Sunday has always, always, always been my favorite day of the week.
No question about it, Sunday rules. From the Sunday New York Times, which I’ve been reading since, I don’t know, ever, to NFL games, sleeping late, and just the whole relaxed vibe of the day, I am totally, madly, deeply a Sunday fan.
First, Mr. Federer. He had a sensational weekend, dispatching Andy Murray, who’s owned Fed lately, in the semifinals Saturday of the Cincinnati hardcourt event (I’m sorry, but I refuse to write out “Western and Southern Financial Group” as the name of the tournament.).
Then on Sunday, Federer barely perspired in slamming Novak Djokovic, 6-1, in the first set, and winning a close 7-5 second set.
Federer was at another level; I once made the comment that, like in “Spinal Tap,” he can raise his game to 11, while everyone else was stuck at 10.
I actually think the win over Murray was more impressive than beating Djokovic, although both opponents have owned Federer of late. Murray came in absolutely rolling, moving past Rafael Nadal (more on him in a minute) to reach No. 2 in the world, and hardcourt is his best surface.
But while Fed may not be the same guy who dominated so easily a few years ago, he’s not the “bum” who struggled to reach the finals of tournaments earlier this year.
He played beautifully against Murray, attacking the Scot’s second serve, powering forehand winners, and just moving about the court like a butterfly on a spring day (sorry to get all poetic on you).
He was perfect from the baseline in both matches; Sunday you could tell Djokovic (who had a fine week himself) had no answer for Federer.
How do you beat Fed when he’s playing like this?
An imagined conversation between player and coach:
Player: So, um, Roger’s serving 120 miles per hour out wide. How do I deal with that?
Coach: I dunno.
Player: His forehand crosscourt is killing me.
Coach: Yeah, try to stay away from that.
Player: His backhand down the line is eating me up.
Coach: Yeah, stay away from that, too
Player: You want me to stay away from his forehand AND his backhand?
Coach: Yep. OK, I’m going to get lunch. Good luck kid.
It’s truly been an amazing turnaround for Federer this year; if you told me in February, after once again losing to Rafa in a Grand Slam final (for the 3rd time in the last four Slams), that Fed would win the French, win Wimbledon, and be a bigger favorite than Tyson over Buster Douglas going into the Open, even I, a huge Fed fan, would’ve laughed.
But man, who’s going to beat him in Flushing Meadows? I see No. 16 coming right around the bend, as the No. 7 train pulls into Queens.
**Now, about Nadal … Here’s the thing about most tennis fans: We can’t bring ourselves to root against either Federer or Nadal. There are no villains here; both guys are likable, incredibly talented, decent champions that a lot of us want them both to do well.
But after watching Rafa in a few matches since his comeback, I’m worried about the Spanish lefty. He’s moving OK, the knees don’t seem to be bothering him, but he’s just missing … something (I’m using italics too much in this post, I’m noticing. Got to cut that out. Wait, was that out loud?).
Take Saturday night, in his semi against Djokovic. Rafa was getting pushed around the court, playing way too much defense. Novak was dictating everything, and Nadal was scrambling just to stay in points. I know it’s his least favorite surface, and he appeared to have his stomach taped (which baffled the ESPN announcers, and me as well), but I don’t think Rafa’s close to 100 percent yet.
Maybe it’s mental, and he’s worried about re-injuring himself. Whatever it is, I don’t like our chances of a Nadal-Federer final, or even semi-final, at the Open.
**One more tennis thought: ESPN, you’re killing me with these tape delays, especially on matches in America, where’s there’s no time difference issue! I avoided the result of Nadal-Djokovic for a few hours Saturday night, and then watched it on ESPN. But first ESPN shows 10-15 minutes of filler, then toward the end of the second set, I KNEW Nadal wasn’t coming back, because ESPN’s programming window was about to close. It didn’t help, at 5-4 Djokovic, when they ran a crawl saying the stupid “NASCAR Now” show was going to be on at 12:09. Gee, anyone think Nadal was making a comeback at that point?
Tape delays take all the surprise away. And I do love surprises.
***OK, on to “Mad Men.” Big fan of the show, have been since the wife and I started watching it three years ago. I will say, though, that I think the amount of hype the show has gotten has been a little ridiculous. I mean, I understand pop culture arbiters fall in love with a show, and the media elite write and talk about it endlessly, but I don’t ever recall so many writers trying to seem “hip” by writing about “Mad Men.” It’s a really good show.
Anyway, after two episodes this season, my reaction is: Eh. Not thrilled with the way it’s started (SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven’t seen Sunday’s episode. Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.)
I feel like the whole British ownership storyline is forced; I don’t really care about it, and I don’t think the writers have done a great job explaining how this will work. I also feel like they’re pushing some of the best supporting characters, like Joan and Ken, out of the way.
But there’s some good stuff brewing, it looks like. They’re finally developing Peggy’s character more; I feel like they’ve never given her enough to do, or shown us more of who she really is.
The writing is still excellent, and every scene the wonderful John Slattery is in makes me smile (Seriously, who’s been in more great stuff than this guy in the last 10 years? He was in “Ed,” which was criminally unloved, he had a nice guest role on “Desperate Housewives” for a while, and now he’s fantastic in every scene he’s in on “Mad Men.” Love this guy.)
I like where they’re going with Betty’s father, and they may even be setting us up for a discussion of Sal’s homosexuality, which ought to be wildly interesting.
If they would just have more bad things happen to Pete, I’d be happy. Man I hate that guy. Can’t he fall down a well or something?
Anyway, step it up, “Mad Men.” You’re better than what you’ve shown so far this year.