Howdy, my name is Houston Mitchell and it feels like basketball season is underway, even though it doesn’t really start until October.
Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s final was one of the greatest matches in tennis history. I was all set to write some sort of flowery words about it to describe it all, but I can’t top what our own Sam Farmer did, so I’m going to ask you read the excerpt below and then go read his whole story here.
“It was more a canvas than a court.
“For nearly five hours Sunday, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, relentless rivals atop the tennis world, were pure artists, placing the ball with surgical precision, sliding acrobatically across the grass, somehow getting their rackets on dropshots that should have been out of reach.
“In the end, it was top-seeded Djokovic who emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3), winning his fifth Wimbledon singles title in the first championship decided by final-set tiebreak – a rule put in place by the tournament in October.
“It was probably the most mentally demanding match I’ve ever been a part of,” said Djokovic, who successfully defended his Wimbledon title. He was all but impassable, a human back-to-backboard.
“It was one shot away from losing the match,” he said. “This match had everything, and could have gone [Federer’s] way.”
The final was the longest ever – four hours, 57 minutes – nine minutes longer than the 2008 classic between Federer and Rafael Nadal. Sunday’s match also had the longest rally on record for a final, at 35 strokes.
“But when asked in the aftermath if this is a match everyone will remember, a dejected Federer cracked a half-smile and said, “I’ll try to forget.”
“That isn’t just because he lost, but because he blew a golden opportunity to win, leading 8-7 in the fifth set and serving, 40-15. Djokovic saved consecutive match points to stay alive and eventually set up a third tiebreaker – and he was 3-0 in those.
“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed,” Federer said. “I can’t believe it.”
“Djokovic triumphed despite most of the crowd pulling for the 37-year-old Federer, such an overwhelming fan favorite that his headband might as well have been a halo.
“It’s hard to not be aware,” Djokovic said of the rooting disparity. “You have that kind of electric atmosphere, that kind of noise, especially in some decisive moments where we’re quite even. It’s one way or another. The crowd gets into it. “Of course, if you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps, it gives you motivation, it gives you strength, it gives you energy. When you don’t, then you have to find it within, I guess.”
On the women’s side, Serena Williams lost to Simona Halep on Saturday, falling just short in her ongoing quest to tie Margaret Court for most Grand Slam titles. Columnist LZ Granderson takes a look at why erasing Court from the record books is so important:
“In 1970, Margaret Court said that South Africa’s apartheid system enabled the country to have a better handle on the “racial situation” than any other country.
“In 1990, she said Martina Navratilova was a poor role model because “it’s very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality.”
“In 2017, she compared same-sex marriage as akin to the policies of Adolf Hitler.
“There were a thousand and one reasons why tennis fans wanted Serena Williams to beat Simona Halep in the women’s final at Wimbledon. Inching a step closer to displacing Court as the all-time Grand Slam singles winner ranks fairly high in many people’s books.
“Before giving birth, Williams was 23-6 in major finals. She is now 23-9. The optimist would say no other player has appeared in more such finals since her return. The pessimist would say she’s lost three consecutive major finals for the first time in her career and at 37, there’s not a whole lot of career left to change that.
“As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated, and there were rallies during her 56-minute match with Halep in which it looked as if he and the 27-year-old Romanian were partners. Couple that with her older sister Venus losing to a 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the first round of the tournament and we’re cruelly reminded that sports doesn’t care who our (s)hero is.
“Admittedly, it is ridiculous enough to ask an athlete to stand for something greater than themselves. The notion that any athlete needs to win for the culture is not only unfair but unrealistic. But then Williams, after being crushed on the most iconic court in her sport, dropped this nugget in her post-match interview: “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.”
“That was her response when a reporter, loosely using the words of Billie Jean King, asked if she needed to focus more on tennis than being a celebrity or fighting for equality. King tweeted a clarification stating she never would suggest Williams shouldn’t engage in such a fight. Nonetheless, the story is not about the question but the response.
A racist and homophobe rests on top of the WTA mountain and the only way to remove her is by winning two more majors. Unlike the trend of removing Confederate statues or changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, the only way to correct past mistakes in sports is by winning.
“Removing Court’s name from the Australian Open stadium in Melbourne is cosmetic. Eclipsing her in achievements is far more lasting.”
Broderick Turner gives a glimpse of what Lakers fans could be in store for this season:
“Load management. Those two words presumably will be part of the Lakers’ lexicon as they navigate what they hope becomes a magical season as Anthony Davis joins forces with LeBron James.
“It comes down to resting players over the course of a grinding 82-game regular season with the hope of keeping their bodies healthy for a grueling playoff run.
“The subject was broached with new Lakers coach Frank Vogel after Davis’ introductory news conference on Saturday, mostly because core guys such as James, Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are coming off a season shortened by injuries.
Davis played only 56 games with New Orleans because of finger, ankle, shoulder, elbow and hip injuries. Over his seven-year career, he never has played more than 75 games in a season, having done so twice.
But the All-Star forward, who spoke Saturday for the first time since he was acquired in a June trade, was not having any part in a discussion about load management.
Davis’ goal is to play all 82 games.
“Oh, I’m playing,” he said, laughing. “I’m 26 years old. I love the game of basketball. I’m ready to play.”
“How Vogel manages his players could be a big factor in the Lakers’ success.
“James missed 17 games last season while recovering from a strained left groin, the most he has missed because of an injury in his 16-year career. While he was out, the Lakers went from a team in the playoff hunt to one headed for the draft lottery. He played in only five of the Lakers’ final 14 games.
“James will be 35 in December, so health will be paramount for him and the Lakers.
“Cousins, whom the Lakers signed to a one-year deal, recovered from a left Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him for most of last season with Golden State. He then tore his left quadriceps in Game 2 of the Warriors’ first-round playoff series against the Clippers.
“Vogel, who said Cousins is slimmer, shared his philosophy on how he’ll handle the playing time.
“This is something I will rely very heavily on our medical team for,” Vogel said. “To me, it’s pretty black and white … We’ve hired Judy Seto to oversee the whole sports performance program. I have the utmost trust in her. Whatever she decides in meetings with LeBron, with AD, about what the plan is going to look like, I am going to fall in line with that.”
Your favorite sports moment
What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Click here to tell me what it is and why, and I’ll start running them in future newsletters. And yes, if your favorite moment is about the Angels or Ducks or a team just outside of L.A., I’ll count that too. And the moment doesn’t have to have happened in L.A., just needs to involve an area team.
Our next one comes from Pete Peterson of Camarillo:
“The Dodgers moving to L.A. in 1958 was big, then bigger in 1959 when they won the World Series. Kirk Gibson got my vote in 1988 for World Series MVP. How great was it when a rookie point guard replaced Hall of Farmer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center for the final game of the 1980 NBA Finals? Magic Johnson took over that game, scoring 42 points.
“My greatest memory, though, must be the 1974 USC/Notre Dame football game. I was in the Navy, stationed in Virginia, when I watched the game on TV. After sportingly spotting Notre Dame a 24-0 advantage shortly before halftime, USC then scored 55 unanswered points in 17 minutes. Anthony Davis scored six TD’s, including returning the second half kickoff for a score. After USC took the lead, I called the local radio DJ to play the USC Fight Song. He didn’t have a copy, but asked me to continue giving him updates throughout the game. Voting for the Heisman Trophy that year concluded prior to the end of the season. Many writers stated they would have changed their vote had they been allowed to wait until after this game. Archie Griffin may not have become the only two-time Heisman winner. Anthony Davis had 11 TD’s against Notre Dame in three games.”
Odds and ends
Rookie Matt Thaiss caps Angels’ sweep with home run…. Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy will have surgery to repair broken nose…. Riquna Williams, Nneka Ogwumike help Sparks beat Dream in OT…. ‘Ball Four’ author Jim Bouton smoked baseball inside until the very end…. Tour de France stage 9: Impey wins from breakaway…. Dodgers overcome bullpen stumble to outlast Red Sox over 12 innings.
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Today’s local major sports schedule
Dodgers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570
Houston at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, AM 830
Born on this date
1935: NFL player/actor Alex Karras
1935: Baseball player Donn Clendenon
1951: Pro wrestler/governor Jesse Ventura
1967: NFL player Carnell Lake
1972: NBA player Khalid Reeves
1990: NBA player Damian Lillard
Died on this date
2003: NFL team executive Tex Schramm, 82
Novak Djokovic outlasts Roger Federer in epic Wimbledon final. Watch it here.