Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Offer He Couldn't Refuse?

[Shoeless Joe Jackson]
I am not convinced the US Open was on the level.

The headline in the Times says that Juan Martin del Potro won the US Open. Nothing of the kind happened. He happened to be standing on the other side of the net when Roger Federer lost the US Open. Federer, who usually gets 60 to 80% of his first serves in, got in 42%. Federer, whose shots invariably land within inches of the lines, against del Potro endlessly missed by feet.

In his previous matches with del Potro, Federer won all six.

In his previous match, the semifinal, Federer effortlessly wiped the court with Novak Djokovic, ranked fourth in the world. Djokovic has powerful ground strokes , a good serve, and is rangy and fast. Were this not the Age of Federer and Nadal, he would be the best player in the world. Federer dominated him so completely that by the third set Djokovic was laughing about it.

Djokovic has beaten del Potro all three times they have played. Of the seven sets they played in those matches, Djokovic won all seven. Djokovic is easily a better player than del Potro and Federer made short work of the Serb Saturday.

In his previous match, the other semifinal, del Potro won in three sets against Rafael Nadal. The rule in tennis is that Nadal loses occasionally but only he can beat Federer, The Federer-Nadal matches hae been struggles of titans and have been some of the best tennis ever played. Players like del Potro and even Djokovic are mere pissants who can only watch in awe with the rest of us.

Of the 6 times they had played before Saturday, Nadal had won 4 times, though del Potro won the last 2 times. Nadal had had tendinitis in his knees at least one of the previous times he lost to del Potro and possibly both. Rafael Nadal would otherwise beat a player like del Potro regularly. It is what he does for a living.

Even so, there would have been no reason to think anything amiss were it not for the way Nadal played. He lost not because he didn't run well as one would expect if his knees were sore, but because he was hitting pattycake serves to del Potro. Players like Nadal serve at 120 to 135 miles per hour. In the del Potro match he was serving 90 to 105 miles per hour. Women serve that fast. Nadal was inexplicably serving like a girl through the whole match.

Unlike Serena Williams who only threatened to shove the ball up the lineswoman's ass, these boys when they serve will really do it, and do it from the opposite baseline. They serve not only incredibly fast but with all sorts of spins and angles, such that if a good player gets his first serve in he has a tremendous advantage in the ensuing point. So to miss the first serve constantly and have to start points with the much softer second serve, as Federer did, is to concede. Similarly, to start points with a soft first serve, as Nadal did, is to concede.

During his match Nadal was not happy and excited on points he won, as he usually is. He looked sad and tense throughout. Curiously, at his post-game interview Rafa, invariably gracious, forgot to praise his opponent's play, saying only that it wasn't his day. (almost a verbatim quote from the fixed boxing match in "On the Waterfront" - from a young Marlon Brando).

During his match with del Potro, neither Federer nor his wife Mirka who was in the stands, smiled at any time, even when Roger won the two sets he won. They both looked tense and unhappy from beginning to end. I turned the television off after the last point of the final so I don't know what Federer said in the interview.

Del Potro, though raised in Argentina, is an Italian. Just like Tony Soprano from across the river in Jersey.

It is inconceivable that the 2009 US Open could have been fixed. In 1919 it was equally inconceivable that the World Series could have been fixed.

Disclaimer: I have been called paranoid and obsessive by some people - okay, by Patty. But just because she and I lived together for 17 years does not necessarily mean she knew me. Indeed, this is a woman who could take a long look at a double closet bursting with clothes and shoes, and with complete seriousness announce, "I don't have a thing to wear." So her declarations are not to be accepted without consideration.

But I will admit that I have more than once toyed with the line between skepticism and suspicion. :o)

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