ITF SENIORS TOUR

The ITF Seniors Tour is a global tennis Tour that provides players aged 30 and over with a high quality and enjoyable competitive experience. 2019 saw 27,500 registered players and 502 tournaments take place across 70 nations.

ITF Seniors tournaments range from Grade S1000 (aimed at elite players) to Grade S100 (aimed at recreational level), featuring singles, doubles and mixed doubles events for each five-year age increment from 30+ to 90+.

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Cameron Green @ Homebush

Cameron Green has been a hitting partner this week at Homebush for some of the Tour pros: including Kyrgios and Andy Murray.
Source: Lisa Green

How Staying Physically Active May Protect the Aging Brain | NYT

Simple activities like walking boost immune cells in the brain that may help to keep memory sharp and even ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

Staying physically active as we age substantially drops our risk of developing dementia during our lifetimes, and it doesn’t require prolonged exercise. Walking or moving about, rather than sitting, may be all it takes to help bolster the brain, and a new study of octogenarians from Chicago may help to explain why.
The study, which tracked how often older people moved or sat and then looked deep inside their brains after they passed away, found that certain vital immune cells worked differently in the brains of older people who were active compared to their more sedentary peers. Physical activity seemed to influence their brains’ health, their thinking abilities and whether they experienced the memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease. The findings add to growing evidence that when we move our bodies, we change our minds, no matter how advanced our age.
What these findings suggest is that physical activity may delay or alter memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease in older people, partly by keeping microglia fit, said Kaitlin Casaletto, an assistant professor of neuropsychology at the U.C.S.F. Memory and Aging Center, who led the new study.

Vale: Darlene Hard – Winner of 21 Grand Slam events was partner to King, Laver

The most underpublicized, underappreciated, possibly underrated tennis player of the last half-century died Thursday at Northridge Hospital.  Her name was Darlene Hard, and she would have turned 86 on Jan. 6. 

If you have never heard of her, you are in the majority. That isn’t an age thing. Her name draws a blank even from tennis fans in their 60s and 70s. 

In her prime , she ranked with the best in the sport. She left Montebello, where her mother, Ruth, had taught her to play, after their relationship soured because Darlene, at age 15, started beating her mom. Darlene traveled the world, won big tournaments and shook hands with Queen Elizabeth, who handed her trophies. At one Wimbledon champions dinner, she sat next to Prince Philip and chatted him up. That was easy for somebody so full of life and so at ease with herself. “He was interesting, not stuffy at all,” she recalled a few years ago.

She returned home long enough to pursue a degree in pediatric medicine at Pomona College. While there, she won the first women’s intercollegiate national singles title. That was 1958, and she was already ranked No. 2 in the world. “I quickly saw that playing tennis was easier than studying to be a doctor,” she said. 

Hard won a national hardcourt title with Billie Jean King , and also the deciding match of a Federation Cup win over Australia with King. King, perhaps the biggest name in the sport in the last 50 years — whose name is on the largest tennis facility in the world at the U.S. Open — spoke Friday with fondness, even awe about Hard. “She was amazing, one of my heroes,” said King, who is eight years younger than Hard. “She was a great doubles player, had quick hands and was a great athlete. I was 13 years old when she asked me to play the national hardcourts with her. We won, but I was so afraid I was going to let her down.”

In 1959, Rod Laver , who is 83 now, got to the finals of the Wimbledon men’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles. That year, he won only the mixed doubles. His partner was Hard. Laver, whose tennis legacy matches King’s and who is the only male player to win all four major tournaments in the same year — he did that twice — spoke Friday of Hard as if she were the star of their pairing. “I’d go out onto the court with her and I’d tell the other team that I wouldn’t have to hit any overheads. Darlene would hit them all,” he said. “They’d start hitting hard shots at her at the net and she would get them all back. Pretty soon, the word was out. You better hit the ball at Laver.” They played the Wimbledon mixed doubles again the next year and won again. “She was just a great doubles player, maybe one of the best ever at mixed,” Laver said.

She wasn’t bad in singles, either. She won two U.S. Open titles, one French and lost twice in the Wimbledon final. In total, she won 21 Grand Slam event titles in singles, doubles and mixed, had a record of 14-4 at the French, 29-7 at Wimbledon and 43-9 at the U.S. Nationals (now the Open). And her best title was her last.  Hard had retired five years earlier and begun teaching tennis at facilities she owned in the San Fernando Valley. She promised one of her students that, if she made it through a qualifier event, she would play doubles with her at the U.S. Open. This was 1969, the second year of tennis’ Open Era, when players could actually be paid for winning. To that point, all of Hard’s tennis successes had brought her a total financial payout of $200.20. That was seven years of expense money — $28.60 a year — given out at Wimbledon. But in 1969, she wasn’t allowed to play with her student, an amateur player, because Hard was a pro. A teaching pro. “I never thought about that,” she said, when telling the story years later.  Left to hang around with no partner, she ran into an acquaintance from her years of hitting with the guys at the L.A. Tennis Center. The acquaintance put her together with another player whose partner had jilted her.  “Darlene Hard, meet Francoise Durr,” said Pancho Gonzalez.

Durr, a veteran from France with a high international ranking, played soft angles and served little lollipops that she courageously followed into the net. Hard served bullets, charged the net and popped hard-angled volleys. They were tennis’ odd couple. They made it to the final. Their opponents were Margaret Court and Virginia Wade, both veterans and big-time winners. Soon, Hard and Durr trailed 0-6, 0-2. Hard told Durr that they better get at least one game on the scoreboard to avoid total embarrassment. They won 12 of the next 17 games and the title. Hard got $1,000, bringing her grand total of career tennis winnings to $1,200.20. Hard returned full time to Los Angeles and to her tennis teaching job, disappearing from a sport that was just beginning to gain national and international popularity and attention. And she couldn’t have been happier about that. As outgoing and colorful as she was on the court, Hard was private off it. She became even more so over the years. The self-promoting athlete disgusted her, and she said so when asked. The thing is, she was seldom asked. Nobody knew where she was.

One of her tennis students was Mona Cravens, who was then, and still is, head of student publications at USC. One day, at her lesson, Cravens noticed a 3-by-5-inch card advertising tennis lessons. The card said that the teacher was “a two-time national champion.” In those days before Wikipedia, Cravens had to go to the USC library and look up this Darlene Hard. Sure enough. She had taken dozens of lessons from her and Hard never mentioned being a Grand Slam event champion or being No. 2 in the world. Cravens admired Hard’s work ethic, and soon, when a job opened up in the USC publications department, Cravens offered Hard a job — assuming all along that a tennis champion would not enjoy sitting in an office 40 hours a week. She was certain the answer would be no. She was wrong. That was 1981. Hard, in part fearing some bouts she had had with skin cancer, took the job. She did everything from designing USC yearbooks to doing internet searches of stories about USC. With a few bouts of illness interrupting the run, she stayed in that position until recently, when she had a fall and went into a coma from which she never awoke.

Around USC, she was known as “Darlene in publications,” not “Darlene, famous tennis champion.” There may be hundreds of USC faculty and students who will read an obit about her and be stunned that Darlene in publications was actually Darlene Hard, who for four or five years in the late ’50s and early ’60s, was the best women’s tennis player in the world. Her achievement of anonymity would make Darlene happy. Once she put tennis in her rearview mirror, that’s the way she wanted it.

Legends in the News | SMH

‘A distraction’: Warringah locals digest the idea of Berejiklian as MP ….

Long-time friends and Manly locals Curtis Berry and Ken Grey agree Ms Berejiklian would be a good representative for Warringah, but disagree on whether now is the right time for her to run.
Long-time friends and Manly locals Curtis Berry and Ken Grey agree Ms Berejiklian would be a good representative for Warringah, but disagree on whether now is the right time for her to run. Credit:Flavio Brancaleone

Manly retiree Ken Grey welcomes the idea of being represented by Ms Berejiklian at a federal level, saying “she comes across as a politician who tells the truth”.

Mr Grey said while ICAC was “pretty daunting” he thinks Mr Abbott was wrongly ousted at the last election.

Mr Grey’s friend, fellow retiree and long-term Liberal voter Curtis Berry disagrees, arguing “it’ll be a distraction”.

“I think if she represents the Liberal Party a wedge will develop around the place of a federal ICAC and I think she’ll be better placed to stand next election,” Mr Berry said.

Shining Sinner Storms Into Top 10 | ATP Tour | Tennis

Jannik Sinner makes history on Monday when he becomes the youngest Italian to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The 20-year-old climbed to World No. 9 following his run to the Erste Bank Open semi-finals.

The five-time ATP Tour titlist is the fifth player from his country to break into the elite group, joining Adriano Panatta, Corrado Barazzutti, Fabio Fognini and Matteo Berrettini. Overall, Sinner is the youngest man in the Top 10 by more than two years, with Casper Ruud nearing his 23rd birthday.

It is not only impressive that Sinner is in the Top 10 — it is how quickly he got there. The San Candido native skied competitively as a junior and did not turn his focus to tennis until his early teens. Four years ago, he did not have a FedEx ATP Ranking. Now, he is near the very top of the sport.

Sinner’s Ranking This Week Since 2017

 2017  Unranked
 2018  No. 785
 2019  No. 93
 2020  No. 44
 2021  No. 9

Sinner is not blinded by his accolades, though. Far from it. The 20-year-old often speaks about the “long road” that represents his career. He is focussed on the practice or match in front of him, not his impressive rise.

“For sure I don’t want to rush so much,” Sinner said in Indian Wells. “I’m just trying… to play match after match in the best possible way, and we’ll see. [I’m] trying to improve.”

Although Sinner did not begin his ascent until just a few years ago, he quickly earned the respect of his peers and the fans. The 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion has consistently held his own against the best in the sport and in many cases challenged them. The Italian, who made his first ATP Masters 1000 final this year in Miami, played Alexander Bublik during that run. The Kazakhstani asked him afterwards if he is human.

“He’s not [human]. That’s a fact,” Bublik said. “I asked him if he’s a human or not because for me, it’s very surprising that the guy at his age has this mental toughness that many, many other players don’t have. I called him a robot a couple of times during the match, but I do it in a very sincere way because he’s a really, really great player.”

Sinner played World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the first time just two weeks later in Monte Carlo. The Serbian won the match, but had high praise for the protégé of Riccardo Piatti, who once worked with Djokovic.

“[Jannik] has got a lot of talent and he has proven that he is the future of our sport. Actually, he is already the present of our sport [having] played a final [in an] ATP Masters 1000 [event] already,” Djokovic said. “He is making big strides in professional tennis.”

Players rave about Sinner’s power, mental toughness, maturity and professionalism. Those traits have propelled him into the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and also into eighth in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, putting him in position to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals with a strong finish to the season. But Sinner is not allowing that to distract him.

“Honestly, I love to play tennis, and this is the reason why I play,” Sinner said in Vienna. “Obviously you would like to go to Turin or you want to win this match or that point, but sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t happen. You have to accept that. Honestly, I just try to play tennis.”

Rafael Nadal Hits With 97 Year Old | ATP Tour | Tennis

Rafael Nadal’s capacity to delight fans from any generation was in the spotlight again this week. An idol to young hopefuls, a mirror for adults and an example to even the oldest of players, the Spaniard is a sporting icon whose fanbase spans every age group.

Nadal welcomed a very special fan to the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar this week. Ukrainian player Leonid Stanislavskyi, 97 years of age, holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest player in the world with an International Tennis Federation (ITF) licence. He was delighted to meet the Mallorcan ex-world No. 1.

The two spoke together, exchanged greetings and knocked up on court, in a demonstration of the connections that can be made while playing. It was an unforgettable day for Leonid, who professes an eternal love for the game of tennis.

As a result of his passion for the sport, Stanislavskyi, who has been competing in amateur tennis for over half a century, sent a letter to the ITF a few months ago asking them to create a new veteran category for players in his age range. For the first time, the ITF introduced a new category for over-90s at the ITF Super Senior World Championships.

Born on 22 March 1924, Leonid has been able to witness many generations of tennis. From the amateur period, through the start of the Open Era in 1968, to the professional tennis of today, he has followed the careers of the great legends of the sport. His excitement at meeting Nadal in person was a crowning moment in his story.

During his visit, Leonid took the opportunity to see the Rafa Nadal Museum, where he was able to take a close look at the trophies won by the Spaniard during his legendary career. There, among all his other prestigious silverware, his current haul of 20 Grand Slam titles and 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies can be found.

After a left-foot injury brought his 2021 season to a close, Nadal is continuing to work on his recovery. The Balearic Islander won two titles this year, taking the spoils at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, where he extended his record to 12 titles, and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he reached the magical figure of 10 cups.

www.atptour.com/en/news/rafael-nadal-hits-with-97-year-old

 

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‘It will only get worse’ – Rafael Nadal concerned by tennis trend

A certain aspect of the sport is slowly growing to the detriment of the sport and needs correcting soon according to Rafael Nadal. 

The 20-time Slam champion believes that there are certain areas of the sport that could use some innovation and rethinking.

In particular, Nadal sees the serve as a potential problem area within tennis in the near future.

“I think we need to think about the serve at some stage,” he told Japanese sports magazine Number. “Because the players are getting bigger and bigger and the serve is getting faster and faster.

“If someone doesn’t find a wise solution for serving, I’m worried that matches will be decided solely by serving. I think this problem will get worse within 10 years.”

The interviewer asked whether, for example, the serve could be reduced to just one chance rather than allowing players a second serve.

“I don’t think it’s an irrelevant idea,” Nadal responded. “You can test it out and see if it makes sense. I’m in favour of innovation in the tennis world. I think it’s a good idea to try it in a small tournament first.”

The Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), an exhibition event organised by Patrick Mouratoglou, has trialled a number of rule innovations since its debut in 2020.

Among them, the two-serve format has been scrapped, forcing players to land their serve in first-time.

Budge Patty, Elegant Tennis Champion of the 1950s, Dies at 97 | NYTimes

Budge Patty, one of only three Americans to win the French and Wimbledon men’s singles tennis championships in the same year and a glamorous figure on the international tennis scene of the 1950s, died on Monday in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was 97.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame announced his death, in a hospital, on Friday. He had lived in Europe for more than 70 years and at his death resided in Lausanne.

Patty honed his skills as a teenager at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and won the United States junior championship in 1941 and ’42. But he settled in Paris after World War II and played mostly on the Continent and in Britain.

He was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1950, when he defeated Jaroslav Drobny, the Czech defector, in five sets to win the French championships, then needed only four sets to defeat Frank Sedgman of Australia in the Wimbledon final. Don Budge, in 1938, and Tony Trabert, in 1955, are the only other American men to have won the singles titles at both of those Grand Slam tournaments in one year. (Trabert died in February at 90.)

Known for an outstanding all-around game but especially for a strong forehand volley, Patty was usually in the top 10 in the world rankings between 1947 and 1957 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., in 1977.

Budge Patty, Elegant Tennis Champion of the 1950s, Dies at 97
www.nytimes.com/2021/10/08/sports/tennis/budge-patty-dead.html

 

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Two Golden Slams in One Day | NYTimes

 

The tennis Grand Slam is so rare that only five players can claim one, and no player at all has achieved the feat since 1988. The Golden Slam, winning all four majors and a gold medal in the same year, is nearly impossible. Only Steffi Graf had ever done it.

Until Sunday, when it was accomplished twice.

First came Diede de Groot of the Netherlands, who won the wheelchair competition at the U.S. Open to complete a sweep of the year’s four Grand Slam tournaments to go with her Paralympic gold medal.

Later in the day, Dylan Alcott of Australia completed the same feat in the men’s quad event. (As opposed to those in the wheelchair division like de Groot, quad players also have significant loss of function in at least one upper limb.)

De Groot defeated Yui Kamiji of Japan, the same woman she defeated in Australia, France and at the Paralympics, 6-3, 6-2. Her Golden Slam almost didn’t get started this year: She needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat Kamiji at the Australian Open.

Despite the accomplishment, De Groot, 24, said she felt a little let down by her play: “After such a long time of traveling and just being everywhere in the world, also I think both of us are a little bit tired. I think you could see it in the match, unfortunately.”

Sunday’s Open championship was the 12th in a Grand Slam singles event for De Groot, still behind the record of 21 set by her countrywoman Esther Vergeer in the early part of this century.

Alcott defeated the 18-year-old Niels Vink of the Netherlands, 7-5, 6-2, to complete his own Golden Slam. It was Alcott’s 15th Grand Slam singles title. Because the quad event is only three years old at the French Open and Wimbledon, it was the first chance for any quad athlete to win a Golden Slam.

“Everybody in this room asked me, ‘Are you thinking about the Golden Slam?’” said Alcott, 30. “I’ve said, ‘No, I don’t really care about it,’ all year. Of course I cared about it. It’s nice not to pretend anymore.”

In 1988, Graf said after completing her Golden Slam at the Seoul Olympics: “I’m very excited. It’s something not many people after me will achieve.”

It took 33 years. And then it only took a few hours.

Novak’s Grand Slam loss means Federer remains GOAT.

The Serb could have closed the book on comparisons with Federer. He fell short. What now?

Side by side photos of Djokovic on the court looking to his left and Federer on the court holding his racket and fist-pumping
Djokovic in his U.S. Open semifinal on Sept. 10; Federer in his fourth round match at Wimbledon on July 5. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images and Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

Until Sunday, no one in the past half-century had come remotely close to completing tennis’s Grand Slam in men’s singles: To win even the first three of the four major tournaments in a calendar year had proved too difficult for all the male champions of those five decades. But this past weekend, Novak Djokovic came within not only one tournament but one match of the Slam—an achievement in its own right that, if past is prologue, might not be accomplished again for another 50 years. Ahead of the match, a much-discussed question was whether winning the Slam could cement Djokovic’s claim above his contemporary rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that he, and not either of them, is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.

But he lost, to world and tournament No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, in straight sets: 6–4, 6–4, 6–4.

So where does that leave the GOAT debate? How big a deal is Djokovic’s defeat in that final match?

We are clearly near the end of the long era dominated by Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal. Federer is 40 years old, has missed four of the past six majors, has not won a major in more than 3½ years, and recently announced that he would undergo surgery just to give himself “a glimmer of hope” merely “to return to the tour in some shape or form.” Nadal, at 35, is showing his age as well. He has missed three majors in the past 12 months, after having missed only six majors during the previous 15 years. His ranking has dropped to No. 5. The only majors he has played since 2019 are the Australian Open, where he lost in the quarterfinals both this year and last year, and the French Open, where he lost (to Djokovic) this year for the first time since 2016. Even Djokovic, at 34, is showing inevitable signs of age and of the precursors to declining dominance.

So the full book has nearly been written on the case that each of these men will make for the status of GOAT—greatest of all time. Federer, in particular, will almost certainly not be adding to his legacy. And that matters a lot, because it is Federer, not Nadal, who stands between Djokovic and the summit.

For all of Nadal’s greatness, and it is legion, his longest run at No. 1 was 56 straight weeks, whereas Federer’s was 237 straight weeks. In total, Nadal has been ranked No. 1 for about 100 weeks fewer than Federer and even fewer than Djokovic. In addition, Nadal has never won the year-end championship—the most important tournament aside from the Slams—whereas Federer has won it six times and Djokovic has won it five times. Federer and Djokovic achieved tons of success even on their worst surface, clay, but Nadal achieved comparatively little on his worst: the fast indoor courts where his rivals dominated. Nadal also won three majors in a year only once (2010), whereas Federer and Djokovic each did it three times.

Thus the road to GOAT goes through Federer, not Nadal, and we already know what Federer’s complete case is likely to be—namely, what it is now. How does Djokovic’s case compare? In terms of cumulative achievement, it’s already solid. Djokovic has won just as many majors as Federer, nearly as many year-end championships, and more Masters 1000 tournaments. He has spent more weeks at No. 1 than Federer, and he has seven year-end No. 1 rankings to Federer’s five. Given that Djokovic will probably pile up more cumulative achievements before he’s done, why is this a debate? And why is now the time to discuss it, before we see where Djokovic ends up? The answer is the same as the one that supports Michael Jordan’s case in the GOAT argument against LeBron James: Although cumulative career achievement counts a lot toward greatness, so does “peak value”—how great the greatest were at the apex of their talents and dominance. This is a crucial distinction identified decades ago by Bill James when he made GOAT rankings for baseball players.

Djokovic already leads Federer in the most important aspects of cumulative achievement, but he can’t close the case as long as Federer leads in peak value. What’s tricky is that we don’t know how long value must last to count as “peak.” Are we asking who was the best in a single match or tournament? No—that’s too short a time frame. In a 15-year period? No—that’s too long a time frame, because it would be no different from cumulative value. Where in between? That’s debatable, but to me, somewhere from one to five years seems about right.

From 2004 through 2007, Federer dominated tennis at an epic level. He won 11 Grand Slam tournaments, which has never been done in any four-year period by any other player, man or woman. His match-win percentages in those four years were 93 percent, 95 percent, 95 percent, and 88 percent. He reached 10 Grand Slam finals in a row, more than any man before or since. As noted above, in this period he was ranked No. 1 for 237 consecutive weeks, 77 weeks longer than any other player has ever held the top spot for an unbroken stretch of time. He won the year-end championship in three of those four years. Counting that championship along with the Slams, Federer played in 20 crucial tournaments in that four-year stretch. He won 14 of them. Of his six losses, two were by scores of 9–7 in the fifth set, three were to Nadal at the French Open (where Nadal was greater than any player has ever been on a given surface), and the only other one was to Gustavo Kuerten at the French Open (the greatest clay courter of the era preceding Nadal).

Neither Djokovic nor Nadal has done anything like that in a four-year stretch. However, Djokovic has had disconnected years in which he dominated as much as Federer dominated during his four-year peak. For Djokovic, those dominant years were 2011, 2015, and 2021. In each of those years, Djokovic won three majors. In 2011, he also won the first five Masters 1000 events he entered (which is more than Federer has ever won in a single year), losing only one match anywhere until late in the year, when he succumbed to fatigue and injury. In 2015, he was even better, winning six Masters 1000 events and reaching the finals of all eight he played in, while also winning the year-end championship to go along with his three majors and a finals appearance in the lone major he didn’t win. And in 2021, he nearly won the Grand Slam.

The calendar Grand Slam, though confined to one year, is extremely significant. Throughout the history of tennis, it’s the rarest of accomplishments. According to its technical definition—winning Wimbledon plus the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens in the same year—the Grand Slam in men’s singles has been won three times before: by Don Budge in 1938, and by Rod Laver in 1962 and in 1969. (In women’s singles, the calendar Slam has also only been won three times: by Maureen Connolly in 1953, by Margaret Court in 1970, and by Steffi Graf in 1988. Due to certain differences between the men’s and women’s tours before the Open Era, and other complications with comparing the two tours, I’m going to focus specifically on the history of the men’s Grand Slam when trying to put Djokovic’s quest into historical context.)

But the technical definition of the Slam is misleading; it underplays how rare the feat has been. When Budge won the Slam in 1938 and when Laver won it in 1962, those four tournaments allowed only amateurs to play, even though professionals were typically the world’s best players. Thus Budge and Laver may well not have been the world’s best, and they certainly did not need to beat the best, in order to win those “Grand Slams.”

The bottom line is that no man except Laver in 1969 (and no woman but Graf in ’88) has ever done the equivalent of what Djokovic was trying to do now: win four giant international tournaments, on three continents and varying surfaces, where all the best players are allowed to compete and choose to do so if they’re physically able. In 150 years, that has been done once by a man. And even that once wasn’t the equal of what Djokovic’s feat would have been. When Laver won in 1969, three of the four majors were held on the same surface, grass, so winning the Grand Slam didn’t require as much versatility as it does today. And one of those majors, the Australian Open, didn’t even field a full complement of competitors. What’s more—and I would argue, most important—is that every sport gets deeper and better as time goes on. So it’s always harder and thus more impressive to dominate later in a sport’s lifespan than earlier. Simply put, what was at stake on Sunday was whether Djokovic could complete the greatest feat in the history of men’s tennis.

Assuming that the Grand Slam eludes him, even if Djokovic adds to his total number of majors in the coming years, there will still be a plausible case—as there is for Jordan when he’s compared to LeBron—that Federer was greater.

So, what slipped through Djokovic’s fingers on Sunday? The answer is: (i) the greatest single-year achievement in the 150-year history of tennis, and (ii) closing the book on the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic rivalry and, for all realistic purposes, on the debate about who is the greatest player of all time.

Read full article —>

slate.com/culture/2021/09/djokovic-federer-goat-debate-grand-slam.html

Daniil Medvedev wins US Open as Novak Djokovic falls short of a Grand Slam.

Daniil Medvedev won his first Grand Slam title by defeating Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Credit…Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Novak Djokovic said he was going to play this match as if it were the last of his career, that he was going to pour every ounce of his heart and soul into trying to do what few thought could ever be done again.

It was not enough.

With a startling display of power and creativity, Daniil Medvedev upset Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, in the final of the U.S. Open on Sunday, ending Djokovic’s bid to become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year. It was one last twist in a tournament that overflowed with stunning performances.

For at least another year, Rod Laver will remain the lone member of the most exclusive club in modern men’s tennis, and the 2021 U.S. Open will forever belong primarily to an 18-year-old British woman named Emma Raducanu, who went from being the 150th-ranked player to a Grand Slam champion in the most unlikely tennis tale of them all.

This was supposed to be Djokovic’s moment, the day that he would finally surge past Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and officially become the greatest player of all time.

Instead, whatever spirits pull the strings of this uniquely exasperating sport intervened in the form of a lanky 25-year-old Russian, a neighbor of Djokovic’s in their adopted home of Monaco who is sure now to create any number of awkward encounters at Monte Carlo’s cafes and grocery stores and at the local tennis club where both of them train.

Medvedev started fast, breaking Djokovic’s serve in the first game of the match and giving Djokovic few chances to take the first set. That was not supposed to matter. Djokovic, 34, had been shaky early in matches for two weeks, before raising his level and storming back for win after win. Surely, he would flip the script once more.

And he had the opening, three break points on Medvedev’s first service game, and then another with Medvedev serving at 1-2 in the second set, when the sound system malfunctioned and interrupted one of Medvedev’s serves, giving him a fresh chance to save the game.

When Medvedev took that point and then another, the weight of it all finally broke the man who had seemed unbreakable. Djokovic dismantled his racket with a violent smack on a court that had delivered him so many championships before.

A game later, Medvedev curled a backhand onto Djokovic’s toes as he charged to the net, and when Djokovic’s volley floated long, the chance to crush a dream was just a few more games and one set away.

“He was going for huge history,” Medvedev said. “Knowing that I managed to stop him, it definitely makes it sweeter.”

Djokovic had beaten Medvedev most recently in a lopsided battle in February for his ninth Australian Open title, a moment that seems a lifetime ago, when no one was talking about anyone winning a Grand Slam.

And yet, when the draw for the U.S. Open came out two weeks ago, it looked daunting for Djokovic. Matteo Berrettini, the big-serving Italian, loomed in the quarterfinals. Alexander Zverev, the talented German who knocked off Djokovic at the Olympics and was the hottest player in the world at the start of this tournament, was likely to be his semifinal foe. And if Djokovic could get through those players, he was most likely going to meet Medvedev, the world’s second best player, whose game, a beguiling mix of power and spins, seems to grow more dangerous with each passing month. He was a fitting final obstacle for Djokovic in the hunt for their sport’s biggest prize.

Medvedev stands 6 feet 6 inches tall and is as skinny as a bamboo pole. At first glance, he looks like nobody’s idea of a professional athlete. He will scurry around the court creating shots that few can see coming, then bomb an ace or pound a flat backhand down the line.

Coming into the tournament, conventional wisdom held that the only way to beat Djokovic was to take the racket out of his hands with so many unreturnable balls that one of the greatest defenders in the sport would not be able to survive the onslaught.

Medvedev did that and so much more, pushing Djokovic back on his heels and handcuffing him at the net on those handful of points that decide every tennis match, with history on the line and 23,000 fans desperate to witness it.

For Djokovic, the loss delivered a disappointment that practically no one but Serena Williams could understand. She had been the last player to enter the year’s final major championship with a shot at the Grand Slam. She, too, fell to an underdog, Roberta Vinci of Italy, on the same court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, in the 2015 semifinals.

On a personal level, this loss most likely stung Djokovic in a way that Williams may never have felt. Djokovic has spent most of his adult life chasing legends who claimed this sport as their own just a few years before he burst onto the scene. He proved early on that he could be the equal of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, then sagged back, only to come back stronger and repeat the cycle time and again.