Tag Archives: Roger Federer

And much respect for the Big Croat…

6 Sep

…who — I think it’s accurate to say — satisfyingly creamed the pretentiously heir-presumptuous Federer in straight sets.  (I love that his trainer has no last name.  He’s just “Goran” — another big bearded Croat.)

I would’ve given ANYTHING for a Djoković — Čilić Final, but I can make do with this.

Marin CilicMarin Čilić — “Well might he roar.” Photograph: Darron Cummings/AP

Guardian‘s live blog of both matches – whole day: US Open 2014: Marin Cilic beats Roger Federer – as it happened

Tennis Aegon Championships(click)

And some interesting side things you learn from the most unexpected places, like American TV tennis coverage: Čilić, it turns out, is from Medjugorje in Herzegovina, the Croatian Lourdes, capital of a Catholic-Virgin-apparition national cult, in the most virulently nationalist part of Croatian-held BH.*  (Not a reflection on Marin, of course, who’s actually best buds with Nole; one reason I wanted to see them go at it in the final would’ve been the pleasure of watching how quick “best buds” flies out the window when two Alphas are forced to go for the jugular.)  Always interesting how these cults always have an unerring way of appearing in just those regions, and just when you need them.  And a sad indication, also, of how we’ve written off Bosnia-Herzegovina as a viable entity: CBS’ US Open blurb-profile of Čilić listed his birthplace as “Medjugorje, Croatia.”

Medjugorje is famous as the site of some of the most vicious Ustaše massacres of Serbs during WWII and of subsequent vicious massacres of Franciscan monks and priests by Serbian partisans.  Of course, the Virgin only decided to appear at Medjugorje in 1981 — just one uncanny year after Tito‘s death — when Croatian nationalist sentiments and separatist grumblings had already gathered unstoppable speed and volume, and Yugoslavia was immediately — almost upon cue with Tito’s departure — starting to show signs of coming apart at the seams.

See whole Wiki page: Medjugorje

marin‑cilic-2012-01(click)

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*Desperately poor traditionally, rocky, marginal Herzegovina, the barren plateau just a short steep inland climb from the idyllic, Italianate Dalmatian coast, is one part of the Balkans for which the Serbo-Croatian word vukojebina was coined — “wolf-fuck” — and is not just famous for producing rabid Croatian nationalists, but rabid Serbian and rabid Bosnian and — I think a tiny section that considers itself Montenegrin — rabid Montenegrin nationalists too.  These are not the Croats that Rebecca West could throw her hateful lawyer epithet at.  And don’t let the stunning beauty (below) of any part of ex-Yugoland fool you.

Hajdučka_Vrata“Hajdučka vrata” (the “Bandit’s Den” or “Κλέφτικο Λημέρι”) on Mt. Čvrsnica in Herzegovina (click)

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“But there has rarely been a tennis champion more adept at absorbing pace and thwarting ambition than Novak Djokovic, particularly on a hard court.” — The New York Times

4 Sep

 

b9352043f44b231b599dd6c06205d806_crop_northAP Images (click)

Didn’t find the match nearly as exciting as the Times seems to have.  Both players seemed angry and irritable at having to start so late — the result of a four hour plus match where an impressive, and previously unknown to me, Kei Nishikori beat Stanislas Wawrinka — and by half way it had just become a game of physical and nervous attrition.  Happy result though. 

My call is Djoković and Federer again in final —  see if Nole can reproduce Wimbledon win.

Whole Times article: Novak Djokovic Defeats Andy Murray to Reach U.S. Open Semifinals

While The Bleacher Report both gushes and points out his weaknesses:

“He’s got a serve that’s efficient, if not blinding. He’s got incredible agility and tremendous speed. He runs down shots that seem irretrievable, shots that have the fans gasping—and then roaring.

If there is a weakness in his game, it may be a failure to put away an opponent. He had Murray beaten in the second set—or was Murray beating himself? After losing that set, Djokovic returned to display the skills he possesses.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Belgrade: Wimbledon 2014, rakia with M., and what’s with me and all the Djoković…

12 Jul

TENNIS-GBR-WIMBLEDONGetty Images (click)

“What’s with you and all the Djoković?”

This is M. in Belgrade, after the sixth or seventh rakia, giving me a hard time about my Nole cult. M. is an old Serbian student of mine from New York. He’s one of my favorites actually; out of the nearly ten years I taught English at CUNY, he’s one of those special ones that I can count on one hand. Funny, charismatic, super-smart – when he came to class – he was a real asset to have.

“I was your best student,” he says, a propos of nothing and with characteristic modesty.

“Yeah, when you came to class,” I say.

We live ten minutes from each other in New York but never see each other – bumped into each other at some bars a couple of times – except that every year at Orthodox Easter he comes to my house. But I haven’t been home for Easter for the past three years, so we didn’t see each other then either. Except for one night, two nights ago, the stars arranged for us to both be in Belgrade together and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some long-due drinking done.

So this is M. getting all up in my face Serbian style:

“If you’re such a fan, why are you here? Why aren’t you in Montenegro at his wedding trying to get a picture?”

I didn’t even know Djoković was getting married this weekend and M. knows I’m too old and probably knows enough else about me to know I’m not some idiot groupie:

“Like the other groupies…” he says nevertheless. “You could try to take a picture of him with the bride…one with the bride alone…one with…”

The thing is his teasing is so good humored it makes you wanna jump right into the ring with him and take him on, so it’s always fun and it only makes you like him more. I also came away from the evening feeling good because M. and I barely know each other actually, but a bunch of his friends showed up and it was obvious how loved he was by all of them and that was nice to see; I like when my instincts about a person are correct even when I don’t have much evidence to go by.  But he’s relentless…

“You could try to get a picture of the dog…”

Well for M. or anybody, if you still don’t know what my Djoković thing is about and how it relates to my Serb thing and how possessive and defensive I get about both, you haven’t been reading my blog very regularly. So let me try again. Back to Wimbledon…

I don’t think any real tennis aficionado could’ve asked for a better Wimbledon 2014 – unless you have the frankly hilarious misfortune of being a Nadal fan, in which case you deserve your fate and I’ll tell you when it’s ok to come out of your room and stop being embarrassed. For Djoković it was no easy climb. Great tennis all the way, but he wasn’t granted anything. With Čilić, with Raonić, with Dimitrov, there was practically not a single give-away. He had to wrestle every point from the hands of the universe.

Of course the finals match between him and Federer was a friggin’ dream. It was everything you want from good tennis, from good sport, competition, art, or a good war even: matched skill and guts, intelligent tactics, constant reversal and coming back from behind – and the masochistic pleasure or knowing that even if your guy loses, he’ll have lost to someone you respect. This was one of those matches that the phrase “toe-to-toe” was invented for. At no single point during the more than three hours did either man have enough of a numerical lead to allow his supporters to relax for a few minutes. Neither of them was ever more than just one step ahead of the other and that never lasted long enough for you to take even half a breath.

I watched the game in an empty Greek bar with a friend of mine and don’t think I actually sat back on my seat for a second. And I don’t know whether it was the emptiness of a bar in suburban Athens, perhaps, on a hot July, Sunday afternoon — the hours of high summer heat in Attica still turn the city into a desert — but this was the first time that Djoković’ loneliness on the court struck me so hard. Existentially.  How completely lonely he sometimes seems.  Of course, that day, Wimbledon had to do with it as well. For a variety of reasons we all know, Novak’s always been considered the kind of odd man out in the tennis world despite his stupendous capabilities as an athlete, and Wimbledon is clearly the most classist of all tennis venues where that would show up in its starkest form. I don’t know if it was the shots that the Greek network we were watching was being fed, but not once during the whole match, were the cameras able to get even a single shot of the crowd looking satisfied or anything but stressed whenever an exchange went well for Nole; except occasionally from Becker and his team; no one from his family even seemed to be there — getting ready for the wedding circus I can now presume, but didn’t know at the time. Unlike the always cool French, who’ll applaud you for your art no matter who you are or where you’re from, like the standing ovation they gave Djok for his battle against the Catalan that left him in tears at Roland Garros, here there was the unmistakable look of British and other jet-set spectators at a sporting event in the grip of pure class terror: that their suave Swiss aristocrat would lose to this Balkan nut-job…and at Wimbledon.

I remembered that shitty little article by Lauren Collins that The New Yorker had run last September — The Third Man — about Novak, which kept essentially asking whether he can learn how to act like a proper tennis player: “Can he make us like him?” Like you guys are the arbiters of what exactly and he needs your liking?  And all my pro-Serb and pro-Nole nerves got twisted into knots again, like when I had first read it. The whole article was just dripping with condescension and I thought to myself that if Collins had written an article like that about an athlete from a “country of color,” The New Yorker would have been faced with a howling riot of censoring anger and cries of racism. “Is Nole too ghetto for Wimbledon?” Collins had essentially wanted to know. She could’ve consulted me and I would’ve come up with at least twenty terms from half a dozen Balkan languages for “ghetto” that she could have used.

Then the fifth set started and it became clear that both men knew this was it, life or death, especially because it started to become clear that physical and – from the tightness of the game and competition – nervous exhaustion had started to set in. And Nole got that look he gets late in matches, where he alternates between a look of steely professionalism and hunger that’s ready to rip his opponent to shreds, and this strange watery-eyed look of almost spiritual exaltation, looking dreamily skyward, or gazing down at the ground blankly. And this latter look, though beautiful, is a little worrisome because it means he’s either going to start playing like a man possessed by some god and steamroll whoever he’s up against into the ground – or just start f*cking up and making a royal mess of everything.

It became clear that he was in a state of deity-possession almost as soon as the set started. And then he stopped looking lonely to me. Instead we was simply magnificently alone, the akritas fighting it out on the marble threshing-floor, the young kraljević single-handedly taking on the hostile hordes of pink frangoi in their sun-screen and appropriate hats.

NOLEUSE1404667649000-AFP-531415517Glyn Kirk, AFP/Getty Images (click)

And Federer hit the ball into the net and it was all over. And Nole cracked open; not up, open — like the cracks that Leonard Cohen says let the light get in, except the light here was not flooding in but out of him in this great luminous glow. I don’t know what mad idea of redemption or humility or gratitude was going through his crazed Slavic mind when he knelt and started eating the grass off the court, but in the back of my mind I could hear some Serbian Sonya Marmeladova crying:

“This is what you shall do! Go at once, this very moment to the crossroads and kiss the earth which you have defiled and bow down to the world and say: ‘I am grateful. I am humble. I am grateful. I am humble.’”

And then the tears of that gratitude and humility started flowing and I haven’t even wanted to watch any of the post-game interviews or read anything; I just want to be left with that image of him holding the cup and bawling. Weeping copiously.  Like a man.

wimbledon-men-novak-djokovic-wimbledon-trophy_3169070Getty images (click)

My sense here in Serbia is that there’s a little bit of a conflict between Djoković’ status as saintly national hero and the celebrity circus that’s constantly flowing around him, and that that’s what M.’s cynicism was about with the wedding and all. But a girl, I., who was in M.’s kompaniya that night: very smart and pretty, who speaks absolutely native-speaker American English and who is always running what’s apparently one of Serbia’s fastest-growing websites from from her IPad – which she was doing that night – while still managing to remain front and center of any conversation she happens to find herself in, says that’s the girlfriend and the media’s fault, not his, and that it really irks her.

“What does ‘irk’ mean, M.?” I decide to play professor with him, addressing him by his last name.

“It means like when something bother-… What do you mean what does it mean?!  I know what it means.  I was your best student!”

“Yeah. When you came to class.”

I. also talked some about some genuine darkness that was part of Nole’s childhood, the details of which are common knowledge here, but I’m not going to get into because it’s part of this blog’s journalistic policy not to go there with cheaply personal and especially hurtful personal issues, and especially not with someone I love and admire and who’s as much of a hero of mine as Djoković is. But let’s just say the redeeming, protecting hero archetype is a structurally core part of his psyche.

“He’s a beautiful man and he has a beautiful soul,” I. declared, definitively ending that conversation, as I imagine she must definitively end others when she wants to.

And I felt vindicated.

Do you have your answer now, M.?

Out of respect for this spectacular victory and the Djoković-and-tennis tolerance of my readers I promise there will be no Djoković or tennis at all until the U.S. Open.

But see you before then.

Djokunnamed

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Note:  Speaking of “marble threshing-floors…”  The court at Wimbledon is in such shit state that it can only be called a grass court in the most ideally Platonic terms.  Really; cute British shabbiness has its limits.  Beer and probably piss-stained pub carpeting is one thing.  A court where most of the playing is done on parched, packed, rock-hard dirt, made that much more treacherous by the fine layer of sand it kicks up and coats itself with, is another.  It definitely put a cramp on both players’ styles at several moments during the match and there were times where it even looked like it could cause dangerous injury.  With Nole I didn’t know whether his super-human flexibility would protect him or if it would make his propensity for taking acrobatic risks that much more risky.  Either way, do something.  It’s one of those things that’s not charming about England anymore.

“It was tough and it was tight, but it went according to plan.”

4 Jul

Tennis - 2014 Wimbledon Championships - Day Twelve - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet ClubNovak Djokovic returns to Grigor Dimitrov. Photograph: John Walton/PA (click)

7-6?!  7-8?!  7-9?!!!!   Yes!  Tennis!  THIS is what we want!

No joke this Dimitrov kid, eh?

And I love Xan Brooks constant use of corrida metaphors: “Steely experience won out over youthful flash and fire.  The matador speared the bull.”  Surprised The Guardian’s P.C. Thought Police or some pissy PETA chicks haven’t gotten on his case.  He uses them constantly.

Brooks whole wrap-up:

It was tough and it was tight, but it went according to plan. Steely experience won out over youthful flash and fire. The matador speared the bull.

Full credit to top seed Novak Djokovic, who kept his cool throughout a terrific, red-blooded contest that could very easily have gone to the fifth and final set. But credit, too, to Grigor Dimitrov, who put up a vibrant fight out on a dusty, dissolving Centre Court. Hi chance, no doubt, will come again.

So that’s it, Novak Djokovic advances to the Wimbledon final, where he faces the winner of the second match between Roger Federer and Milos Raonic. That’s just getting started. You can follow it here.

And we all know, few apologies from me either.  From here till the Flushing it’s mostly tennis from me or me fretting about tennis.  I’m gonna be in Belgrade Tuesday.  If Nole takes the title it’s gonna be a mad house.  Actually, either way.

P.S.  I had said:But pretty sure it’ll be Nole and Federer in the end, though Federer over Raonić is not that easy a call to make.”  Turned out it was an easy call to make; what a little mariconada of a game compared to the death match between these two.  Now I don’t know what that means for Sunday’s Final: that Nole will be exhausted after tearing it up like a mountain lion for the past month while Federer’s energy-conservative style will have him all relaxed and fit — or Nole will still be in high gear and Federer playing old-man, one step closer to retirement style.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Why I love watching Rafael Nadal lose

3 Jul

“¡La envidia! Esta es la terrible plaga de nuestras sociedades; esta es la íntima gangrena del alma española.” — Miguel de Unamun0

‘Envy!  This is the terrible plague of our societies; it’s the intimate gangrene of the Spanish soul.” — Miguel de Unamuno

Nadal462026_Britain-Wimbledon-Tenni184Especially when he’s swept off the court like a bunch of dry leaves by an Australian teenager whose name we didn’t even know yesterday, a nineteen-year-old Nick Kyrgios — actually not swept: “bounced” as the Portland Press Herald put it, without having told Rafa that the ball’s supposed to do the bouncing, not him.

Of course, in NikoBakos dream world, it would’ve been a Djoković victory over Nadal, with Nole all done-up in Dmitriy Solunskiy-ish gear and the Catalan lanced and trampled underfoot like Kaloyan from icon representations, though that might have been granting Nadal a bit too much physical impressiveness.

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Then there’s this kind of stuff at the interview, no grace, no concession of skill: ‘the-my-loss-was-a-fluke’ school of sportsmanship.  “I didn’t have my lucky wristband on.”  Read the interview from smh.com.au, complete with another charming photo:

Rafael Nadal on Nick Kyrgios defeat: ‘Everything is a little bit easier when you are arriving’

Linda Pearce July 02, 2014

Rafael Nadal at his post-match press conference.

Rafael Nadal at his post-match press conference. Photo: Getty Images

London: Rafael Nadal was reluctant to declare Nick Kyrgios the next big thing in tennis, even as John McEnroe was suggesting that the wildcard who had beaten the world No.1 was capable of going all the way to the Wimbledon winner’s circle as a 19-year-old on debut.

“For me is very easy to say he can be top 10. I think he can do. Is not an issue that I think he can not do it,’’ said Nadal. “But when we see a young player that arrives to the tour and plays a great match or plays a great tournament, people say he will be the next big star.

“Some things are right — sometimes arrive, sometimes not. So depends how the things improve over the next couple of months, years, for him. So if he is able to keep improving, he will be. If not, will be more difficult.’’

Quite a sober analysis, then, even if the Kyrgios performance was defiantly not. The audacious Canberran kept belting his serve, and thumping his groundstrokes, time after time, In the end, it was Nadal who played more tightly, having won the second set and believing himself to be superior player in the third, but admitting he was outplayed on either side.

Youth helps, admitted the winner of 14 grand slam titles, and in this case the fearless nature of it outweighed his own vast reserves of experience.

“The sport is a mental part a lot of times,” said Nadal. “He has things, positive things, to be able to be a good player. But at the end, everything is a little bit easier when you are arriving. Everything is new. Nothing to lose. Everything is good. Everything is positive. You can do whatever and will be positive, and everybody see just the good things on you.’’

Meanwhile, a very weird Wimbledon, generally.  Nole takes out Stepanek, Tsongas and, in a rougher bout with an admittedly fiercer than I’ve yet to ever see him Marin Čilić, takes him out too.  The Roland Garros loss seems to have not fucked with Nole’s head one bit….μπράβο, έτσι σε θέλω.  Poor Murray, who I was sure would be the man here, is taken out by Grigor Dimitrov, who goes up against Djoković Friday: again scary — Dimitirov good on grass.
But pretty sure it’ll be Nole and Federer in the end, though Federer over Raonić is not that easy a call to make.  Nice…  It’s great to have a man you want to win, but to respect them both enough to not begrudge either victory if he deserves it.
DJOK!!!!!hi-res-5e910d1f3e9a9bceada6fc490de8fa37_crop_north
Do NOT miss The Guardian’s usual, biting, British vulture, peck-over of Nadal’s still not cold corpse.  Brilliant.  As in this vicious description of Nadal’s classic loser’s mug: “But this is where tennis gets tough, in the nuanced mind games, the time-wasting and grunts and glares and barely suppressed animosity that in some sports would incur censure. It is a beautiful game, but it can get ugly;his pettiness, his constant asking for the bathrooom pass.
Only thing is that Kyrgios seems such a pure and innocent kid that all the Catalan mal de ojo in the world just bounces right off him.
Australia's Nick Kyrgios celebrates winn
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios celebrates winning a game against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Why I can’t stand watching Rafael Nadal win

12 Jun

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I’m just going to come out and say this stuff and I’m sure not a few readers will end up considering me a quack or some quasi-Nietzschean fascist aestheticizer of things and never log on again. But, hey, that’s the price…

I’ll start with the most petty and irrelevant reasons. I have a serious repellent reflex towards Catalans. This is largely because I love Spain so much, and their anti-Spanishness really gets my goat. I find their Gallic delusions that they’re so much more European and Mediterranean and civilized than the rest of Spain to be insufferable. (And some day I’ll get around to dismantling the cult of “Mediterranean-ness” itself that’s grown since the 1980s and that I find a completely false and fabricated pop-multi-culti identity that grew out of tourist literature, the public relations campaigns of olive oil companies and a popular sprinking of Braudel, and nothing else. When even Turks start acting and feeling like they’re “Mediterraneans,” you know that a discourse is b.s. and needs to be taken apart; the extremeness of the hype surrounding Barcelona is part of this, and is why I love the gravitas and even crudeness of Madrid and Castille so much more deeply.)  I find Catalans’ noli me tangere squeamishness about how they shouldn’t have to suffer by being a part of this barbaric country of monarcho-fascists and Catholics and gypsies and bull-torturers to be racist pure and simple. They’re Iberian Croatians, in short. There are plenty out there who will get the analogy, I believe.

But none of that has any real bearing here.  And poor Rafa shouldn’t have to be the object of my scorn just because he’s Catalan; Ferrer is too and I think he’s one of the most compelling and wonderful to watch tennis players out there.

I simply hate watching Rafael Nadal win because he’s ugly.

And by ugly I don’t mean short and mousey-looking or that his thinning hair is always already a greasy mess from before the match has even started. I mean ugly with a lack of that kind of inner force that manifests itself as a visible form of athletic charisma and magic.

Since the beginning of institutional athletics in human civilization, meaning the Greeks, of course, we’ve always expected our athletes to partake of “some part of beauty.” To have something that made us feel, even if just partly, that a god were being incarnated here in this man, in our presence. “En-thusiasm” in English comes from the Greek ενθούς, ‘possessed by a god, inspired.”  Whether it’s the gorgeous dance of a great basketball or tennis player, or the weightlessness and super-human strength of a gymnast, or the painful duet of two wrestlers or martial artists of any kind, or just the sublime bulk of a rugby player or Olympic weightlifter, or the highly choreographed beauty of a good American football game (yes, it’s a beautiful, highly choreographed, strategically intricate game, much more compelling than…wait…let me swallow first…soccer), we need to experience this glow, which is not a conventional handsomeness or prettiness that I’m talking about, but the need to sense this power and this powerful yearning for glory and victory emanating out of this being, who we want to feel is slightly more just-above-human than the rest of us are.

You never feel any of that glow emanating from Rafael Nadal. It’s just the same cold, technically precise game and the same cold, pissy look on his mug: the most emotion we’re treated to is if things start going a little badly and the pissy mug just gets a little pissier. After the match, if you mute your set and if the score box isn’t showing on the bottom, you almost can’t tell if he’s won or lost. Just the same cold shaking of hands and greasy slinking off of the court.

TOPSHOTS Spain's David Ferrer returns aDavid Ferrer – Picture: AFP/Getty – (click)

Compare this to the elegant gentlemanliness of a Federer. Or the brute, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, clanking mediaeval long-swords game of a Valencian muscle-brick like Ferrer (above).  Or the young, beautifully British, sportsmanly hunger of Murray. And then there’s my dear, sweet Nole, of course, who in every endearing way is still a teenager of sorts, and may have the purest soul of any professional athlete out there. (Talk about “the tenderness of the warrior.”)  No matter what his rank or seed are, or how well his season has been going, he’s as desperately trying to keep his nervousness under control before a match as a young volunteer going into combat for his first engagement, because I think that that’s what he genuinely feels in his heart each time. And when things go badly, and he tragically can’t stop them from going even more badly, because, like an adolescent, he beats up on himself mercilessly because he feels like he’s failed to prove himself, failed to earn his “red badge,” he inspires the purest Aristotelian feelings of pity in me.* And yet, his dignity in defeat is always impeccable. And his howling glory in victory is all his own too. Lots of people don’t like that or feel it unsportsman-like. Trust me, Olympia was a scene of howling winners just like him – and probably then some.  Finally, the spectacular grace of Nole’s feel for his own body is unmatched by anyone in the sport.  Almost like a bullfighter, you sometimes feel he’s risking an easy point just for the gracia and and pure elegance of a braver, more dramatic play.

(And Michael Phelps…let’s not even go there.  See his tag box for posts on him if you want.)

novak-djokovic-volley (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

You feel no sense of any of that pathos or agon in Nadal’s game. None. So when Djoković loses to a man like Federer, or Ferrer – which I don’t think he ever has – or even Murray, I say helal olsun,** να’ν καλά ο άνθρωπος, he deserved it. And I don’t walk around with this churning feeling in my stomach for days afterwards.

But when Nole loses to a Rafael Nadal – I can feel the gods of our ancestors looking down and saying: “What the hell? This can’t be right…”

At least a big, Russian kouklara like Sharapova won the women’s…

maria-sharapova-wallpapers-tennis-star-maria-sharapova-hd-wallpapers-widescreen-desktop

Maria Sharapova, Women’s Campion at Roland Garros 2014. (click)

See also July 3rd post: “Why I love watching Rafael Nadal lose.”

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* Aristotelian “Pity”In his Rhetoric, Aristotle defines “pity” thus: “Let pity, then, be a kind of pain in the case of an apparent destructive or painful harm of one not deserving to encounter it, which one might expect oneself, or one of one’s own, to suffer, and this when it seems near.”

Effing Greeks had said everything, hadn’t they?  Everything else is a footnote.

** “Helal olsun” means, roughly, “may it be blessed” in its mixed Arab-Turkish vocabulary.  This is where the Greek: “χαλάλι του” comes from, “it went to good cause, to deserving reason, good for him or her.”  The opposite is when somethings has gone “χαράμι” — haram — meaning gone to waste, not to blessed purpose, blown off into the wind, spent badly, made unusable by its having been defiled or tainted.  “Χαράμισα τα νιάτα μου” are lyrics you’ll hear in many Greek songs: “I made haram of my youth” — the implication usually being “with you.”

I was talking to a friend here about the term “Helal olsun” and she said that you could use it in Turkish the way you do in Greek, but also that at Muslim funerals the imam asks the gathered congregation if anyone has any outstanding grudges or feels he is owed something by the deceased, and the congregated reply — I don’t know if in unison or individually: “Helal olsun” — “No, may he be blessed,” (or maybe: “even if I do…helal olsun.”)  And I found that unbearably just and beautiful.  And something to remember when Christians feel we have a monopoly on mercy and forgiveness.  It’s the Quran that says that “Mercy is a greater virtue than justice.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

It’s annoying…

17 Mar

They can’t let Nole win, without making it about how well Federer lost.  Granted, Federer is Federer, but sometimes the bias just seems too obvious.  (Hot pic at least…)

DjokREFERtennis-superJumbo

Djokovic reasserted himself in the tiebreaker that ended the match. Credit Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press (click)

From The New York Times:

In Loss, Federer Shows More Evidence of Resurgence

By BEN ROTHENBERGMARCH 16, 2014

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Roger Federer leaves the BNP Paribas Open having reclaimed his champion’s aura, even after finishing as the runner-up.

After winning the first set of the final on Sunday, the seventh-seeded Federer dropped the next two, ultimately losing, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), to No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who claimed his third title at this Masters 1000 event in the desert of the Coachella Valley.

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Djokovic became more tentative and Federer pounced, racing out to a 0-40 lead that had the crowd roaring. When he broke, the crowd rose to salute his resilience.

But in the tiebreaker that ended the match, Djokovic reasserted himself. He won two of the first three points on Federer’s serve in the tiebreaker to take a 5-1 lead and eventually sealed the match at 7-3. When Federer’s final backhand hit the net, Djokovic calmly removed his hat and raised his fist toward his player’s box as he walked to the net.

“I stayed mentally tough, and that, for me, is something that gives me a lot of encouragement and hopefully a confidence boost for the rest of the season,” Djokovic said of his late-match recovery.

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Novak Djokovic won the BNP Paribas Open title over Roger Federer, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3). Credit Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Both Federer and Djokovic dressed in shades of gray, and there was little to distinguish them statistically, either. Each man struck the same number of winners as unforced errors — 34 in each category for Federer, 28 for Djokovic. Djokovic won just one more point, 99 to Federer’s 98.Though the tournament began with several upsets — Djokovic was the only one of the top six seeds to reach the quarterfinals — it ended in a familiar battle between two of the most dominant players of this era. The so-called Big Four — Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray — have won 28 of the last 29 Masters 1000 events.Federer’s continued presence in that ruling elite has been shaky over the last 10 months. His streak of 36 consecutive appearances in the quarterfinals of Grand Slam events ended last June with a second-round loss at Wimbledon to No. 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky. His listless fourth-round exit at the United States Open to 22nd-ranked Tommy Robredo was perhaps more unsettling.During that time Federer, 32, had back problems. He doubted his racket, switching to a larger model, only to switch back. He had a stretch of nine months without defeating a top-10 player. His pretournament ranking of No. 8 was his lowest since 2002.But in 2014, Federer has looked like his old self. With a healthier back, a larger racket and a new adviser, Stefan Edberg, he has gone 19-3, and he beat Djokovic and sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych to win in Dubai last month. By reaching Sunday’s final, he will re-enter the top five at No. 5.After the match, Federer said critics might have rushed to bury his career without seeing his slump in perspective.“You have to look at the overall case, Federer said. “What’s been happening, what are the reasons for maybe not playing so well, or for playing well? You don’t just forget how to play tennis, you know. Age is just a number. It’s nothing more, really. That’s how I see it, anyway.”For Federer, whose back problems began at this tournament a year ago, the second-place finish had a silver lining. 

“If you see the angle that last year was difficult — especially this time around last year in Indian Wells — I’m able to turn it all around now, and I’m really playing nice tennis,” Federer said. “You know, that’s also what I said out on the court. And I truly believe that I’m playing good tennis, and then it’s maybe sometimes a little easier to lose this way.”

Though Federer leaves Indian Wells technically a loser despite the boost to his confidence, another 32-year-old leaves the desert with a trophy. Flavia Pennetta, an Italian veteran who acknowledged contemplating retirement last year when her ranking fell outside the top 100, beat second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-1, for the biggest title of her career and her first in four years. Pennetta’s ranking will move to 12th, from 22nd.

Radwanska, who began the match with her left knee taped, struggled with the injury throughout the match and barely ran for balls as the second set wore on. Several visits from the trainer to apply more tape provided little relief.

“I’m so sorry that I couldn’t run as much as I could,” she said later, fighting tears.

For Pennetta, there were only smiles.

“Thirty-two, O.K., we are old,” Pennetta said, using air quotation marks with the adjective. “But we’re still good athletes.”

P.S., then this: Evidence Mounts That Men’s Top Four Tennis Players Are No Longer on Pedestal ,  about how the top four — Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray — aren’t all that anymore Whatever.  Just as long as I live to see the Catalan crushed and humiliated and forced to leave the game and his career in disgrace — I’ll be happy.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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