Monday, July 30, 2007

On the Road to Rhode Island

So how about that Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken?

The Hit Machine and the Iron Man both got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this past weekend, which with their stats, was as big a no-brainer as one could imagine. This follows on the heels of our sport's no-brainer inductees: Sampras and Sanchez-Vicario. However, looking at the current rankings are there any other no-brainers (of course, recent retirees Agassi and Clijsters will go) that will make it into the Hall in Newport? Here's what I came up with from both the ATP and WTA rankings.

From the men's side:
Roger Federer: Duh.
Rafael Nadal: See above.
Andy Roddick: Number 1, a Slam (so far), three runner-up finishes in Majors (so far) and titles on every surface.
Lleyton Hewitt: It seems so far ago now and kind of hard to believe, but he was actually a pretty dominant number 1 for a couple of years.
Marat Safin: Yes, the headcase goes. Two Slams, finalist in two others and a number 1 ranking, but man, what could have been.
Carlos Moya: Number 1, a Slam, a runner-up and winning in Umag this past weekend only helps the cause as he racks up the titles.
Bob and Mike Bryan: Dominance in doubles along the line of Federer. But not to knock them by any means, those guys should have way more Slams than they do now.

For the women, here's who:
Venus and Serena Williams: Double duh.
Justine Henin: For sure. I'm a big fan of career Slams, so I hope she gets her Wimbledon.
Maria Sharapova: Yes; number 1 for a stretch and a couple of Slams.
Amelie Mauresmo: The same as above.
Lindsay Davenport: Yeah, she's in. Ages ago, my old doubles partner/tennis-talking buddy and I used to always pose this question to each other: Who's tennis career would you rather have? And one I asked him after she won the U.S. Open was Davenport or Mary Joe Fernandez? I thought MJ's three runner-up appearances would beat Davenport's what I thought would be fluke Slam. Little did I know back then.
Martina Hingis: That 1997 was a sight to see. Damn Iva Majoli! Ruining history!

Any others?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The future is now (or at least by 2010)

So the U.S. Open Series kicked off last week with Radek Stepanek, on the comeback trail, knocking off James Blake in L.A. and Anna Chakvetadze winning another title in Cincy over Akiko Morigami. There was also some clay-court tennis going on with Nadal, near-300th ranked Darcis and Szavay coming through.

However, the biggest result of the weekend if you're a tennis follower didn't happen on either of the main tours, but rather on the ATP Challenger Circuit. The day before his 18th birthday, Donald Young won his first Challenger beating solid pro Bobby Reynolds in the final, and kind of handily, too. A couple of weeks ago, he won junior Wimbledon, which you can say is pretty much like winnning a Futures tournament (which he won one of a few months ago, too.) Not a bad stretch, considering everyone had pretty much written him off (yours truly included.) I admit I've seen the error of my ways!

I think something that's been a big contribution to this run was practicing with the Davis Cup team during its quarterfinal match--at least that's what the results indicate: Some quarters here, a semi or two there, some wins. Practicing in a stress-free environment and seeing how the big boys prepare seems to have gotten him on track, and obviously having a great support system with hsi parents has helped tremendously.

One of the knocks I had against him was that he was too slight to compete at a higher level; I thought those spins and touch he uses to trick kids with would have never played out well against stronger players. However, the other night, I was on YouTube and stumbled upon some old Marcelo Rios clips (What can I say? I'm a tennis nut who looks at YouTube for old tennis clips!) and thought, "Hmmm, here's a super-talented left-hander with super speed who's smaller than the other guys." Sound familiar?

I'm not saying he's the next Rios, but I think by 2010, he should definitely be in the top 20, if not 10. Once he gets in that area, there's not gonna be much to stop him from sticking around there for a few years.

So in other words, Donald Young's gonna be A-OK.

Feel free to comment: Click where it says "0 Comments (or however many are there); a separate field pops up; you can either sign in with your blogger account, anonymous or another user; then hit publish comment. If you want to say something, e-mail from where you saw the link posted and I'll post it for you.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Throwing my hat into the GOAT debate

A hectic work week has slowed me down from making some posts, but I'm back; right on time for some good ol' debatin'!

In what is the most obvious no-brainer of all time, Pete Sampras is going into the Hall of Fame today, along with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (well done, Barcelona Bumblebee!), Sven Davidson and Russ Adams. But truly the day really belongs to the Pistol.

With Federer winning his fifth Wimbledon title in a row and all the talk about him being the greatest ever, I'm actually gonna go out and say I'm still gonna give the nod to Pete. (And I'm not even that big a Pete fan; I've always been an Agassi guy.) And while R-Fed probably will break all of Pete's records, unless he shatters them, say 20 Slams to Pete's 14, then he'll come up second best in my mind.

The main reason I say this is because what Pete has going for him is the level of competition he faced, which dwarfs Federer's in a big way. I took a look at the top 25 rankings on the ATP tour 10 years ago the week after Sampras won his fourth Wimbledon and compared the guys among the elite to the ones now. In 1997, all but four of the top 25 had made or would go on to make at least one Grand Slam final in their careers. The top 10 then was ridiculous: Sampras, Chang, Ivanisevic, Muster, Kafelnikov, Corretja, Bruguera, Enqvist, Rios and Moya. Kuerten and Rafter, two future number ones, hadn't even made it to that point yet. And what about Andre? He was starting his descent to the famous 141 in the world by then.

As for Federer's top 25, only 10 have made Slam finals to this point (and one of them is Moya!) You can say that Federer just has the game on lock right now (with Nadal as the only one really offering a challenge). But for Pete, every late stage of a tournament he was playing, he was taking out guys with Hall of Fame-worthy careers. I think it's still going to take a while for some of the guys Federer is playing to mount a challenge to him at a Slam, which says something both about the ability of the guys he's playing and (a positive nod) to his ability.

Anyway, the level of competition seals the deal for me in the Sampras-Roger debate.

Feel free to post comments on this: You don't have to have a blogger account to do it. Click on the comments button, a separate window pops up and you can click on "Anonymous."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oh yeah, I play tennis, too

So I've been talking about Wimbledon for the past couple of weeks, but that's come and gone now. My predictions didn't win, but it's OK; life goes on!

When starting this blog, I went about it with the idea that it would be all-encompassing on tennis, and one of the topics I thought it would be cool to talk about would be my game and all it entails--the wide-scoping magnitude of it all!

I played a tennis tournament this weekend at the club I belong to, Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. It was a combined 3.5-4.0 tournament as there weren't enough 4.0 players to compete. Before I talk about how I did in the tournament, something should be noted about my tournament-competition hang-ups (or neuroses, as it were). I've lost a lot of matches that I shouldn't have and 99.9999... (you get the point) percent of those were mental. See, I haven't won a tournament in singles since I was 17 years old and I'm almost 34 now. Granted, I've made some finals and semis over the years, but no more tournament wins. It's something I've become almost obsessed with rectifying even though I don't do all the necessary training to make sure it happens.

Anyway, at least this past weekend, I was able to break my first-round losing streak. I came through more from a mental standpoint than anything, because I was cruising then hit a hiccup. Plus, my opponent's playing style didn't help matters any, but I held on.

In the quarters, I played the number-two seed and lost. A sucky partial cause of the loss was something that's happened to me a few times over the years. My ball toss for my serve gets completely screwed up. Not to take anyway from my opponent because he did the job and beat me, but I think he beat me with a little help from me!

Anyone out there know how a player can stop thinking about winning the tournament when they still have their first match going on? And also what to do about the ball-toss hiccups?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Wrapping up Wimbledon

It's been a little over 24 hours since the best men's final in a few years wrapped up. Hats off to Nadal for making it that far (despite me thinking he would lose to Mardy Fish in the first round!) But how about Federer? It was great to see him getting tested and coming through. I like the fact that every Slam he wins, it always seems like the first one for him when it's over.

And congrats to Venus as well. A Tennis Talk, Anyone? reader brought up a good question to me (OK, it was my mom, but still!): Does her winning Wimbledon REALLY signify a comeback? With her game, she should always win Wimbledon. I hope it does.

I'm kind of shocked the Bryans lost in the finals: To me, those guys should have a Grand Slam or two: not titles, THE Grand Slam. Black/Huber took the ladies' crown and my man "Stretch," aka Jamie Murray, came through with a mixed crown partnering Jelena Jankovic.

And I usually don't follow the junior results too much, but I think Donald Young taking the juniors is a good thing. He's been on a kind-of decent tear since he got to practice with the Davis Cup squad back in the quarters. I actually think now that he's gonna be fine as a pro.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

French fried

So much for my studio gig.

Before the women's final kicks off, I guess I gotta say hats off to Gasquet and Bartoli for knocking off my picks to win. For Roddick and Henin to blow such big leads ... wow! I really felt this was A-Rod's chance to get Federer. I still think Roddick's too good to only have one major. Henin, I think, also blew a huge opportunity.

As for my thoughts on the women's final, I'm picking Venus in straights. Good for her!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Bye-bye Berdych (and the Bagh Man, too)

First, I want it to be known that I like Rafael Nadal. You can't help but have respect for the guy. I never thought he had a chance, though, looking at the players on his side of the draw—Soderling, Youzhny and Berdych—that are supposed to be big-hitting, faster-surface players. I can see Djokovic (he who knocked off Baghdatis) coming through against him ... Wait, I interrupt this regularly scheduled posting with a breaking news announcement: Bartoli's up 3-0 in the third against Henin! More on this as it develops.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled posting.

Anyway, I think if Nadal gets through to the final, then something's seriously wrong with Wimbledon. I didn't mind seeing some nice serve-and-volley duels like back in the day between Edberg and Becker. If old Pistol Pete were to play another match there, it'd be a disaster for him.

And now Bartoli's up 5-0! I'll have to catch the replay later to see what happened.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

All my picks are still alive, right?

I've lost track with the rain and all!

Seriously though, there was some action going on before rain brought everything to a halt again. The Bagh Man got through, Djokovic took out Hewitt (a TTA pick)), Berdych (another TTA pick) beat up on Old Man Jonas. Despite the first set being tied up now, I still think R-Fed will get past Ferrero, but I also think not playing for a week is gonna hurt him against Roddick. The Roddick-Baghdatis Breakfast at Wimbledon is still on course!

As for the women, I hereby declare that I, Van Sias, of Tennis Talk, Anyone?, will pick a Williams sister in the finals at Wimbledon for the next four years. So much for my comment earlier: "None of the outside contenders are in good enough match shape." Venus has really shot that one down, demolishing two -ova's back to back. And though Serena lost to Henin yesterday, she barely did, falling in three on a bad leg (how bad I'm really not sure about, though.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

P-Mac's got my back

I was watching the rain-interrupted debacle disguising itself as Wimbledon this morning and they cut to the studio, where Chris Fowler, Patrick McEnroe, Darren "Killer" Cahill and Brad Gilbert were talking about the men's draw. McEnroe (I always knew I liked that guy!) said he likes Baghdatis in the bottom half of the draw. Note the pre-Wimbledon predictions here at Tennis Talk, Anyone? and look who was picked to make the finals against A-Rod. Maybe I can get a studio gig!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Shades of the Aussie Open

So I just got home and caught the last few games of the Serena-Hantuchova match, and it just really gave me this feeling of deja vu back to January and the Australian, like, "Here I go again, counting her out" and a few days later she's kissing a trophy. I'm thinking now that the Henin-Serena match won't be as cut and dry as I originally imagined when the draw came out.

Man, is this tournament backed up by rain delays! I guess they'll finish it one day. I was glad to see a couple of young guns I tabbed to do big things here--Berdych and Baghdatis--come through. I'm sticking with them to make the semis. If Nadal gets past Soderling, back-to-back big-hitting guys will be too much for him.

And way to go Booty and Stretch! Congrats on beating Erlich and Ram. I'm telling you: Doubles team of the future!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Laying off the grass

Since it's the middle Sunday of Wimbledon and not much is going on out there (except Federer getting a walkover into the quarterfinals), here's a chance to mention something else that I hope Tennis Talk, Anyone? can help out with.

I got an e-mail from someone yesterday looking for a partner to play with in the Park Slope area, who's also looking for courts as well, and a place to possibly take lessons. I told her Prospect Park Tennis Center, but if there are any other ideas, please feel free to post them in the comments section. The more people playing tennis (and talking about it, too) the better I always say!

And if you don't have a Blogger account, you can just click on the "Anonymous" button in the comments pop-up window and leave an answer like that.