Have Balls Will Travel ……………… Anyone For Tennis ?

Have Balls Will Travel ……………… Anyone For Tennis ?

Well the first tennis Grand Slam event of the year has already got the ball rolling on both the Men’s and Women’s Tour . The ATP covers the men’s where the dominant factors are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer the world number’s one and two in the ATP rankings . The Australian Open as always is the first of the four Grand Slam majors that encapsulates the French Open , Wimbledon and the US Open .

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Slide show gallery for your perusal .

On the women’s side on the WTA Tour the new number one ranked player is Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark albeit that in many eyes a grand slam tournament without Serena Williams is very much like having a four course meal without one of the main hors-d’ouever starters. But with the younger of two Williams’ sisters not a participant it will be left to Venus Williams to carry the familial torch.

Now while the eyes of the tennis world be upon the top two men in the game I’m of the belief that unless both walk into a trap then these finals will be about two pre-eminent players of their generation and perhaps the best two players in the game over the last two decades. Their joint resumes alone is most certainly a testament to that, with each having won a career Grand Slam having won each of the four majors . Nadal will now have the privilege of trying to emulate what only Rod Laver has been able to achieve twice over the course of his esteemed career and that’s to try and win the Grand Slam as it’s designated to be and that’s to win all four majors in a calendar year . There’s the idiocy being paraded out there by observers that Federer’s game is on the decline but like any other player on the circuit players will have ebbs and flows over the course of their careers never mind that they’ll also become susceptible to injuries and that’s something that hasn’t been mentioned in any of the blogs I’ve read concerning the player.

But take this as a fact Federer and Nadal have been participants in 23 of the last 25 tennis Grand Slam Finals either facing each other or another top 10 player at the time . Those being Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Djokovic who’ve won the two Slam Finals where the names of Federer or Nadal weren’t etched on the trophy. And that’s meant to be a decline in Federer’s career as a singles player ? Less we forget also that the former Swiss number one has made it to 23 straight Grand Slam tennis semi-finals ? Am I missing something here and where what the hell have these individuals been watching and what is that they base their actual thought process on if not the facts that are in front of them ?

The earlier rounds so far for both the men’s and women’s singles competition hasn’t brought about any great surprises as of yet but you can be sure as the second week approaches at the Rod Laver Center in Melbourne , Australia we will be in for a plethora of surprises . The one thing that I feel is abundantly clear is that on the men’s side of the game the once dominant US no longer has a male player of any real note that can challenge for any of major slams on the circuit. Andy Roddick is no longer a real presence on the ATP Tour and simply going through the motions and I can only surmise that marriage and the domesticity it brings with being married to SI model Brooklyn Decker has softened the player somewhat !

If there are to be any challenges offered to the duo of Federer and Nadal then it could very well come from Novak Djokovic , Andy Murray , Fernando Verdasco , Gael Monfils to name but a few . But as I alluded to earlier that would be predicated upon either Federer or Nadal seemingly losing interest and falling into the trap of perhapos of misjudging an opponent. The reality here is given both players’ slam experiences it’s very hard to envisage that happening. Between them they have won a combined 23 Grand Slam Finals and have appeared in 27 altogether. Do you get the feeling that the two know what they’re doing when they’re on the grandest of stages in the men’s game ?

Although the top ranked Caroline Wozniacki has yet to win Grand Slam major her career has been marked with very good tournament wins and 2010 she showed a great deal of consistency and there’s justification as to why she’s ranked number on the WTA Tour. Granted the absence of Serena Williams waters down the competitiveness of the event in the women’s singles but nonetheless it now becomes something of a wide open event where you can pick a winner from amongst the remainder of the top ten in the rankings and feel there’s a cause to be made for each . Certainly Kim Clijsters , Venus Williams , Samantha Stosur and Maria Sharapova can be looked upon as a threat in the competition and perhaps deny Wozniacki the chance to win her first Grand Slam singles title. Sharapova to my mind having been injured hasn’t really played herself into match fit competition but given her experience she could derail the ambitions of others given the right set of circumstances and even with her being outside the top ten she’s still good enough to beat any of the top ranked players on her day. Caroline Wozniacki needs a Grand Slam major win to justify that top ranking on the WTA Tour as it adds legitimacy to her career also. As to whether or not she can achieve that in this tournament remains to be seen but here’s the clear chance for her to justify that to the public and for tennis fans around the globe.

Tennis if anything has its place in the pantheon of sports on the world stage and without the tete-a-tete and rivalry brought about by the likes of Federer and Nadal we’d be left with a cumulative void. There’s nothing coming along from within the US men’s game to suggest that they can regain dominance in the men’s game. And apart from the tradition of the Davis Cup a team even where there too they’ve fallen on hard times _____________ there’s not much else for them and the fans to really look forward and that’s in spite of the changes now being made at the ground level and up within the USTA to seek a change in fortunes and the nurturing of young talent at every level within the game on the domestic front.

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Picture gallery for your perusal.

What thoughts if any do you have on Australian Open and how do you see things panning out in the men’s and women’s singles competition ? And as as such do believe that the US men’s tennis can once again become a dominant force on the world stage with the players that it currently has within the ATP Tour rankings ? Simply chime in with your comments .

NB Picture and slide show gallery details .

(1) Gael Monfils of France plays a stroke during his third round men’s singles match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland on the fifth day of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 21, 2011. Warwinka leads by two sets to nil as play continues. AFP Photo/William West _______ Photo credit should read William West/AFP/Getty Images ….. copyrighted material …… @ all rights reserved

(2) Kei Nishikori of Japan serves against Fernando Verdasco of Spain during their round three men’s singles match on the fifth day of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 21, 2011. Verdasco won 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 . Getty Images /Nikolas Ashfouri ………..

(3) Melbourne , Australia ,. Rafael Nadal of Spain serves in his second round match against Ryan Sweeting of the United States of America during day four of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 20, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images …….

<p (4) Roger Federer of Switzerland serves in his third round match against Xavier Malisse of Belgium during day five of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Federer would go on to defeat Malisse in straight sets . Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images ………

(5) Andy Roddick of the United States of America shakes hands after his third round match against Robin Haase of the Netherlands during day five of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images ……….

(6) Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark plays a forehand in her third round match against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia during day five of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images ……..


The Australian Open Schedule & Results ——

ATP Men’s Rankings

……………………………. WTA Women’s Rankings ……

Alan aka tophatal …………………………………..

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Courtney  Black

Eye candy …………… Courtney Black and pictorial montage to follow.

Courtney parades her wares courtesy of King Magazine .

Courtney  4

Balls are meant to be played with and Courtney most definitely knows how to do that !

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U2 ………………. “One”

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The Best I’ve Ever Seen ……………

The Best I’ve Ever I Seen

Some of my work colleagues and I were having a discussion as to the best sport stars we’ve seen at (in) their respective sports. I told them that as I wasn’t all that versed to many of the top athletes or teams here in the US that we’ve all seen over the course of our lives. Being a Brit ,I’ve seen my share of stars across varying sports arenas. But across the North American landscape I’ve not seen many of the best, per say.

Having arrived here in the early nineties , the primary US athletes that I knew or were aware of, were tennis players and track stars , John McEnroe , Jimmy Connors , Arthur Ashe , Stan Smith , Pete Sampras , Andre Agassi , Carl Lewis , Lerory Burrell , Mike Powell , Ed Moses and Michael Johnson .

Now don’t get me wrong but as good as those players are . To my mind the best tennis player I’d ever seen was Bjorn Borg ! Over the course of his illustrious career he’d won “eleven” Grand Slam singles titles. But what was even more astounding was the rate at which he won those titles. Five successive Wimbledon singles titles and six French singles titles. All of those titles were won before retired at the age of 27. Borg did make a brief comeback but it was short lived. And people would suggest that Sampras was a far greater player than Borg ? In what universe ? Measure their feats over their comparative ages and you’ll see that Borg had achieved far more and that’s with the fact of him retiring from the game at a comparative early age. Experts my a_s !

Bjorn Borg wins his fifth successive Wimbledon title in defeating John McEnroe in 1980.

Now people might suggest that Sampras was Borg’s equal but anyone who knows the game of tennis will know that Sampras’ game was flawed when it came to playing on clay. Now we’ve seen the rise of Roger Federer and there’s no doubt in that he is the greatest male player of this or any other generation of male tennis players . Fourteen Grand Slam singles’ titles should be proof of that and the fact that he’s made it to the semi-finals of 19 straight Grand Slam singles tournaments. No male or female tennis player in the ‘Open or pre-Open era’ has ever accomplished that feat. And it’s unlikely to repeated or be surpassed by another player in the future. That is complete dominance of a sport , far greater than that of Tiger Woods’ dominance of the PGA Tour .

HBO’s presentation of the now infamous Hagler vs Hearns middleweight bout 1979. One of the most vicious bouts there will ever be in the annals of boxing.

I’ve gotten to the stage where I look at the sport of boxing and just think to myself what the hell went wrong with this damn sport ? The top fighters rarely fight each other anymore. And then we have an ass in boxing promoter Bob Arum telling us that the sport of MMA is ran and by a bunch of racial bigots. This coming from a promoter who once described one of the boxers in his stable …. “as one of the ‘best niggers’ I’ve ever had “. Now forgive me, but if Arum can be that condescending and still hold down his position as one of sport’s most powerful promoters. Then it would suggest to me that the sport is simply devoid of integrity . Both Arum and Don King have made a mockery of the sport.

Ali knocks out George Foreman in Kinshasa , Zaire to win the world heavyweight title.

Now I’m not going to deny that Muhammad Ali is the ‘greatest heavyweight boxer’ of all time and that’s with due respect to Joe Louis . His feats in the ring simply speak for themselves. The three time heavyweight champion of the world. And the fact that for almost four years he was denied the right to defend his title having never lost in the ring. He was stripped of his title for refusing to enlist in the US military and to fight in the ‘Vietnam War’ . As a conscientious objector , it was his right but politically the Lyndon Johnson administration wanted to make an example of the fighter. His epic ‘three epic fights’ with Joe Frazier and then his emotional laden bout with Larry Holmes cemented Ali’s legendary status. Less we forget also, there was ‘the great upset’ when he knocked out the then ‘invincible’ George Foreman in Kinshasa , Zaire. And although growing up I saw many of Ali’s fights. I still felt that when it was indeed time for him to walk away from the sport that he graced for so many years. He simply stayed in it for all of the wrong reasons. He was coerced into this decision by his then promoter Don King. And in King , you had someone who essentially is a parasite who clings to the boxers in his stable very much in the same way that a fly loves to be around fecal matter looking for anything it can derive of it that would be of benefit to them at the time.

My own favorite boxer in the ring was and still is Marvin Hagler . And though many well feel that Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest middleweight of all time. Which he could well have been but I’m not so sure that a ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson at his best could beat Marvin Hagler ! And though many talk about Ray Leonard being a supremely gifted fighter but I feel that Leonard simply fought to please himself and to make money. And that has been essentially it as far as his legacy was concerned. We’ve since the dominance of Bernard Hopkins within the division and his 20 successful defenses of the middleweight title. But the pedigree of the fighters of this era when measured against the era of Hagler , Leonard and Tommy Hearns pales into comparison. Middleweight fighters of this era are nowhere as skilled or versed as boxers, much less punchers or knockout artists.

Hagler for his part fought all comers and defended his title successfully eleven times before eventually losing it to ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard , in what some still consider to be a controversial split decision to this day. Hagler walked away from the sport angered by the decision. Leonard went on to further glory but to this day he knows that the decision went a long way in leaving the sport befuddled as to the decision making of the judges and the fracturing of the sport. Leonard for his part continued to fight adding to his legacy until he retired from the ring inauspiciously. He made one or two comebacks against lackluster opponents. But problems away from the ring soon blighted his personal life. Substance abuse , allegations of spousal battery and then a rather acrimonious divorce from his then wife.


Ed Moses wins Olympic gold in the 1976 Olympics in the men’s 400 meters hurdles .

When people talk about records and how special they are, the talk about Joe DeMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in baseball. The UCLA Bruins’ 87 game win streak and Hank Aaron’s home run record. And as phenomenal as those records are. Very rarely do I ever hear the name of track and field star Ed Moses’ name being mentioned and his feat as the world’s greatest high hurdler . Over the course of 122 races at in the 400 meter hurdles event, Moses went unbeaten . And to add to his feat Ed Moses won two Olympic gold medals and multiple world championships on the track over the distance. But that span of 122 successive victories were over the span of a decade . Consider this also, of the fifty fast times ever at the distance , 28 of those times are held by Ed Moses. That is dominance my friends , complete and utter dominance. But unfortunately the sport of track and field is no longer the bastion of US male dominance. It has now become a niche sport that now only gets heightened interest once the quadrennial Summer Olympics comes around . Then and only then, is there a heightened interest in track and field and many of its major star athletes.

Bolt   wins   200m   in   world   record  time  of   19.30  at  the  Beijing  Olympics  .  photo  appears   courtesy  of   bbc.co.uk/sports/  ................

Usain Bolt wins with the men’s 200 meters’ Final at the Beijing Olympics the world record time of 19.30. It would be one of three gold medals won by the Jamaican athlete all in world record times . photo appears courtesy of bbc.co.uk/sports ……………..

The world was more than in awe when Usain Bolt burst unto the world at the Beijing Olympics . His world record shattering feats at the 100 200 meters and 4x100m relay , has left the Jamaican track star at the top of heap in the track and field world. And Bolt looks to successfully defend his titles at the 2012 London Olympics . But before that he’ll also look to defend his IAAF World Championship titles in those events. Bolt to my mind may well have the career that can span a decade if he’s totally dedicated to his sport. At present there isn’t a track star in the world that is his equal ! And the notion that Tyson Gay is even in the same area code as him as a track athlete, is like making the comparison between a Lamborghini Murcielago and a Dodge Pinto . It’s simply not justified at all ! We’ve seen how ordinary Gay was made to look in Beijing and prior to their meeting at the Olympics, Bolt literally took the mental resolve of his American opponent and completely shattered it. When an athlete already has you beat psychologically then inevitably you will be defeated physically.

Bolt wins   gold in the  100 meters   going   away   from  his   fellow  competitors   in   Beijing  in  a  world  record  time of   9.69 .    photo   appears  courtesy  of  Reuters/   David   Duscherre  ...............
Bolt wins gold in the 100 meters going away from his fellow competitors in Beijing in a world record time of 9.69 . photo appears courtesy of Reuters/ David Duscherre ...............

This will be the first part in a series of pieces that I’ll be doing on an athletes that I’ve come to admire during foray into the love of sports . Be sure to look out for part two . I trust that you’ll enjoy the series ? And by all means chime on with a comment of your own concerning the athletes I’ve mentioned here and those who you’ve seen that have left you in awe as to prowess in their chosen sporting endeavor.

Alan Parkins aka tophatal ………………….

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