SI-MO-NA…UN-BE-LIEV-A-BLE (Occasional Sports Moment #36)

Remember folks, you can always come here for the news first. Today, Simona Halep’s “mini-revolution” reached a peak that stunned even me.

I’ve seen Serena Williams play at least four hundred tennis matches. I’ve seen her lose occasionally, even be blown out occasionally (once by Simona Halep…the only time in ten previous meetings Halep had beaten her**). The 2019 Wimbledon final played today, which Halep won 6-2, 6-2, was the first time I felt her will break–saw her simply reach a point where it was palpable that she no longer believed she could win.

All it took was Halep playing the finest match I’ve ever seen on a big stage. She made only three unforced errors (a record for a major final and almost unthinkable against a hard-hitting all-time power player on grass…and double again for a player who comes from a tiny country that doesn’t have a single grass court to train on). She out-served the greatest server in the history of the women’s game (and the greatest clutch server in the history of the game, period), despite possessing only a solid serve herself. And, most of all, she used the foot-speed which, among other things, I wrote about here, to shrink the court to the size of a postage stamp.

Serena has a pattern so well-known even tennis commentators, the least observant people on Planet Earth, have noticed it and marked it down. Get her down and she starts to hit big, produce winners, and let loose long primal screams that allow her to dominate the available space psychically as well as physically. If, by chance, her big shots miss and she gets in real trouble, she dials it back, plays safely down the middle with depth and precision and hangs in enough rallies to get her feet back under her.

She tried both tactics today…only instead of missing big shots, those big shots–the ones that, time and again, have announced Serena Has Arrived–came back.

With interest.

Time and again.

And dialing it back (which Serena admitted in her post match press conference she tried as well) is never going to be a tactic that works against a red-hot Simona Halep.

One of the announcers said it must feel like Serena was “playing two Simonas.”

That’s certainly what it felt like watching.

Who knows. Maybe it isn’t a “mini” revolution after all.

Maybe it’s like “minor” genius and there really is no such thing.

Judge for yourself:

**Quote of the tournament from Halep, when asked how she had prepared herself mentally for the match: “I thought about the time I beat her…The other nine times didn’t count.”)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Long may she run.

(For additional insight into Halep’s physical and spiritual journey, here’s my favorite tennis blogger on today’s match.)

INTEGRITY, THAT OLD THING (Occasional Sports Moment #36)

There used to be a general agreement on what integrity was and what it was worth. It was one of those old-timey common assumptions that provided the glue for various civilizations, including our own, right up until yesterday.

Today? It’s just another word to dismiss if it gets in the way of your precious feelings.

Regarding Serena Williams’ latest emotional meltdown on a tennis court (Saturday evening at the U.S. Open), here’s the conclusion of the formerly estimable Sally Jenkins, reached in the heat of a moment which I already knew everyone else would use to score points with their side of the political divide. I pulled up her take expecting a little sanity and perspective. No such luck:

Male players have sworn and cursed at the top of their lungs, hurled and blasted their equipment into shards, and never been penalized as Williams was in the second set of the U.S. Open final

This was probably the most widely circulated of a number of like-minded opinions. Integrity–were it still in force–would have compelled Jenkins (or her editor), to provide an example of some male (and presumably white) players getting away with the violations of integrity which occurred in the womens’ final of this year’s U.S. Open.

She did not. We don’t live by yesterday’s rules any more.

And “never” being such a long time, social media took about four minutes to provide links to articles recalling when a certain little known or remembered white male named John Patrick McEnroe, Jr., was penalized in precisely the same manner (warning/point/game)….at the 1987 U.S. Open no less.

And then, about four minutes later, you could find links to an article recalling him being penalized worse (warning/point/game/match) at the 1990 Australian Open….when (unlike Serena on Saturday) he was leading.

For racket throwing and abusing the umpire no less.

Old-fashioned integrity might have also compelled Jenkins to admit what integrity–or at least the illusion of it–is still worth to people who make their living as officials in major sports.

She’s my age (we were born six weeks apart). Her father was one of the best and most famous sports writers of the twentieth century. She knows what I know. Even if she never heard this exact quote, she’s surely heard many like it:

You can question my eye sight. You can question my ancestry. I won’t let you question my integrity.

That was former NBA ref Mendy Rudolph on an NBA broadcast in what (according to Wikipedia) must have been some time between 1975 and 1977 (which sounds about right). Rudolph, who passed away in 1979, was a gambling addict. He once turned down an offer to shave points as compensation for his considerable debts. In those days, even gambling addicts knew what integrity was–even if they didn’t or couldn’t practice it well enough to not become a gambling addict in the first place, they knew it was the last thing you could afford to lose.

We all knew that once. Nobody seems to know it now.

Sally Jenkins (who was hardly alone this weekend) now thinks cursing an umpire and throwing things at him is worse than calling him a thief (as Serena, reacting to a question about her own integrity, did to chair umpire Carlos Ramos just before he docked her a code violation, which, being her third, after one for illegal coaching so obvious even her integrity-challenged coach didn’t bother with a the usual pro forma denial, and another for smashing her racket, cost her a full game).

Guess she forgot. Or–remembering who signs her paychecks–chickened out.

And if Dan Jenkins’ daughter forgot and/or chickened out, you can bet forgetting and/or chickening out is a thing now.

Tell ’em where we’re headed Eddie….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWakeC3R0nY

SIMONA HALEP’S MINI-REVOLUTION (Occasional Sports Moment #35)

The latest revolution in women’s sports (or maybe just sports–I don’t keep up like I used to), came full circle today when Romania’s 26-year-old Simona Halep won the French Open, her first “major” title after three excruciating finals losses since 2014.

The revolution has gone unnoticed by the tennis media, which makes a specialty of not noticing things, and the general sports media, which depends on John McEnroe to tell them what’s important in tennis the way rock critics depend on Robert Christgau to tell them what’s important in country music. If the guru hasn’t spoken, it hasn’t happened.

But, acknowledged or not, Simona Halep’s revolution has happened.

Five years ago, when she decided that running the baseline and playing like a backboard wasn’t enough, she had a breakout year, winning six tournaments.

People took notice, of course. They even commented on her change in attitude–backboard no more, she had become a true counterpuncher.

For those who don’t know, the history of tennis consists mainly of backboards, counterpunchers and attackers. Attackers used to serve and volley. Now they, too, play at the baseline and simply use modern racket technology (which Jimmy Connors once compared to giving major league hitters aluminum bats) to blast the ball by their opponent at the first opportunity.

Backboards have rarely won big, though they’ve often been competitive. They excel at “not losing”–or, as I like to say, “barely losing.”

As of five years ago, it was an open question whether true counterpunching–using angles, endurance, footspeed, redirection, guile, to do what slugging the ball cannot–would ever gain a real foothold again.

Then Halep’s big year happened and she started talking about “being aggressive.”

Before too long, players some of us had been begging forever and a day to be “aggressive” actually took notes: Result? Several of them upped their games and went on to win the major championships they had been seeking for years–Angie Kerber (twice)*, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens.

The one who didn’t win until today was Simona Halep. Worse, Halep had committed the unforgivable sin of raising the tennis intelligentsia‘s hopes. They (the dread “They”) liked her. And she raised the question: Could a truly stylish, light-footed player without unworldly power actually become not merely a now-and-again contender but a real force out there?

Well, yes and no. Halep won a lot of tournaments, consistently contended at majors, even rose to #1 in the rankings. But she fell short in major finals. And those defeats were agonizing–finals of the French in 2014 and 2017, the final in Australia early this year, all in three close sets where, at some point, she held a late lead.

And because she had let the side down–the side that never expected much from her in the first place and were therefore all the more “disappointed” when she raised what seemed to have become false hopes–everything was questioned.

Her head. Her heart. Her will.

Why couldn’t she just do it?

The notion that what she was trying to do–trying to build, if you will, brick by brick–might be the least bit difficult was never once acknowledged.

To her credit she took it. She questioned herself in public. Blamed no one else. She was open about what she was working on, both mentally and physically. If she got mad on the court it was only at herself. She took greatest-ever counterpuncher Chris Evert’s dictum to heart: It’s not the coach. It’s not your box. It’s not the racquet. It’s you.

She worked, then. And she took the blows.

And she endured.

She even gave great press conferences–So I lost three times until now, and nobody died.**

Today she triumphed. Personally, yes. But also the revolution she will never get credit for. As of now, five of the last ten major winners on the women’s side won playing Simona Halep’s game rather than Martina’s or Steffi’s or Serena’s or (given changes in racquet and surface technology) even Evert’s. Often as not, as it was today, they beat someone else playing the same game in the finals.

If I were to compare Halep’s revolution to anything in recent sport it would be Steph Curry’s concurrent redefinition of the professional basketball court into a space where an additional two hundred square feet have to be defended. Like Curry, Halep, ballet dancing in the land of the giants, gets by on speed and guile, being stronger than she looks–and defying expectations.

And, as with Curry (and, once upon a time, Chris Evert), they were the most demanding expectations of all–what everybody else believed was impossible.

She reached the pinnacle today.

Here’s to a long run. Let the chants keep ringing out, all over the tennis world:

“SI-MO-NA!”

*Now three times. Kerber has since added a WImbledon title.

**Along the way, she also inspired. As my favorite tennis blogger, Diane Dees, who hosts the great Women Who Serve site, noted today, we have never seen a female athlete attract and hold a fan base that follows her around the world, through thick and thin, and constantly chants her name during competition….until now.

STUPID FINALLY GOES ALL THE WAY TO ELEVEN (Occasional Sports Moment #33)

I don’t think you have to follow tennis to read this story and wonder if we shouldn’t just all run wild in the streets, killing and looting. Civilization had its good points and all, but what has it really brought us?

For the record I think Serena (who probably assumed she had heard every possible moronic question that could ever be asked a thousand times over before today) should have deadpanned it and said: “Yes, Trump nailed it. I’ve been frequently intimidated by my opponents throughout my struggling career. It defines me, really.”

Here’s to the free press:

PERCEPTION, THE GREAT DECEIVER (Occasional Sports’ Moment: #30)

Some time in the past couple of years, someone ( I think it was Chris Fowler) asked tennis announcer, and former player, Mary Jo Fernandez, whether Simona Halep, who was playing that day, was faster than Serena Williams, who wasn’t.

Fernandez immediately and unequivocally said Serena was faster.

She specifically said she thought Serena was faster sprinting from the baseline to the net (which is the longest sprint routinely made in tennis).

In my lonely room, a world away, I immediately said: “That’s crazy.”

It’s been a common occurrence, over the last fifteen years, for announcers covering a women’s tennis match to talk a lot about Serena Williams, whether she is playing or not. It’s also been common for announcers to talk about Serena in terms that treat her as existing somewhere off the human scale.

Simona Halep is one of the fastest players in the history of the WTA (easily top five, possibly top three, which I can say with some confidence since I’ve been following the tour, which began in the late sixties, religiously since the early seventies). She is, moreover, in her mid-twenties’ physical prime and has had no serious injuries.

Serena, at the time of Fernandez’s crazy talk, was well into her thirties, has had numerous injuries to her legs, and several surgeries on her knees and feet. She was probably never as fast as Simona Halep and is nowhere near as fast now.

The question itself, who is faster right now, wasn’t even a sensible one–or wouldn’t have been, if tennis announcers were used to seeing Serena Williams through a human lens, rather than some combination of Super Woman and Spoiled Child.

So why was it nonsensically asked?

And why was it answered even more nonsensically?

Because Serena Williams is….black. That’s why. Oh, and Simona Halep is white.

And, you know, black people are faster than white people. At least across short distances. Look at those sprint results in the Olympics. Look at those receivers in the NFL. Look at those base-stealing records in Major League Baseball.

And, because black people (at least those of West African descent) are, in fact, demonstrably faster across short distances than white people (look again at those sprint records), it follows that the black woman you see playing tennis (a sport where sprinter speed is awful handy) at an elite level, must be faster than even the fastest white woman playing the same sport at the same level at the same time.

In other words, this person…

cannot be faster than this person (and significantly faster at that)…

…because that would be a confusing, if not unacceptable, narrative.

I only bring this up now because proof has emerged and because I have a small point to make.

Mary Jo Fernandez, whose observation basically went unchallenged (Fowler–I still think it was him–only expressed some surprise that she was so certain) and would have been accepted by ninety-nine percent of the people who cover tennis (Martina Navratilova, who has a knack for seeing things as they are and not being afraid to speak of what she sees, might be an exception) is crazy.

The linked article shows a study done at the Australian Open across several years.

The study shows, conclusively, that Halep is the fastest player on the WTA.

No duh.

Serena is in the middle of the pack–is, in fact, a touch slower than Maria Sharapova, who has never played a match without some “expert” mentioning that “movement is not her strong suit.” (Angie Kerber, the woman who incidentally took the top spot in the world rankings from Serena in 2016, has the most consistent top speed, but that speaks more to endurance than sprint speed…no one who has seen Kerber play, or even seen a snapshot of her legs, will be surprised that she endures like no other.)

It’s true that our eyes fool us, of course. But they usually fool us because we have something invested in what they can and cannot see. What Mary Jo Fernandez–and the legion of tennis announcers and fans who would have immediately agreed with her if they had been asked–has invested is simple enough.

She’s invested in the complex set of mythologies that don’t allow some white people–mostly Good Liberals like herself–to see black people in purely human terms.

Too bad. Because the reason Serena Williams is in the argument for the greatest women’s tennis player ever owes relatively little to her “athleticism.” Of course she’s a great athlete. No one gets themselves into the position of being called the greatest ever in a supremely athletic sport without being a great athlete.

But the sport is filled with great athletes. Simona Halep, a really fun player who has yet to win a major, being one.

The sport is tennis, so it’s always filled with great athletes.

You don’t become–or remain–Serena Williams, though, by being the “best” athlete, which she’s probably never been and certainly hasn’t been for more than a decade.

What you really need is a whole lot of qualities that can’t be measured by a stop watch.

Curt Gowdy once spoke of a conversation he had with a baseball scout, who told him that scouting would never be an exact science, because there would never be a way to measure the two things that mattered most: the head and the heart.

However much Serena is lauded for her toughness (often) or her tactics (occasionally) or savvy (almost never), such plaudits still fall under the shadow of the plaudit that is applied most frequently of all: She’s the best athlete!

Meaning, you know…. (whisper)...she’s black.

I don’t mean it’s only that. Other black tennis players have come and gone–and pretty much the first and last word on every one of them is that they were/are “great athletes.” But Serena is different because she has won to a level that means she has to be somehow explained.

And she has been.

That’s why, when Good Liberal white tennis announcers (the overwhelming majority–at least for the sake of public consumption), talk about the Serena Williams who has won twenty-two major titles, they speak of her as Super Woman. They speak of her as such, even when the evidence of their own eyes would plainly tell them otherwise if they only let it.

You know: She wins because she’s more than human.

And it’s why, when those same announcers talk about the Serena Williams who has failed to win the forty-three other major tournaments she’s entered (about the same percentage of failure experienced by other all-time all-timers), they speak of her almost exclusively as they might of a great Spoiled Child who has let them down by failing to live up to her inhuman potential.

You know: She loses because she’s less than human.

Or at very least, less than grown up.

They have eyes and they cannot see. Even a tennis match.

Thus they are eternally surprised.

Lest we forget: The same minds cover politics.

It’s the same minds, even if they don’t belong to the same people.

And they went a long way towards getting us into this mess, with their failure to see.

MEMORIES OF LOST WORLDS (Occasional Sports Moment #23)

Here’s to the stoics:

sandykoufax2

First, a fun fact, from an appreciation of Sandy Koufax that is worth reading in full:

A commenter at Joe Posnanski’s site who calls himself Moeball wrote that he had looked up famous pitchers’ best half decades, and none ever won half of his games in which his team had provided him with two runs or less…

Except for Sandy Koufax. From 1962–1966 he went 27–24 when given 2 runs or less of support. He’s the only regular starting pitcher in history to be able to do this. He’s the only one who even comes close to being .500. He did a better job of “pitching to the score” in a low scoring game than any other pitcher in major league history. And it’s not even close.

Of course, that raises the question of why the Dodgers played so poorly behind Koufax.

One reason is that the Dodgers weren’t terribly good batters in general. Their only .300 hitter in 1965 was Drysdale, whose seven homers put him close to the team leaders in that category, who hit merely twelve.

But another reason Koufax won so many 2–0, 2–1, and 1–0 games was that the Dodgers would go out drinking the night before he pitched.

If the starter the next day would be merely Drysdale, Osteen, Johnny Podres, or Don Sutton, they’d get their sleep.

But if Sandy were going to pitch tomorrow, well, you were a Los Angeles Dodger, it was the 1960s, and the night was young.

Reading the whole article, I realized that Koufax walked away from baseball at 30, after going 24-7 and winning the seventh game of the World Series on two days rest, for basically the same reason that Steffi Graf walked away from tennis at 30, two months after winning the French Open.

It was this: The only part of the game they liked was the game.

I write as someone who never had the good fortune to see Koufax pitch and failed to sufficiently appreciate Graf when she played (too damn good to root for…I’m trying not to make that mistake with Serena Williams, who enjoys and embraces the limelight Graf and Koufax disdained, and who will, at 34, attempt to match Graf’s Open-era record of 22 major titles this weekend).

But I still find it worth commending those for whom the fortune was nice–but no more than that. And for whom the fame meant nothing at all.

It was just something they had to endure to ply their trade and secure the life they really wanted. Not for them, I suspect, an Age where walk-off victories in major league baseball games played in June are celebrated like last inning heroics in the World Series and mid-round victories in tennis majors routinely end with players prostrate on the court, convulsed in sobs.

I don’t know either of them personally. But I like to think I know how they feel about this, the Age of Celebration. You know–of, by and for Celebrities Celebrating Themselves.

steffigraf1

THE CURRENT LOVE OF MY LIFE (Occasional Sports Moment #20)

whuskies1

Last night I managed to watch most of the NCAA Elite Eight men’s game between Kansas and Villanova. It wasn’t easy. The men’s game has been hobbled for more than a decade by the usual signs of the times: early departure of the top talent to the NBA; massive overdoses of ego and self-celebration (and I don’t just mean the players); drill sergeant coaching and training tactics that leave the players on the floor a bundle of overstuffed muscles and over-hyped nerves.

The result, in big game after big game?

Exactly what you got with Kansas and Villanova.

Brick city. And a bunch of glassy-eyed young men who made me want to cover mine.

Every player on either team looked like he was on a search-and-destroy mission in Fallujah instead of playing a game that’s supposed to be fun.

All of which makes the hot story of the women’s tournament that much more refreshing.

The University of Washington’s women’s team just became only the second in tournament history to advance to the Final Four without being ranked at the end of the regular season. The coach is a two-time heart attack survivor who seeks his players’ advice during time outs. The power forward is a leukemia survivor. The silky smooth small forward is coming off two knee surgeries. The sleepy-eyed center, who caught the coach’s eye when he wandered into the wrong gym by mistake a few years back, sits out warm-ups (apparently to preserve energy) and shoots flat-footed threes with deadly accuracy when she’s not dominating the paint. The All-American point guard, Kelsey Plum, pictured above, winks at the camera (or her teammates, or the sidelines, or whoever else is available) in between pressure free throws (which she then proceeds to make with remarkable regularity). There is no chest-thumping, no screaming to the rafters, no bluster, and no attitude of false euphoria when they win games they aren’t supposed to win, including the last three. It’s not so much like they are from another time as from another planet. Apparently hanging around with heart attack and leukemia survivors puts certain things (like basketball) in perspective.

When Plum was asked, in high school, if she was considering attending Connecticut, the sport’s current New York Yankee-style behemoth, she said “I want to beat Connecticut for the national championship.”

She’ll probably get her chance.

If so, her team will have about as much chance as the similarly loose and free-wheeling Roberta Vinci had against the similarly dominant-to-the-point-of-suffocation Serena Williams at last year’s U.S. Open.

Lightning probably won’t strike twice. Dominant teams are harder to beat on a given day than dominant individuals, who are, after all, only human.

But I’ll definitely be watching.

PROGRESS? (Occasional Sports Moment #19)

I offer no opinion except one I’ve noted before…in the sports’ world, and maybe just the world generally, female tennis players are uniquely destabilizing, even when their images are being used to hold the world at arm’s length by defining the distance between being stupid and being lost. And, yes, you can flip these images back and forth and run that equation either direction:

1976…

1976sicover

2015…

2015sicover

For the record: In the years before and between, only track star Mary Decker who, in 1983, was given a perfectly conventional cover in line with those accorded male winners, was awarded the honor on her own, i.e. without a male figure to balance the ticket. Mary Decker was clearly not a threat who needed managing.

I don’t cut Evert or Williams much slack on this BTW. They should have known better. Still, as I’ve also said before, you can understand why women go crazy sometimes.

SEGUE OF THE DAY (7/4/13–ESPN covers tennis. First the women. Then the men. Sports Moment #9)

Chris Fowler Once/Chris Fowler Twice…

Wow. Didn’t realize it had been so long since two elements informed and enlightened each other on the same day in just the right way! And, since it happened during Wimbledon, it pretty much had to be related to tennis.

Anyhow:

I usually think I’m jaded enough to not be surprised by much, especially when it comes to sports “journalism” and most especially when it comes to commentary on tennis, the one major sport where men and women compete for public attention on a more or less equal basis and, therefore, the one major sport where even the sport’s nominal sponsors (who might have something to gain by promoting it unabashedly), are dedicated to the relentless protection of male privilege.

How relentless?

Heck, they’ll stick with it even if it costs money–which, in this case, it does and which they know it does.

I know how this works. We all know how this works–right down to the routine denials by all parties involved of there ever having been even a thought of doing any such thing!

And–sad but true–I’m no longer young.

So I’m used to letting it roll off my back. Life’s too short.

If, say, Tony Kornhiser, co-host of a show called Pardon the Interruption (and life-long card carrying member of the Dead Brain Cell Count Brigade, Sports Division), spends a week mocking his partner Michael Wilbon’s tickets to the Ladies’ Semifinal at Wimbledon as being “worthless” because Serena Williams was knocked out of the draw on Monday, I hardly bat an eye. That Wilbon, if indeed he decided to use those tickets, would end up seeing the match of the tournament to that point (contested–on a knife edge throughout–between Sabine Lisicki, the enormously gifted young woman who beat Serena by outplaying her at her own game and very well might be a breakout star, and Agnieska Radwanska, the tennis player’s tennis player) was as predictable as sticking your hand in a bucket of water and having it come out wet.

As I say, I’m used to all that.

But there was a kind of twist on the theme during the 4th of July Wimbledon coverage.

The Lisicki/Radwandska match was covered by Chris Fowler doing play-by-play. (Chris Evert provided color commentary but really isn’t germane to this.)

I noticed throughout that Fowler–high-level DBCCB material himself–was remarkably subdued, almost as if he had started working for the BBC or something. (With them, understatement is a style. It’s a style no one has ever heard of at ESPN.)

Not only was the match filled with the highest tension imaginable (three-set matches generate such from the get-go, whereas even the closest high-stakes five-setters contested by the men usually don’t start raising anxiety levels unless and until there’s a fourth set between the small handful of actual contenders), it featured a bundle of the very sort of indelible, athletic shot-making under pressure that normally tends to make Fowler’s voice rise two octaves.

For Thursday’s match, he sounded like he was in church, wondering if he should nudge the deacon sleeping next to him in the pew, or just let him go ahead and sleep through the sermon.

“Gee, what happened to Fowler?” I wondered as the match came to an end (Lisicki winning 9-7 in the final set–that’s several extra innings of a World Series game, with everything on the line and no teammates to help you, for those of you who don’t follow tennis.)

I mean, I thought maybe MI6 had got to him. Possibly even turned him against us? Maybe promised him British citizenship if he proved he could keep his heart rate level throughout?

Something?

I started thinking, yeah that must be it.

We’re finally gonna get rid of Chris Fowler! This time next year, he’ll be doing soccer matches for Man U! Tennis and College Football will be free at last!

Then, just as I was breaking out the wine and cheese and preparing to celebrate, ESPN started running a partial replay of the men’s match from the day before between Brit Andy Murray (one of the men’s “Big Four” who have been dividing up the tennis slams between them for about three hundred Klingon years**) and persistent underachiever Fernando Verdasco.

And there was my man Fowler, in all his glory, calling Murray’s comeback from two sets down–an event that was surprising in the way that Russian Roulette ending badly when it is played without an empty chamber is surprising–and the comforting signs of hero-worship, heart-throbbery and man-crushery and all those other, more or less unmentionable, things that keep America strong were fully present and accounted for. The hyperbole! The two-octave rise! The persistent encomiums to how magnificent and “amazing” it all was!

So I had to put the wine and cheese back in the cupboard and accept that, alas, he is still one of us and that his palpable lack of enthusiasm for the genuinely exciting match that happened to be played by women a day later was just the same tired old double-your-standard-double-your-fun narrative being served up in a new bottle.

Almost got me there Chris. Well done!

And please do hold your breath waiting for it to happen again…

NOTE: Below is the best highlight package I could find on the net from the Lisicki/Radwanska match. Not ideal, perhaps (it leaves out many of the best points) but gives at least some feel for the match. The announcer who appears in audio snippets throughout seems to know a bit about building drama and calling a tennis match. In any case he has a great voice. There’s an ESPN logo in the corner, but, rest assured, this is not Chris Fowler.

Sabine Lisicki, Aga Radwanska (Wimbledon Semi-final Highlights, 2013)

And since, in one of those unlucky coincidences, those highlights begin directly after the point of the match, well, here’s the point of the match:

Sabine Lisicki, Aga Radwanska (Point of the Match, 2013 Wimbledon Semi-Final)

(**If there is no such thing as “Klingon years” please refrain from enlightening me. My present state of uncertainty is all the bliss I either deserve or require.)