le week-end

September 8, 2008

Prior to the storm of Hanna not the sportscaster lady, my weekend was shaping up to be pretty full and satisfying: Mets-Phillies Saturday afternoon game, women’s U.S. Open final on Saturday night, Mets-Phillies Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN (I was planning on heading to a bar). And then! RAIN ALL DAY ON SATURDAY OH MY GOD. So my perfect Queens-related sports obsessions were thrown all out of wack.

I managed to catch the first two games of the Mets-Phillies series, unhappily. All credit to Brett Myers (that hurts to type) and Jamie Moyer for pitching brilliant games, though I will continually be befuddled by the Mets’ (the previous one notwithstanding) inability to smack the crap out of Moyer’s slop. And my golly did Fernando Tatis play outfield like a little leaguer.

With the weather, the U.S. Open women’s final was pushed from Saturday night to Sunday night, meaning an athletic Sophie’s Choice between my beloved Mets and my tennis version of the Mets (i.e., Serena Williams). Considering the previous two listless losses to the Phillies, my general confidence in Santana vs. Hamels, and the fact that I haven’t seen Serena win a big title since January 2007, I decided to go with tennis and headed over to my pal Stan’s place to watch the final, during which he’d give me updates on the Mets-Phils score.

So then this stuff happened:

CARLOS I’M SORRY FOR EVERYTHING I SAID. AGAIN.

(Sidenote: Pfffft Hamels. You guys should’ve just let Kendrick pitch, he would’ve done a better job)

Serena battled Jelena Jankovic for nearly two hours before prevailing 6-4, 7-5 in a tense, dramatic rollercoaster of a match that saw both women playing for not only the U.S. Open title (Serena’s ninth Grand Slam, and what would have been Jankovic’s first) but also for the crown of #1 player in the world. Serena is once again top dog after five years, the longest such stretch in tennis history (besting Andre Agassi’s 3 years and 5 months).

Pretty good Sunday for me; pretty good weekend once the weather cleared up.

***

The perfect capper to all this would be the ability to go see Daniel Murphy sign some crap at the Last Licks in Scarsdale tonight. Why do they hold these things in places like Scarsdale or someplace out on Long Island? Why can’t they do this kind of stuff in Midtown or some other horrible crowded place in Manhattan? SIGH WHINE.


texas vs. new york

August 26, 2008

It seems vaguely poetic that I would return to New York City disillusioned with the traffic and its people (well, Williamsburg at least) and the cramped space (well, my apartment) after a nigh revelatory vacation in big open huge Texas only to hear that John Maine and the Mets were being bludgeoned by a team from Texas. Though I wasn’t anywhere near Houston, it felt fitting. As did the next day, still somewhat jetlagged, when the Mets squandered a 3-0 lead and then a 4-3 lead to lose in extra innings.

But for better or worse, the start of the working week ushered out the Texas dreams and the New York reality set in, and back to the elbowing subway traffic was I. And thankfully the Mets decided that a split of this four-game series was necessary, Carlos Delgado’s 6 RBI and Mike Pelfrey’s second consecutive complete game leading the charge as they head into Philadelphia for a critical two-game set, as the Phillies remain a half-game behind the Mets in the division (hey, formerly beloved Dodgers, remember how I thanked you for sweeping the Phillies? Well I take it back, since you just LAID DOWN AND DIED this weekend). Here’s hoping they’ll finally figure out how to hit against Jamie Moyer, but I’ll be happy with another split in case they don’t.

I’ll unfortunately miss tonight’s game as I will be attending the US Open just down the way from Shea. Apparently I’ll be watching Venus Williams and Roger Federer, which is pretty cool except Venus always plays horribly in early rounds and I’m pretty meh on Federer, genius notwithstanding (I think in athletes I appreciate hard work over genius, hm). And to tie this into the Mets, last night James Blake won a five-set thriller over young Donald Young, all the while having the interlocking NY Mets logo on his left sleeve. James Blake, I find you bland and disappointing, but you’ve just won a point in your favor. I guess.


a wimbledon weekend to remember

July 7, 2008

A dramatic, upset-filled, rejuvenating fortnight at Wimbledon concluded with the highest of play and drama this weekend. On Saturday, the Williams sisters faced off in the final, seeing Venus take out younger sister Serena…and then three hours later, they teamed up to win the women’s doubles championship. A Brit named Laura Robson won the girls’ championship, giving the home crowd something nationalistic to cheer for at last. And then Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer in what may be the greatest match I’ve ever witnessed (I’d say just edging out V. Williams vs. Lindsay Davenport in Wimbledon 2005).

Back when the Williams sisters dominated the women’s tour, they met in six of eight Grand Slam finals, Serena winning the last five. Their matches always came with some hand-wringing: ludicrous charges of match-fixing (again brought up this year when Elena Dementieva lost to Venus in the semis and said that the finals would be a “family decision”), sloppy and lackluster play, and the intangibles of sibling rivalry being played out at an historic level that left the crowd uncomfortable. Well, just about the only negative thing you can say about the women’s final between Venus and Serena Williams was that it didn’t go three sets. The 7-5, 6-4 scoreline is a mite deceiving: Serena came out guns a-blazin’, taking it to big sis and rolling the first ten of eleven points. And then she hit a screamer right to her sister at the net, who countered with a reflex volley winner. After that, it seemed that Venus woke up, and there was nothing Serena could do. And she tried everything. Against any player in the world, Serena would have ran away with this in an hour. But not on Wimbledon against her older sister, the greatest grass-court player of her generation. Consider this: since 2000, a Williams sister has contested all but one final. Serena’s two wins came over Venus. Venus has won five titles, putting her just behind Martina Navratilova (nine) and Steffi Graf (seven) in the Open era.

Not only was it the highest quality match the sisters had played against each other, but I’d have to agree with Peter Bodo when he calls it “the highest level of women’s tennis I’ve ever witnessed.” The quality of shotmaking, the power, precision, the incredible defense were second to none. Serena, a notorious sore-loser, couldn’t even muster enthusiasm for her sister’s win. Considering the way she played, I can see why. The shots she was hitting would have been winners against anyone else, but big sis was always there with an even better reply. Thankfully, the Williams sisters went out and won the doubles, meaning a family sweep, and little sis got to hold up a championship trophy of her own.

Turns out the Williams family drama on Saturday would serve as only a mere appetizer for the behemoth Greek tragedy that was Federer-Nadal III. This was the match-up everyone was looking forward to; the King of Grass vs. the King of Clay. Nadal had come in playing his finest tennis, destroying Federer in the French Open final and taking out Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic in a grass-court warm-up in Queens prior to Wimbledon. Federer, meanwhile, had been unbeaten on grass since 2002 but had yet to show his very best tennis this year, which would be needed to take out Nadal, even on grass.

Nadal had battled–and very nearly won–during their five set encounter in the Wimbledon finals last year, and due to his improved play and Federer’s decline, he was the overwhelming pick by pundits going into the match. He confirmed most predictions by jumping to a 6-4, 6-4, 4-5 lead before the rains came. It looked just about all over for Federer, who then came back to take the third set in a tiebreak. Nadal had many a chance to break through on Federer’s serve in the fourth, but couldn’t manage to pull it off. On to another tiebreak, during which Nadal choked up 5-2, Federer saving championship points with tremendous defense and typical brilliant shotmaking to take the fourth set. What was improbable–but hoped for–a few hours previously had come true: a fifth set, one last stand to decide the champ. Fitting that, with all that was on the line–Federer was gunning to break Bjorn Borg’s record of five straight Wimbledon wins; Nadal was trying to be the first man since Borg to win the “Channel Slam” (French and Wimbledon back-to-back)–it would go to overtime, would end in the dusk, the majestic Centre Court looking like the best set dressing for this improbable dream of a match as flashbulbs provided the only available light as the match ended on Federer’s missed forehand.

Between this and the Mets, a pretty good sports weekend for me.

(A bit of a side note: After last night’s game I kept it tuned to WFAN and listened to Lori Rubinson field calls, talk to Joe Smith, and discuss the Mets. At some point the conversation turned to Nadal’s victory over Federer. Rubinson said something to the effect of “I know Americans only care about American men dominating the sport, but if this match doesn’t help renew interest in tennis, then there’s something wrong with the sport.” I’d agree except say instead, “There’s something wrong with the mentality of the average American sports fan.” Because this comment, while true, not only speaks towards our country’s depressing jingoism/xenophobia–as Rubinson stated, Nadal is a perfect candidate to get Americans interested in the sport, considering his never-say-die attitude and bucketloads of charisma but oh! he’s Spanish!–but total phallocentrism as well. Because, ahem, we’ve had some American women dominate over the past decade while American men have floundered, but oh, they’re women, and black to boot. I see, America.)


i’ve been distracted lately

July 2, 2008

Last night I missed going to the SNY viewing party at the Village Pourhouse (in turn missing out on meeting a boy on whom I have the most incomprehensible crush, a boy who will go nameless, but he’s got Kennedy hair and I’m not made of stone, guys) due to general malaise and weird mental things and stress and whatnot, so I decided to cook for two hours and then listen to the game. Good game! Etc. Hooray win. They’ll probably lose tonight. That’s what .500 teams do, right?

But mainly I’ve been distracted because of Wimbledon. Yes, still! It’s almost over, promise. I realized something about today’s matches though: back in January, when Maria Sharapova defeated Ana Ivanovic in the Australian Open final, drooling males who couldn’t give two shits about the sport were deeming it the “hottest match ever.” I find Ivanovic totally adorable and Sharapova completely overrated (have you seen her face? She looks like a lizard. But she’s blonde, so there you go American standard of beauty), but they probably had a point.

WELL. Considering this blog, it’s time to turn the tables and objectify some men, as today features the hottest ever quarterfinal matchup, though you wouldn’t know it judging by media coverage (save for always-reliable tennis.com, which deemed the match “the GQ special.” Well done).

Here we have Feliciano Lopez, who kind of looks like a male Gabriela Sabatini (in my mind the most beautiful woman to play the sport):

What’s with the beefcake shot though? He looks like he should be on the cover of a romance novel. (Also here’s an, ahem, NSFW image)

And opposing him, beautiful talent-wasting headcase Marat Safin:

Marat kinda looks like an ex’s brother here. Sigh.

I promise actual substance TK.


WIMBLEDON!!!!!

June 23, 2008

To get away from the Mets for a moment (I’ll say this: good win last night, the maturation of Pelfrey is a beautiful thing to behold, only 3.5 back from the struggling Phillies, three series wins in a row…we Mets fans should welcome Jerry and the boys with much love tonight at Shea. Turn the page, etc. This feels like a new team, if only because that dour cloud known as Willie Randolph is gone. Also? I LOVE that now the starting pitchers stay on the mound to give the ball to the reliever. Shows solidarity), Wimbledon starts today!

To those of you who read this blog and skip the very infrequent tennis posts, let me say that baseball and tennis have been the two sports I’ve followed as close to religiously as possible my entire life. There was basketball until I couldn’t stand to watch my hometown Lakers (way to get blownout by BOSTON OF ALL TEAMS, OH MAH GAWD I LOST SO MANY BETS TO MASSHOLES THIS YEAR) in the mid-90s or so. But baseball and tennis are the twin pillars. I like to rationalize it as such: both involve incredible focus and strategy (hit this tiny ball coming at you at 100mph but you have to hit it in this finite space, now go!), both can be mentally draining, and both to me are incredibly aesthetically pleasing.

Stan set up a Wimbledon suicide pool with some of our friends, most of whom know fuck-all about tennis. A suicide is pool is kind of like filling out a March Madness bracket, except you pick one player to advance for each round, though you cannot use that player again. Which means you have to look at the HUGE DRAW and pick a valid winner for each match-up, until eventually you predict a winner. Pretty fun. I know no one cares, but here are my picks round by round.

1st rd: Lleyton Hewitt (only time I will ever root for him because he’s a fucking dick) & Venus Williams (she should make it to the finals and maybe win it, but you never know with her)
2nd rd: Mikhail Youzhny & Agnieska Radwanska
3rd rd: Stanislas Wawrinka & Lindsay Davenport (I highly predict to be booted out of both the mens and ladies pools right here)
4th rd: Andy Roddick & Jelena Jankovic
quarterfinals: Roger Federer (yes, I think he’ll lose in the semis) & Ana Ivanovic
semifinals: Novak Djokovic & Maria Sharapova
finals: Rafael Nadal & Serena Williams

Yeesh.

Anyway, to celebrate Wimbledon Day 1, my favorite fashions, hilarious or otherwise:

Thankfully, she took off the coat once play started.

And now, goddam fucking gay-ass Roger Federer’s annual elicitation of eye-rolls.

WTF is that cardigan?!?! And your fucking manbag.

IS THAT A FUCKING WHITE BELT?!?!?!? Ugh. You pretentious douchehole.


the woeful state of american tennis

January 19, 2008

This generation of American tennis just needs to give it up. At the Australian Open, our last real “hope” is that magnificent choke artist James Blake, who managed to make his own personal history by coming back from being down two sets to none to defeat Sebastien Grosjean, winning only his second ever career five-set match. Should he win one more match, he will surely be decimated by Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.

Andy Roddick, pictured above, fell to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the 3rd round, showcasing the kind of one-dimensional game that’ll leave him with a One Slam Wonder legacy. Remember when he won that U.S. Open? He was still pretty one-dimensional back then, but at least he knew how to hit the damn ball. The final game of Roddick’s match against Kohlschreiber exposed the devolution of his ability: weak slices, short backhands, and loopy forehands that sat up, enabling Kohlschreiber to win the point with a punishing, hard-hit, deep winner. The kinds of winners Roddick used to be able to hit. How boring he is now.

Elsewhere, Mardy Fish was another 3rd round casualty, losing to Jarkko Niemenen. Fish, however, did manage an absolute drubbing of 11th seed Tommy Robredo, as well as a win in the Hopman Cup with Serena Williams, so he should feel okay with himself. Also he’s engaged to one of the “we’re so pretty, oh so pretty…vacant” suitcase holders of Deal or No Deal, so I bet he’s not too bummed (I guess). The other remaining American is Rappin’ Vince Spadea, who somehow still has a tennis career, and will face 5th seed David Ferrer in the 3rd round.

What about the young generation? Well, yet another 3rd round loss came in the form of Thousand Oaks, California’s Sam Querrey, who was waxed by Serbian Sensation Novak Djokovic. He at least did better than first round losers Donald Young and Big John Isner, though he also managed to say the following about Australia: “I’m not a big sightseer. And sometimes when you go to Europe, you have to see the Eiffel Tower and places like that. You don’t have to see anything here, and I like that.” Way to reinforce bad stereotypes of both Southern Californians and Americans, Sam.

Surely the women are in better standing, yes? Well, sort of. Of course there are the re-resurgent Williams sisters, ranked seventh and eighth in the world, having a very likely shot at a showdown in the final while also wreaking havoc in the doubles draw. The heretofore glorious comeback of new mom Lindsay Davenport finally reached a snag when she ran into actual talent in the form of Maria Sharapova, who seems to have finally gotten over the beating administered to her in last year’s Aussie final by Serena. But after them, that’s it. The Williams sisters are surely headed towards the twilight of their careers in the next few years, Davenport will likely never be a true top contender (though she could easily reach the top ten and consistently fall in the 4th round or quarters in slams, like Daniela Hantuchova or something), and there is absolutely no promise to be shown from youngsters like Vania King and Fashion Victim Bethanie Mattek or also-rans like Ashley Harkleroad, Meilen Tu and Laura Granville. Then there’s veteran Meghann Shaunessy, who I’m not even sure played this year, which speaks a lot about her clout.

In short, let’s hope for another couple of good years from these two:

It’s really all we can do. Amurrikkka, fuck yeah. Eh.


a sporty weekend in flushing, queens

September 10, 2007

On Friday I played hooky with Stan, heading over to the Billie Jean King United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center (BJKUSTANTC) to watch the U.S. Open, something I have been wanting to do for like the past decade and a half. It was pretty exciting up until I watched some actual tennis. The big match, the reason Stan and I went, was to see the women’s semifinal clash between Justine Henin and Venus Williams. It was, however, the last scheduled match of the day session, meaning there was lots of time to kill considering we got there at like 10:30. The rundown of matches we saw:

  • some kind of special Champions (read: old people) mixed doubles match between Hana Mandlikova/Ilie Nastasie and Ilona Kloss/Guillermo Vilas
  • some junior girls quarterfinals matches, including an upset of #1 girl Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (by the end of the day I fucking mastered that last name), and a drubbing to the last American hope Laura Albanese by #2 Urszula Radwanska (sister of Agnieska, who took out Maria Shreikapova in the main draw)
  • a junior boys quarterfinal between two boys whose names I don’t quite remember (Greg Jones and a kid whose first name was Jerzy I think). I believe Jerzy was Serbian, but that’s just because it seems like every up-and-coming tennis player is a Serb. We sat behind the kid’s family, and to hear them exhort the young lad was pretty neat, except the dad kept yapping on his goddam cell phone.
  • the first women’s semifinal between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze, which was an absolute abomination. Kuznetsova was seemingly unable to hit the ball within 5 feet of the lines for the first set, and was so unnerved she actually had the gall to tell the umpire to have the crowd be quiet when she’s serving. That’s funny, because absolutely no one was making a sound, because wtf was there to cheer about? Feeling left out of the Unholy Trainwreck, it was then Chakvetadze’s turn. As I watched this atrocity in absolute pain and boredom and heat and discomfort, I wondered if there was ever such a big match played so lousily by both players. I also wondered if I was just being too harsh because I couldn’t really give a flying fuck about either (apparently I was not). I then commented to Stan, “Whoever wins this is gonna get killed in the final.” I was right.

That UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLY BAD MATCH was fortunately alleviated by a tense, dramatic, wonderfully played match between Henin and Williams that unfortunately was won by Henin (I do not like her, but I respect the hell out of her game). The acrobatics by both players, the unbelievable retrieving and shotmaking, the high level of quality in both of their games as well as the sheer theatre of it was a marked and welcome contrast to the FUCKING ATROCITY that preceded it.

I almost wanted to head straight to Shea afterwards, but being a) broke and b) tired as all hell after watching mostly mediocrity all day while roasting in the sun made me really crave a shower, some chicken wings, and my bed. I listened to the Mets just pound on the Astros, which is always a good way to end a day.

Saturday I had to go to work because I skipped out the day before. Boo work. Tommy Glavine was perfect through five innings. I watched the archive of this match on MLB.com for the final three hours of work. I had absolutely nothing to do.

Sunday! Return of Pedro to Shea! Sunday was big for sports in NY. Pedro’s homecoming, The King vs. The Upstart across the street (Roger Federer ended up taking out my longstanding crush Novak Djokovic in straight sets, though Djokovic had five set points in the first and two in the second…gah, Novak!), and the first day of that little sport called football (I don’t like football. I don’t. I much prefer football being pleasant background noise up until December. I am, however, in a fantasy football league. I have no idea what I’m doing).

Being at Shea for Pedro’s return was borderline magical. The complete and total adoration for him was palpable throughout his five innings of work, his majestic double off Roy Oswalt, the curtain call he took. Not really much to say, it was an almost perfect day with Pedro pitching shutout ball and the Mets scoring a few runs thanks to Beltran’s two RBIs and a massive two-run shot by Alouuuuuuuuuuuu.

Oh there was that whole business of Guillermo Mota giving up a first-pitch home run, following that up with a single, then throwing away an easy out on a bunt, but who really is surprised anymore. I decided to get up and smoke and take a stroll. Smoking: better for your health than watching Mota do anything related to baseball.