The greatest tennis match ever

Shooting from the Lip
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...

Wimble Best event and coverage
If you didn’t watch Sunday's Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal then you missed the greatest tennis match ever. That's right. Better than the old Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe epics at Wimbledon. Better than Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi showdowns. Better than anything Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl or Rod Laver was involved in. Better than last year's Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal.

"This was the greatest match I've ever seen,'' NBC analyst John McEnroe said. Sunday's match had two rain delays. Breakfast at Wimbledon? "Dinner at Wimbledon,'' McEnroe said.

The rain delays only added to the drama. What put the match over the top was that these are, by far, the two best players in the world. Nadal was trying to unseat Federer not only as the king of Wimbledon but as the top player on the planet. Throw in an improbable comeback by Federer, two tiebreaks and a 9-7 finish in the fifth and you have the best match ever. At moments like these, networks and announcers tend to ruin it by wringing as much drama out of the event as they can. The best tactic is to get out of the way and let the play speak for itself. And that's what NBC did.

Nadal Except for a lone postmatch misstep by McEnroe (more on that in a moment), NBC didn't get in the way with bells, whistles, unnecessary tricks or foot-in-mouth comments. Announcer Ted Robinson was understated, had a near-perfect day and established himself as the best tennis play-by-play announcer with lines like this: "They don’t just bring out the best in each other, they bring out Superman in each other.'' McEnroe didn't go overboard until after the match. NBC's weekend at Wimbledon, including Mary Carillo with Robinson in the women’s final on Saturday? An A-minus.

Jaeger_2 Biggest missed story
The biggest jaw-dropping story of the weekend was former tennis player Andrea Jaeger's claim that she lost the 1983 Wimbledon final on purpose to Martina Navratilova. Now, my money would've been on nine-time champ Martina anyway. But Jaeger is an Anglican Dominican nun and I don't doubt her story, which, if true, means Navratilova was one cold cucumber who cared more about winning than anything .
NBC needed to do more with this story, and it certainly had time Sunday with two rain delays.

Ripken Worst analyst
Josh Hamilton is one of the most amazing stories in sports. From No. 1 pick by the Rays to crack addict to, as of Sunday, a major-league All-Star. Even Hamilton said Sunday, "I should be dead or in jail right now.''

So out of this  incredible story, what was it Cal Ripken wanted to know during TBS's erratic All-Star Selection Show on Sunday? He wanted to know why Hamilton didn't have a good daytime batting average! Even Ripken's broadcast partners seemed dumbfounded by such an asinine question. As if Ripken hadn't done enough to sabotage an already lame show, he later used a PG-13 word that begins with  "P'' and means the same as "angry.'' He did realize, didn’t he, that this was a Sunday afternoon celebration of America's pastime and that kids were watching, right?

Best analogy
Going into Sunday’s game, the Rays were an astounding 31-6 at home since April 22. (And now, they’re 32-6.) That prompted this good line from  Rays TV announcer Joe Magrane: "That's absolutely unheard of. That's almost like a college basketball homecourt advantage.''

Mcenroe Most awkward moment
Someone please tell me NBC tennis analyst John McEnroe did not ask Roger Federer for "a hug'' after Sunday's Wimbledon final. McEnroe is a solid analyst. In fact, he's one of the best around. But every now and then he does something like that and makes you cringe.

Just mentioning
During the Williams sisters' Wimbledon final, there were no commercials featuring either Venus or Serena . (They were in one ad with about a dozen other  players promoting tennis, but no "real'' ads.) There were a couple of Roger Federer commercials. And a Maria Sharapova commercial was shown twice. But none with Venus or Serena. Isn't that odd?

Best debut
Former best-closer-in-baseball Dennis Eckersley had a solid debut on TBS’s All-Star Selection Show and would be a welcome addition to the network’s postseason coverage.

The devil made him do it
The Rays were featured on Sunday morning's Outside the Lines on ESPN. The piece included interviews with Times baseball writer Marc Topkin and TV analyst Joe Magrane. The feature didn't add anything Rays fans don't already know, but it was a good piece for the rest of the country to catch up to Tampa Bay baseball. One nit: Fill-in host George Smith called the team the "DEVIL Rays.'' Not a big deal, but, geez, there has been a ton of publicity about the name change and it was changed like eight months ago.

Rays Best point
Detroit Free-Press columnist Mitch Albom sounds like a Rays believer. On ESPN's Sports Reporters Sunday, Albom said, "Right now, where they sit, if they play .500 ball the rest of the year … they (get) 92 wins. You figure that's probably going to get you in as a wild-card team. And they don't look like a team that's just going to play .500 baseball.''

The only point one might argue is whether 92 victories is good enough for a wild card. Since the wild card came into play in 1995, three teams have won 93 (the 2005 Indians, '03 Mariners and '02 Red Sox) and did not win the wild card. But on the other 10 occasions, 92 victories were enough.

Tiger Best interview
So what does a network do when it televises golf and has no Tiger Woods? It shows Tiger anyway. CBS scored a nice coup Sunday by showing an exclusive interview with Woods as he recuperates from knee surgery. Verne Lundquist and Nick Faldo handled the interview well, asking all the pertinent questions. An excellent question by Faldo revealed that Woods doesn't really know when he will return.
Faldo: "Tiger, you're planning on taking six months off, I believe. At the moment I've heard you say you are having great difficulty walking; how are you planning on getting the golf game back into sync ready for next season''
Woods: "As of right now, I don't know. Right now I just hope I can get up out of bed and go to the bathroom. Little things like that are a challenge. For me to actually think about playing golf, that is so far away, I'm just looking forward to actually walking again and putting weight on this leg for the first time. That is still a ways off.''

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 3:42pm]

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