Manny, Rafa, Maria, the NBA, and others in a whirlwind sports weekend-A A +A
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
THE nation greatly anticipated Sunday’s bout. What it did not anticipate was the decision. Manny was gracious enough in the loss that you suddenly ask yourself if this is a new side to him or, here goes the conspiracy theorist once more, was the loss something favorable that would enable two more bouts in the future? Manny would take the second bout. The third? Well, that would depend on the circumstances surrounding the second fight I suppose. It could be scripted to be his swan song if he opts to retire. But setting aside the questionable decision, let us for a moment accept the decision to be the correct one. That the fight seen by millions happens to be the same fight that was judged at ringside. It if were to be true, I agree with sports analysts that it is good for the sport. A good rivalry is good for any sport. Take the case of the recently concluded French Open.
For the Jokester from Serbia, the dominant force in Lawn Tennis these days, he was attempting to hold all four Grand Slam events at a single time (not necessarily winning all in one calendar year). This feat was last done more than four decades ago. His opponent across the net in all the three previous Grand Slams was who else – Rafa. Being beaten in all three previous Grand Slam finals, Rafa had to stop the hemorrhaging. This is the first time in so many years that four consecutive Grand Slam finals have been between the same two combatants. But the Jokester was not the only one gunning for the record books. The Spaniard Clay Court King was also gunning for a record as he was tied with the Swedish Ice Man Borg for the most French Open singles titles for men. Was. He now has held the Coupe des Mousquetaires a record seven times and has tied my fave women’s tennis player ever, the Ice Princess Chrissie, with the most number of French Open Singles Titles. Federer’s prediction of Rafa winning came true. I suppose he knows what he was saying since in two previous occasions, he, too, was in the same seat as Djokovic but was thwarted by who else Nadal. The result in the French Open is good for the sport because it means the Jokester would remain hungry. The win would also fuel Rafa in his quest to win another Wimbledon crown and a Gold in the London Olympics. The Federer-Rafa rivalry is now set aside for the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry.
Maria Sharapova winning the women’s title, on the other hand, is also good for the sport. I was never a fan of hers and was actually rooting for Errani to win. But I do not have any qualms about Maria winning and finally achieving a career slam like her nemesis Serena Williams. Maria’s story is that of a talented albeit irritating player due to her grunts and shrieks. She won her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2004. She was just 17 at that time. At even numbered years, she would then add two more Grand Slam trophies until she got sidelined due to her shoulder injury that needed surgical repair. I was one of those who though she could not come back and compete against the top flight players. Well, I was wrong. Her story is one that should inspire others. In the past year, she was a runner-up in two Grand Slams behind rising stars Kvitova and Azarenka. Third time’s the charm I guess, and don’t forget that this is an even numbered year so I guess it bodes well for Maria unlike last year. Good for the sport? Yup. She is the new number one and the French Open seems to favor the persistent player in recent years. Just look at Schiavone two years ago. That and the talented scrappy players like last year’s first Asian Grand Slam winner Li Na, and scores of others like Iva Majoli and Myskina.
For the NBA, I actually stopped following the road to the finals when expectedly, the Lakers got derailed. I didn’t expect them to win but I would have expected them to put up a tougher stand against Oklahoma. But with the Celtics out, I am now back watching the finals. It’s the East’s number two versus the West’s number two. It’s the East’s relatively old powerhouse in Miami against the relatively new kid on the block Oklahoma. In this year’s road to the final, the Clippers and Grizzlies were a good side story of the unexpected delightfully happening. But the final being a Thunder-Heat affair, expect it to be just that – a heated series with thunderous spectators. I hope it’s the Thunder who wins.
In other sports, the Kings are just one win away from winning the Stanley Cup although I would caution everyone that the Devils should never be taken too lightly. Euro 2012? France and England tied. Ho hum. Spain against Italy also a draw. Next match please. I mean these are giants that if one team wins over the other, it would probably be just by a goal. But Sweden defeated by Ukraine 2-1? Probably one of those flukes during such events. Just look back at the tragedy that befell the US soccer team negating their participation in this year’s Olympics. Another surprise that happened over the weekend was the Australian men’s volleyball team winning over China, enabling them to get into the Olympics. Amazing and surprising.
So despite the dull weather, I guess the sporting world was not at all dull.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 13, 2012.