Monday, June 12, 2006

shock the monkey

hey monkey, where've you been?

Yes, I am a jerk, because it was SJM's birthday this past weekend, but instead, I'm posting a picture of two hot chicks from the party. Whatevs, yo. Think of it as an added birthday present for SJM. Also, only in this picture did I manage to capture the all important beverages. We went to a Thai restaurant with a monkey theme. Roops and I reeled from how spicy the food was, but it was nothing a vodka tonic could not neutralize, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

Everyone in my neighborhood was excited about Mexico advancing in the World Cup yesterday (I’m assuming they won- if not, my neighborhood broke into spontaneous eruptions of “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!” for no reason). For my part, I was still tickled over a Mallorcan who makes a habit of wearing capri pants.

Let’s put aside that he makes me go a bit a-flutter when he speaks Spanish (or Spanish-accented English for that matter). Putting aside the shallow aspects, there was a big game on Sunday in France, if anyone tore themselves away from the World Cup to notice. Roger Federer had, for the first time, a Grand Slam within his reach. To achieve a career Grand Slam is a massive accomplishment by itself. Federer was going for the true Grand Slam- that comes from winning the Australian, Wimbledon, the US, and the French Open consecutively in one year. The last person to do that was Rod Laver.

The world of tennis seems to have evolved such that a Grand Slam has become a virtual impossibility. This is why I will never give Sampras the credit he deserves- not only was he boring, but he never won the French. Agassi did, but one wonders if the Agassi of then would have stood a chance to the players of today. Amusingly, since Agassi won in 1999, the French Open has been won by a Brazilian, an Argentinian, and three Spaniards. These guys seem to drink clay with their coffee.

There has been a lot of excitement in the tennis world regarding Federer though. When he is playing well, it is breathtaking, and he plays well frequently. So, as soon as it was starting to look like Federer was going to make it to the finals of the French Open, the history books started opening and the frenzy began. I’m among the many guilty of impatiently wanting to call him “the best ever” already. But, as Frank DeFord pointed out, recently, there is just one problem- Federer keeps getting schooled by Nadal.

Most of the time, Federer is that guy on the treadmill next to you. You decide to pick up your game to keep pace with him, and just when you’re about to congratulate yourself for staying neck and neck with him, he cranks the machine up and breaks into a sprint. He did it with Agassi at the US Open- Agassi appeared to have a chance for a little while, and then, click, Federer turned it up a notch. It could be diabolical, but his easygoing demeanor suggests something more of the Andre the Giant characterisitic of “I want you to feel you’re doing well.”

It is that sort of thing that makes people want to love Federer. He’s a good guy, he plays flawless, he can make arrogant remarks sound modest, he gives the other player their due. Except when it comes to Rafael Nadal. Every great hero has their vulnerability- Achilles had his heel, Krishna had his foot once he assumed mortal form. Being human means having a weakness. For Federer, that weakness is Nadal. He gets under Federer’s skin. He’s beaten Federer on clay and on hard court. But more impressively, he has beaten him. Federer has remarked in the past that, in losing to lesser men in other opens, it was more a case of Federer beating himself. But not so with Nadal. He dominates over the Fed, flustering him, unsettling him.

In yesterday’s game, Federer tried to pull off the click, tried to break off into a sprint, but it did not happen. He won an amazing point that ultimately led to the fourth set going to tie break. But Nadal did not do what the rest of us would. He did not, deflated, fall back and let Federer run to the finish line. With an energizing, “Vamos Rafa!” he went into a breakneck pace of his own. And if you didn’t break into tears when you saw Nadal climb into the stands to hug his family, then you are made of stone, b*tches.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I have a new theory on why Bud Collins still has a job. He is such a horrible interviewer, and has asked such awful questions to players over the years that I think it’s become one of those hazing rituals. If all the previous players had to put up with him, the new youngsters have to be tortured as well.

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