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Sports Then and Now

Will Tomas Berdych’s First Wimbledon Final Be A Winning One? 3

Posted on July 02, 2010 by Rob York

Tomas Berdych has broken through to reach his first Wimbledon final.

The first time I watched Tomas Berdych play was in the fourth round of the US Open against Tommy Haas. He was only 18 then, but had already attracted some buzz for having knocked Roger Federer out of the Olympics in Greece just weeks earlier.

And at the time, it was impossible not to already be impressed with his shotmaking.

It was not like with Andre Agassi or Fernando Gonzalez, where even the viewers watching on TV could see and hear how hard the ball was being hit, but Berdych, when he had time to set up, had a way of almost casually flicking the ball into corners, lines, and angles that could not be retrieved.

In that first set alone, Berdych must have hit two-dozen winners, but it wasn’t enough. Haas squeaked out that first set and the big, lanky Czech went away after that. Read the rest of this entry →

Reliving the Wimbledon Classic: Roger Federer Vs. Pete Sampras 2001 6

Posted on July 01, 2010 by JA Allen

Winners are not those who never fail but those who never quit––Edwin Louis Cole

Wimbledon 2001 Federer defeats Sampras in the 4th round. It marked Sampras' earliest exit from the tournament.

If you were lucky, you were there at the inception, when the first moments of brilliance blossomed.  The teenage phenom from Switzerland sporting a bandanna, his long hair swept back in a ponytail, bit at his lower lip, serving, dancing along the baseline on Centre Court.

The young challenger waited, seeing the ball as if in slow motion––coiled, poised on the balls of his feet, ready to move forward if the grizzled champion on the other side of the net returned the ball short.

Roger Federer’s main worry centered on containing his own anxiety, of staying in the moment, the point at hand and living each shot as it happened,  He could not afford to anticipate beyond the slight movement to the left or the right of the champion, Pete Sampras, who waited on the other side of the net.

From time to time the champion’s serve cracked, blasting through the court, ricocheting off service lines, often beyond the teenager’s ability to lay a racket on it.  All the while Sampras sent  an unmistakable message that he did not intend to go “gentle into that good night,” as urged by Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet.

Read the rest of this entry →

Wimbledon 2010: Rafa Rules Men’s Power Rankings 7

Posted on June 20, 2010 by JA Allen

Wimbledon 2010 ready to get underway on Monday June 21.

On Monday, as the sun rises offering the first view of the well-tended lawns at the All-England Club at Wimbledon, tennis aficionados breathe a deep sigh of relief, having survived the dust of the red clay and the sometimes ugly tenor of long grueling matches.

Grass is green, invigorating, inviting brisk movement and light, skipping motions across the lawns.  This is the moment the earth spins properly, as we begin to relax and drink in the panorama of spectacle Wimbledon never fails to offer.

Our pre-Wimbledon Power Rankings fail to reflect the full impact of the move to grass because, as we lament, the grass season is far too short.  It remains a tiny slice out of a season played primarily on artificial, often debilitating hard courts and the soft, forgiving but deadening spirit of the clay.

Those players at the top linger there primarily due to their success on the red clay.  Most hope to repair their strokes and adjust their footwork in time to excel on the grass of Wimbledon, the grandest of the slams.

Read the rest of this entry →

2009 BMW Tennis Championship: A Stepping Stone for Robin Soderling 3

Posted on March 02, 2010 by Rob York
The 2009 BMW Tournament was a breakout event for Robin Soderling.

The 2009 BMW Tournament was a breakout event for Robin Soderling.

Tomas Berdych and Robin Soderling are both representative players of the current generation on the ATP Tour.

First, there’s their common height and bulk: the Swede Soderling is listed at 6’4” and 192 pounds on the ATP Tour Web site, while Berdych is listed at 6’5” and 200 pounds.

Secondly, we have their game plans: The 25-year-old Soderling and the 24-year-old Berdych both serve big and hit hard off both wings, and like so many players today the centerpieces of their games are big forehands. The Czech’s is a bit flatter, and the Swede’s requires a bit more backswing, but both men are rightly considered to be among the hardest hitters around.

And by the time the two met in the finals of the BMW Tennis Championship last March, they could be considered to be in a similar phase in their careers. Soderling had broken through in 2003 by reaching his first tour final and the third round of Wimbledon, while Berdych’s big intro was in 2004, when he won his first title and beat Roger Federer at the Olympics.

Despite their early promise, however, their results were stagnant, with Berdych winning just four titles by early ’09 and Soderling only three. Their games had come to be known for one-dimensional power hitting, and both were struggling just to win matches in the early goings of ’09.

Berdych had pushed Federer to five sets at the Australian Open, and then won only one more match. Soderling took a 4-5 record into the event, and had to go through qualifying just to make the main draw of this unique event. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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