Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sports Report: Pros Are Back

Katja with Roger et al.

Dear George,

The pros have been in town for the last two weeks and we’ve been infected with our annual bout of tennis fever. It’s always amazing, but this year was especially significant because they upgraded the women’s tournament to a world-class event. Venus and Serena Williams were out with injuries, but the rest of the top-ranking women played the tournament, as did virtually all of the top-ranked men (Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, etc.). Thanks to gift seats from our tennis pals Paula D and Tom J, we got to see a lot of good matches.

Maria Sharapova serving to Clijsters

The women’s final was on Sunday, Aug. 15, and featured two players that we’ve followed for a long time, Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters. Katja was rooting for Sharapova who we’d watched win Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006. She’s an imposing 6 feet 2 inches tall and hits with corresponding power. A former world No. 1, Sharapova had shoulder surgery two years ago, and her ranking fell to No. 126. so there’s a lot of drama attached to her ongoing comeback. Kim Clijsters too has a newsworthy history. Also a former No. 1 ranked player, Clijsters retired in 2007 to start a family. She began her comeback last year and promptly became the first mom to win a Grand Slam tournament. Sharapova dominated the first set and was on the verge of winning the match when the rain clouds began moving in. She had three match points in a row, but just as Clijsters managed to bring the score back to deuce, the rain started falling and the match was suspended. We thought that was lousy luck. All Sharapova had needed was one more point. We browsed around in the merchandise tent for a while, but, as the rain continued, we decided to go home, confident that the match was all but over. They started again 73 minutes later, and we watched the rest on TV. Wouldn’t you know, Clijsters came back to win the second set and then close out the match in the third.

Rain shuts down the match

On Thursday we went out to see our hero Roger Federer play Russian Dennis Istomin. Though Istomin had a strong serve and forehand, Federer was looking smooth, relaxed, and in command throughout the first set. At 5-2, Istomin twisted his ankle, and that was the end of that. We were disappointed not to see more Federer, but we were also happy to shift over to the grandstand court to watch Lleyton Hewitt and Robin Soderling. Hewitt’s one of my favorite players. He’s relatively small for a pro player (5-11) and depends more on speed, excellent groundstrokes, and consistency than sheer power. He was ranked No. 1 at age 20, the youngest ever to be so, and is a former US Open and Wimbledon titlist. At age 29 and unseeded, Hewitt is still a dangerous competitor. Soderling’s from Sweden and is an up and coming superstar, ranked 5th in the world. It was a really close match and was finally settled late in the third set when Hewitt made an unforced error and had his serve broken. It was a reminder how closely matched these players are and how outcomes can hinge on a point or two.

Center court

We came back the next night to watch Russian Nicolai Davydenko vs. Argentinian David Ferrer. Davydenko’s No. 6 in the world; Ferrer, No. 10. Davydenko reminded me of a James Bond villain – tall, balding, gaunt, nonexpressive, with overwhelming power and machine-like precision. He looked scary. Ferrer, by default, played the James Bond role, and he looked the part – handsome, cleancut. They both hit the ball harder than one could imagine possible. At first it looked like Davydenko was going to destroy Ferrer, but the latter hung in and began to turn it around. This match too went three sets, and, due to a couple of shaky errors by Ferrer near the end, Davydenko triumphed. (Thus ending any analogy to James Bond.)

At the lemonade stand

Katja bought a hat and some jewelry, plus three lemonades and some pizza. I took a bunch of photographs, and, between the two of us, a good time was had by all. We watched the finals on TV. Roger Federer won it all, his first tournament title since the Australian Open in January. We cheered. We were happy that he had his breakthrough in Cincinnati.



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