-across-platforms version of the athlete’s journey.

In America, at least, how we read any great athlete’s ending still seems influenced by Michael Jordan’s merciless stage-managing of his own second retirement. (The “real” one, not the baseball one.) Hit the last shot, seize the title, never lose, never show weakness, end on a big banging chord that the audience remembers forever; then you’re a champion for all time, in the same way Cheers never closes. That this is, actually, such an impossibly grotesque and dehumanizing approach that not even Michael Jordan could resist coming back to screw it up should possibly tell us something. But there it is, an ideal that every generational-apex-type star has to contend with on some level. Any concession to the imperfect human process of finding your way toward what you want has to be understood in terms of the toll it takes on the memory you leave behind.

I can’t speak for you, but me? I’ll take Federer’s version.

[Photo Credit: AFP]


Roger Federer is back in the Wimbledon Finals. It’s the eighth time he’s made it this far–he’s won six of ‘em. On Sunday, he’ll face Andy Murray, who just became the first Brit since 1938 to reach the Wimbledon Finals.

I’ll be pulling for Feds but should he lose it’ll be a cool story for Murray, who has never won a Major, and for Great Britain.

[Photo Credit: AP]

Bow Down

Woke up this morning and tuned in to the men’s final of the Australian Open in the fourth set. Didn’t move for the next two hours. Okay, I lied. I paced around the apartment as I watched Djokovic beat Nadal in a tense match that was played at the highest level. Djokovic has won the last seven meetings against Nadal including the last three Grand Slam finals. Nadal showed great courage today, for sure, but he fell short. Over at SI.com, Jon Wertheim shares this thoughts on the classic match.

[Photo Credit: Ryan Pierse, Getty Images]


Here’s a couple of pieces over at Grantland to check out.

First, Louisa Thomas on Venus Williams:

She has always seemed to have an ambivalent relationship to tennis. She is the most recognizable exponent of the game (even more than Serena, perhaps, because she came first) and also a vanishing act, an ambassador and outsider at once. She wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t always clear that she wanted to play at all. Richard Williams said he wanted his daughters to be extraordinary, to stand apart. They do. But that doesn’t quite capture Venus. Nothing does. She is elusive.

The challenge, Venus made clear early on, was to change the game without letting it change her. She has always held something back. Her story isn’t one about a rise and fall, glory and fade. She has become a kind of ghost.

This isn’t because she has other interests outside of tennis, which is often the knock. The spookiest thing about her is that she is one of the greatest competitors in the women’s game, but also one of the most indifferent. She’s a winner who somehow doesn’t need to win. So — and this is the question that has always bugged me, and the question I’ll be thinking about as I watch her in this tournament, and write about it here — why does she continue to play?

Next, Jane Leavy remembers Mike Flanagan:

Unlike my colleagues who have written in recent days of having covered him over the past 30 years as a pitcher, pitching coach, general manager, and broadcaster for the Orioles, Flanagan was in and out of my life as quickly as I tried to get in and out of the locker room. But he stayed with me in ways I didn’t realize until I heard about his death. What struck me about the conversation that day in the locker room was his interest in me. Most athlete-cum-celebs are too busy bemoaning the obligations of public personhood, too consumed by the ego-distorting attentions of doting reporters hanging breathlessly on every not-so-well-chosen word, to think about anyone other than themselves. But Flanagan really wanted to know about me, and because his interest was palpably authentic I told him things I never expected to reveal in a major league clubhouse, where revelation was supposed to be the other way around. I told him the naked truth.

…Flanagan’s suicide and that of former Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu after the spotlight passed them by, that of Denver Bronco’s receiver Kenny McKinley and LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg after suffering debilitating injuries, and that of former Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest so his brain could be studied for evidence of trauma-induced disease — which was found to be ample — cry out for the availability of on-going psychological services for professional athletes and for a reexamination of the fallacious assumptions we make as a result of their sturdy professional lives.

[Photo Credit: moonchild1111]

Open Court

Here’s a nice little essay by Geoff Dyer:

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner living in an overcrowded city on a tiny island where courts are in short supply, but I love seeing tennis courts: from a plane as it descends (there never seem to be any on the way up) or from speeding trains and cars. This is a purely aesthetic — i.e., pointless — pleasure, but if I am out walking or cycling, this fondness for court-spotting has obvious practical advantages. Over time, in London, I have discovered every public court within a playable distance of home.

…It is in America that you encounter true abundance, both public and private. Descending in a plane over California — or North Carolina or Texas — it seems that tennis courts are more potent than swimming pools as symbols of freedom from the realm of necessity. Which raises the question: What profiteth a man if he gains a world of free courts yet lacks a partner? For life is not just a search for tennis courts; it is also a search for someone to play with.

[Photo Credit: Roosevelt Islander]

Order in the Court

Good looking to Eric Nusbaum for hipping his readers to Reeves Wiedeman’s coverage of the US Open for the New Yorker. Wiedeman is doing a wonderful job blogging the tournament. Dig…

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