Daily Archives: June 30, 2012

A major changing of the guard

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Serena Williams (pictured above) was pushed to the brink of elimination by Jie Zheng earlier today.

By Josh Kramer

First there was Venus in Round 1.  Then Rafa in Round 2.  Nearly Federer in Round 3.  And then Serena was pushed to the brink of elimination in Round 3 as well.  What is going to happen in Round 4?  These four players are all former number ones that have a combined 47 Grand Slam titles (including 17 singles championships at Wimbledon) between them and unparalleled popularity.  In a span of a mere 24 hours during Week 1, three of them almost bit the dust, while one (Venus) had already crumbled a few days earlier.

At a time not so long ago, guys like Sampras and Agassi dominated Men’s tennis, while Graf and Seles were doing similar things in Women’s tennis.  Then following short-lived reigns of a few others in between, Federer took over Men’s tennis, while the Williams sisters took over Women’s tennis.  Since, Nadal and Djokovic have had their turns on Federer’s throne, while the injury-prone Williams’ sisters have shared the wealth in recent memory as well.  Now these four superstars and former number ones are a mean age of 29.5 (30 is considered dinosaur age in tennis).

Despite the ripe age, I never thought I would see the day where all four superstars were nearly eliminated during Week 1 of a major.  Luckily, Federer once again demonstrated that he may be old, but he isn’t dead yet, in coming back from two sets down against Benneteau.  He still has the heart of a champion.  Serena also demonstrated outstanding mental fortitude in serving her way past Zheng.

So two of this fantastic four are still left standing as we head towards the Round of 16.  But how much longer are they really going to last (both here and in general)?  Venus has not won a major in over four years since handling business at the All England Club in 2008.  Serena has gone winless in the major tourneys since nabbing the title at Wimbledon in 2010.  Plus, Serena exited in the first-round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her illustrious career at Roland Garros a few weeks ago.  After winning at least one Grand Slam for eight consecutive years, Federer went Slam-less in 2011 and has not come out victorious at a major since the 2010 Australian Open.  Lastly, Nadal had participated in the finals of five consecutive Grand Slams before having his dreams of a third Wimbledon Championship dashed by little-known Lukas Rosol.

Though none of these four superstars have hinted much at retirement yet (especially not Nadal), times are changing.  Outside of Rafa at Roland Garros, none of these players are a sure bet to take home any of the major championships these days.  We have been blind to it, but this week has highlighted for us all that there is a major changing of the guard occurring right before our eyes in the tennis world.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

Euro 2012 Final Showdown: Spain and Italy

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Mario Balotelli (pictured above) stole the show in the semifinals. Will he put on another big time performance against Spain?

By Nick Craddock

Spain or Italy has won each of the last three major tournaments (2006 World Cup, 2008 European Championship, 2010 World Cup) and either Spain or Italy will have its named etched onto the European Championship trophy after today’s title game.

Coincidentally, fate seems to have brought both teams to the cusp of a championship yet again.

Much like the 2006 World Cup, the Italian national team entered this tournament amidst a gambling probe into the top flight of Italian soccer, where all but three players on the national team play their trade during the course of the season.

Rather than succumbing to the pressure of the media scrutiny and the off-field distractions, the Italians, much like the 2006 Italian squad, have come together to play a solid team game and to manage a surprise or two (Remember, it was host Germany which the Italians defeated in the World Cup semifinals in 2006 and a heavily-favored German team which the Italians beat to advance to this final).

This Italian team’s version of Mario and Luigi is not exactly identical to the mustached, overall-wearing Italian brothers who morph by eating mushrooms with faces, but, weird mushroom diet aside, striker Mario Balotelli and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon are responsible for forming what has been a prolific one-two punch.

Just ask the Germans. Continue reading