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Sports Then and Now



Ranking the Most Successful Male Clay Court Players of the Modern Era 1

Posted on May 17, 2013 by JA Allen

rafafrench2008Heading into the French Open, the second major of the season, most players prepare diligently for their final hurrah on clay. It remains as probably the least understood and least appreciated of the court surfaces players endure each year.

If the truth be told, players who learn to play on clay and who embrace the surface’s forgiving nature generally become better, more successful all-around players than those who learn the game on grass or hard courts.

The typical clay court player excels in patience by learning how to develop points as well as excellent defensive skills.

For a long time it seemed that some players segregated their careers by either avoiding clay altogether or by playing exclusively on the red dirt. But with the start of the Open Era and the necessity to play on multiple surfaces, some players built successful all-court games using clay court expertise as the foundation.

These male players achieved a top ten ATP ranking, a winning percentage in excess of 70 percent on clay throughout their careers—as well as double digit title wins on clay. Most also won at least one French Open, although not all.

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The Most Dramatic Wimbledon Upsets of the Modern Era 7

Posted on June 30, 2012 by JA Allen

Kukas Rosol upset Rafael Nadal in the 2nd Round of Wimbledon

As a society, we love upsets—when the decided underdog comes up big to knock off the reportedly sure winner. It levels the playing field for that brief moment and we all feel empowered.

So, when Lukas Rosol sent Rafael Nadal home during their second round match at the All-England Club on Thursday, it marked a true upset. One of the most startling exits at Wimbledon in recent years.

As Rosol remarked in his post-match interview, Nadal is only human.

As such, even the great Nadal has some moments when he does not play his best for whatever reason pundits can determine.

For his part, Nadal had not looked comfortable at all during his early round matches at Wimbledon in 2012; but no one suspected that the world No. 2 could be defeated at this point of the Wimbledon fortnight.

As we look back surveying previous Wimbledon tournaments, determining upsets is a matter of degrees. Whenever the unexpected happens, we call that an upset.

We will use that criteria for discussing some of the greatest Wimbledon upsets in the history of the Modern Era in tennis.

The matches discussed here are listed in chronological order.

The debate about which upset is the most shocking will be saved for a later day.

Certainly this upset of Nadal on Centre Court in 2012 ranks right up there as one of the most shocking.

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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Nadal Ready to Recapture No. 1 6

Posted on June 22, 2012 by JA Allen

Nadal focuses on winning during every match.

The tennis power rankings as created by Feng Rong were developed to objectively measure a tennis player’s current form. This is accomplished by weighting the outcomes so that the four most recent results count the most.

This ranking assesses the power in the men’s game as players get ready to do battle on the stately grounds of Wimbledon—this after leaving the normally dusty environment of Stade Roland Garros.

In 2012, however, dust was replaced by puddles as the rains fell profusely in Paris during week two of the Grand Slam tournament, postponing the men’s final until Monday.

Wimbledon, with its new retractable Centre Court roof, will be spared a troubled final in 2012 because the roof can be closed and lighting employed.

Who will win this year’s Wimbledon crown? No one knows, of course.

Will it be one of the top ten in our Power Listing? Only time will tell.

We survey the men’s top ten in our power ranking and speculate on their potential for winning the Wimbledon championship as well as looking at some other potential winners.

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Greatest Kings of the Court at Wimbledon 7

Posted on June 20, 2012 by JA Allen

Roger Federer defeated defending champion Pete Sampras in the 4th round of Wimbledon in 2001.

Since 1950, the lush lawns of Wimbledon have staged some of the greatest tennis matches of all time.

Many of those battles have been waged on Championship Sunday as two finalists faced off on opposite sides of the net to determine who would claim the vaunted title that year.

Throughout the decades the champions seemed to come in waves from Australia early on, then Sweden, the United States and lately from Switzerland, Spain and most recently from Serbia.

The twelve greatest champions of the past 60 years won multiple titles after working through the draw to reach the final at the All-England Club.

Until recently, most truly successful played serve and volley tennis—a game which seemed unbeatable on grass.

Now, however, base-liners rule Centre Court.

Base-line players supplanted serve and volleyers as the seemingly less aggressive game style dominated, enhanced by new racket technology while the grass surfaces reportedly slowed significantly.

As Wimbledon gets underway in 2012 world No. 1 Novak Djokovic hopes he will capture his second Wimbledon championship.

Rafael Nadal desperately wishes to seize his third title on the grass while Roger Federer anticipates winning the Wimbledon trophy for the seventh time and, in the process, recapture the No.1 ranking.

As usual, the Wimbledon championship is eagerly anticipated with much riding on the outcome.

See whose name is added or moved up on the Wimbledon winners list once the fortnight ends.

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5 Things I Will Not Miss Now That the 2012 French Open is Finally Over… 33

Posted on June 12, 2012 by JA Allen

Bad weather was a constant in week 2 of the 2012 French Open

It was thrilling to watch Maria Sharapova capture her first French Open title, garnering a career grand slam, sinking to her knees on Court Phillippe Chatrier.

The French Open represented the last jewel in her grand slam tiara, having won titles at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows and Melbourne.

Equally as compelling was Rafael Nadal’s resurgence to capture his seventh French Open Crown.

These were two of the great moments of the tournament.

Yet, of all of the grand slam tournaments held throughout the tennis season, the least favorite for this avid tennis fan and author, is the French Open. Watching matches on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros leaves one feeling gritty and drained.

Viewers must endure unending, painful encounters on the red dirt where the participants grunt and grumble—often an induced by-product of countless strokes ending when one of the players runs out of gas.

Held annually in Paris, there is normally about as much mystery concerning the outcome of the men’s final as there was when Columbo prowled crime scenes looking to uncover the guilty party.  In the end there was never any doubt but that the rumpled, bumbling detective would figure out “who done it!”

The only time since 2005 that the winner of men’s final has ever been in doubt was when Rafael Nadal was not playing—which happened once in the past eight years.

So who needs to watch it, you ask?

Rafael Nadal tortured Novak Djokovic for four sets during the 2012 French Open.

Unless you are some sort of a sadist who gets your kicks out of seeing how inept Nadal can make the guy on the other side of the net look—just watching the scores blink by on your computer screen is good enough.

As for the ladies – making the French Open final has been a crapshoot from start to finish since Justine Henin retired from the sport in 2008. This fact alone makes it much more exciting than the men’s draw but fifty times as frustrating.

Talk about parity! There is parity in the top 50 in the women’s game when it comes to the slams since Serena Williams suffered her foot injury in 2010.

Perhaps Sharapova’s rise to the top of the rankings will mark the end of this current trend.

As for the French Open itself—here are five things no one will miss.

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The Best Ever: Rafael Nadal Wins His Seventh French Open Title 11

Posted on June 11, 2012 by JA Allen

2012 French Open Final - Djokovic vs. Nadal

This year’s French Open men’s champion had much riding on the outcome.

Rafael Nadal entered the grounds of Stade Roland Garros to defend his only Grand Slam title of 2011.

Diminishing Nadal’s tennis aura throughout 2011 was the Serb Novak Djokovic who needed to win this title in Paris to complete his career grand slam—just as Roger Federer attempted in 2006 and 2007 when Nadal turned the great Swiss back, denying him his due.

No other man in the history of the Open Era has dominated a surface more than Rafael Nadal on clay.

Greatest of his achievements on the red clay, however, have come on Court Phillippe Chatrier where Nadal has suffered defeat only once since 2005.

Nadal’s journey to seven Grand Slam titles on the clay has been one of almost total domination starting back when the World No. 2 was a teenager…

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