Sports

It's Official: Federer And Nadal Are Rivals
Posted by Daniel Kuo on Jul 15, 2007 - 7:32:00 PM

  
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  It’s official.  It’s a rivalry.  Roger Federer still won Wimbledon, as expected, on July 8.  But his epic, 3-hour and 45-minute five-set victory over Rafael Nadal was a sight to behold, a match-up of two outstanding athletes playing to their highest potential.  It’s not just that these two are the undisputed No. 1 and No. 2 male tennis players in the world.  It’s also the dramatic differences in their playing styles.  There’s Federer, the grass-ophile, who simply outclasses his opponents, winning with superior technique, skill, and the fact that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t find a weakness in his playing style.  And then there’s Nadal, the clay court specialist, who wins by sheer persistence, overpowering and outrunning his opponents through as many rallies as it takes.  But somehow, the two still manage to give each other fits, regardless of the surface and the tourney.  Add to this the facts that Federer is racing through every record in the book, and that so far, Nadal is the only player who seems up to the challenge of slowing him down, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a great rivalry.  An officially great one, that is.
    On the women’s side, Venus Williams beat runner-up Marion Bartoli in two sets, becoming the lowest seed (23rd) ever to win the women’s trophy.  Along with Serena’s earlier victory at the Australian Open as an unseeded player, the Williams sisters have proved that they still have the power and talent, if not the dedication, that allowed them to dominate the game at the turn of the decade.  And part of me is happy to just celebrate alongside Venus, who won it all yet again even though nobody (myself included) believed that she could make it past the fourth round.  But then another part of me steps back and thinks, “Wow…what would happen if they played this hard the entire year?”  We may never know.

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The Texas Hold’em main event of the 2007 World Series of Poker began on July 6 (yes, I know poker isn’t actually a sport, but ESPN’s navigation bar includes it, so I’m covering it anyway), with a total field of 6,358 players and a top prize of approximately $8.25 million.  It’s short of the record $12 million prize last year, but it’s an impressive indication that our nationwide poker boom is still in full swing.  A larger WSOP field is usually seen as good for a number of reasons, the most obvious one being the vast growth in prize money.  But to poker purists, the huge field also means a diluted player’s base, which in turn means a less professional game.  For professional players, this is just another tournament, and they play by the odds and expect others to as well.  But for amateurs, celebrities, and millionaires just looking to have a good time, this is a chance to let loose and take a gamble, even when they’re mathematical underdogs.  That’s probably why a number of legends, including Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Ivey, are already out of the tournament.

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Another Hawaiian teenager is looking to become the next golf phenomenon.  16-year old Tadd Fujikama announced last week that he would turn pro, just six months after becoming the youngest player to make the PGA Tour cut in over 50 years. 
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I wish we could say that another youngster has proven that it can be done, but we can’t; Michelle Wie, who turned pro two years ago at 15, has yet to make par at a tournament this year.  I’ve heard it said that you can never be too old to play golf.  Guess you can’t be too young either.