Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wimbledon 2008: The John Kieran Slam Awards

I started the John Kieran Grand Slam Awards back in February of last year after we covered our first Slam in Melbourne but never came back to them. Until now. Without further ado, the Kieran goes to... (Click on Getty images to enlarge.)

Performance by a female
Serena Williams against Bethanie Mattek, 4th Round

Sure, Serena lost fewer games in her blistering quarterfinal victory over former junior champ Agnieszka Radwanska, but it was her all-court performance against the unlikely American fourth rounder that stole the show.

Performance by a male
Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer, Final

Rafa showed out, and I mean showed out, all fortnight playing such exquisite tennis, revealing the heart of a warrior, and his recovery from choked sets and matchpoints to win the best decisive set in the best final played on the lawns of Wimbledon was nothing short of spellbinding.

Performance by a male player in a choking role
Novak Djokovic against Marat Safin

Sometimes a choke begins on the first ball. Such was the choke Djoke performed against Marat, his friend and mentor, in the second round. Sure, Marat played well, but Djoke couldn't find the court with his shots, so frozen by nerves. And the pressure of expectations.

Performance by a female player in a choking role
Ana Ivanovic against Nathalie Dechy, 1st Round

I know, I know. She won the match. Yeah, well, her erratic, childish performance against the crafty Frenchwoman foretold her demise in the very next round. She's clearly not ready for her closeup.

Grand Slam breakthrough performance
Zheng Jie, China

Just two years after Li Na became China's first Slam quarterfinalist right here at Wimbledon, Zheng become's the nation's first Slam semifinalist. She's winning another Kieran, so we'll come back to her.

Grand Slam comeback performance
Marat Safin, Russia

He used to be allergic to grass. Said, after an early exit, he'd never play Wimbledon again. But after struggling with injury and ennui, Marat is back and in devastating form. After handling the world No. 3 with no trouble, he put on an exquisite display of tennis in his third round victory over Andreas Seppi, one of the best matches of the fortnight. Two rounds later, he dismissed Feliciano Lopez, a player who gave him fits on every surface and whom he'd never beaten on grass, to become the first Russian man to make the Wimbledon semifinals in the Open Era.

Performance by a talking head - drama
Virginia Wade, Wimbledon Live
There's simply no one better.

Performance by a talking head - comedy
Pam Shriver, ESPN
Almost everything she says makes me laugh. Even when it's not funny.

Achievement in costume design
Sharapova's Tuxedo, Nike

It brought out the butch in her. It reminded me of the Greta Garbo-esque attire of Ellen Degeneres when she hosts big awards shows. And it stood in stark contrast to the femme get-ups she and her girlfriend Camille Belle wore at Paris Fashion Week days after she was humiliated in the second round.

Achievement in cinematography
Cameraperson, Nicolas Kiefer against Rafael Nadal, 3rd Round

The sexy German has the heaviest basket of any ATP player. When it flips and flops and flops and flips, it makes quite an impression. I especially loved all the slow-motion replays during the match.

Adapted screenplay
Sister, Sister by Serena and Venus Williams

The sisters returned to their heyday by facing off in their first Slam final since Wimbledon 2003. But this time, Venus wanted it more, adapted to her sister's play, and took the championship with grace and grit. Hours later, a triumphant Venus and a sulking Serena united to win their first doubles Slam title since Wimbledon 2002, the year Serena won her first Wimbledon singles title over Venus. Theirs is the story that truly inspires, that truly amazes, in tennis, in all of sport.

Original screenplay
Wild Card by Jheng Zie

After recently recovering from ankle surgery, Zheng's ranking couldn't get her into the main draw of a Slam. So she wrote a letter to the AELTC and urged the powers that be to grant her a wild card. They honored her request. Round after round, she angled her powerful backhand, past the new world No. 1, the biggest upset of the fortnight, past Agnes Szavay, past Nicole Vaidisova, right into the semifinals. In the wake of her historic performance, the new WTA Asia-Pacific headquarters have opened in Beijing. Just in time for the Olympics. That must've been some letter.

Best motion picture
As Good As It Gets by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

The best match I've ever seen. Period. The scintillating shotmaking, the sound and fury of battle, the heartstopping drama, the chanting, dueling "Ra-JA!" (clap clap) "Ra-FA!"(clap clap) crowd, the spectacle of sportsmanship, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the weeping for both, the new king's historic walk right up to royalty, the trophy ceremony at dusk, the lights, the cameras, the action. It just don't get no better than that.


oddman said...

Absolutely, Craig. Agree with all your choices. And LMAO about the achievement in cinematography. I will have to go back and check out that match! See, my focus was on Rafa there, lol.
Especially love the photos of Rafa in Spain - I don't know where, but I adore that middle photo - look at that smile! He got a hero's welcome and rightly so. Now he doesn't have that dazed look on his face anymore. I imagined him continually checking to see that that trophy really is in his arms, like he did during the awards ceremony and after. I notice a change in his face and demeanor - not a swagger, but something else. The right word isn't coming yet.

I said last year 'my enjoyment of this year's Championships is fading like the wornout grass on the courts'. What a total turnaround for me - a fantastic fortnight, culminating in a historic men's final, and Rafa Nadal emerging as the victor.
Simply fabulous!

Pamela said...

Would that word be a release, Oddman? Not as in letting something go, but the relaxation and confidence that he's proven tennis pundits wrong. He may be the King of Clay, but that's not all he is, and he knows it. It's no longer a matter of will he ever become #1, but a matter of when. Simply put, Rafa is coming into his own, and he's ready.

Mad Professah said...

what IS it about Nicholas Kiefer I hadn't noticed him before, but I was wondering if he wasn't just wearing underwear against Nadal?

Who are the other candidates for "Biggest Show-ers" on the ATP Tour?

My nominees would be

1) Marcos Baghdatis
2) Roger Federer

sgh07 said...

Hi Craig, I like your blog very much, and I like the choices too but I kind of disagree with the ¨choke¨ option, I mean Djokovic in general choke but couldn´t find himself during the whole match, but Andy Roodick had chances to take a set in his match against Tipsy, and he simply couldn´t. I think that was worst than the Djoke´s choke.

Also, congrats to Rafa for the victory!

Craig Hickman said...

Andy was ill prepared for this fortnight. His choke was painful, but entirely understandable. (Even though he chokes when he's prepared, but....)

Andy doesn't have the confidence Djoke has. Djoke didn't even play tennis.

Andy at least won a set.

And for the record, I've given Andy plenty of choke awards over the last year and a half. Time to spread it around.

Craig Hickman said...

Mad, no male tennis player takes the court without some support. Most of them wear briefs, few of them wear jockstraps (Lopez used to, he doesn't anymore), some wear spandex (Andy Roddick does.)

Kiefer wears briefs. They are clear to see from the side or the back.

He's just heavy.

oddman said...

Maybe Pamela. Confidence sounds good. He's not doing the shy guy looking out from under his lovely dark brows look right now.

'...but that's not all he is, and he knows it'. Exactly.

I had a thought about that final - wonder if it occurs to Rafa that, but for him playing badly for a few points in set 3, he could have beaten Roger on the Wimbledon lawns in straights? Yes, it looked like he choked or got tight, you bet, but from a positive perspective, he could tell himself he may well have had the match on his raquet there. Wonder how that must feel to him.
Do you think Roger played badly in the first two sets? It didn't look that way to me, more like Rafa came out on fire.

He said in his Times blog winning would be career-changing - I think so. Now no longer can he be considered just a clay court player, a grinder, or dirtballer. Many say achieving the Channel Slam is the hardest to do - don't know if that's true, but it took someone 28 years to repeat the feat. The kid is awesome!

vw said...

From Pete's book, Sampras calls "choke" being in a postion to win but having a breakdown of nerves or spirit. I don't think Djok had this. Pete said there were days he just didn't play right or froze up and lost, that is not a choke.

Choke is what Maria and Elena did against Safina in the FO with their match points.

I think Djokovic will do better next time. He's young and will learn. His breakthrough year was end of 2007. Not to compare them, but Sampras waited 3 years in between his first and second slams.

Craig Hickman said...

vw, Pete's definition of choke isn't all-inclusive.

If you are so tight when you walk onto the tennis court that you can't swing through your shots, you are choking.

You don't have to agree with that, but that's the way I see it.

I'm an athlete. I know first-hand all the ways an athlete can choke.

Djoke choked.


paula said...

Great list! And I, too, really liked Maria's Nike outfit- some of the talking heads were poopooing it. I love the aall whites at Wimbledon in general, although I would be really annoyed if every grand slam were all whites. But when the limitations are so strict, it takes something special to stand out.

You always post such great wrap-ups!

sgh07 said...

yeah, I agree with Andy not having the confidence that Djoke has, and also maany people expected Djoker to challenge Federer. I think seeing it from that point of view I think it was right

Pamela said...

I thought about that too Oddman. I don't like the rain delay being a factor, but our boy definitely choked in that 4th set tie-break. I'm impressed that he had the inner strength and resolve to close it out when he had the chance in the 5th. I doubt that he will "choke" like that again against Fed. Clay is his domain and being on grass and taking it to Fed so easily must have played with his mind just a bit.

Here's hoping he's translated his changes to hard courts.

anonymous said...

Agree that the men's final was an incredibly extraordinary match but not THE best. At least I've seen better matches.

And I'm all "eyes" for more eye-candy such as Kiefer's.

SarooQ said...

I've been lurking here for a long time. I love this blog Craig. I love your insight into the game.

Its great to see that Sports Illustrated finally featured Tennis on its cover.

They never had the balls to feature roger federer as sportsman of the year.

But i guess we should be happy they are giving tennis attention in any shape or form.

I am so glad Rafa won. He deserved it. It was heartbreaking watching Roger lose Wimbledon.

This will make Federer/Rafa rivalry so much more fun. Federer will actually have to work/train with competition in his mind unlike in the past where he said that he was his own standard which he had to work against.

I hope Rafa can carry over his success onto the Hardcourts. I know he can do it.

I think people predicting the end of Federers' career are jumping the gun. He has 12 grand slams from roughly 4 years. Thats a great accomplishment. I guess the expectations with him are too high, so that if he loses once every one cries for the end of his career. He will easily beat Sampras' record. However, the whole, 17+ grand slam might never happen with Nadal around.

I think its a long road for Nadal to beat Sampras' record too. It will take him a good 5+ years. And during that time, he has to keep healthy. And just like Federer, Nadal will see new and younger players emerging who could also be the future Djokovics, Nadals and Federers. Nadal will be 25 in 3 years. That's plenty of time for a new breed of players to emerge.

Everyone ages and new competition is constantly around the corner.

oddman said...

Are there those saying Rafa can beat Sampras' record? Now I'm the biggest Rafa fan around, but that sounds like a dang tall order to me. IF he only wins RG for six more years (and that's a bloody big IF) that would bring him to 11 total. He'd be 28 then. I just don't know. I hate hearing predictions like that, he could have a career-ending injury, get tired of it all, of course there's always new young men coming along - just hard to think that far ahead. As for Fed, I'm sure he'll surpass Pete's record in time. He's very close. It's just that now he's got young guns coming that see he can be beaten - they may not get him, but they'll make it harder for him.
Too much can happen - I prefer to enjoy what's in the present. And currently, Rafa has his very first Wimbledon title - yay!
Did anyone see those pics of him in Mallorca - cradling that trophy like his own baby? So sweet.

oddman said...

And yes, sarooq, this is the best blog. Love it here!

Beth said...

I loved this wrap up Craig! LOVED it! The 'cinematography' was hysterical. ;-) Thanks for taking the time to write this up and give us your thoughts. Wonderful!

Lana said...

Excellent post!!

Lana :)

Savannah said...

Federer will actually have to work/train with competition in his mind unlike in the past where he said that he was his own standard which he had to work against.
It's going to be interesting to see who Raja summons to Dubai to be his hitting partner(s).

rabbit said...

Federer will actually have to work/train with competition in his mind unlike in the past where he said that he was his own standard which he had to work against.

It bothers me a lot to see statements like this. Roger did have to overcome a lot of competition in the past 5 years. Hewitt, Roddick, Nalbandian were not exactly pushovers in 2002-05. In order for Roger to beat these players consistently, he needed his suite of powers in full force. The fact that he dominated speaks to his abilities; yes, his ability to overcome competition!

brooklyn1006 said...

Craig, this list was fab!!! And you are too much with the Kiefer!!! About Pova's fashion statement, she has to remember everything is not for everybody. And that outfit did not work on her bodytype. Memo to her "design team": Stop trying to copy Venus.

brooklyn1006 said...

Just one more thing - Virginia Wade is fab. I listened to her as she called the women's dubs Final. Great stuff. Just terrific. Why can't we get that quality over here???