Tag Archives: Roger Federer

The U.S. Open is here! I’m in heaven as always. Some superstitious cows amuse me.. And a shocking retirement announcement from an NFL star

 

It feels like the night before Christmas, y’all.

I know, I know, I’m Jewish. But the U.S. Open tennis tournament starts in, oh, about 13 hours from the time I’m typing this, and as always, I am super-duper excited.

I am so damn lucky for many reasons in life, but one is that for the past eight years I’ve lived less than 45 minutes away from the greatest spectacle in tennis, and for the past six I’ve been lucky enough to have an up-close seat as a writer covering the tournament.

Every year I say this to myself when I look around the Bud Collins Media Center, and see some scribes or broadcasters muttering or complaining about something: Are you freaking kidding me? You people have the best job ever, getting to come to the U.S. Open, FOR FREE, and someone else is paying you to be there, and you get free food! And great seats to the matches!

The Open is amazing, and I’m expecting another great tournament. Since this is my blog I ought to first let you know a few of my U.S. Open preview stories have already been published; first, in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, N.Y., I profiled Jessica Pegula, a super-nice woman who I’ve known and covered for years, who has made a huge breakthrough in the rankings this season.
And then for my new “regular” tennis writing gig at Tennis.One, I did a quick-hitting Open preview for the men and the women, with first-round matches to watch, three players who may win the whole shebang, and other fun stuff.

OK, on to a few other scattered thoughts as this two-week extravaganza gets underway.

— Can’t remember the last time I had this little clue who’d win the Open on the women’s side. You can make a case to me for nine different players, at least, and I’d buy in. Naomi Osaka, the defending champ? Maybe, but her year hasn’t been great since Australia. Ash Barty, the French Open champ? Maybe, but she too isn’t playing great. Serena? Sure, why not, but there are so many psychological, emotional and physical factors she has to deal with this year here at Flushing Meadows.
I’ll pick Wimbledon champ Simona Halep, but really I have no clue (aren’t you glad some people are paying me to cover this?)

— As for the men, well, that’s much easier. Bet almost everything you own on Novak Djokovic, who is by far the best hardcourt player on the ATP Tour. Bet the rest on Rafael Nadal. And say a little prayer for Roger Federer, who will need everything to go right to win.

— Coco-mania is in full swing here. I’m speaking of course of 15-year-old Coco Gauff, playing her first Open and drawing huge crowds last week at practice wherever she went. I attended one of her sessions for a story I’m working on for the Palm Beach Post, and it was pretty raucous when she signed autographs. Gauff is a great, great kid off the court, definitely someone to root for. She starts on Tuesday.

The Open is here! Happy times are here again.

**And now, just because this made me laugh hard, a video of cows all thinking they have to jump over the white lines on the road, and doing it beautifully.

Hilarious. It’s like they’re superstitious baseball players or something.

**And finally today, it’s pretty rare when an NFL superstar retires in his prime, two weeks before the season starts, but that’s happened Saturday night.

Shockingly, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, age 29, announced his retirement. Luck has been battling injuries for several years, and hasn’t played at all this preseason due to a calf injury.

After a constant cycle of injury and rehab, the mental and physical toll finally got to be too much for Luck.

I say good for him. Let him get out while he can still enjoy his life. The NFL chews these men up and spits them out, leaving them broken.

And it was despicable that when news broke Saturday night at a Colts preseason game, and Luck trotted off the field at halftime, some Indy fans booed him.

How dare he try to protect his future health and life, right??? Awful.

My man Pearlman has a great column up on Luck, the booing, and how he made the right decision.

The great “Jeopardy James” finally loses, and a nation is shocked. Billy Joel and Def Leppard singer do a fabulous duet on a classic. And Roger vs. Rafa, one more time, at the French Open

All great streaks must end, eventually.

Cal Ripken played 2,632 straight baseball games, then sat one out.
The UCLA men’s basketball team won 88 consecutive games, then lost

My 4 1/2 year old son suffered a tiny bump or bruise and didn’t cry… no wait, sorry, that streak of tears is still going.
Anyway, you get my point.

Monday night, millions of viewers across America watched, stunned with mouths agape, as the great “Jeopardy James” Holzhauer was finally defeated on the quiz show.

Mere thousands of dollars shy of breaking Ken Jennings’ all-time record money haul, Holzhauer, the professional sports gambler from Vegas, lost.

He lost to a 27-year-old librarian from Chicago named Emma, who once wrote a dissertation on how to win at “Jeopardy” and the difficulty level of the clues come up. He lost for a bunch of reasons, none of which were that he got any answers wrong (he didn’t buzz in and get a single one wrong, incredibly.)
James’ streak died because he came up against a fantastic player, yes.

But he also ran out of luck with Daily Doubles, the biggest reason he’s been able to win more than two million dollars on the show over the past several weeks.

He found the first Daily Double on the first clue of the game, which meant James could only wager $1,000 at most. Then in the Double Jeopardy round, Emma found both Daily Doubles, and passed, then padded, her lead over James.

So the great Holzhauer, who I found so entertaining with his breadth of knowledge and cool wagers, never got a chance to run up a big score like he always does.

I embedded the last two minutes of the episode from Monday above; check out how the crowd gasps when they realize James lost, then listen to how choked up Alex Trebek gets at the end! He’s legit bummed that James is done.

Bravo, young Jedi Master James. We all bow before you. Now let’s get that head-to-head matchup with Ken Jennings scheduled and on TV, pronto.

**Next up today, there’s no way in the world once I saw this, that I wasn’t putting it here.

Def Leppard is one of my all-time favorite bands, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is one of their classic songs, and Billy Joel, God bless him, tries to spice up his monthly Madison Square Garden shows every once in a while.

So he had Joe Elliott, the band’s lead singer, come out for a duet on “Pour Some Sugar on Me” with him Sunday night.

Very freaking cool. 1989 me would be freaking out if I saw this live. (By the way, how incredible is fan-taken live concert footage quality these days? Remember when it used to be all grainy and out of focus?)

**And finally today, oh man, Tuesday was a glorious day for me and the other tennis nuts out there. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both won their quarterfinals at Roland Garros, and that means on Friday morning, we get Fedal 39, the 39th meeting ever between two of the 5-6 greatest men’s tennis players of all time.

Yes, after eight years of them not playing each other at the French Open, and four years after Federer last played in Paris at this clay-court Slam, we get another installment of one of the best rivalries in the history of the sport.

The enormous Fed fan in me wants to believe Roger can beat the best clay-courter ever, that he’s been turning back time for a few weeks, and accomplish the one feat he never has: Beating Rafa in his backyard, Roland Garros.

But I dunno… it’s going to be incredibly tough. Nadal is playing so damn well right now, and he’s not tired at all from the cakewalk matches he’s been having so far at this tournament.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be special. These two incredible sportsman, both so worthy of emulation for the way they carry themselves on and off the court, might never play again at a Slam.

So I’m sure as hell going to savor this meeting Friday, however it turns out. And if you’re a sports fan, so should you.

Two giants leave the stage: Wrestling with the many things to love and hate about John McCain. And Neil Simon was a playwright God. And the U.S. Open begins!

Messy, non black-and-white lives make for very confusing obituaries when a person dies.

We so easily want to place people into neat categories: Good guy, bad guy. Hero, or villain. Genius, or idiot. Nuance doesn’t play so well in 2018, when everyone must have a take on something immediately.

The life of John McCain, which ended Sunday at 81, does not categorize easily. There is so much that happened to him, or that he made happen, and if you take just that side of it, you can decide for yourself if McCain was a hero, or someone not worthy of admiration.

Me, I think he’s both. Let’s start with the good of John McCain: He was a war hero; he survived 5.5 years of captivity as a prisoner of war, refusing to be let go early because of his famous Navy family and suffering unspeakable horrors. He also had a distinguished career as a Senator, helping write the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws which have been obliterated over the past 20 years.

In 2000 he should’ve been and could’ve been the Republican presidential nominee, but George W. Bush and Karl Rove did some unspeakable things to McCain in S. Carolina, and so he lost, but he captured the imagination of millions of voters who believed he was a “different” kind of politician.

He ran a poor, mostly civil campaign for President of the United States in 2008, and in the last two years battled brain cancer bravely, and battled (in spots) the evil of Donald Trump.

And now the other side: He was a major figure in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s, and possibly should’ve seen jail time. He inflicted Sarah Palin on the world, and you absolutely can draw a straight line from that dim-witted fool being named as a VP nominee in 2008 to the intelligence-deprived Americans who put a failed business exec turned TV star into the damn White House.

McCain, for all his bluster, was much more conservative in his voting record than Democrats pretended he was, and for all his anti-Trump blather, he still voted to pass tax cuts that were horrendous to the middle class, and he still refused to stand up to Trump legislatively and give him more losses that he deserved. There was a lot to like about John McCain, and a lot to dislike about him.

As one of my favorite writers, Bruce Arthur, said on Twitter Sunday, McCain lived “a big, messy, significant life.”

He was many things, to many people. But I do believe his heart was usually in the right place, and he thought what he was doing was right.

I’ll leave you with this, that stuck out at me Sunday: John McCain lost the Republican nomination for President to George W. Bush, and he lost the presidential election to Barack Obama. He has asked both men to deliver the eulogies at his funeral.

**Next up, it’s a holy day in my life today as my annual two week bacchanalia of fun, freelance writing and so much great tennis begins with the start of the U.S. Open.

Qualifying week last week was awesome as usual, but now, the real party starts: 128 men, 128 women, all as of 11 a.m. this morning with an equal shot to win the last major of the year.

I have no idea who will win the women’s title; many are picking Serena Williams but I just can’t see it; she’s still playing her way back into match shape. I could see Sloane Stephens repeating, I could see Angie Kerber taking the title, too. But I’m sure I’ll regret this but I’m going with American Madison Keys to finally make her big breakthrough and take home her first Slam.

On the men’s side, of course my heart says a certain Swiss gentleman will win, but he’s got a tough draw once we get to the second week. I’d love to see Novak Djokovic follow up on his Wimbledon win with a title, but not sure he’s all the way back yet.

So I’m picking Nadal, boring though it is to go with the top seed.

Whoever wins, I guarantee one thing: It’s going to be a fantastic tournament. Couldn’t find a really good preview or hype video for the upcoming Open, so I thought I’d play my favorite Roger Federer shot of all time, from the 2009 semis. Unbelievable.

**Finally today, a few words about the great Neil Simon, the playwright who died Sunday at 91. Maybe, along with Arthur Miller, the greatest American theater writer ever, Simon wrote so many classics, including “The Odd Couple,” “The Goodbye Girl” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” He was a television and film writer as well, and he was so, so damn funny.

“The Odd Couple” alone was such a classic it’s been made into movies, TV shows and been imitated forever; the slob who lives with the neat freak is a staple of popular culture.

Simon was the recipient of four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Kennedy Center honors (1995), four Writers Guild of America Awards, an American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement honor and, in 1983, he even had a Broadway theater named after him when the Alvin was rechristened the Neil Simon Theatre. (pretty great honor when you’re, you know, still alive.)

What a remarkable life he led.

The great Roger Federer leaves me in awe again, and three cheers for Caroline Wozniacki, finally a Slam winner. And my annual Grammy thoughts from a has-been music fan

For 99 percent of professional tennis players, winning a Grand Slam title is the absolute pinnacle of their careers. So many thousands of hours of practice, sweat and tears, so many close calls and near-misses, so many injuries they’ve fought through and bad luck they’ve endured, and then one day, miraculously, they’re the last player standing, they’re holding the trophy and it’s all been worth it.

Ninety-nine percent of tennis players would kill to experience winning one Grand Slam.

Roger Federer has now won 20. And that is mind-boggling.

I know, I know, that’s very simplistic to put it like that, but it’s just one way of thinking about how amazing this 36-year-old Swiss master is. Sunday in Melbourne, Australia, he won yet another Slam title, beating Marin Cilic in five sets to win the Australian Open.

The man defies description. He goes five years between Grand Slam titles, and looks for all the world to be a man on his way out of the sport. People are calling for Federer to retire, to ride off into the sunset, all that jazz. Mind you, he was STILL in the Top 10 in the world, still playing deep into majors. But he was no longer the dominant, best-of-all-time force he once was, and so he must be told to quit.

Then, amazingly, after a six-month injury absence, he comes to Australia a year ago and wins. Then wins Wimbledon. And now wins another Aussie Open. And still gets so emotional at winning that this is his reaction in the on-court speech immediately following.

He is class personified, and I’m thrilled that he’s back on top. Twenty major titles. Just amazing.

Also a quick shout-out to Caroline Wozniacki, a fantastic player who for almost 10 years has chased a Grand Slam title that eluded her. Her career looked to be on the downswing a few years ago, but she kept fighting and finally this weekend won her first major title. Wozniacki has always struck me as a class act, always gracious in defeat and a kind person off the court. Very happy to see her finally get her moment.

*Finally today, Sunday night was, of course the Grammys, and as usual I had heard very little of the music that was performed and awarded. But as always, that doesn’t stop me from having opinions. I must admit up front I didn’t have time to watch the whole show, but skipped around.

— Kendrick Lamar, I only watch you once a year, because I’m still stuck in the 1980s, musically. But damn, you are a pretty kick-ass performer.

— Very nice and touching performance by four country music artists with their rendition of “Tears in Heaven” to honor those who died in the Las Vegas shooting massacre. Glad that was honored and talked about.

— U2’s performance was, of course, amazing, with the Statue of Liberty in the background and a song “Get Out of Your Own Way” that fits the times.

— Ke$ha and Cyndi Lauper and Co. were also fantastic. Lot of great live performances at the Grammys this year.

— Pink is amazing, which I have said on this blog many, many times. Whether she’s dangling off the side of a building and singing like she did last year, nor simply standing on stage and belting out one hell of a song like she did Sunday night, that woman is truly sensational. So pumped to see her again on her current tour; the wife and I got tickets to an April show in New York. She is so incredible.

— Logic, another musician I did not know, did a powerful performance of a song written to make a suicide-prevention hotline phone number more visible.  Also enjoyed him telling people from all over the world that ‘you are not from shithole countries,” though it’s sad CBS bleeped it out.

— Miley Cyrus and Elton John doing “Tiny Dancer” was sensational; with all of her ridiculous behavior you forget just how incredible a talent Miley is. But she was fabulous here.

— Am I the only one who didn’t know there was still a “Best Comedy Album” Grammy? Man did they play that up a lot during the show; who really cares about comedy at the Grammys?

— That James Corden, Sting and Shaggy sketch on the New York City subways. Groan, groan, groan. Just bad.

— Finally, I don’t know who Logic is, but that was a pretty fantastic little speech he gave at the end of his performance. Proud to see so many artists speak up about the atrocities this President and his allies are committing.

 

Another Friends of Jaclyn “Angel Walk” makes me so grateful. Federer/Nadal playing doubles together was awesome. And NFL Week 3 was bananas and unpredictable (the Jets even won!)

Sunday was a glorious and sad day, at the same time for me. The day my family and I participate in the Friends of Jaclyn Angel Walk always is.

I’ve written a lot about the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation here, because it is the No.1 charitable cause near and dear to my heart. Pairing up high school and college sports teams with children suffering from pediatric brain tumors and other deadly cancers, FOJ is an incredible beacon of light for thousands of sick children, and for the athletes on teams who adopt them. (All my stories on FOJ’s kids and teams can be found here, if you’re interested.) It is run by wonderful, kind-hearted people who work so hard to make so many lives better.

Every year FOJ holds an “Angel Walk,” to honor those children who have died at some point after being adopted by a team. While thousands of children are thriving and beating cancer, way too many others bravely lost their battle (we’ve lost 144 children overall, since FOJ’s founding. And so every year, teams, athletes, families and others involved in FOJ meet at the Bridge over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to keep memories alive.

There are speeches given by players and coaches, and by founders Denis and Jaclyn Murphy. We walk across the bridge, bagpipes are played, and at the end of the ceremonies, white doves are released into the sky, as a symbol of those who we lost.

It’s a glorious day because we come together and show our support for so many, for such a good cause. But it’s a sad day because of all we have lost.

My favorite comment every year in a speech came Sunday from a University of Hartford basketball coach named Matt Mihalich, who said “I can’t wait until FOJ becomes obsolete. Because that means there’ll be no more pediatric cancers.”

Amen to that. But while there still is, this beautiful ceremony every year makes me realize how important FOJ’s work is.

**Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done so many amazing things in their careers; they are two of the 5 or 6 best male players ever, they’ve made more money than small countries take in in a year, and they have absolutely nothing left to prove.

But what they’d never done, not in any real competition, is play doubles together. It’s so unusual to even think about, the two best players of an era teaming up on the same side of the court. Did Borg and McEnroe ever play as a team? Sampras and Agassi? Navratilova and Evert? Nope.

But at a newfangled tennis competition this past weekend called the Laver Cup, Federer and Nadal actually teamed up. The competition is Europe vs. the World, so once again the best rivalry in the sport were oddly on the same team.

And it was … jarring to watch. But so much fun. I knew they were the same height, even with such different body types, but seeing them standing next to each other was great. They made mistakes as a team, seemed to constantly be smiling, and it was just a joy to watch.

Highlights above. Who says tennis season has to end after the U.S. Open?

**After a couple of really drab weeks of NFL football, Sunday was filled with fabulous games, none of which I saw since (see above) I was out all day. But lots to catch up on…

— J-E-T-… wait, what??? They WON? Don’t they realize they’re supposed to tank, go 0-16, and draft No.1? Can’t even do the “losing on purpose” thing right.
No, I’m kidding. I knew they were going to win at least 2-3 games this year, because it’s really really hard to go 0-16. Sunday the Dolphins helpfully decided to roll over and play dead, the Jets defense decided to show up (what, you’re allowed to tackle before the end zone?), and Josh McCown at quarterback actually played pretty damn well. 4-12 here we come, baby!

— The Jets have more wins the Giants. Never thought I’d say that this year. A 61-yard field goal at the buzzer by the Eagles’ rookie kicker, Jake Elliott to win the game?  Crazy.

— Also, Odell Beckham Jr. made ridiculously impressive TD catches for the Giants. Then somehow decided it was a good idea to pantomime a dog peeing in the end zone for one celebration, drawing a flag. So, you know, business as usual for him.

— Go ahead, bet on the NFL: Saints crush Panthers. Bears beat Steelers. Jets dominate Dolphins. Yeah, I’m sure everyone predicted that Sunday morning.

— NFL referees are still horrible. Just thought I’d let you know that. Lions got totally screwed Sunday on that TD at the end of the game, not being called a TD.

— Never underestimate our current President’s ability to make new enemies. During a rambling, mostly incoherent 9o-minute speech in Alabama Friday night, the Orange Grifter managed to piss off both NFL players AND owners, not an easy task. The owners in particular, nearly all of whom are wealthy white men who are Republicans, came out strongly against Trump’s idiotic comments, releasing all kinds of strong statements like this one from Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

This is all well and good, these owners making statements condemning Trump. But I guarantee you most of them gave money to the RNC or Trump personally last year; suddenly they are realizing what he is, because he’s attacking football? They didn’t know he was a sexual abusing, racist arrogant a-hole in 2016?
Still, it was good to see some owners standing with their players, and even better to see SO many players either kneeling, or in the Steelers, Titans and Seahawks’ cases, refuse to even come out on the field for the national anthem.

–One more time, for the people who still think, like our President does, that this is about “disrespecting the flag.” It’s not. It’s never been. It’s been about protesting the racial injustices in our society, that see African-Americans and other minorities get the short end of the stick on everything, and white police officers never, ever getting made to pay the price for their deeds. That’s it.d That’s what this is about.

Of course these players love America. They just hate how unequal things are now, not as bad as they’ve ever been of course, but still pretty bad.

A kid gets baptized inside the Stanley Cup and it’s great. Darci Lynne slays me again on “America’s Got Talent.” And Federer vs. Nadal at the Open, so close I can taste it!

We begin today with a hockey story, because it was 88 degrees here in New York City Tuesday so of course we’re all thinking about things played on ice.

As sports fans know, one of the awesome perks of being on a team that wins the Stanley Cup is that in the offseason following the win, each player gets to take the Cup for a day, to do with it whatever they want.

There has been some adventures with the Cup, including rumors that the 1994 New York Rangers did some, let’s say, R-rated things with it. But for most creative Stanley Cup experience, let us pause and honor Pittsburgh Penguins forward Josh Archibald, who along with his wife Bailey baptized their three-week-old son Brecken in the beautiful silver chalice.

You think that kid will be telling that story for the rest of his life, or what?  No truth to the rumor that after lying in the Cup for a few seconds, Brecken got out and started skating immediately.

**Next up today, yes I know I’ve featured the amazing 12-year-old ventriloquist from Oklahoma, Darci Lynne, a few times on here before, but I can’t help it, the kid is freaking amazing.

“America’s Got Talent” held their first semifinal Tuesday night and America’s Sweetheart (yeah I’m calling her that) brought out a new puppet to sing an Aretha Franklin classic to Simon Cowell. It was, as usual, all kinds of awesome.

**Finally today, I’m afraid to jinx it. It’s almost happened so many times, we thought it was going to happen, then it didn’t happen, and we’re all disappointed.
No, I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian going away forever, or me growing to be 6 feet tall.

I’m talking about Roger Federer playing Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open, the one major venue in the sport that they’ve never met. It’s really improbable that they’ve never played here, because they’ve both been at or near the top of tennis for so long.

But it’s never happened, and now, tantalizingly, it’s one match away, and me and millions of other tennis fans are hoping/praying it happens. At this thoroughly weird and wonderful U.S. Open (seriously, it’s been very strange, and that was before Sloane Stephens fell off her chair trying to avoid a fly at her press conference Tuesday (fast forward to the 11:50 mark, it’s pretty damn funny), Nadal plays outstanding youngster Andrey Rublev Wednesday afternoon, then Federer plays Juan Martin Del Potro on Wednesday night. If they both win, they play each other Friday night, and man won’t the ticket scalpers be happy that night.

Come on fellas, three more sets each and we finally, finally get a showdown on the biggest court in the world. Fingers crossed.

The greatest of all time wins Wimbledon title No. 8. A Jewish kid in Pa. dedicates his bar mitzvah to Jimmy Kimmel, and Jon Stewart’s not happy. And even Fox News is tired of being lied to

Between 2013-2016, you would hear the stories on TV, or read them in newspapers or on the web.

At first they were whispers, as there was still so much respect for the person they were talking about. But then they got louder, and louder, and louder.

What’s wrong with Roger Federer? Why isn’t he winning anymore? Is he too old? Maybe he should just … retire.

Yep, looks like all those experts were right. That four-year-gap between Grand Slam wins for Roger Federer was the end. Guy could barely play anymore, he should’ve just shuffled off to Switzerland’s version of Del Boca Vista, Phase 2 and called it a career.

Not quite. Roger Federer, the greatest athlete I’ve had the privilege of seeing in my 41 years of life, is writing a story in 2017 that’s never been seen before. He’s doing things no 35-almost-36 year old tennis player has ever done, hell, no professional athlete has done at this age and stage of his career.

Let me hit you with a few quick facts on this incredible champion’s run in 2017:

— He’s won 2 of the 3 Grand Slam events. He’s only played two of them.
— He just won Wimbledon for a record eighth time. And did it without dropping a set. That’s insane.
— He’s 25-0, that’s 25 wins and no losses, in the four biggest tournaments he’s played this year.
— He’s got an excellent chance to become No. 1 in the world again, at the end of this year.

It is all so miraculous to watch for those of us who are hard-core Federer fans like me. We saw the struggles of the last few years, the shocking losses to people like Tommy Robredo and Sergei Stakhovsky at majors, and winced. Nobody wanted to see Federer go out like this.

Then, he got hurt twice in 2016, and took the rest of the season off. Nobody, and I mean, nobody, not even Federer, thought he’d win two Slams this year, and play so flawlessly.

His movement, his serve, his backhand… all of it, back or even better than it was 10 years ago, when he dominated his sport like few others ever had. It’s incredible to see, and Sunday, when he beat a clearly-injured Marin Cilic in straight sets, you could tell how much Federer was enjoying this career renaissance.

Oh, I know, he didn’t have to beat Nadal, Murray or Djokovic to win this title, his 19th Slam overall. But that’s not his fault; two of them were injured and the other (Nadal, having a terrific year himself) lost an epic five-setter.

It’s truly a remarkable story, Federer doing this at his age, doing it so well.

And before I move on, a few words about Venus Williams. She’s 37, she’s overcome so many injuries and illness the past few years, and yet she’s still a Top 10 player. She made a fantastic run to the Wimbledon finals before falling short to Garbine Muguruza, but she’s an inspiration. Venus has always been a class act, and I hope she does get one more Slam title before she’s done.

Great Wimbledon. U.S. Open only seven weeks away!

**Next up, this made me laugh really hard. Seems there’s a 13-year-old in Media, Pa. named Will Rubin who is a huge fan of Jimmy Kimmel and his late-night show. Such a huge fan that he invited Kimmel to come to his bar mitzvah. Understandably, Kimmel couldn’t attend, but he did send a video message along, and Will ended up having a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” theme at his celebration of becoming a man.

Well, a certain Jewish comedian named Jon Stewart wasn’t too pleased he was passed over;and he “stormed” Kimmel’s set last Thursday night to argue/appeal to the boy. “Will, wouldn’t you rather idolize a talk-show host who’s also circumcised?”

This is great.

**Finally today, my head hurts trying to keep up with all the lies coming out the White House these days. Honestly, it’s exhausting trying to keep track, between them lying about the Russia meetings, what’s in the health care bill (and as brilliant Tweeter John Fugelsang pointed out Sunday, after learning that there’ll be no health care vote this week “Mitch McConnell has to delay taking healthcare from American taxpayers until after John McCain has surgery, paid for by American taxpayers.”

It is now beyond clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Fredo Trump (Don Jr.) and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner lied, repeatedly, about meeting with representative of the Russian government bent on helping Trump win. But still, 35 percent of Americans will support this President no matter what he does or says.

But every once in a while, some sunlight comes in, even to Fox News. Check out Chris Wallace and Shep Smith the other day, talking about this scandal and the incredible number of lies, lies, lies coming out of the White House.

“The deception is mind-boggling,” Smith says, and he’s right.

“The Big Sick” a really warm, funny movie with heart. Remembering the best July 4th fireworks show I saw live. And Wimbledon begins, can Federer win No. 19?

It’s rare that I go to the movies anymore, and even rarer that I go to the cinema in the summer, when nearly every movie is an insipid superhero flick with $200 million special effects budget but a $5 plot. Summer movies are almost always dreadful; the best thing about them is that you’re inside and getting air conditioning for a few hours.

But I’ve been reading and hearing so many positive things about “The Big Sick,” the new romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani (he’s on HBO’s excellent “Silicon Valley”) and Zoe Kazan, that my beautiful wife and I decided to check it out.

It was sensational. Really, really strong flick, maybe the best romantic comedy I’ve seen since I don’t know when. (maybe since I saw “Knocked Up?”)

The plot is simple: Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani stand-up comedian in his 20s living in Chicago, totally happy with American culture, but stuck with old-world parents who keep trying to set him up. One night at a comedy club he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a blonde and perky grad student who’s studying to be a psychiatrist. The two hit it off immediately, start to have a relationship, and a few months later it falls apart (I won’t spoil the whole plot).

Then right after the breakup, Emily gets very sick and is put into a medically-induced coma, and suddenly we’re in a very different movie. Soon Kumail has to deal with Emily’s parents (the usually hilarious Holly Hunter is great here, and Ray Romano continues to show he can actually act), who know about the breakup and understandably aren’t thrilled he keeps showing up to the hospital every day.

There were a lot of little, funny touches in “The Big Sick,”  that show the writers (Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily Gordon) realize the small things are important, including Kumail needing to get ahold of Emily’s parents, but not having their phone number, and of course Emily’s phone is locked.

So he takes Emily’s iPhone and slides her comatose thumb over the home button, unlocking the device, then mouthing “sorry” to her. But hey, how else would he have gotten their digits, right?

The movie also contains what I believe to be the first and only truly funny 9/11 joke, which I won’t spoil here. You may hate yourself for laughing at it, but you will laugh, trust me.

“The Big Sick” has great heart, its hilarious and moving, and credits its audience with having a brain, rare for a summer movie. It’s only playing in certain cities right now, but it’s gotten a 91 percent fresh Rotten Tomatoes score for a reason: It’s terrific. If it’s playing anywhere near you, go see it.

Next up, I’m probably not going to be attending any live fireworks shows this year (our little guy can’t stay up that late and is terrified by loud noises), so I got a little nostalgic and found this on YouTube: In 1986 there was an amazing fireworks show over the Statue of Liberty, to celebrate its 100 year anniversary. My family and I camped out 12 hours earlier to get a good spot. It was pretty magical…

**Finally today, it’s a national holiday for tennis fans like me: Wimbledon is here! The most prestigious and best Grand Slam of the year arrives, and for me it’s two weeks of pure racket bliss. OK, sure, I did have a few moments this weekend remembering the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wimbledon my wife and I took last year, and had a few small pangs of “Man, that was so incredible, I want to go back!

But that quickly passed. This Wimbledon figures to be utterly predictable on the men’s side, and completely unpredictable on the women’s side. With the men, I have to believe it’ll be either Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal winning the title; Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are in deep slumps, and I can’t see an upstart like Grigor Dimitrov or Alex Zverev breaking through here. Please, please tennis Gods, give us Federer/Nadal final in 2 weeks.
On the women’s side, who the hell knows? Serena Williams is pregnant, Maria Sharapova is hurt, and none of the other top women’s players have any great pedigree on grass.

Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open, Simona Halep is always dangerous, and don’t count out Venus. Should be wild.

Two glorious weeks of Wimbledon. Can’t wait.

With so much oxygen sucked up over Trump, let’s not forget the health care debacle GOP is trying to pull. The most incredible in-game promotion race you’ll ever see at the ballpark. And Nadal and Ostapenko amaze at Roland Garros

The drumbeat is unceasing, hour after hour, day after day. There is so much coverage, in print, on the Internet, on the radio and TV, of the latest stupid thing President Donald Trump has said, or done, or threatened to do, that it overwhelms you.

You spend so much time trying not to laugh when one of his own sons contradicts what the President has said about to James Comey, or when you read that this egomaniac lunatic in the Oval Office actually demanded GOP House members go on TV to defend him after the Comey testimony, or that someone who blasted Obama for always playing golf has spent every weekend of his Presidency on the links.

My point is, the Orange Cheeto-man sucks up so much oxygen, it’s so easy to get lost in his drama, and forget the real, sinister things going on in the Senate right now. Especially when it comes to health care.

As you read this, Mitch McConnell and his merry band are planning to ram through new health care legislation that will cost millions their health insurance, and give huge breaks to corporations. This bill is being crafted in secret, by a handful of men, without any hearings, discussions, budget analysis, or amendments. It is the complete opposite, in every way, of the ObamaCare process, which took more than a year to complete, and was packed with GOP-favored amendments. (Go ahead and disagree, GOP, with this plea from Sen. Claire McCaskill.)

But you’re not hearing nearly as much as you should about this horrendous miscarriage of justice, but everything is Trump, Trump, Trump. It is one of many, many unfortunate results of the 2016 election, that so much nefariousness is going on in the Oval that lots of other deleterious changes are happening while few are paying full attention.

Here’s an ad the Democratic Senate Committee has put out, that ought to shock people into action:

It is a disgrace that a health care bill that will affect so many millions, is only discussed in secret.

For shame.

**And now, maybe the funniest in-game baseball promotion ever. So the Atlanta Braves are terrible once again this season, in their first year in a new stadium, but they’ve got one awesome contest. They’ve come up with this gimmick called “Beat the Freeze,” and it goes like this: “The Freeze” is a former college sprinter from Iowa Wesleyan College, and every game he races a fan. The fan gets a huge head start, then “The Freeze”tries to catch him.

This is what happened Friday night, and it’s one of the greatest athletic feats you’ll ever see. The expression on the fan’s face when he realizes “The Freeze” has caught up to him is freaking priceless. So, so great. Hope it gives you a Monday laugh.

**And finally, the French Open concluded over the weekend with one wholly expected result, and one shocker.

The expected was, of course, the incomparable Rafael Nadal, utterly destroying the competition on his way to a Grand Slam. There’s a lot of numbers I could throw at you about how dominant Rafa was in winning his record 10th (10!) French Open titles, but try this one on for size: In the semifinals Nadal played the No. 6 player in the world and the No. 3 player in the world. In six sets, he lost a total of 13 games. That. Is. Insane. Even for Nadal, who has been winning on clay forever.

As the great Jon Wertheim pointed out, imagine at the start of 2017 someone told you Federer and Nadal would win the first 2 Slams, most of the major events in between, and be the two best players of the year so far. You’d have probably told them to lay off the drugs. But here we are, going into what should be an awesome Wimbledon in a few weeks.

The big shock at Roland Garros was Jelena Ostapenko, a 20-year-old Latvian who was still a teenager when the tournament started. She was ranked 47th in the world coming in, but slugged and shrieked her way to the title. An amazing accomplishment, because you almost never seen players this young win majors anymore (the sport has become too physical for younger players to win seven matches over two weeks).

 

Everybody into the pool! I give you some tips on winning your NCAA March Madness bracket. Federer gets “interrogated” by 50 kid reporters. And SNL with a pretty fantastic sketch on Ivanka Trump

Sing it with me now! It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year…

At least for me it is. After I just spent five amazing days at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week covering the ACC basketball tournament (something I last covered in 2000), I am wiped out but incredibly excited for March Madness. (More on my strange back-in-time week as a sportswriter, including when I ran into Chris Christie twice and nearly got bulldozed by Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson in a hallway, in Wednesday’s post.)

Sunday night we learned who’s playing who, when, and where, and I have to say, usually on these nights I’m bitching and moaning about the selection committee snubbing a team badly, or drastically over or under-seeding somebody. But this year, I think the committee did a real good job. Wichita State and Wisconsin got jobbed, both should’ve been at least a 6 or 7 seed, and I can’t understand how a good Wake Forest team was made to play in the play-in game, but those are minor quibbles.

I know a majority of you are going to be filling out office pools this week, and you want to know which upsets to pick, who’s going to the Final Four, and all that stuff. So as I do every year, I am here to guide you, my fine reader. Last year’s opening rounds were insane (remember this shot from Northern Iowa?), so don’t expect nearly as much drama this time.

But we can hope.

Couple quick thoughts on the bracket; not ready to pick my Final Four yet, that’ll be Wednesday.

— OK, right off the bat a few upsets I like: UNC-Wilmington, a 12 seed in the East, to beat Virginia. UVA has really struggled lately and the Seahawks can really shoot. I could see No. 13 Bucknell beating No. 4 West Virginia (I always pick against Bob Huggins teams), No. 12 Middle Tennessee State (who shocked Michigan State last season) beating Minnesota, and maybe, maybe, No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 4 Florida. Also don’t be stunned if No. 14 Iona beats Oregon, or Winthrop beats Butler.

— As always, some tantalizing possible second-round matchups: Kentucky vs. Wichita State in a rematch from three years ago, when the Wildcats eliminated the then-undefeated Shockers; Duke-Marquette (Coach K vs. his old player, Steve Wojciechowski), and Louisville vs. Michigan. The loaded South bracket could give us Kentucky vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16 (think that might get some decent ratings), Arizona-Florida State in the Sweet 16 in the West would be tremendous, and a Kentucky-North Carolina Elite 8 game looms huge.

— Someone on the committee really, really hates Kansas. The Jayhawks got a brutally tough bracket, stuffed with No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Purdue, and a second-round game with either Miami or Michigan State. I don’t see the Jayhawks surviving all that.

–Meanwhile, my Duke boys, fresh off an improbable ACC Tournament championship, got a real nice draw. They could face old friend Steve Wojciechowski in Round 2, and Baylor in the Sweet 16, but really, Duke should get to the Elite 8 at least, where they’d play defending national champion Villanova. That would be sensational.

The madness begins in just a few days. Can’t wait!

**Next up today, any chance I get to show Roger Federer being awesome, and super-humble, I’m going to take it. The greatest tennis player of all time is in Indian Wells, Calif. this week for a pretty major tournament, and as part of promoting the event he did a “press conference” with 50 local 2nd-graders. It’s pretty hilarious and adorable, especially the end.

As the great Jon Wertheim said on Twitter, you can’t fake this level of engagement. What a great, fun little few minutes this is to watch.

And finally today, I haven’t seen “SNL” in a few weeks but they’re still turning out great, slightly subversive material. Over the weekend they did a fake commercial on Ivanka Trump called “Complicit,” and it’s pretty fabulous. The tagline, delivered with about 20 seconds left, is devastating.