I’m exhausted after one of my favorite sports days of the year, after two of my favorite weeks of the sports year. (And a Happy New Year to my fellow Members of the Tribe. L’shana Tova, one and all).
The first NFL Sunday always collides with the final weekend of the U.S. Open, and this year was no different.
What a sensational, splendid, fantastic Open this was, and I say that after having been there for nearly every day of play.
So much to get to, I almost don’t know where to start.
Yes, I do: Serena and Novak.
Serena Williams did not win the Grand Slam this year. Two days after her loss, I’m still kinda stunned to be writing that.
Her match with unseeded Roberta Vinci Friday was typical of Serena’s amazing year in every way but one: She started out great, faltered, then took control of the third set.
I never, ever thought Vinci was going to win that match. Nothing against her, but come on, Serena’s dream season was going to come up short against a short, aging Italian backboard?
Even at 5-4, 40-love in the final set, triple match point I thought Serena would find a way. But she didn’t, and she was crushed, the fans were crushed, and we got one of the all-time greatest post-match interviews ever. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must watch. Vinci is so charming, excited and self-deprecating that you just want to hug her:
— Now, to the men’s final. What a terrific, dramatic, match that was Sunday night. I wanted in my heart of hearts to believe Roger Federer would find a way to win, and grab his 18th major title. And when he broke Novak Djokovic at the end of the splendid second set (seriously, that game at 4-5 in the set, when Djokovic held after 15 minutes? I could write 15,000 words about that game), I thought: Maybe. It’s possible.
But Novak Djokovic, who for reasons I can’t really fathom always seems to be cast as the villain in these finals, was just too good. His level of tennis over the last two sets was … otherworldly. His consistency, his serving, his remarkable defense; we’ve seen it all before, and it was all on display Sunday night.
He’s a true champion in all ways, and now he has 10 Slam titles, and suddenly, after three this year, and the fact that Nole is only 28, Federer’s mark of 17 doesn’t seem all that far away.
— As for Roger, well, that was a fine two weeks he played, but Sunday he just didn’t play his best consistently enough. His forehand was off most of the night, he couldn’t capitalize on most of his break points (incredible that he had 22 break points!), and he just fell apart at the start of the fourth set, allowing himself to be broken twice.
Still, when he rallied from 5-2 in the fourth to get to 5-4, then had two break points, you believed it was still possible. Federer lost, and as I said last night on Twitter, for a guy who’s the greatest player ever, he sure has had some excruciating losses the last few years.
But he’s still near the top of his game, his play last night would’ve beaten 99.9 percent of other players, and I see no reason he won’t have a few more chances at another Slam.
— Got a huge thrill getting to go to the men’s semis Friday, as my fantastic wife sprung for great seats. Unfortunately, both matches were total routs. Seriously, Djokovic and Federer combined won in less time than it takes to watch “Titanic.”
At one point I yelled out, “Come on Marin (Cilic), I’ve got the babysitter all night, let’s pick it up a little!”
**Finally, a word about the crowd Sunday: Fantastic in almost all ways. Pulling for Federer so hard. But really, pretty wildly unfair to Djokovic. Cheering on his first serve faults, booing when he hit a few winners? Bush league. Unbecoming and not cool. It did create one hell of an environment.
**And now, the NFL. Won’t write as long as usual during football Mondays because of all the tennis stuff, but a couple quick thoughts on a wild Week 1:
— Very happy with how my Jets played Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick was smart with his throws, the offensive line played great, the defense, after the first quarter, was terrific, and Brandon Marshall is exactly the kind of receiver the Jets have needed since Keyshawn left.
But a few caveats: It was against the Browns, who once again look like Super Bowl contenders. It was against the Browns’ backup QB, a fella named Jonathan Football, who stinks. And it was Week 1; I’ve been fooled before by great Week 1 performances.
Still, a real nice start for the green and white.
— Did you see the end of that Giants-Cowboys game? Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning blew it big-time, throwing the ball on third down up 3, inside the Cowboys’ 5-yard line. They kicked the FG, gave the Cowboys 1:30 to drive down and score a TD and win the game, and that’s what they did. Just a brutal loss.
— Marcus Mariota, four TD’s in the first half of his first game. Not bad, kid. Again, it’s only one game. But wow.
— Finally, nice to see the Redskins and Raiders are in midseason form. Washington fans, I feel your pain. There really is no light at the end of the tunnel there, is there? And even if there were, Dan Snyder would charge you $20 to come into that light.