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Sports Then and Now



Tennis Superheroes Challenge for the 2010 French Open Crown… 3

Posted on May 17, 2010 by JA Allen

Tennis Super Heroes Ride Again...

At the end of this European clay court season, we stare headlong into the promise of another blockbuster slam––the French Open 2010.

The drama of the upcoming event played at historic Stade Roland Garros has long been anticipated in the hearts and minds of tennis aficionados across the globe.

Secretly for each rabid fan, the favorite of choice has already been crowned champion.

The hit and miss performances of many players who normally claim the starring roles in these renowned tennis epics, however, continued to cause doubt.

One after another broad-based tennis pundit pondered this apparent anomaly unfolding in 2010. Their questions peppered all media outlets.

First and foremost is the quandary of which superhero tennis star will ultimately claim the leading role in Paris?

The company has yet to post the cast of characters and who might be filling them. The question of who will emerge as the champion fills the vast arena of speculation…

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Miloslav Mecir: The Man Who Could Have Been King of Tennis 11

Posted on May 07, 2010 by JA Allen

Miloslav Mecir played tennis in the 1980s--known as the Swede Killer.

You have to admit that there is a huge difference between sultry singing in the shower and performing live at the Met to a packed house filled with critics.

This has implications beyond being able to carry a tune…and being fully clothed.

Besides the necessity of possessing outstanding vocal abilities, you would also need to overcome performance anxieties as you stood in front of an impressive audience thinking it knows exactly what you should be doing—never hesitating to point out your perceived flaws.

The same is doubly true on the playing field.

Monday-morning quarterbacks exist in all fields of endeavor. For example, the tennis player who exhibits all the talent and ability in the world must still overcome his or her own internal jitters in order to win.

This series will highlight tennis players who should have made it to the top of the game but who failed in big moments to win the most critical matches because of (1) nerves, (2) belief, (3) prolonged injury, or (4) the special category belonging to those who won a major but could never repeat the feat.

Miloslav Mecir

The “second-best” player who stands out most in my book is the Big Cat, Miloslav Mecir. The Slovak had an uncanny ability to annoy players from all corners of the globe during the 1980s, but he never made it all the way to the top.

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Rewind 2006 Rome Final: Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal 1

Posted on April 26, 2010 by JA Allen

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer accepting trophies at the conclusion of the 2006 Rome Masters.

All roads lead to Rome. So the saying goes.

But none of them are easy or even navigable in the final analysis.

The prize at the end of the journey in 2006 for Roger Federer was a trophy to make him a winner at the Rome Masters for the first time in his career and in the process, allow him to have an edge as he entered the draw at the 2006 French Open.

All the Swiss had to do to secure the victory was circumvent world No. 2 nineteen-year old Rafael Nadal who, according to the media, sported a new crown––King of the Clay-Courters.

Roger Federer congratulates Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open semis.

In 2005, Nadal had upset Federer in the semifinals of the French Open, going on to secure his first French Open Championship––his first Grand Slam, as a matter of fact.

Just prior to Rome in 2006, Federer had been bulldozed by Nadal in the finals of Monte Carlo, playing what most would deem a sub-par match for the mighty Swiss warrior. So far in 2006, Federer had lost two matches, both to Nadal. The world No. 2 had also bested Federer in the finals at Dubai.

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Top Ten French Open Legends from Agassi to Borg 2

Posted on April 17, 2010 by JA Allen
Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

What is it about the red clay at Stade Roland Garros that lifts some players to great heights while stopping others dead in their tracks? Is it a lack of patience or mental acumen that causes some great players to shut down on the red dirt?

The fact remains that in order to get to the very top of the men’s game, you must find an answer to the clay courts at the French Open.

For this ranking first consider the number of times a man made it to the finals of the French Open as the demarcation of greatness. Next consider the wins against the losses within a given number of tries.

No. 1 Bjorn Borg––6 French Open Finals

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg still reigns supreme in the record books at Stade Roland Garros, even after he retired from the game at age 26 almost 30 years ago. The red dust became the soul of his game. No one before him or since has ruled the red clay in Paris more definitively than the man from Sweden.

Borg won 41 consecutive sets and holds the record at the French Open.

He won the French Open six times starting in 1974––followed by victories in 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981. He never lost in a French Open final.

If you think about how many more French Open titles Borg might have won had he continued, the mind boggles because no one was close to defeating him. But then, we will never know––nor should such thoughts linger when estimating his place in tennis history.

Borg’s winning percentage at the French Open was 96% (49-2).

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A Reversal in Tennis Fortunes in 2009 as Federer Vs. Nadal on Clay 2

Posted on April 12, 2010 by JA Allen
Roger Federer wins the 2009 final at the ATP Madrid Open against Rafael Nadal.

Roger Federer wins the 2009 final at the ATP Madrid Open against Rafael Nadal.

2009 did not begin well for the man from Switzerland, Roger Federer. He made headlines after the Australian Open––not because he won––but because he cried a river after his loss. As did his fans.

He did everything better than Rafael Nadal except win the big points when it mattered, losing 5-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 2-6. His tears were out of frustration and anger at himself when he felt the match should have been his.

Understandably Federer started the year under pressure––recovering from a back injury suffered in the waning months of 2008. In the early moments of 2009, the World No. 2 lost in the semifinals at Abu Dhabi to Andy Murray. Then he lost again to Murray in the semifinals at Doha. Finally he captured a win in the finals over Stanislav Wawrinka at the exhibition in Kooyong just prior to the Australian Open.

During the lead-up matches to the finals at the 2009 Australian Open, Federer played well enough. He defeated his early opponents in straight sets. In the 4th round he came back from two sets down to defeat Tomas Berdych in five sets. Then he took out both Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick, respectively in the quarterfinals and semifinals to reach the championship match where Nadal awaited.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer pose at the beginning of the 2009 Australian Open final.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer pose at the beginning of the 2009 Australian Open final.

After he lost the Australian Open final, Federer blamed his erratic first serve for his loss; but up until the final, the Swiss maestro appeared to be hitting the ball well.

Regardless, he left Australia distraught over this lost opportunity. A win would have pulled him equal to Sampras’ record of 14 grand slam titles.

Feeling he needed additional time to heal from his back injury and as a further precaution, Federer decided to withdraw from Dubai and a much-anticipated Davis Cup tie with the United States.

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Revisiting Miami: Birthplace of the Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal Rivalry 8

Posted on March 26, 2010 by JA Allen
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have met 20 times since 2004.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have met 20 times since 2004.

The root of the rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer began in Miami when the Spaniard was a teenager with a huge reserve of self-belief.

As the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open begins in earnest this week, it might be interesting and informative to examine the tournament that set the bar for their future encounters.

Early on, playing practically perfect tennis against Federer evolved into an art form for Nadal. Nothing seemed to inspire him more or engage his senses more completely than striving to match his considerable strengths against the man many proclaimed then and now as the best player ever to wield a tennis racquet.

The quixotic mission to overtake Federer drove Nadal for 4½ years, finally propelling him into that vaunted No. 1 spot in August 2008.

But let us harken back to March 2004 when newly dominant 22 year-old Roger Federer, feeling ill and stripped of strength, struggled past Russian Nikolay Davydenko during the round of 64 at the NASDAQ-100 Miami Masters.

His next opponent was newcomer 17-year-old Rafael Nadal, ranked No. 36 in the world. Nadal was a hard-hitting left-hander from Spain, a country renowned for its prowess on clay.  This, however, was a hard court event.

Anointed No. 1 a month earlier, Federer arrived in Miami having won 28 matches during the previous nine months, including his first Wimbledon crown in 2003 and his first Australian Open title in 2004.  Even weakened, Federer expected to win this match.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Early Wynn: 300 Game Winner
      August 1, 2020 | 8:37 pm
      Early Wynn

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month pitched in four decades, was a veteran of World War II and is one of only two pitchers to finish with exactly 300 career victories.

      Hall of Famer Early Wynn began his career as a 19-year old in 1939 by pitching three games for the Washington Senators. After spending the 1940 season in the minors, he went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in a brief stint in the majors in 1941.

      Read more »

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