So, the tennis over the weekend, not so bad, eh?
What. A. Weekend. As always the Sunday after Labor Day is one of my favorite sports days of the year, because we’ve got the men’s final of the U.S. Open, and Week 1 of the National Football League season.
This is always one of my longest blog posts of the year and if you hate football and tennis, well, the next 1,000 or so words aren’t going to thrill you.
Man oh man, what a fantastic, fantastic weekend of tennis from the men’s and women’s finals. First a few thoughts on the epic men’s final Sunday, when a 23-year-old Russian kid who a year ago few had heard of, came oh so close to scoring one of the greatest comebacks and upset wins in the sport’s history.
Daniil Medvedev, the 6-foot-6 elastic man who just kept on coming for two weeks at the Open, got down two sets and a break Sunday to one of the five greatest men’s players ever, Rafael Nadal.
And somehow found a way to battle all the way to a fifth set, to fall behind 5-2 in that fifth set, and then come within one measly point of squaring the set at 5, as 24,000 New Yorkers at Arthur Ashe Stadium screamed their bloody heads off.
Nadal, because he’s a beast, and a machine, and maybe the best fighter the sport has ever seen, did not fully crumble, as he staved off defeat in the fifth set and won his 19th Slam title, and fourth U.S. Open.
(Deep breath). Yes, I know concede after many, many years of denial, that the kid from Spain will pass Roger Federer’s Slam haul of 20. And I also think Novak Djokovic, with 16, will eventually pass both of them.
All credit to Nadal, though, for an amazing tournament. He didn’t have to play the other two of the big Three, but he stood toe to toe with all challengers, and against a very worthy foe Sunday, had just enough nerve, stamina and shotmaking to win.
What a glorious time to be a tennis fan.
— A few words on Medvedev: He had a rocky two weeks with the Open fans, after snatching a towel angrily from a ball boy in Week 1, and subtly giving the chair umpire the finger as well. But the kid grew up a lot at this Open, before our very eyes. His incredible effort Sunday, coupled with his very gracious post-match comments and press conference, show me he very well could be a huge star in this sport. And that would be a good thing.
— On the women’s side, a brand-new star was born, and one nobody saw coming a year ago.
Do you realize that 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu lost in U.S. Open qualifying last year? And that she just won seven matches splendidly, showing poise, confidence and sensational talent all the way through?
I could not be more impressed with this kid, both in the couple of times I was in press conferences with her, from her post-match humility and aw-shucks “Is this really happening?” attitude, and her larger-than-large game.
The first Canadian Grand Slam singles champion ever, Andreescu is here to stay. She was absolutely fearless for two weeks and seven matches, and even though she wobbled a bit at the end against Serena, letting a 5-1 lead get back to 5-5, she steadied and got the job done.
What a performance.
— Now about Serena: This is four times now in the past 18 months she’s reached a Slam final, and four times she’s gotten beaten soundly. This is not a matter of coming close to Grand Slam title No. 24 and losing, say, 6-4 in the third. This is playing very well for six rounds, then getting smacked in the final. I don’t know if it’s mental at this point, or physically she gets worn down, or what. But she is simply not the same player in finals as she is the rest of the tournament. And I’m not sure she’ll ever win another Slam.
I must say, though, that she was exceedingly, brutally honest in her post-match press conference, and very gracious on-court to Andreescu after the loss. Serena has come very, very far in the humility and grace departments when she loses.
Tennis, man. It’s just the best.
**OK, a few quick words now on Week 1 of the NFL season, when everyone overreacts to results and assumes either their team is going to the Super Bowl, or will never win another game:
— I didn’t expect THIS type of Jets loss Sunday, but no Jets loss ever really surprises me anymore. Their offense stunk, their kicker who had never kicked at MetLife Stadium before Sunday missed a field goal and an extra point, and the defense collapsed in the 4th quarter, and they lost to Buffalo, 17-16.
Sam Darnold, our franchise QB, was bad, so was the O-line, and at least Le’Veon Bell looked like the real deal. Just a brutal, brutal loss. Many more to come.
–So much for those Super Bowl-bound Browns, eh? After six months of hype about how good Cleveland was going to be, it’s a new era, etc., the Brownies went out and lost by 30, at home, to Tennessee. Poor Browns fans, they’re just never going to get a winning team, are they.
— Still, the Browns didn’t have the worst Week 1 showing. That goes to the Dolphins, who gave up 42 points IN THE FIRST HALF. The Ravens ended up hanging 59 on ’em, and as a Jets fan I’m thrilled. Wow is that franchise a mess right now.
— The Cardinals and Lions, two of the worst franchises historically in the NFL, played to a tie, which led to this amazing Detroit Free Press tweet:
— Finally, Antonio Brown is the biggest drama queen/idiot the NFL has seen in quite some time, it’s a disgrace the way he behaved to get himself released from the Raiders, and now he’s a Patriot and he’ll probably act like a choirboy. I hate sports sometimes.