July 6, 2006

Wimbledon Legends

I did not realize that Martina Navratilova has decided to finally retire from competitive tennis...this time, at age 49, probably for good!

Navratilova Era Ends in Mixed Doubles Defeat

Navratilova's match with Knowles today was notable in that it was her last at the All England Club, with the 20-time Wimbledon champion announcing her retirement sometime after the end of The Championships. The legendary player and her mixed doubles partner Mark Knowles were beaten in the third round by ninth seeds Vera Zvonareva and Andy Ram, 7-5, 6-1. Knowles could be forgiven for being a little tired on court after his history-making six hour epic doubles match yesterday with Daniel Nestor. For her part Navratilova came out looking fired-up and focused after her defeat earlier in the day in the ladies doubles quarters.
Earlier today: Navratilova defeated by Chinese pair in Ladies' Doubles

Martina Navratilova's dream of marking her final Wimbledon with an eighth ladies doubles' title - 20 years after her seventh - evaporated when she and partner Liezel Huber were beaten in the quarter-finals. Fourth seeded Chinese pair Zi Yan and Jie Zheng beat Navratilova and defending ladies doubles champion Liezel Huber 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 in a match carried over from yesterday. The defeat signified a changing of the tennis guard, with China being the up-and-coming tennis nation and Navratilova having announced the evening before the match began that this will be her last Wimbledon at the age of 49.
Last Wimbledon for Navratilova
M. Navratilova Interview - Day 8

30+ year career has been an impressive one..dating back to her great competitive rivalry (emotional quotient-wise not quite the famed McEnroe-Borg rivalry but close!) with the graceful gutsy Chris Evert (including a few legendary matches), her virtual rule of the Wimbledon court in the late 70s and early 80s, a 2nd era in the late 80s where she competed hard and even won against young upcoming stars like Steffi Graf and such and then a 3rd coming these last few years where she shone again in womens and mixed doubles and actually won a couple Grand Slam titles in 2003 with apro Leander Paes (Australian Open & Wimbledon). Incredible woman! Incredible career!

But even as we celebrate the end of a career of a
grass court legend.. let us celebrate and enjoy another fab grass court player - GO ROGER FEDERER!!

He already has a number of records to his name... third-longest consecutive stay in the World No. 1 with only Lendl and Connors having more (both of whom are over-shadowed by Steffi Graf's 186 week consecutive stay at #1 in the late 80s (from August 1987-March 1991) - first man in the Open Era to win Wimbledon and the US Open back-to-back in consecutive years (2004 and 2005); won three straight Wimbledon titles (2003-05), an achievement also accomplished by Bjorn Borg (1976-80) and Pete Sampras (1993-95; 1997-2000). Before he is done, many, including Sampras himself, believe he will have broken many of Sampras' records, which include most Wimbeldon titles (7) and most Grand Slam titles (Sampras has 14; Federer already has 7 in 27 appearances. Sampras, incredibly also had 7 in 26 appearances!)

I hope though Federer does not let Nadal get into his head in the finals on Sunday (am assuming/predicting/expecting wins for Nadal and Federer against Baghatis and Bjorkman respectively in the semis.) Nadal has beaten Federer on clay more than a handful times recently - Federer has lost ONLY 4 times in all of 2006 and all 4 times to Nadal and on clay - but this is Wimbledon and grass that we are talking about, a surface on which Federer has not lost since 2002 and is on a record-breaking 46 game winning streak on grass. He has lost just two of his last 10 Grand Slam semi-finals, once to Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and to Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open and has already won 3 consecutive Wimbledon titles since 2002 while the other three semi-finalists are reaching semis of Wimbledon for the first time in their careers!

So.. at the semi-final stage, despite everyone backing themself to win...

Nadal Aims to Go All The Way
Baghdatis Backs Himself For Title
Bjorkman Ready For Federer Challenge

...in the end...we all know that on grass,
Federer Moves in Majestic Ways

So... 3 cheers for two great tennis stars... 3 for Navratilova and 3 more for Federer. The Queen is gone...but long play the Prince! :)

I cannot finish a post on Wimbledon 'royalty' ..er..legends without mentioning my wife's favorite,
Steffi Graf . In modern tennis (since the late 70s, say), if Navratilova can be considered the Queen of Wimbledon, Sampras the King, and Federer the up-and-coming Prince, then surely Graf was the Princess!

In addition to being the only woman other than
Maureen Connolly (in 1953 and Margaret Court (in 1970) to win the Grand Slam (1988), she won a total of 22 Grand Slam singles titles (second only to Margaret Court's 24), including 6 French Open singles titles (second to Chris Evert), 7 Wimbledon singles titles (third behind Martina Navratilova and Helen Wills-Moody), and 5 at the US Open and 4 at the Australian...thereby becoming the only player, male or female, to have won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments (Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open and the Australian Open) at least four times each.

And speaking of Graf, I found an interesting bit of trivia about Andre Agassi (married to Graf since 2001) which at least I was not aware of untill I read the
wiki entry for Agassi.

Andre Agassi's father Mike Agassi is an Iranian of Armenian ethnicity, born in the Assyrian village of Saralan, near Urmia, Iran. His father has written in his book, The Agassi Story, about his experience in Iran, but Andre has also shown interest in the Iranian aspect of his heritage, in February 2005 expressing a desire to visit Iran, which holds "a special place" in his heart.

Also...speaking of Sampras, he had all but disappeared after his retirement in 2002.. but apparently he is 'bored' of retirement and is making a comeback in the World Team Tennis competition next week, when he plays for the Newport Beach Breakers in California. Sampras will play seven matches in the low pressure event which sees teams playing sets of singles and doubles in a relaxed atmosphere.


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