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Sports Then and Now

Rafael Nadal Heads The Field Into The French Open 0

Posted on May 18, 2010 by Marianne Bevis
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Roger Federer of Switzerland at the end of their Madrid Open final tennis match

Who would have thought it would be a year to the day before the tennis world saw another Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer face-off? And who could have predicted that it would, as it was 12 months ago, be in the final of the last clay Masters of the year, in Madrid?

The balance of power as they entered the home straight this year has, though, looked a little different.

2009 began with Nadal as world No. 1, winner of the Australian Slam, and dominant through the clay season. But by the time he reached Madrid, his months without a break had wreaked havoc with his knees and he was soon forced off the tour to recuperate.

This year, he was short of his best form in Melbourne. But with the clay came the Rafa of old. He won every tournament he entered, and this time he paced himself so that he looked, if anything, stronger and fitter with each passing week.

So the Nadal in Madrid 2010 was a stronger animal than the one Federer dominated in 2009, while the Federer on the other side of the net was only just getting into his stride following a month off the tour with illness.

Add in the extra factors of Andre Agassi’s Masters record, and the imminent French Open title to fight over, and this was destined to be a great occasion. It saw Nadal avenge his loss of 2009, and take the outright record for Masters titles: 18. And he is still just 23.

Looking beyond the Rafa-and-Roger showdown, the Spanish armada once more laid down its marker, as it has done throughout the spring.

Three of the four finalists in Madrid were Spanish, as were six of the last 16. And that’s without their fourth man Juan Carlos Ferrero and their fifth Tommy Robredo, both missing with injury.

So, not surprisingly, Federer is the only non-Spaniard in the top five this week. Who’ll give me odds against the Spanish reign continuing in Paris? I thought not. Read the rest of this entry →

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…

Read the rest of this entry →

Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Rafael Nadal Books Top Spot Again 8

Posted on May 03, 2010 by JA Allen

Rafael Nadal wins the Rome Masters tennis tournament in 2010.

As everyone predicted heading into the clay court season in 2010, it was to be the year of the Majorcan. So far it has been almost exclusively Rafa’s reign.

Bowing out of Barcelona, Rafa’s crown did not move far from its anointed position. Fellow countryman Fernando Verdasco wears it in Nadal’s place.

So far Nadal has captured wins in Monte Carlo and Rome, equalling Andre Agassi’s total of 17 Master’s Shields. Roger Federer is now one step behind at 16.

But there is still time for both to add to their totals and we suspect the dynamic duo will be able to add a few more wins before the final bell tolls on their respective careers.

The Power Rankings reflect the men’s prowess on the red clay and as we all know, Nadal rises to the top, especially on the dirt.

Read the rest of this entry →

Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Rafael Nadal Hits Heights On Clay 10

Posted on April 20, 2010 by Marianne Bevis
ATP Masters Series Tennis Tournament, Final match, Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco

It’s April, and it’s the red clay of the European swing. So it has to be Rafael Nadal.

Though some players fitted in tournaments on the red stuff in Latin America in February, this is where the clay season takes centre stage, and what a stage!

The first of the terracotta Masters is held at the Monte Carlo Country Club, with the Mediterranean as its backdrop. It is hosted by royalty: Prince Albert of Monaco was flanked by Boris Becker and three-time Monte Carlo champion Ilie Nastase. Meanwhile, Nadal held court before them, leading a phalanx of no fewer than 11 Spanish players in a draw of 56.

The weather offered up some challenges: dust storms, rain, sometimes both together. Through it all, five Spaniards made the quarterfinals, three of them went on to the semis, and two fought it out in the final.

The result had a certain inevitability about it. Nadal had ruled here for the last five years and it was a fitting place for him to take his first Masters title in 11 months.

The strength and depth of the Spanish contingent also means that this week’s Power Rankings have a certain inevitability, too. There are five in the top dozen, with two topping the field. Read the rest of this entry →

The Oloroso of Tennis: The Maturing of the “Fragrant” Fernando Verdasco 2

Posted on February 24, 2010 by Marianne Bevis
2009 Australian Open: Day 12

Spanish sherry is a sorely undervalued wine. Tainted by associations with the syrupy brown tipple of yesteryear, its variety, delicacy, subtlety and vitality is one of the revelations of travels through Spain.

And just as these glorious wines represent the diverse and sunny personality of that country, so do their tennis players. One look at Spain’s all-conquering Davis Cup squad, and you are spoilt for choice.

The dry, crisp, light fino might be Tommy Robredo. The bold salty tang of a manzanilla could sum up Feliciano Lopez. The nutty golden amber of an amontillado is Rafael Nadal. But the most perfect analogy is between the dark, intense oloroso and Fernando Verdasco.

There are plenty of the female persuasion who would nod at the suitability of the word for the most sultry of athletes: Oloroso is Spanish for “fragrant.”

But its appropriateness is more than skin deep. It has just as much to do with how this richest of sherries is produced. The long and unique maturing process makes this mellifluous wine suit Verdasco perfectly.

The deeply flavoured dry oloroso ages slowly, becoming darker and stronger as it matures to coppery bronze. What’s more, its natural sugars convert, through long fermentation, to the sherry family’s highest alcohol content.

So in colour, strength, and development, Verdasco emulates the finest oloroso. He is a man and a tennis player who seems to have grown more slowly and matured more steadily than the rest. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Archie Griffin: 2-Time Heisman Winner
      December 11, 2022 | 1:42 pm
      Archie Griffin

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is the only football player ever to capture college football’s top individual award twice.

      As a star running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Archie Griffin claimed the Heisman Trophy during his junior season in 1974 and then was able to repeat the honor the following season.

      Griffin joined the Buckeyes for the 1972 season, which happened to be the first in which freshmen were eligible to play varsity football, and made an immediate impact. After fumbling in his only carry of his first game, Griffin more than made up for it in his second game by rushing for 237 yards against North Carolina. By the end of the season, Griffin had rushed for 867 yards.

      Read more »

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