There are few other news coming around from the first few days at the All English Club in London as important or as shocking as Rafael Nadal losing to Steve Darcis from Belgium in his first round matchup. We were really not expecting this one to go this particular way. Anyhow, without missing a beat, the Serbian Novak Djokovic was able to overcome a loss to Nadal in the semifinals of the French Open and, in his first game over lawn, he defeated Florian Mayer of Germany, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 earlier today. The top seeded Djokovic had a little more trouble than he would had expected in the first round, but it didn’t matter much. The Djoker is trying to secure his second title at Wimbledon and it seems that he’s quite capable of making the switch from clay to grass without a single practice game.
Djokovic manged to win here two years ago, when he was putting together one of the most impressive winning streaks we have seen in the Open Era. That same year, he managed to win at least once in each of the four grand slams: The Australian Open, the Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open. “It was a big pleasure again performing here on Centre Court in front of the packed crowd,” Djokovic said in the postgame press conference. “For the first round, it was tricky. … I think (Mayer’s) game is really well suited for grass, so it took a lot of effort.”
Spaniard David Ferrer, on the other hand, had a little trouble of his own. Considering he just finished as a runner up in the French Open, where he lost to his compatriot Rafael Nadal in his first ever Grand Slam Final, his opening performance at Wimbledon was a bit lackluster. He overcame a second-set slump and a scary late fall to beat Martin Alund of Argentina 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. For a moment it looked as if Spain’s two best-ranked players were going to be left out in the first round. Alund won the second set and pushed hard in the third. Ferrer, however, managed to hold his ground and he broke for a 6-5 lead and then went 5-1 up in the fourth. At that point, this game could had certainly gone either way. At 3-1, however, he fell and grimaced in pain after his left foot slid backward on the grass. He got up after the fall and took over the rest of the game.
The eight-seeded Argentinean Juan Martin del Potro returned to the grand slam circuit with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 win over Albert Ramos of Spain. DelPo, as he is also called by his fans, had to miss the French Open because of respiratory problems. He sure looked fine tuned for this one. The big-hitting player from Tandil, Argentina, had 34 winners, including 10 aces, and advanced to to the second round at the All England Club in all of his six appearances. As part of the other highlights, 20-year-old Bernard Tomic from Australia’s defeated 21st-seeded Sam Querrey of the United States in five sets. Tomic is by far the most promising player in the tour coming from the land down under.
The King of Clay, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal, the player that has won more times at the French Open than anyone else, the only player to have won 8 times in a single Grand Slam. From 2005 to 2013, Nadal won each and every title except for the 2009 French Open where he was injured and had to sit down for the entirety of the tournament. Even more, he’s won twice at Wimbledon, once at the US Open and once at the Australian Open. Next to his twelve grand slam titles, he also has received a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. So, to put it quite simply, Nadal is perhaps one of the finest players to have taken up a racket and played tennis ever. And yet, for the second consecutive year, after winning at Roland Garros, just a few weeks later, he has completely been out of it when he plays in the grass fields of the All England Club. Last year, he loss in the second round, and his earliest loss ever in a mayor tournament. This year, however, things got even worse.
Rafael Nadal was knocked out in straight sets, 7-6(4),7-6(8), 6-4, by the Belgium Steve Darcis, who has certainly made this his most amazing win ever. Darcis put an end to Nadal’s 22-match winning streak, and eliminated one of the ATP’s Big Four of men’s tennis on the first day of the grass-court Grand Slam. Last year, Nadal had to take a 7-month break as he was dealing with a left knee injury. This time around, however, it seemed as if one again he was physically struggling with speed, mobility, and quite simply falling a bit short on most of his demanding plays.
Nobody was expecting this to end up like this, with Nadal losing in three straight sets. Not even Darcis, himself, could really put it together at the end of the day. “Rafa Nadal didn’t play his best tennis today,” the 29-year-old Belgian said. “The first match on grass is always difficult. It’s his first one. Of course, it’s a big win. I tried to come to the net as soon as I could, not play too far from the baseline. I think it worked pretty good today.” It certainly did. This is his most outstanding win in his career. Let´s only see if he can keep up this momentum and turn this win into something more than just a nuance in Nadal’s career.
Just to put this small feat into perspective, let´s consider the following. Darcis is the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal at any tournament since Joachim Johansson, who was then ranked No. 690 in the world, managed to defeat the Spaniard in 2006 in Stockholm. Now, considering that he came to the All England Club just a few weeks after he defeated Novak Djokovic in the semis, and then won his eight title, this sort of things don’t happen either. For instance it was Brazilian star, Gustavo Kuerten, in 1997, the last reigning French Open champion to lose in the first round at Wimbledon.
After a few days of rumors and somewhat secret negotiations, it seems that at least in principle the Boston Celtics and the LA Clippers have reached an agreement to transfer head coach Doc Rivers for a first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Clippers, on the other hand will incidentally sign Rivers to a three-year contract for $21 million, exactly what had been paid to the championship winning coach had he stayed with the Celtics who are now going full speed ahead in a deep rebuilding of their team. On the one hand it has become clear that it was both the Celtics as an organization and Rivers as a head coach who believed that this was a good deal for both parties. After all, the Celtics are going to go into a very strong rebuilding and it is clear to them that they will not be a championship contending team in the next few seasons. And, following that logic, it makes very little sense to keep a top-caliber, $7 million dollar a year head coach, when this squad is barely going to be fighting for a division title.
The Celtics know quite well that if they want to rebuild, they have to clinch as many first draft picks as they can in the next seasons. And to do just that, they might have to give up their two most valuable assets: Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett. Now, at the beginning of the negotiation, the rumor was that Garnett might be included in the trade talks as part of the deal. It later became clear that, although not completely out of the picture, the trade will first focus on making Rivers the new head coach of the LA Clippers. It is clear from these conversation and for what seems as a clear intent from the Celtics to get at least one first round pick for him and another one for Paul Pierce, that Boston wants to build around Rajon Rondo. That is the only other big player in the Celtics squad that is not in the talks to be in the market.
The Clippers on the other hand hopes that with the arrival of Rivers to the bench, this will secure Chris Paul staying in LA for the next few seasons. After all, Paul is that one player that they are hoping to build that championship contending team around. And having a big charismatic and talented coach as Rivers in the bench could certainly make that happen. Next to players like Blake Griffin, who next to Paul are starting to reach their prime, it is very important to give them a guy like Rivers to keep things on track.
The Celtics Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations, also has been trying to secure a first-round pick for veteran Paul Pierce. The veteran could be bought out by June 30 for $5 million. And yet, they might play it right and keep Pierce and his $15.3 million contract and attempt to deal him again at the trade deadline next winter. It is a historically well-documented tendency for teams in that moment to look for veteran players to strengthen their rooster. And as if that was not enough, these teams are usually willing to overpay.
Well, they’ve done it again, the Miami Heat has clinched their second consecutive NBA title under the leadership of the incumbent league’s MVP, LeBron James. I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of the Heat’s big three. For the third straight year, the Heat has gone on to play in the NBA Finals, and for the second consecutive year, the Heat has won. This is the team’s third championship and the second under head coach Erik Spoelstra and Miami’s big three, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. James had his best performance in a game 7, and his best game in the NBA Finals when he went on to finish with 37 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 95-88 victory. It was quite a close fight until the Heat broke lose in the final minute of the matchup.
For the Heat this was one of those very important and key moments. Winning this title helps James and the Heat establish their legacy. It’s sort of a corner stone, a moment where all the effort and all those great regular season performances that ended up in disaster in the postseason during his run with the Cavaliers, finally pay off. For the San Antonio Spurs, however, this is one very hurtful loss. The veteran team is starting to realize this is perhaps the last realistic chance they had to win another NBA title. What would had been the 5th title for Tim Duncan was now only that hurtful despair of having loss something they had on their pocket. This was the Spurs championship, and it was theirs to lose as with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter of game 6, the Spurs were up by 6 points. The Heat would push to overtime and then go on to win game 6 and 7 in Miami.
“I work on my game a lot throughout the offseason,” said LeBron James, who was MVP for the second consecutive Finals in a postgame press conference. “I put a lot of work into it and to be able to come out here and (have) the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. The ultimate. I’m at a loss for words.” Dwayne Wade, on the other hand, went on to give back some credit to the San Antonio Spurs for their hard work. “It took everything we had as a team,” Dwyane Wade said a bit later in the same press conference. “Credit to the San Antonio Spurs, they’re an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise. This is the hardest series we ever had to play. But we’re a resilient team and we did whatever it took.”
Tim Duncan had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, but he missed an easy layup when there were less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter and the Spurs trailed by two. Manu Ginobili had a good game with 18 points and 5 assists, but he made two very costly turnovers in the final minutes that gave the Heat a chance to open up the gap and fly away. Perhaps next year they can give it another try. We’ll have to wait and see what this veteran team can build from their ashes.