Posted on: June 8, 2009 6:45 pm

French Open Finals - A Disappointment

The French Open Finals were quite the disappointment in both the mens and womens side, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, the performance of Roger Federer was fantastic and kudos to him for finally breaking through his French Open woes to tie Pete Sampras. I'm not going to knock on the quality of the players so much as the quality of the actual matches. 

I'm going to start over on the women's side with Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. This is the third grand slam final that Safina has made it to, and once again does not even show up for the final match, going down 6-4, 6-2. The match culminated on match point where Safina double-faults the title away. Now I'm not trying to take anything away from Kuznetsova, who had a great tournament, but as the world's number one player, the least you can do is win a set in a Grand Slam Final. In last year's French Open she was beaten by Ana Ivanovic (6-4, 6-3) and in this year's Australian Open she was beaten by Serena Williams (6-0, 6-3). We all know she can play, and she certainly proved it during the tournament, dropping only 5 games in her first 5 matches, but when it comes to pressure situations with a title on the line, she has just folded. The sad part to me is that by reaching the final, she maintains her number one ranking. I find this "sad" because I think she could use some time away from that ranking. Usually when players are knocked off of that pedestal they tend to find themselves and don't get complacent, as well as relieves some of that pressure of being on the top.

The men's match was pretty much what the matchup said it would be. Soderling was a real nice story throughout the Open, only reaching as far as the third round in any other Grand Slam event prior to this. He just really didn't have an answer for Federer's game, falling 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in the final. While this win was a feel-good story for Federer, it wasn't really a test by any means. In Federer's previous two matches against Haas and Del Potro, he had to come from behind in both matches and play his best tennis just to advance. His comeback against Tommy Haas was one of Federer's greatest performances that I've seen in recent time. How much better of a story would it have been for Roger Federer to come into Roland Garros and take the crown away from Rafael Nadal in the final? How great of a match could that have been? Whoever would have won, history would have been made. If Federer wins, he overcomes his French Open woes, he finally beats Nadal on clay on the biggest stage, and ties Pete Sampras for 14 Grand Slam titles. If Nadal wins, he becomes the first player ever to win 5 straight French Open titles, and his win streak on clay lives on. It was just not meant to be. Don't take anything away from Roger- I just think that this story, while great, could have been even greater.

The good news? Only 14 days until Wimbledon.

Posted on: June 2, 2009 12:22 am
Edited on: June 2, 2009 3:26 pm

Federer - Still Got It?

Today at the French Open was pretty interesting. It is evident that the players are feeling the round of 16 and are stepping up their game accordingly. The match that stood out to me was the Federer/Haas match today, which found the number 2 ranked player in the world down 2 sets to 0 and down 4-3 in the third set. I don't see why people think that Federer is a done deal. This guy has shown countless times that he has what it takes to be the best and today this proves it once more.

In the same type of scenario yesterday, Rafael Nadal folded under the pressure of trailing 2-1 and lost his match. Next day what does Federer do? He comes back to win the match in 5 sets after being 2 games away from losing the match. See, this is the stuff champions are made of. It's not about how you deal with the pressures of winning, its how you deal with the adversity of being almost down and out, and how you can come back from that. It's simply great stuff to watch, and if you are a tennis fan and aren't spending each day from 12-6 in front of ESPN2 at the very least, then you are certainly missing out.

Federer is the clear favorite to win on the men's side, but I'm going to be interested to see how he deals with Gael Monfils, who absolutely obliterated Roddick today in straight sets. Speaking of that match, can I tell you how annoyed I am at the favoritism of the American players by the ESPN announcing crew? Let's be honest about that match. Everything pointed to Monfils taking that match. I didn't think he'd take it straight, but I did think he would take it, as did a few of the announcers, and here we have Brad Gilbert giving the "match advantages." He gave Monfils checks for Backhand, Forehand, and he said 9 checks for speed, and gave Roddick the check for serve, and for intangibles. Let's look at the intangibles. Gael Monfils is French. They are playing on clay (Monfils is 2-0 vs. Roddick on clay). The entire crowd was chanting his name as he walked out for goodness sakes. But nope, Brad Gilbert "just has a feeling about this one" and once again proves himself wrong for picking with his nation over his brain. Yes, Roddick has been playing better, but for goodness sakes he is at the French Open and has watched Monfils play! I don't really get it.

On the women's side, Safina is absolutely crushing her way into the quarterfinals. She has played 5 matches and has only dropped 5 games. Not 5 sets, 5 games. She is just running away with this thing. I'm really excited for this weekend to see how the final matches end up.

If you're not watching this, you really are missing out. Check it out, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Posted on: June 1, 2009 2:15 am

LeBron lost this series? I don't think so.

After a day to think about what I had just seen, and a day of ESPN trying to paint the picture in our heads, I was trying to decide how the Cavaliers actually lost that series to the Magic. The thing about that series is that it was completely possible for the Magic to win 4-1 if LeBron didn't make that sick shot at the buzzer in Game 2. ESPN and a bunch of newspaper columnists seem to think that LeBron lost that series because he didn't take over the game enough throughout the series. Does that constitute "losing the series" for the team? I'm not so sure.

I'm going to say that the Cavaliers' defense lost that series for them. The Magic were averaging over 100 points per game, and in the playoffs if you're going to have success you can't have that. Defense wins championships, not individual efforts. And lets face it, the Magic are a darn good basketball team. Think about what you have to defend when you are playing the Magic. You can play straight up man and run the risk of Dwight Howard imposing his will against your big guys in the paint. Alright, so to combat this you double Howard in the post. What does he do? He kicks it out and they pass it around to the open man who drains the 3-pointer. The Magic have shown in the playoffs a terrific ability to shoot from beyond the arc, and cetainly in pressure situations. Turkoglu has shot about 15 percentage points BETTER on the road than at home from behind the line. All you can do is hope that they have a poor shooting night.

That's your best-case-scenario. The Cavaliers, however, didn't commit to playing defense whatsoever in Game 6. Too many plays I saw easy looks at the basket. Too many bad fouls in the paint. How can your best defending big guy come out of the came 1:30 in with two fouls? Now I have to say that 24 points is hardly LeBron's best offensive effort, especially against Howard's 40, but when the team comes out with a lack of effort on the defensive side of the ball you can't blame one player in-particular.

So in conclusion, LeBron James alone did not lose this series for the Cavaliers, the defense did. However, LeBron James did not win this series for the Cavaliers. That is the difference between LeBron and MJ.

Quick Hits:
- I want to salute the efforts of Robin Soderling in his match today at the French Open, taking down world number 1 Rafael Nadal on his "home court" at Roland Garros. What a fantastic exhibition of tennis and an absolutely overpowering game today. We always wondered what it would take to de-throne the once-undefeated Nadal on clay, and especially at the Open, and today we witnessed it. Even though his 31-match win streak at the French Open is finished, we all have to take a step back and think about what we have witnessed over the past four years. This kid comes in and wins not only 31 matches in a row, but his FIRST 31 matches at the French Open before actually losing one. And better yet, until today he had never dropped 2 sets in one of those matches. He still has not played a 5-set match at the French Open. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back at Wimbledon, but one thing is for sure: We are in the midst of two of the greatest tennis players to live in their prime: Nadal and Federer.

- Watch for the Red Wings to take the Stanley Cup Finals in 5 games. They are far and away the best team in the NHL this year, and their dominant play so far has backed them up.

Posted on: May 29, 2009 11:34 pm

Umpires, Hawkeye, and some NBA Playoffs

The first point I want to make tonight is about the hilarious ejections that happened in last night's Red Sox/Twins game. Now I understand when a call is pretty close or when the player touches the umpire you are going to get ejected. And I also understand that usually the calls the umpire makes are correct, so usually the player's argument is not justified anyway. The thing that I find so comical about the Varitek ejection is that the runner was absolutely out at the plate. He was out by a decent margin, and if you look at the replay it was blatantly obvious that Varitek tagged him out at the plate. This is one of the only cases where I've seen the player's argument justified. The guy throws out 4 players in a single inning. That must be some sort of record. He changed what was a pretty darn good ball game too. Varitek had two homers, and I think it was something like 11 hits in the ballgame total. Maybe it was just a bad day at the office, I'm not sure. But if you are going to start throwing players out, at least make your calls right before you do it.

In watching the French Open I've noticed that this is the only Grand Slam that doesn't use the Hawkeye system to challenge line calls. The premise behind this is good because you can actually see the ball spots in the clay, so the players can ask the Chair Umpire to come down and look at the ball mark for the official ruling. The problem with this is that I've already seen about 4 missed/wrong calls in the week that I have been watching. In the grand scheme this isn't really that big of a deal, but in a close match it could make all the difference.

For example, in the Safin/Ouanna match that I referenced in my last post, there was a point where Safin was on serve, down 1 game at a crucial point in the match where he served what looked like a good ball on the corner of the box. Ouanna challenged the call and the umpire came down and looked at the wrong spot, awarding the point to Safin. ESPN's ShotSpot showed that the ball was clearly out by a good 2 inches. Ouanna lost the next point and Safin tied the game up. Ouanna would go on to win the match, but lets say that the score was 30-30 and Ouanna was down a game, trying to break to stay in the match. This would have been crucial in the match to have this call right. the human element has been the way to go for years, but now there is technology which is better, so why not use it?

NBA Playoffs:
Why did the Nuggets not even show up tonight? They just layed down and gave the Lakers the series, which is very disappointing. Each game of the conference finals has come down to the wire and has been a real treat to watch. Normally NBA games lack enthusiasm and competition, and until this game they had proved me wrong. This one was, quite honestly, boring to watch. Don't take anything away from the Lakers, they came in and just turned it up a notch, but you would think that the Nuggets would put up more of a fight. As I type the Lakers are up 112-88 in the 4th. Come on. A 10-point game would have at least been watchable.

In Other News:
- The 76ers have offered Eddie Jordan a contract to be their next head coach. What I want to know is were the 76ers watching when Jordan and the Wizards were basement dwelling during his tenure there? I'm not sure. You can't judge a coach before he shows you what he's got the first couple of years, but I'm not really sure that this signing is going to excite the 76ers fans. It sure doesn't excite me. I hope he proves me wrong. We shall see.

- J.A. Happ went out tonight and pitched a beautiful game against the Nationals, giving up 1 run while he was on the mound and leaving the game with a 5-1 lead. It's ashame that the bullpen gave him 2 more earned runs and almost blew the game in the 6th inning there. A spot of good news for the Phillies though, Brad Lidge came out and shut down the Nats in the ninth, picking up his 10th save of the season. Granted, it is only the Nationals, but it's not exactly their lineup that is holding them back. They are definitely capable of producing runs, they just aren't that capable of holding teams to under 5.

Posted on: May 29, 2009 1:45 am

French Open

If you are not a tennis fan, now is probably a great time to get into the sport with the French Open.

Live coverage starts each morning at 5AM EST on the Tennis channel and moves over to ESPN2 at 12 PM EST, and any critical matches you missed during the morning hours, ESPN will show from aboutu 3-6 because by that time live play has concluded in France.

Here are men and women who don't get paid by the season, they get paid by their performance. This is why I think from a competitive level tennis is better than the four major sports (yes hockey is a major sport contrary to most people's beliefs). Here you have people fighting for every last point because if they don't they'll be bounced from the tournament. If you saw the match between 20 Marat Safin and Josselin Quanna you know what I'm talking about. Ouanna wins the match 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 3-6, 10-8 in a match lasting 4 hours and 30 minutes. The last set of this one was absolutely incredible, each player making these sick nasty shots from all angles of the court. Both players held on serve until the last game where Ouanna broke Safin on a double match point to finally take it after 79 minutes in the 5th set. There's no video replay like the other 4 majors and there's no teammates to blame or anything. Just straight up 1v1, where after 5 sets the best player will come out.

Comebacks happen pretty often too. Take the match between 3 Venus Williams and Lucie Safarova on the women's side today. Venus wins the match 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-5 after being down 5-3 in the 3rd and final set. She just took Safarova to town after saving match point.

Tell you what, even if my descriptions don't sound too appetizing, just watch the matches. I can almost guarantee you'll at least not flip the channel when you see tennis is on. It may not get the hype that the NBA playoffs are getting, but I'm telling you right now you'll see more competition in one match at the French Open than you'll see the whole NBA playoffs.

Quick Hits:

- I think the NBA is getting way too wrapped up in technical fouls. It's getting to the point of ridiculousness. Oh, and also: stop reviewing foul calls and crap after the game. If the referee deems the play a flagrant foul or a technical foul let the damn thing stand. It's like saying "oh well that wasn't actually a homerun, we're going to change that call and take away the run" after the game. Or something like that.

- Carlos Zambrano really made me laugh with his little tirade but you know what, I am glad he's manning up to what he did and coming out and saying "I'm not going to appeal this suspension because I know I was wrong." Too many athletes don't take responsibility for their actions, and most players would try to appeal a 6-game suspension, because they can't go 6 days without pay from their multi-million dollar contract as a penalty for doing something wrong. For example: how many times do you hear an athlete go "Yes, I took steroids, and yes it was wrong and now I am going to pay the penalty" BEFORE they deny it to reporters and get found out later? You just don't hear it anymore. Athletes are the biggest role models there are and I'm glad to see that one of them is finally owning up to what they did wrong.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com