Monday, September 19, 2011

The Mayweather Boxing Foul Up

The whole world saw what the arrogant brat named Floyd Mayweather did to his young opponent, Victor Ortiz in their much awaited fight yesterday at the MGM Hotel and Casino at Las Vegas. To say that it was an unsportsmanlike act is I think an understatement. My kids saw it in disbelief. My wife, who hates boxing (but is only forced to watch it while waiting for the station breaks in between rounds for her to switch to her favorite Sunday noontime show) was aghast. Knocking out an unsuspecting, defenseless opponent who was still in a break mode following a gentleman's beso-beso was a treacherous act. And he says he's the best boxer in the world? Even in those days of  the cowboys "high noon" shoot-outs, all was fair. They count out their steps and draw fire at the designated moment.

The boxing crowd booed the decision by veteran referee Joe Cortez. Their message was clear. It was not a knockout. It was a no contest. Joe Cortez should be sanctioned. He messed it up. How could he say it's a "go" already when he was clearly not looking at the boxers and was even heard talking to someone else? Normally, referees should be at the center  and signal the boxers to start by saying "box". Blame him for that. The post fight interview further revealed Mayweather's persona. He was rude and got irked when Larry Merchant, the respected grand old man of HBO who's been in boxing long before Mayweather was even born, kept on asking himof the circumstance. He was guilty and the whole world saw how disrespectful he was.

I have no love lost for Mayweather. His personal life is a mess. He batters his wife and he is always hailed to court for other misdeeds. Ok, it's his personal life; his boxing is another thing. But he's scared of our idol, Pacquiao, making all excuses in the world just to evade the much awaited fight. Much more, that drug accusation is simply slanderous.That's why, he's not a great boxer. A great boxer should fight the best; that's the only way to prove who you are. Ali fought Frazier three times. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, all great fighters, Hall of Famers. They fought one another. And the boxing world knew what stuff they were made of. They lost at one time or another but they still were hailed as great boxers. That's why Pacman is great. Not only did he fought and demolished all those best boxers in several weight divisions he could reach, he wants to fight Mayweather to settle the score once and for all.

My wife says how could I enjoy the brutal world of boxing. But boxing is art. Boxing can be fought by true sportsmen. Boxing is a sport of men;men of honor, dignity, courage, respect, discipline. The one we saw yesterday was not the boxing I love.

I can't wait that day when Pacquiao demolish and crush that brat ego tripping Floyd "The Foul" Mayweather.

Monday, September 12, 2011

US Open 2011: Hurting on Federer's Semis Loss

I was hurt, my wife was hurt, and my kids were also hurt by that semi-final loss of our idol Roger Federer to top ranked and No.1 seed Novak Djokovich. It was a classic 5 set thriller but it was hurting how he lost that match. For sure, my friend from our NSC days, Vic, a.k.a. Ting was also hurt for he says, in those games when his idol Roger seemingly loses a match especially against Rafa Nadal, he would just switched off the TV. He just could not endure the suspense.

Advantage Federer. That was his position. He won the first 2 sets and Djoko had to extricate himself from a deep hole he was in by winning the 3rd and 4th sets to extend the match into a do or die 5th setter. Tied at 3 all, Federer stormed ahead to 5-3, and serving for the match, he reached an almost insurmountable triple match point. All he needed was an ace and the match is over. Djokovich himself looked resigned to his fate. But I don't know what happened. Pressure for sure, pressure he always handled in the past by his cool demeanor, must have crept on him. And Djokovich recovered, saved matchpoint and went on to tie the set at 5 apiece. Clearly, the tide turned in his favor, and ended at 7-5. All this time, the cameras would focus on Mirka for almost every point won or lost. She was shouting, cheering from the box, but how could we described how she felt after that loss? Didn't we said she's the most courageous woman in tennis?

So it's gonna be the No.1 seed vs the No.2, a rare happening. In fact to have the top 4 seeds in semis doesn't also happen often. It promises to be another classic match, a no holds barred encounter, power for power, speed for speed, and what have you. In last year's final, they also met with Nadal winning. So Djoko has a score to settle. Nadal has a mission to redeem his top ranked status. My crystal ball? It's gonna be Djokovich. Watch it live starting 4AM tomorrow, Manila time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Ground Zero While Watching US Open 2011 Semis

I was watching the semis of US Open 2011 and heard Rafa Nadal's brief dedication to the victims of 9/11 after his winning match against Andy Murray.

It took me back to New York and World Trade Center now Ground Zero 25 years ago.

Here's my story.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Roger Federer's Matchpoint: Mirka

Mirka at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors games

Mirka. She is of course the wife of Roger Federer and mother of their two year old twin daughters. They got married in 2009 although they have been together for quite sometime now, ever since they met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where they both represented their country, Switzerland, in tennis. Hers is the face that regularly and constantly graces Federer's player's box in all his matches, especially during the tennis majors. No other woman, wife, girlfriend, or companion or whatever could match that adoring presence, much less survive the suspense, thrill, and excitement, in victory and defeat, every game her man played. Her "stamina" in the player's box for almost ten years now has the media describing her as "the most courageous woman" in tennis. I've seen and watched her perhaps since 2002 because the TV cameras have always focused on her. You could sense her joy when Federer scores and wins but likewise feel her pain and agony in those difficult moments and defeats of her man. We ourselves watching on TV could hardly bear those moments because we are Federer's big fans. How many times has he gone through tie breaks, 5 setters, etc.; those classic encounters with Rafa Nadal in Wimbledon and Australian Open where Federer broke down during the awarding ceremony . She's a major presence indeed in the tennis world but the significance of that presence was best described by Federer himself when he said, "Thanks to her, I have been very calm in the important moments of my career."

Miroslava Vavrinec, a.k.a. Mirka was born in Bojnice, Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia). At age 2, her parents migrated to Switzerland. When she was 9, she watched tennis legend Martina Navratilova (also from Czechoslovakia but later acquired American citizenship) play in Germany. It was here that Navratilova took fancy on her, discovering a potential champion. Thereafter, she sent her a racket and gave her a trainer. At age 15, Mirka became Switzerland's Girls Junior champion. She attained her highest ranking in the ATP tour at No.76 in 2001 but recurring foot injury forced her to retire in 2002. Since then, she went with Federer with a role as Press and Public Relations Manager. It is said that in those years that Federer didn't have a coach and manager, she also acted as one because being a professional player herself, she knows tennis. Her addiction to chewing gums is famous and you could see her continually chewing during the games. And unlike most wives, celebrities, etc, she doesn't have a blog nor a twitter account.

Mirka, called Federer's secret weapon by The Independent

She has a beautiful face that still looks the same after 10 years. She may have gained weight but it is still that face that launched 200km/hr serves and aces in Roger Federer's arsenal. Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, having won the most number of tennis major titles at 16 at all four Grand Slam tournaments, the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and US Open. And perhaps still going. But many agree that he couldn't have accomplished everything he has in his career without the "constant, loving, sympathetic, and knowledgeable" presence of Mirka. German tennis legend Boris Becker aptly described their relationship: "So this is it. Match point for eternity."  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Love Matches of Tennis Superstars

Jelena Ristic, Novak Djokovic's girl

It's interesting and quite "showbizzy" to be following ( to know maybe is the more appropriate word ) the loves of our idol tennis superstars. My wife even quipped,"why, do they still have time for that?" Yet, when you read that this and that have already broken up, the most common reason they cite is, "we just didn't have time for each other". For me, I just love to hear that he or she is in love with this girl or man.

During a match, watch out for that beautiful lady or handsome gentleman in the player's box   which the TV camera focuses from time to time. No doubt, she's the girlfriend or wife or he's the boyfriend or husband. More often, it is the TV that confirms the relationship.

First on the roll. World's No.1 Novak Djokovic's girlfriend, Jelena Ristic.Also from Serbia, she's Novak's longtime girlfriend, described by the press as the lady with "a flawless face, beautiful hair, delicate body, and a beautiful smile".She's not always at his box for she stays in Monaco, pursuing a Master's degree and working as Human Resource Coordinator in a Libyan oil company. A few days ago, it was confirmed that they are finally getting married next month, with Scotman, World No.4 Andy Murray as the best man. Headlining the women's draw is No.1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and boyfriend, young golfer sensation and one time Major winner Rory McIllroy. Good match. Both aces. Reminds me of another tennis-golf love pair before: Swiss No.1 Martina Hingis and Spain's top golfer, Sergio Garcia. Now, Maria Sharapova, tennis' poster girl, is engaged to Sasha Vujacivic who helped Kobe Bryant and the Lakers win their 3rd straight NBA title a year ago but who now plays with the New Jersey Nets. This is another good match and a slam dunk showtime. We could add Ana Ivanovic and golf sensation Australian  Adam Scott.  These are just a few of those love matches.

But I think the two greatest matches so far is the Roger-Mirka Federer and the Andrei Agassi-Steffie Graf love affairs.Theirs are beautiful and enduring love stories that need a separate story telling.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Good Riddance, Tim Cone

It's difficult not to write about Tim Cone, or his parting ways with the Alaska Aces basketball team. After all, even if you're not really a die hard PBA fan, I guess  you would still know him. First, it came as a rumor. But then, when there's smoke, there's really fire. And yesterday, with their management in complete cast, Fred Uytengsu, the "Alaska Man" announced the news. With that, it ended what sportswriters say as the longest and most successful team-mentor partnership in the Philippine Basketball Association. Some good things really don't last.

Tim Cone was the face of the PBA in the 90's together with his stars Johnny Abarrientos, Bong Hawkins, and Jojo Lastimosa. That was their decade, their glorious era, winning a grand slam in 1996 and a near triple crown in 1998. All in all, in Tim's 22 years as coach, they won 13 championships, and 25 Finals appearances. Throughout these years, you see this man, always in white long sleeve and tie, walking to and from the bench, kneeling, and often exploding and arguing with the referees. All his assistants were also in that long sleeve-tie attire, the only team in the PBA who don such formal dress code. Look at the NBA coaches. They are always prim and proper in their formal suits. That was perhaps Tim's badge in the PBA, not so much that he's an American used to such dress code. But it gives some formality and serves notice that basketball, or PBA, is not just play but also business.

Why he's leaving is obviously the big question. He and Fred Uytengsu, the owner, are best of friends even before the PBA days. Officially, they said, he's taking a new career, will take a rest, a change in direction, such and such. But the grapevine said that Tim was disappointed and frustrated that while  other teams are focused on building up their teams by signing up marquee players, etc, Alaska is in no mood to do that. In fact, it seems to disintegrate, releasing top gun Joe Devance with other stars like LA Tenorio and Cyrus Baguio ready to be traded. Years ago, Kobe Bryant threatened to leave the Lakers if Management will not sign up ( read: invest) players who can support him in their title bids. That time, the Lakers just can barely make it to the play-offs. So Management satisfied Kobe, and the last build up was the transfer of Pau Gasol from Memphies.Instantly, that season, the Lakers became serious title contenders, winning the Western Conference. It got short though in the Finals when they got clobbered by their old rival in the East, the Boston Celtics in a dream match. They redeemed themselves the next year and reigned supreme for 3 years. That's basketball and that's business.

It is not farfetched though that we will see Tim Cone again, perhaps sooner than expected.  Maybe also in a different uniform.     

Thursday, September 1, 2011

US Open 2011 Sidelights

One of the things I like about tennis majors are the surprises and historical significance they always bring. Like this year's US Open. It's just Day 3 and look what we've got.

Seemed like hurricane Irene just didn't come to New York. For 3 days now, the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis National Center at Flushing Meadows are enjoying fine weather. To think that the day before that, subways were closed and  the Big City were grappling with a rare hurricane of Category 4 level. The crowds kept coming, during day and night matches. Somebody else were affected by floods and devastation. The fans just love the US Open. 

Day 1 saw upsets not seen before since 1971. Last year's ladies major champions were eliminated or were just out of it...And so it kept the ladies draw wide open. First to go was last year's Australian Open champion, Kim Clijsters who withdrew because of injury. Then Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova got the boot to 48th ranked Romanian named Alexandra Dulgheru. Finally, it's French Open champion, the Chinese hero, Li Na who succumbed to another Romanian, 53rd ranked tenager Simona Halep in straight sets at that. The other Willliams, Venus, also is out of it after succumbing to a viral infection.What does that make? Well, top seed Caroline Wozniacki, the world's No.1 who haven't won a tennis major yet might do it this year.  Then there's Serena Williams, always a contender when she plays and when injury free. But my bet is still with my idol, Maria Sharapova. Oh, if only she plays consistently, less unforced errors, and with confidence in serving, not the double faults I always dread everytime she does it. Remember, she lost her semis match to Li Na at the French Open due to these.  She's tennis glamor girl. How I wish the other glamor girl and also my idol, Ana Ivanovic, who won her first round match, could go on and reach just even the quarter finals. And there's one more. Sergie Bubka, Jr., the son and namesake of one of the world's greatest athletes and perhaps the greatest pole vaulter of all time, Sergy Bubka of Ukraine, is playing in this tourney, and won his first round match. 

And for a bit of history. Just about this time 23 years ago, August 30, 1988, two young Americans, one 17 years old and the other 18 years,  made their opening debut in the US Open. The 18 year old won his match  in straight sets. His name was Jim Courier. The 17 year old lost his in 5 sets. But after that, his name became synonymous with tennis. His name: Pete Sampras. Do they need more introductions?