“People get confused about talent. Talent isn’t striking the ball well, or very hard. Some play beautifully, some flawlessly, others run brilliantly. But in all sport the final objective is to win. So, in summary, the person who wins the most is the one with the most talent.”
Would you have believed it, dreamt it, envisioned it? Yet, we can savour it—the stuff of dreams, the embellishments of legends—another glorious chapter in the annals of tennis history.
A fitting ending to two momentous occasions—nostalgic yet novel.
An all-Williams final that culminated in Serena’s 23rd singles Grand Slam win and a Fedal encounter lasting a pulsating five sets that saw Federer reverse his hoodoo against his younger opponent Nadal equalling Jack Nicklaus’ golfing record of 18 Slams.
Roger ‘Tiger’ Federer, take a bow while Serena pirouettes with her trophy.
Vamos, Rafa, see you at Roland Garros, hopefully biting into the silverware.
Roger Federer couldn’t do it.
Rafael Nadal couldn’t either.
But Novak Djokovic has.
The Serb claimed his first French Open title—his 12th Slam—on his 12th attempt to round off a superb year beginning with Wimbledon 2015, thus holding all four titles at the same time.
It’s a supreme achievement from a supreme athlete.
Andy Murray surpassed himself this year making his first French Open final.
But nothing could stop the incorrigible Nole from getting what he richly deserves—a seat at the pantheon of greats.
Federer has 17, Nadal has 14 and now the Djoker has 12.
Is this the best generation of tennis greats ever?
It sure seems like it.
Is it the beginning of the end for Serena Williams?
Three shots at glory—a 22nd Slam—all gone a-begging.
The US Open last year would have made it a genuine Grand Slam—all four big guns in a calendar year.
It was not to be.
And the next two Slam finals have only seen Serena fall by the wayside to her younger opponents—German Angelique Kerber and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza.
American tennis is on the wane and Serena—their last bastion—is losing her glitter too.
Yes, Serena is not getting any younger. She’s 34—and she’s treading the path that Roger Federer has over the last four years—still competitive but not a real contender.
At least, Federer had the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka to reckon with.
Williams has no such excuse. She’s still No.1 and she’s expected to dominate her younger opponents.
Is it a mental thing? Is there some fragility , some frailty, not apparent earlier?
It would appear so—every opponent now has the belief that on their day, they can bring the 21-time champion to ground level from her previous stratospheric heights.
Are we being too harsh, too critical already?
Most top 10 women players would give an arm and a limb to have the same kind of results Serena has achieved in the past three Slams.
Yes, Serena’s vulnerable but there’s also a possibility that she can snatch a bigger slice of history once Wimbledon begins in another three weeks.
Lush green grass will tell.
Marin Cilic is in the semis of the US Open once more.
Last year, he won his maiden Slam knocking out Asian hope Kei Nishikori in the process under the watchful eye and tutelage of his countryman Goran Ivanisevic.
Tennis fans all remember Goran not just for his histrionics on court, his big booming serves but also for the fairy-tale ending to his career where he won his first and only Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2001 after succumbing at his earlier two final appearances at the sport’s Mecca.
Cilic has been plagued with a shoulder injury this season. He missed out on the Australian Open and has had indifferent results—by his newly exalted standards—losing in the fourth round and quarter-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively.
The Croat has flown under the radar at his Grand Slam homecoming in New York.
It’s always difficult returning from an injury.
No one knows that better than Cilic’s coach, Ivanisevic, who was unseeded at his maiden Grand Slam triumph, only playing with the benefit of a wild card.
But it’s Del Potro, another US Open winner, that similarities can be drawn with.
The 2009 US Open champion first suffered a left wrist injury in 2010.
He returned only after a nine-month break.
He was back to his best only in 2012 ending the year ranked No.7. He returned to the top 5 in 2013.
The recurrence of his wrist injury saw him missing out most of the 2014 season.
He returned briefly in 2015 but withdrew from the Australian Open with the injury flaring up again.
He has been operated since and is now rehabilitating.
Can Marin Cilic break the hoodoo?
Since 2003, except for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, no US Open champion has returned to claim the title.
The title has not been defended successfully since 2008 when Federer won the last of his US Open titles.
The singletons in the club—in terms of US Open titles in the modern era—include the likes of Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith,Ilie Năstase,Manuel Orantes, Guillermo Vilas,Mats Wilander,Boris Becker,Marat Safin,Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Cilic takes on a formidable foe in Novak in the semis. It could be either Federer or Wawrinka in the final. Interestingly, all the semi-finalists have at least one Slam to their credit. Wawrinka is the only one without a US Open title.
A trivial bit of trivia about Cilic is that he is yet to clinch an ATP 500 or Masters title.
It’s going to be a slug-fest. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
What he said (via Tennis.com):
“We are superior on clay, grass, hard courts and, if necessary, even on roller skates.”
Spanish tennis great, Manolo Santana, holds out no hope for Argentina when they face Spain in the year-ending Davis Cup final beginning December 2, 2011.
Rafael Nadal leads the home surge to the team title.
From 0 to 10, I would give Argentina a 2 to win Davis Cup and that’s being nice. Spain is clearly superior to Argentina. We are playing at home with a large audience. We are superior on clay, grass, hard courts and, if necessary, even on roller skates. I am optimistic. I think they will win 4-1 or 3-2, unless something unforeseen happens.
The Argentineans will rely on magic from Juan Martin Del Potro and David Nalbandian to pull off an upset.
Speaking to Yahoo! Euro Sports, Sanatana wrote off Del Potro’s chances, saying, “I think Rafa today is far superior to Del Potro. Del Potro went a long time without playing. In Valencia, where I saw him play, he wasn’t very accurate. I don’t believe he’s going to arrive in perfect form.”
What he really meant:
“Mano O Mano, we’re better and we’ll roll them over—come what may.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“It’s Davis Cup. Anything can happen, anytime.”
What he said:
“But what do I care if he says hello to me or not?"
Yannick Noah is not regretful—one bit—for stirring up a hornet’s nest with his comments in French daily, Le Monde, accusing Spanish players of systemic doping.
Noah said that all players, not just Spanish, should have access to this “magic potion” that has Spaniards out-performing their French counterparts.
Noah defended his last week’s comments saying:
"If I chose this turn of phrase, it was to address the authorities … in order to start a debate.”
"I am a bit frustrated that there are two weights and two measures in terms of doping, whether it’s Spain or another country.Of course all Spanish athletes aren’t doped … (But) are (the French) worse than the others? I don’t think so."
Noah’s remarks have been met with derision and wide-spread condemnation.
Rafael Nadal called for a media gag on Noah.
"I went through the same thing 30 years ago, when I was 20. I spoke about doping and drugs and everyone had a go at me.I couldn’t respond to everyone. To Toni Nadal, Rafael’s uncle, who’s told his nephew never to say hello to me again. But what do I care if he says hello to me or not?"
Noah pointed out existing cases of Spanish doping including high-profile names such as cyclist Alberto Contador and steeplechase champion Marta Dominguez.
"The cyclist who ate some meat that helped him pedal faster and who was cleared by his federation, the case of (Dominguez) stopped by the police and then cleared.My question is the following: Is this not all orchestrated? In the Puerto case, I have the feeling that the affair has been smothered, that names have been hidden."
The Frenchman reiterated his opposition to all forms of drug abuse:
I am against all forms of doping, but I’m hypersensitive when it comes to injustice. There are too many cheats winning these days. In Spain and elsewhere.At which point is an athlete considered to have doped? When he takes a product that makes him run faster, makes him stronger, helps him recover more quickly? Or when he tests positive? The answer to the question is not the same, depending on the country.
There are side effects which you never read about on the front pages of the newspapers.We know there have been problems in the past with Italian footballers who are now seriously ill.
What Yannick Noah really meant:
“We won’t have much to discuss anyway. I want to talk ‘dope’. He doesn’t.”
What Yannick Noah definitely didn’t:
“It’s only words
And words are all I have
To take your pride and titles away.”
Read Yannick Noah’s full interview to Le Monde here.
What he said:
“When one kid says something it’s not painful for us."
Rafael Nadal kids not in his response to Yannick Noah’s allegations of systemic doping by Spain’s elite athletes.
Noah, writing for French daily Le Monde, said:
“Today if you don’t have the magic potion, it’s hard to win. How can a nation dominate sport virtually overnight like this?"
Noah began his article thus:
When I still milled around on the courts with my racket, we weren’t ridiculous, far from it, against our Spanish friends.
It was the same on the soccer fields, the basketball halls or on the roads of the Tour de France. Today they are running faster than us, are much more stronger and only leave us the bread crumbs.
We look like dwarves. Did we miss something? Did they discover some avant-garde techniques or training facilities that nobody before them had imagined?
Nadal reacted angrily to the Frenchman’s allegations.
"What he said is completely stupid. This guy does not deserve to write in newspapers anymore."
He knows better than anybody that to say that today is a totally stupid thing because you know how many anti-doping controls we have during the season, year by year.
So in my opinion, the article that he wrote was from a kid and when one kid says something it’s not painful for us.
The French tennis federation were equally trenchant in their criticism.
Their statement read:
The French Tennis Federation wishes to express its disagreement with Yannick Noah’s comments made in Le Monde newspaper.
Against the plague of doping in sport, baseless accusations and provocative comments are inappropriate, and the worst attitude would be to give up.
What Rafael Nadal really meant:
“Sounds like French whine to me.”
What Rafael Nadal definitely didn’t:
“I’m so beefy because Alberto Contador’s butcher is mine too.”
"If you asked a golfer to change balls every single week, they’d be hitting balls 20 yards too far and hitting shots all over the place."
Andy Murray takes aim at the differences in tennis balls used for various tournaments.
Murray set the ball (pun unintended) rolling with his comments on Tuesday, 11th October, 2011 at the Shanghai Masters.
Rafael Nadal chimed in —on Wednesday:
You play in Bangkok with one ball, in Tokyo with another ball, here with another ball. That’s too much in my opinion. (It) is dangerous and can cause injuries.
Something must change because is too dangerous for the shoulders. You cannot change the ball every week.
Nadal was almost magnanimous claiming that he would accept less prize money as long as he does not have to give in to sponsor demands to use their spheroids.
I am very happy to win less money and have my health.
If we compare the Tokyo ball with this one (in Shanghai), it was much bigger, slower. The ball is completely different. This ball is very fast, it goes small and doesn’t stay on the racquet. It flies a lot and is tough.
Nadal relented somewhat conceding that it was not necessary to have one standard ball the whole season.
For example, when you start the clay-court season, you have the same ball for that period; when you have the American hard court season, you have the same ball. So that’s positive.
But what cannot happen is to have one ball in Rome, one ball in Madrid, one ball in Barcelona… That doesn’t work.
What Murray really meant:
“It’s not as though we’re dancers on court—a slow dance, tango and then salsa. Can you imagine that?”
What Murray definitely didn’t:
“Goodness gracious great balls of fire!”
What he said:
“The Rafa of 2010 had something more special than Rafa of 2011.”
Rafael Nadal introspects on his performance this year comparing it to his impeccable 2010.
“Win or lose depends on small things. These small things I did better in 2010 than 2011.”
When I talk about improving or being a better player, it doesn’t mean making big changes in my game, it’s always just the small things, you just do them better, try to do them better.
This year Djokovic won three Grand Slams, he didn’t lose many matches. I don’t believe that he changed his game unbelievably. He did some small things better than a few years ago.
What he really meant:
“The Djokovic of 2011 is something special too.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“With Djokovic taking up permanent residence in my head, you’d expect me to return serve like him—circa 2010.”