McEnroe

U.S. Open – Tie-Break City

By James A. Crabtree

With the U.S. Open fast approaching now seems as good a time as any to look back on the greatest tie-breakers ever.

There is no better place to start than with the only slam to play a tie-break in the deciding fifth set. From one angle it’s a shame the Americans get to miss out on a possibly endless epic that might stretch on for days, like the 1080 points John Isner and Nicholas Mahut endured during the 2010 Wimbledon marathon.

On the other angle it’s great to watch a match where you can have match point, then only seconds later be match point down. Exciting, unpredictable and how very New York.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fLkVJSBplE

One such thrilling tiebreaker took place during the 1996 U.S. Open quarter final between Pete Sampras and Alex Corretja. Sampras won the match after firing a second serve ace down match point. He also showed more Hypochondriasis than Andy Murray before, like Murray, playing like an animal when it really mattered. Sampras went on to win the tournament beating Goran Ivanisevic in the semis and Michael Chang in the final.

The 1996 U.S. Open also initially caused controversy for the higher seeding of American players Michael Chang and Andre Agassi above their world ranking. Thomas Muster, Boris Becker and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were seeded below their ranking with Kafelnikov withdrawing himself in protest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw21Z-37JW0

Arguably the greatest match ever, surely Nadal’s most memorable victory, the 2008 Wimbledon final had a bit of everything. Federer, the defending champion was starting to show signs he was human and Nadal was hungry for a slam that wasn’t played on clay. The longest final in Wimbledon history included a couple of tie-breaks, the second that included match points for Nadal. Incredibly Nadal didn’t capitalise in that set, but did manage to win 9-7 in the nail biting fifth set.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjnvvzmX6MY

Another match Nadal won but came up short in the tie-break is the 2009 Australian Open semi, where he was blasted by a player simply on fire. Fernando Verdasco brought himself to the attention of the world with an attacking game that was all but faultless in a tie-break he won 7-1 to level the match. It was hard to think that Nadal could comeback from this kind of thrashing. What was harder still was the level of play Verdasco had to replicate to beat Nadal in the fifth. Against the odds Nadal was fresh enough to win the final, another five set match, against old foe Roger Federer.

Arguably the other greatest match ever and first major tiebreak to capture the attention of the world was during the 1980 Wimbledon final featuring John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. More was on the line than just victory and defeat; this was baseline versus net, lefty versus right but most clearly fire and ice.

Borg had already squandered two championship points at 5–4 in the fourth.  McEnroe saved five further match points during tiebreaker and won 18–16. Bjorn went on to win the fifth set 8-6 for his fifth and his final Wimbledon crown.

The final match to make the list is a Futures event this past January in Florida. Monaco’s world number 636 Benjamin Balleret beat unranked compatriot Guillaume Couillard 36-34 in the first set of their third round qualifying match. Balleret, a former world number 206, took the second set 6-1 and now holds the record for the longest tie-break in history.

 

 

 

 

TENNIS IDOL BORG OR EMPEROR BORG?

Bjorn Borg, it was announced Tuesday, will be playing in his first tournament in the United States since 2000 at the Staples Champions Cup in Boston, April 29-May 2. The event is part of the Jim Courier-run Champions Cup tennis circuit. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Borg’s epic fifth straight Wimbledon title, which will no doubt be celebrated and remembered for much of the year.

Which brings up the question; do we like the Bjorn Borg look from the late 1970s, early 1980s or the contemporary “stately” looking Borg who looks more like a Roman Emperor than the teen idol of yesterday? Tell us which look you like better?

Borg will play his opening match in Boston against fellow Swede Pernfors on Thursday, April 29 at 7 pm and, if victorious, will face the winner of the Friday evening quarterfinal match between McEnroe and Wilander on Saturday evening, May 1. Courier will face Arias in his opening match on Friday at 7 pm and, if victorious, will face the winner of the Philippoussis-Ferreira match on Saturday afternoon. For more on the Staples Champions Cup, go to www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

“Bjorn playing in the United States is a very rare occurrence so it makes the Staples Champions Cup that much more special this year,” said Courier. “He’s one of our sport’s greatest champions and to have him play on the Champions Series is a highlight for the circuit.”
In 1980, Borg was able to win his fifth-straight title at the All England Club and stave off McEnroe, playing in his first Wimbledon final, by a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6 margin, highlighted by the famous 18-16 fourth-set tie-breaker. He stopped playing full-time on the ATP circuit after the 1981 season.

bjorn-borg

Roger Federer is Great for Tennis – and Sports

Written by Alessandro Nicolo

Here’s the thing: tennis is one of those sports I play more than I watch. It’s just one of those things. There’s not enough time in a day for me to watch every sport. On the other hand if someone would pay me – trust me – I’m watching anything.

You’re reading the words of a guy who has watched curling on more than one occasion.

Tennis is a great game. The athletic demands are complimented by the technical aspects of mastering the sport. A few years ago my close friend, a former tennis player and instructor, told me that by the time he’s done Roger Federer may very well be the greatest tennis player who ever lived. I took those words seriously since my friend was not into hyperbole. More sober and sane than he they don’t come. “There no weaknesses in his game,” he said.

Well, Roger Federer won his 10th men’s singles grand slam title, winning in straight sets over a feisty Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open. That’s good for fifth all-time, which ties Federer with Bill Tilden. He’s two titles behind Ray Emerson and only one behind Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.

More importantly, at 26 he is just four grand slam titles away the all-time leader Pete Sampras.

Wow.

Tennis has a problem on its hands. Through most of the sport’s history tennis was blessed with classic rivalries. Who can forget those battles in the 1970s and 1980s between Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Lendl? Sampras and Agassi had a thing going too. But who will dance with Roger?

Andy Roddick has the attitude and will to challenge him, but if his serve is off he struggles. Rafael Nadal has flair and is blessed with a more complete game but outside of clay he’s a mere mortal.

In modern tennis there is no one that comes remotely close to Roger Federer. His dominance is pure net – excuse the bad pun. What captivates me is how smooth and beautiful his game really is. He’s perfect in all aspects of the game without looking like a robot.

Let me take this a step further. Forget statistics. I’m dropping the gloves here. Forget Tiger Woods. Forget Babe Ruth, Pele, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Forget Michael Schumacher and Mohammed Ali – to name a few.

Yeah, I may be getting excited here but I’m going with a sports junkie’s instinct here. People will always debate Montana or Unitas? Chamberlin or Jordan? Lemieux, Orr, Howe or Gretzky? Even Pele has legitimate challengers in Diego Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano. Some even swear that we wasn’t the greatest Brazilian player ever. For this they look to Garrincha.

For his part, Ali is sometimes not referred as the greatest heavyweight of all time. It’s notoriously hard to judge auto racing or cycling – though Eddie Merckx can easily plead his case as the greatest cyclist ever. Come to think of it, he Woods come as the closest challengers that I can think of. But even experts admit Tiger has some weaknesses to his game. I’ve yet ot hear that about Federer.

I know I’m mixing some team sports in there but you get the picture. Yes, tennis has had its fair share of dominant players. The consensus however has Rod Laver as the greatest and most complete player ever. Sampras has the numbers to back him up.

I recognize all that. Still…

There is a very real chance that when Federer retires he may close out his career as the most dominant professional athlete ever.

Just for that I’ll be watching. There may not be any parity in tennis (sometimes dynasties are just plain good) but Federer’s class and elegance may just enough for sports fans to forgive and forget.

Alessandro Nicolo – the hack with a knack – is a freelance writer and sedentary bon vivant living in Montreal.