July 09, 2008

I Got a Fever, And the Only Prescription is More Federer-Nadal

All Hail the new king of Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal earned the respect and admiration of the world with one of the finest played tennis matches of all time. If you missed it, or want to relive some of the spine-tingling points, the BBC produced this fantastic montage.

The big question remains - how much an impact will this match have on the American powers-that-be? That would be you, ESPN. The television giants pull the strings in shaping what the majority of people react to and care about with their endless supply of talk shows harping ad nauseum on the same (non) stories for days/weeks on end. Will they care enough to hype two of the greatest champions of our time, even though it's a Swiss and a Spaniard? Or will it get trumped by breaking news that Brett Favre ran over a groundhog on his mower in Kiln, Mississippi, and dislodging its bony remains might affect his throwing arm should he decide to contemplate the prospect of possibly un-retiring to play football again? Erin Andrews and Rachel Nichols will bring us all the coverage.

What's wrong with appreciating greatness when it Danza slaps you across the face? (And btw, there's a surprise waiting for you as the first image when you Google "danza slap." As if we needed more confirmation where he got his break in show business). Where's the debate on this terrific rivalry and its historical context? Will Federer recover? Will Nadal keep this torrid pace up? This is pertinent sports news.

The ATP Tour needed this booster shot of adrenaline since no American men have posed any threat on the Grand Slam stage for a while. If Bill Simmons had his way, tennis would be dramatically altered. It's quite ironic that his first line was so prescient seeing as the match was, arguably, the best in the last 20 years. Here's hoping Bill tuned in Sunday morning for the entirety of the match, because he would have been glued like I and countless others to the action that blended a chessmaster's guile, a gladiator's grit and gamesmanship without peer.

Tennis isn't in trouble. It boasts two of its brightest and most talented stars of this generation both at the apex of their game and challenging one another to greater heights. If anyone thinks that Federer is on the cusp of a downward spiral, slow your roll. The guy has been through more crap this year and still competing at a world-class level, even if the Slam titles have eluded him. It's a testament to his ability that he's gotten as far as he has, especially at the Australian and French. Yes, American tennis is down. Way down. But the sport is cyclical. Frankly, it's probably a good thing that there isn't a great up-and-comer because he sure as hell won't be prying any majors away from these two for some years.

Will we see this picture again?

I would bet my life savings on it. Can't wait to see a pissed off Roger out to prove something in Flushing Meadows. Also looking forward to Nadal applying his surging confidence to triumph on the hard courts of NYC. We'll be in for a treat.

And while we're on the subject of tennis - mad props to Ryan Sachire on his promotion to Associate Head Coach at Notre Dame. Not sure when Coach Bayliss will be hanging up the clipboard, but we've got one hell of a coach in the wings if/when that happens. I'd love nothing better than to see Sach get cozy in the shadow of the Dome and lead the guys for years to come.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Wow, great news for ND tennis! Glad to hear that Sachire is on board to keep the great tradition going over there at the Eck Pavilion.

Great article. I agree that it's time for the mainstream media (ESPN) to start promoting tennis in this country. Federer and Nadal are two of the greatest tennis players of all-time and yet they get almost zero publicity in America. You would think that a network that shows live tennis throughout the year (including 3 of the 4 Grand Slam events) would really be promoting the Federer-Nadal rivalry.

It's funny that ESPN goes out of its way to create a story out of the dumbest things (Terrell Owens sitting out, the steroid "scandal", the Favre "retirement") and yet there's an ACTUAL SPORTING EVENT with two great players and ESPN practically ignores it.

ESPN has seemingly bought into the idea that Americans don't care about Federer and Nadal because they are foreign, which is completely ridiculous. If Americans don't like foreigners, then why are there so many popular foreign NBA players like Dirk Nowitzski and Tony Parker?? Why are guys like Ichiro and Fukodome and all the Latino baseball players so popular?? Why are guys like Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia some of the most popular players on the PGA Tour?? One look at the All-Star game voting should put to bed the idea that Americans won't embrace foreign athletes.

I agree that Roger will bounce back and contend for Grand Slam titles for years to come. He's only 26, so he still has some great years in him. Sampras won Wimbledon at age 28 and won the US Open at age 30.

Enjoyed the montage. What a match.