Don’t get caught up in all the Super Bowl hoopla — the really exciting match this weekend starts five hours from now in Australia.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are facing off in yet another Grand Slam final. This time, though, Rafa is the #1 tennis player in the world and Federer is #2.
They both have quite a bit at stake. If Nadal wins, I think it’s safe to say that he’s completely emerged from Federer’s shadow. And given that he won both the French Open and Wimbledon last year, he’ll be a serious threat to pull of a true Grand Slam (all four majors in the same calendar year).
If Federer wins, he ties Pete Sampras’s record for most major titles (14) and cements his claim as the “greatest of all time”.
The match starts at 12:30 AM PST (3:30 AM EST) on ESPN. TiVo’s are recommended!
Because of the 15 hour time difference, most Americans don’t get particularly excited about the Australian Open. It’s our loss. The first major of the year always manages to produce some interesting stories, and this year is no exception. Good thing there’s danvk.org to help you catch up!
Yesterday alone saw:
I managed to catch the last set of the Federer match, and it was fantastic. Both players played well. Federer had less trouble on his serve in the final set (he set a career high for aces in a match), but with each passing game it seemed like the chances of some random twist turning the match the other way increased. After all, the last time Roger lost here was in 2005, when Marat Safin knocked him out in a five-setter that ended well after midnight.
It’ll be fun to see if Tipsarevic continues to play this well. He seems like an interesting guy. He’s the only tennis player I know of who wears goggles on court, and he has a Dostoyevsky quote tattooed on him (“Beauty will save the world” from The Idiot). Frankly, I’m surprised that more young players don’t throw the kitchen sink at Fed like Janko did. It’s a great way to make a name for yourself. After all, people first started noticing Federer when he knocked off Pete Sampras at the 2001 Wimbledon Championships.
The announcers on ESPN pointed out an interesting fact about this tournament. It’s the first time in many years that a single tournament can decide who will be #1. Here’s how it works:
- Rankings in tennis are based on your performance in events over the last 52 weeks.
- Rafael Nadal has 5780 points
- Roger Federer has 7180 points
- At a Grand Slam you get 1000 points for winning, 700 for runner-up, 450 for semis, 250 for quarters, 150 for round of 16, 75 for round of 32, etc.
- Roger got 1000 points last year — if he’d lost yesterday, he would have dropped to 6225 points
- Nadal got 250 points last year — if he wins this year, he’ll have 6530 points
If Roger makes it to the semis, or Rafa doesn’t win the title, then Federer will remain number one. You can argue about the merits of the tennis ranking system, but it’s certainly predictable!
One final twist: if Rafa doesn’t pass Roger at this tournament, it will be impossible for him to do so for several more months. That’s because Rafa cleaned up during this time last year, while Federer kept losing to this guy. Rafa has points to defend, while Federer does not. You can see the full points breakdown on the ATP profiles for Federer and Nadal.
(See also podcasts and TV shows)
While podcasts are great for the daily commute, books work pretty well, too. That 2+ hour daily commute translates into a huge number of pages. Most of these are books I read in the latter half of the year.
I’m too lazy to include images this time, but I included two bonus faves at the end to make up for it.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
This book really opened my eyes to how agriculture and the food industry in the United States work. Pollan follows four “food chains” from bottom to top: garden-variety industrial, organic, local and “hunter-gathered”, meeting unforgettable characters along the way. I’ve been reminded many times this year just how much I learned from this book.
It’s almost impossible to believe that I read this book in High School, given how little (i.e. major plot points) I remembered a second time around. I enjoyed the book much more this time around. This is mostly because I’ve had more experiences in my life now than I’d had ten years ago. Having had relationships and having moved from home into the unknown, I found it easy to relate to Pip’s changing fortunes. Estella is the most memorable character. “He calls the knaves Jacks, he does!”
King Leopold’s Ghost
I’d heard “the race for Africa” referenced before reading this book, but never fully understood why it was such a catastrophe. This is an in-depth look at one aspect of it, the exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold’s Belgium for ivory and rubber. This was an extremely educational book for me. It’s a great look into how the world worked in the Guilded Age, as it helped me understand some of Africa’s problems today. One nit, though: Hochschild is inconsistent in whether he judges people by the norms of their own day versus our own. He finds the racism of many of his heroes understandable for its time, but Leopold is always presented as a modern man scheming to exploit the Congolese.
A Moveable Feast
I heard about this at a Hemingway-themed party and greatly enjoyed it. Though it was published after his death, it recounts Hemingway’s time in Paris in the 1920′s. He has great stories to tell about all the famous writers and groups of the time, and his style works perfectly for this short read.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Malcolm X lived one of the seminal lives of the 20th century: his father was murdered by the KKK (it was ruled a suicide), he led a colorful life of crime during the Harlem Renaissance, became an influential leader of the Nation of Islam and was assassinated. If you’re not up for reading the book, the Spike Lee movieis fantastic.
OK, now the bonuses! Here are two articles I’ve enjoyed this year that you can read online:
It’s time once again for a token Grand Slam post. The 2007 US Open is winding its way to the final weekend. There have been some surprises, like defending champ Maria Sharapova’s early exit, and some fun matches, like James Blake’s loss to Tommy Haas in a fifth-set tiebreak.
Last night’s match between Andy Roddick and Roger Federer was the most hyped of the tournament. The result was no surprise. Federer won in straights. The messaging on this match has been spectacularly consistent: Roddick played brilliantly, but there’s no shame in losing to the greatest player of all time. I think this is crap. People need to stop going so easy on Roddick. He’s 1-14 against Roger all-time and 0-9 since 2004. He hasn’t taken a set off the guy this year. Maybe if people stopped patting him on the back after every loss and telling him how close he came, then he’d be forced to regroup and find a way to deliver.
One highlight of the match was Andre Agassi’s debut as an announcer. Great players often make great announcers, and John McEnroe is the best in the business. Andre didn’t pipe up too frequently, but everything he said was interesting. Here’s one exchange:
When Roddick stared down Federer and bellowed after a 138 mph ace to get to 4-4 in the first set, Agassi said: “There’s a fine line between getting pumped up and waking a sleeping giant, I assure you.”
Another great moment came when Andre revealed how he used to deal with Boris Becker’s. He picked up on a tell — whenever Boris stuck his tongue out before a serve, he was sure to go down the middle. What an edge that would give you! I wonder if Roger’s picked up on anything like that. Andy’s serve just doesn’t seem to phase him.
My picks — Justine Henin beats Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Women’s final Saturday. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic beats David Ferrer in the semis before losing a close final to the man himself, Roger Federer.
Novak Djokovic upset Rafael Nadal in the Rogers Masters semifinals this evening, making up for the Wimbledon semifinals earlier this year. It sets up an interesting final with Roger Federer tomorrow afternoon (noon PST) in Montreal. Fed’s never lost to Djokovic before, (he’s 4-0) but they haven’t played since Djokovic cracked the top ten earlier this year. This is the final I was rooting for at Wimbledon earlier this year, as those elusive “astute readers of danvk.org” will recall. I’m calling Fed two sets. I don’t think Djokovic can beat him.
This week and next also mark one of the more brain-dead stretches of the ATP tour. The top players are required to enter all nine Masters Series events, which are just one notch below the Grand Slams. Tomorrow is the Rogers Masters final, and on Monday the Cincinnati Masters begins. There’s not even a one day break, but the players are all required to enter both. This makes for some really exhausted players and surprising results at the Cincy Masters. Last year Federer won the Rogers Masters, but lost to #21 Andy Murray in early round play the next week. For a sense of what an aberration this was, Fed only lost to two players last year: Nadal and Andy Murray. It’s absurd that the ATP continues to schedule the Masters Series in this way.
Update: Novak made me eat my words, winning 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-6(2). Fed came quite close to winning the first set: he botched five set points before Djokovic sent it to the ‘breaker. Mad props to him, I underestimated him. He’ll be fun to watch at the US Open this fall.
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