Archive for May 24th, 2011
Rafael Nadal, the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world, and the guy who has dominated the Roland Garros for the better part of the last decade is back on the clay courts of the French Open. Last year, Nadal won 3 Grand Slams and took over the Swiss Roger Federer atop of the ATP Rankings. Everything was starting to look as if he would continue his hegemony over into 2011, but he hadn’t considered that it would be Novak Djokovic who would become yet another force to reckon with in the ATP Tour.
So far this season, Djokovic has managed to close down the gap on the Spaniard and there is a pretty good chance that once the Roland Garros champion is declared, we would have a new name atop of the ATP Rankings. Something of a fresh breath of air considering that both Nadal and Federer have captured the top spots of the sports for the better part of the last 8 years.
But this wasn’t going to be an easy task for Nadal. On his first game in this year’s tournament the Spaniard would face power serve specialist John Isner, and he would have to go into overdrive to stay alive in the tournament. Nadal had to play 5 sets to win this one, but he persevered and defeated Isner by 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4.
Nadal last lost a set at the French Open in 2009, when he was eliminated by Robin Soderling in the fourth round. He had never previously dropped a set in the first or second round and on his way to his 6th Roland Garros, he is as dominant in clay as the best in the sport. But things are not looking too bright this time around. Many still consider him the favorite to win the French Open but it is hard to forget that he has had some hardships this season over the surface where he is more efficient. Before arriving to this tournament, Nadal fell against Novak Djokovic in the finals at Rome and Madrid.
On Nadal’s game against Isner, things got a bit complicated. The 6-9 american held strong despite losing the first set and forced Nadal into a pair of tiebreaks. That is quite an accomplishment for Isner. Let’s not forget that other than this game, on Roland Garros Nadal had won 9 and only lost 2 tiebrakes. Isner managed to win 2 tiebrakes where his big serve helped him put Nadal on the defensive. But with only six unforced errors the rest of the way (none in the decisive fourth set) Nadal proved he is still the man to beat on clay.
Sure, Nadal is 38-1 in this tournament. But we cannot for a second forget that his biggest contender has had a flawless season so far. He is now 38-0 so far this season and has now won 40 straight games going into the previous season. Nadal, with his everyday-improving English said the following in the press conference: “I played too nervous, in my opinion.” Well, if he is hoping to, once again, dominate the clay courts of the French Open, he is going to have to find a way to keep his cool.
The Miami Heat has proved they can play together. Chris Bosh, who for most part of the season had been considered something of a third wheel, having yet to prove he had the caliber or the spirit to match the likes of his all-star teammates Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. Sure enough, if we do take a close look at his numbers all season long, Bosh wasn’t the brightest star in South Beach. But that doesn’t really matters as it was Bosh who brought on his A-game to help serve the Bulls its second consecutive lost; something that didn’t happen to Chicago since February.
The Chicago Bulls cannot lose game four. The team that holds the regular season’s MVP and the coach of the year award cannot give the Miami Heat a 3-1 advantage, because quite frankly, the Heat has found a way to slow down (not stop, there’s no stopping him) Derrick Rose, and its not going to look pretty. Their offensive game has to change, and has to change now. The Bulls are relaying heavily on the pick and roll, but they must mix it up a little if they hope to survive this series.
Now, things have gone wrong in the last two games for Chicago, but truth is that if the Bulls manage to win game 4 in Miami, they could once again get the best hand in the series. Now, what really matters here is the work that Miami has been able to put together on defense. His was going to be a very defensive series, we were all fairly aware of that situation. As a matter of fact, the Bulls and the Heat ranked as the number 1 and 2 teams in the league in field-goal percentage defense. And what they have done to slow down Rose has been just a bit short from brilliant. Rose is 15 for 42 from the floor in Chicago’s last two losses.
The Bulls are going to need to reconsider their defensive rolls. It’s time to leave behind the whole incident that cost Joakim Noah a $50,000 fine. They need to find a way to not only control Wade and James, but also a way to keep Bosh under the radar. Quite frankly Bosh wasn’t really expected to play like he’s been doing so far into the season. And Chicago needs to find answers. if the Chicago Bulls are going to tie the series, they need to find a way to contain Chris Bosh. He already has games of 30 and 34 points in this series. Let’s not forget that his 34 points in game three where vital to the team’s win. But not only has he been playing great basketball: he was able to– and he’s managed to erase the memory of his disastrous 1 for 18 shooting night in Chicago earlier this season, and certainly make up for it when the Miami Heat needed him most.
Now, Carlos Boozer is going to have to bring back his A-game and there is got to be more help coming from Joakim Noah and the rest of the supporting cast. There are three big names in Miami. The Bulls are going to need a bit more love from everybody else. It’s going to be too hard to relay solely on Derrick Rose to win this series.
The clay courts of the Roland Garros are once again capturing the attention of all tennis lovers out there. The second grand slam of the season is underway and after the second day of matches we’ve already have some good stories for you. For starters, and like we mentioned on a previous entry, Novak Djokovic is still holding on to his immaculate start and after an overwhelming 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win over Thiemo de Bakker has now recorded his 38th win of the year.
There was also one heck of an upset. Last year, Thomas Berdych made it into the semifinals, and considering that he was the No. 6 seed in the tournament, things were looking fine in the first round match against little-known Stephan Robert. As a matter of fact, Berdych was up 2-0 before the unthinkable happened. The French Robert rallied to win 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7, setting of a wild celebration among the local fans. The 31-year-old pro had only won one Grand Slam singles match. Now he has two. Other of his countryman, including the better known No. 9 seed Gael Monfils, No. 13 Richard Gasquet and No. 17 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga predictably advanced, too.
Roger Federer, who is hoping to clinch his 17th grand slam defeated Feliciano Lopez in less than two hours 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4). Later on, on the press conference, the Federer Express complained about the new Babolat balls, which were not used in the clay warm-up tournaments. We all know that clay isn’t his best surface, but he is still Roger Federer. A little older and more washed up version of the legendary Federer we once knew, but still.
Argentinean Juan Manuel del Potro is still not at his best. He has been complaining about his hip. Nevertheless, the 6-6 player from Tandil, Argentina defeated Ivo Karlovic in four sets. Del Potro is focused on one thing; reaching the third round where he will have to face Novak Djokovic on a game that you certainly don’t want to miss.
There is much excitement about a possible Djokovic-Nadal final. It’s going to be one heck of a match if both players manage to survive their way up into the Championship game.
There is got to be a very fine line between keeping your cool and dealing with a crowd member getting under your skin. Yes, the fan is a paying costumer and as a professional player you are expected to take it. But now days that the politically correct is not only a rule of its own but somewhat of a mitigating force, it really seems that NBA players need to be extra careful out there. Other wise it may cost them.
After receiving his second foul of game three against the Miami Heat in the first quarter, cameras caught the moment as Joakim Noah said an expletive, followed by the slur. It is a shame, I believe, that the cameras didn’t catch the fan saying whatever it was he said that got Joakim fired up. I guess, if Joakim is expected to pay a $100.000 plus fine, the other fan should at least be banned from taking part of this sort of sporting events. But that’s never going to be the case. No. He is a paying costumer and he should walk out of this one without having to deal with either a substantial fine nor pressure from anti defamatory groups.
In the press conference, Joakim said the following about the incident: “The fan said something that was disrespectful towards me,” Noah said. “And I went back at him. Got it on camera. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not like that. I’m an open-minded guy. I said the wrong thing and I’m going to pay the consequences — deal with the consequences — like a man. I don’t want to be a distraction to the team right now.”
Just a month ago Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was fined $100,000 for directing the same slur toward a referee. And last week, Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts revealed he was gay. This could be considered quite a rare acknowledgement for someone holding a prominent position in men’s sports. As far as I’m informed this is the first man in such a position to have ever come out of the closet.
Some of Noah’s teammates stood up for him Monday, saying that the fan went too far in whatever comments he was making towards the Bulls’ bench. I would support him too, but heck, I might risk crossing some sort of line and might get in trouble for it. Sure, Noah is a professional athlete, but it is not as if he was a public figure, or someone who put himself into the position of becoming a role model for anyone.
Slurs come and go on all professional sports among fans, players, coaches and assistants. It’s certainly a good thing that football players were those helmets much of the time. It would take by surprise many sensitive ears to hear what is been said on the field. I’m not saying that it makes it right, or that it is a justification to what Noah or Bryant said. But heck, if commissioner David Stern really wants to clean his sport from this sort of things, he might as well go far enough as to punish the fan that got the ball rolling in the first place. But that won’t happen. And I guess that’s all right.