Monday, July 06, 2009

MGM: Federer, Chestnut, and McNair

machinegun1-300x199I am not sure where a compilation of this weekend's events could possibly start if not in southern London, where yesterday we had more fabulous sport theater at Center Court where the Gentlemen's Final gave us absolute, positive pure gold.

I know many of us avoid tennis 99% of the time. But, I hope you make an exception for the majors -especially Wimbledon and the US Open. If you do, it seems that like golf, if you give yourself to the final day at most majors, it will deliver to you wonderful drama. To watch Roger Federer and Andy Roddick duel yesterday was as wonderful as watching Federer and Rafa Nadal go at it one year ago. And make no mistake, last year was unbelieveable.

There is plenty more to discuss in the world of sport (Oh, yes), but the lead is given to a tennis match that reminds us how much fun a summer can be with the constant parade of golf, tennis, soccer, racing, and other events that supplement baseball during our long weight until Labor Day when the brilliant run of football begins once again.

* I spent considerable time a month ago, after he won the French Open for the first time of his career that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all-time. Well, if you don't feel that way, Federer (born on August 8, 1981), took another resume point down Sunday by passing Pete Sampras in All-Time Majors by winning his 15th.

"Andy" Roddick (born August 30, 1982) is our best American men's player, and has been since the days that Sampras and Andre Agassi did what they did. The reason I listed both of their dates of birth was that I wanted to try to understand what I was looking at yesterday with Roddick pushing Federer to the absolute limits of his ability. Was Roddick a kid who was up and coming? Clearly not. Federer, who is thought of as old in this sport, is merely 1 year older than Roddick. In fact, you will see below, that when Roddick won his first and only major in 2003 at the US OPEN, Federer had but 2 career majors, both won that same summer of 2003. Since then, Roddick has made plenty of money and fame (and celebrity squeezes), but also never been near that same level as Federer, and was considered a bit of a disappointment for his lack of impressive accomplishments on the top stage. Injuries certainly did not help, but it is tough to say that Roddick has carried the torch of his American predecessors.

Regardless, yesterday was phenomenal. Roddick won every game he served (38 for 38) until the final game that cost him the match. According to Reuters , here are the records set:

The youth of tennis is Nadal (born 3 June 1986) and Andy Murray (born 15 May 1987) and perhaps other studs I know nothing about, but not Roddick, who looked crushed yesterday after the match because he played as well as he ever had but it was still not enough to take down the great Rog who has owned him forever. Federer is everything Tiger is, but in a sport we all care about quite a bit less. But, still, his greatness over the last 6 years is beyond any stretch we have ever seen:

* The match was the longest ever men's grand slam final in games, clocking up a total of 77 across five sets.

The previous record was 71 games in the 1927 Australian Championship, and the previous Wimbledon record was 62 games in last year's Wimbledon final between Federer and Rafael Nadal.


* At 16-14 the final set was the longest fifth set in a men's grand slam final in games.

The previous record was 11-9 in the 1927 Roland Garros final.


* The fifth set also broke the record for the most games in any set in a Wimbledon men's singles final, with a total 30 games played -- the equivalent of six extra sets and includes finals played before the tiebreak system was introduced.

The previous record was 24 games, which was reached in both the first set of the men's singles final in 1954 and the last set of the men's singles final in 1958.


* Federer served 50 aces during Sunday's final -- the most he has ever served in a match, and one behind Ivo Karlovic's Wimbledon record of 51 aces.

Federer's previous best was 39 aces, in his match against Janko Tipsarevic in the 2008 Australian Open.

Here is the year-by-year, major-by-major rundown since Federer began winning majors in 2003:
YearAustralianFrenchWimbledonUS Open

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* I may have to apologize, but for the 7th or 8th year in a row, I spent part of my 4th of July enjoying the comedy of the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Joey Chestnut, the American who has taken down the Japanese power-house Kobayashi since 2007, defended his title yet again, by doing the unthinkable - eating 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

I don't know why, but I am fascinated with the records of this contest . This contest has existed since 1916, and did you know that as late as the year 2000, the record was 25? 25 is amazing - don't get me wrong - but, don't you think you might know someone who could make a run at 25?

But then, Kobayashi came along. And he doubled the record in 2001 to 50! In one year! He then became a celebrity and dominated this contest until 2006, always with a number around 50-55. But, in 2007, some American kid with a gift named Joey Chestnut came along and ate 66 in the 12 minutes the contest used to be. And since then, Kobayashi - who makes a reported 150K a year, has been trying to get the mustard belt back. But, Chestnut has too much for him. 68 in 10 minutes. A victory for America. It is a guilty pleasure, but I love it every year.

* The death of Steve McNair was shocking and a bit upsetting. We know we are starting to get old when star QB's who did not get out of college until after we did are found dead. He was one of the toughest QB's of our era, and I think immediately about being 1-yard short of the Super Bowl XXXIV Title for the Titans against the Rams.

The details of his death are certainly a larger part of his story. It is easy to overlook the non-complimentary details of people's life most of the time when they die, but if it is the reason they died, it is tough to avoid. Many who have the time and interest are trying to get to the bottom of all of this , but whether he likes it or not, this will be a big part of his legacy.

Just another example (they seem to be coming every week) about how none of us are promised tomorrow.

* Jason Kidd is staying according to Mark Stein which answers the concern we have had for quite some time. In the end, he appears to be staying for the same reasons I wrote about in April, that the Mavs can pay him over $8 million a year - when the Knicks could only go to just under $6 million.

This is good news for the Mavericks, as is the signing of Marcin Gortat, but neither is going to make the Mavs significantly better. What will make them better will be their next few moves in the next few months. If there is not a shakeup involving Stackhouse, Dampier, Terry, or Howard (or a combination) then I will be very disappointed. But, I have to think they are smart enough to know that they need to shake it up. If they are buyers right now, as we have heard they are, then bargains do exist.

* Tiger Woods remains awesome with another win. Tough day to be Hunter Mahan, who shot a record-tying 62 in the final round, and it still was not good enough. In fact, it wasn't a great day to take on anyone in the Gillette ad campaign - although I am not sure Thierry Henry was doing anything:

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