I will begin my interpretive piece on the rise of Djokodal today; sorry for the delay. Writing these articles actually is work, but something I do enjoy and dream (literally I dream about it) of writing about ball and racquet full-time 🙂
The grass action over the weekend and the finish to the NBA finals give us some fodder for commentary and conversation.
With the grass, too bad that Zverev couldn’t consolidate his win over Federer. Not good for the youngster, imho. Seemed to be a good opportunity to notch a first 500 tournament win. Instead, the other German took the opportunity to get a second career title to the pleasure (I assume) of his home crowd. Mayer is ranked in the top. . .400 or 500? He’s 32. I see he has the distinction of making the WB QF in 2004 and 2012. This is your quintessential ATP journeyman; good on him for getting the win, at home, on grass, which he apparently appreciates. But we probably see this as a missed opportunity for the 19 year-old German.
Congrats to Murray for his fifth Queens Club title. I was falling asleep watching a delayed telecast of the final, which we assume entailed two Wimbledon “contenders.” On paper, looks like Murray lost a TB and then cruised to victory. By the way, is it me or does the grass seem to behave a lot like the clay? Granted, we already talked about this surface similarity issue, but it’s one thing to talk about it and another to see it, rendering the tennis a little chunkier than the truer play of HC.
I did stay alert enough to see the first few games of the second set. Murray down one set proceeds to lose his serve, so the Canadian is serving 2-0. He fashionably goes to 3-0. With that serve, game-set-match, no? Perhaps not on this grass.
None the less, that was the most impressive part here. Murray held himself together, despite the disadvantage, and despite the New York Mets hat laden McEnroe evidencing his pleasure at his player’s form during the first set and a half. Murray held serve and then showed some tactful defense with some terrific passing shots against the S&V of Raonic, who under McEnroe’s guidance will almost certainly try to use this classic grass strategy. Murray came-up with some brilliant defense, and was able to figure-out the serve more or less. That pivotal break of serve at 1-3 was all I needed to see, having seen the final score already. Murray has to be the only real contender to Djokovic if everyone’s on form. Really from a grass confidence stand-point, and with the addition of Lendl, Murray is alone in resistance to the Serb.
Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. Tough to spin this any way other than we are in an absolute death spiral on tour. Even Thiem, seemingly the best case scenario for future threats in the big draws, will be 23 in September.
From whom do we derive hope for a true challenge to the soaring Serb?
If you’re not a sports fan, you’re not very smart. So, even in the case of the worst bias (many fans have), at least you enjoy the competitive nature of these different sports, which give us so much insight into reading culture, individual human nature, kairos, and we’ll just say life in general.
Take the NBA finals. I, like many sports enthusiasts, have been critical of Lebron James. Why? Some kind of shallow bias? Not really at all. James has been prone to turning from the moment in big games. Despite his abundant talent, he has failed to live up to that promise. The cultural crisis of presentism has been quick, despite this pattern of failure, to anoint him as this great NBA player to be put alongside other greats. I criticized this historical comparison.
Meanwhile, the Warriors were just rolling along. Dominating. A microcosm of their two-year dominance was going-up 3-1 in this series. Historically, that’s game-over.
To make a long story short, despite some unnecessary dramatics following game 4, Lebron and company outplayed the Warriors, Lebron really did not shrink from the challenge, they climbed out of that 1-3 hole, and beat the Warriors in Oakland to win the NBA title. In the end, one has (I have) to concede that Lebron rose to the occasion and backed-up a lot of his hype, finally.
This makes him 3-4 in finals. He needed this third championship. He got it. Congratulations. Keep in mind, choosing to criticize the guy was the less popular route to take, but it was being honest. Honesty then has to concede he was great in this huge series, winning a title for his native Cleveland after decades and decades of dismal sports narratives for that city and region (it’s a fairly long history of title draught across the larger sports landscape).
Losing would have made him 2-5 in finals (and those of us who criticized him note that he is an incredible jump shot at the buzzer by Ray Allen from being, potentially, 1-6). But that’s not how this has gone. James is now 3-4. The narrative of championship quality is solid; he was impactful in several ways in this series; he got it done.
On the other hand, the Warriors, who could have been 2-0, back-to-back champs, are 1-1 and all kinds of questions rear their ugly little heads. I won’t go into these in detail, but suffice it to say that this turn of events (could’ve gone the other way and the narrative changes dramatically) renders life quite differently.
We see this across the world of sports.
This is more about Lebron than it is about the Warriors or Curry (although some will see him as a diminished leader – I have always thought Green is their leader, even their best player). Lebron has a bigger body of work. His is more significant in the basketball conversation. He’s cemented much of his legacy with this win, on several different fronts. But, again, he did it. The Warriors have a lot of work to do. So does Curry. For those of us who follow this stuff, more or less, Curry was an inconsequential player coming-out of college. This Warriors run has been a little surprising, to be fair. And now it goes from “surprising” to ephemeral, to potentially diminutive.
In our sport of tennis, with our trio of the “golden age” where they have accomplished so much, you can’t really question the greatness.
You could question Lebron before this third championship. But that ship has sailed.