Every year, on the Sunday night after Wimbledon ends, I feel a little sad. Because two glorious weeks of tennis are over, on the most hallowed grounds of the sport, and it won’t come around for another year. (Though having the U.S. Open be only six weeks away does make me feel a little better).
But tonight I’m feeling fired up about tennis because of the return of Novak Djokovic, long my second favorite player (behind some guy with the initials RF). Djokovic is hardly beloved among fans, and I can see why some find him irritating (his exhortations, his snippiness with crowds, his constant ball-bouncing before a serve).
But I love the guy, because I think he’s genuine, always gives credit to his opponents, and because in this age of Federer and Nadal, two of the five greatest players ever, he’s found a way to thrive and become a legend himself.
Djokovic has had a terrible last couple of years in tennis; he was injured, he changed coaches a bunch (even firing Andre Agassi), and hardly seemed like his old self.
But the last few days at Wimbledon … man. He beat Rafael Nadal in five pulsating sets Friday and Saturday (a match played over TWO days, and I’ll rant about that in a moment), truly an extraordinary match, one of the best you’ll ever see.
Then he beat Kevin Anderson in the finals Sunday, who was totally gassed from his ridiculous semifinal win. Djokovic cried after the win, and watched his 3-year-old son cheer him on from the players’ box, and it was beautiful.
The sport is better when Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are all playing their best. They’re all pretty close to that now, which is why Wimbledon was so phenomenal this year.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams fell just short of winning her first Slam as a Mom, losing in the finals to Angie Kerber. Serena is still not my cup of tea, but she really does seem to have matured a lot in the last few years, with her attitude and behavior on court. She was completely gracious after the match, and motherhood really does seem to have softened her. I fully expect Serena to win the U.S. Oen.
OK, couple more Wimbledon thoughts and then I promise no more tennis here until the Open:
— So the reason Kevin Anderson was exhausted Sunday was because he had to play an insane 50 games in the fifth set against John Isner in the semis Friday. The two men played a 26-24 fifth set, because Wimbledon refuses to use a tiebreaker, and makes players win final sets by two.
Absolutely ridiculous, in a semifinal of a Grand Slam, to make people have to play 6.5 hours. For the love of fans, players and the sport, give us a final-set tiebreaker! Do it at 9-all, or 12-all, or even 14-all. But please, do it! Anderson had nothing left Sunday, the length of the match forced the Nadal-Djokovic semi to be played over two days (because of the silly but charmingly quaint 11 p.m. curfew at Wimbledon, no matches can continue past that hour), and the women’s final was delayed as well.
Just so unnecessary. Let them finish and not destroy their bodies in the process.
— Anderson-Isner was compelling, but not particularly exciting tennis. At some point you have to admire their stamina. And how about the blatter stamina of the chair umpire, Marija Cicak, who didn’t get one bathroom break in the whole match. She should get a trophy for that.
— Finally, a few quick words about Federer: Sure it was disappointing to see him lose to Anderson in the quarterfinals. But for most of the tournament this almost-37 year-old played great, and I fully expect him to be in the finals of the U.S. Open in a few weeks. He’s far, far from done.
**Next up, by now you know all about the incredible rescue of the 12 Thai soccer players and their coach from a cave, by some incredibly heroic SEAL’s and emergency personnel. But the inside story of how these boys were able to be saved is incredible; this New York Times article is fantastic, providing details of how duct tape was so important, how luck played a part, and how so many things had to come together to save the boys.
“I still can’t believe it worked,” one of the rescue operation leaders said. Truly, a wonderful story of teamwork. And this NYT piece takes you inside the cave, with graphics, videos and so much more. Multimedia journalism at its best.
**Finally today, President Man-baby is meeting with his bestie, Vladimir Putin, today, and God only knows what will happen. Wouldn’t surprise me to find out that by Monday night we’re now co-countries with Russia, or that Putin has agreed to be Trump’s running mate in 2020.
Given the uncertainty, I feel like today is a good time to watch these two clips; let’s call them “Great Moments in U.S.-U.S.S.R. history.”
First, a little hockey game in 1980 was played between the two countries. How’d that turn out again?
And then, in what I feel is an equally important moment in Cold War history, we have our greatest heavyweight boxing champion ever, a lefthander out of the fighting city of Philadelphia, Rocky Balboa, single-handedly bridging the divide between two nations with a stirring speech. (Truly my favorite part of this wonderful, ridiculous scene is at 1:26, when the first Politburo guy stands up and almost can’t believe he’s applauding.)