Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't Cry For Him Argentina

Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina lifts the trophy after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in the men's singles final match at the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York, September 14, 2009.

Y'all knew some variation of that title was coming. I can't always resist being cheesy. And since Juan Martín del Potro wants to buy a cheesecake for his birthday to celebrate his stunning victory over Roger Federer, it's appropriate.

(I'd sell him one of mine.)

Quick: What does the 20-year-old Argentinean have in common with Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal?

Among active players, they all prevailed in their first Grand Slam finals.

Impressive company.

And for del Potro, it's even more impressive considering that just 9 months ago, Raja routed him to the loss of three games and two bagel sets en route to the Melbourne finals.

Has a player ever showed such massive improvement within a single season?

And why is it that players whose mother tongue is Spanish are the only ones capable of defeating Raja in Slam finals?

Speaing of which, Dick(head) Enberg and his corporate masters over at CBS need to be sanctioned by us, the viewers, for giving the US Open 2009 men's singles champion a hard time for wanting to provide remarks in Spanish during the trophy ceremony.

I just saw a pretty, poised, blonde woman speak three languages in the women's trophy ceremony and she was the runner up.

This has been one bizarre US Open.

But del Potro's victory is exactly what tennis needs.

Raja has won many a major not playing his best tennis, but not this time. Del Potro becomes only the second Argentine to win the US Open and only the third player not named Federer or Nadal to win a Slam since Wimbledon 2004.

I feel as though the men's tour has just opened up. Here's hoping del Potro's victory paves the way for all that other potential to step up and make their own history.


Matt said...

Agreed. JMDP is definitely what tennis needs.

Craig, your cheesecake looks incredible!!! Do you take online orders? ;)

Joe said...

I think Del Potro is going to win tomorrow, in what will be called a "major upset" if it's against Federer. I like the fact that Del Potro is clearly bothered by the Paris loss, and has mentioned how much it haunts him on several occasions this summer.


That's what I wrote as Del Potro was wrapping up his match against Nadal. Of the active players who won in their first slam final, Del Potro is the only one who had to go five sets. I believe Nadal won a tight 4-setter, and the others all won in straights. (A trivia question that I have no idea what the answer is: Who was the last player to win their first slam final in 5 sets? Chang?) I really do think that having gone through the tough loss in Paris played a big role in Del Potro's ability to show so much poise today.

If Nadal is healthy, the 2010 Australian Open will be the first slam in at least six years where there are three or more co-favorites on the mens' side. With that ridiculous forehand, Del Potro should be a force on hardcourts for years to come. Also, he came pretty damn close at the French this year. He looked uncomfortable at Wimbledon, but I don't see any reason why he can't contend there too.

Tennisfan said...

Dick Enberg not giving face to the champ? How dare he? Poor Del Po had to request 2 times to give a little speech he wanted.

Good win for Del Potro.

Mad Professah said...

I still find it hard to believe this is the same kid I saw 2-3 years ago barely able to get through an entire match on tour.

He was completely crushing the ball, once Federer let him into the 2nd set.

andresarista said...

Rough translation for those who wondered:

I want to say thanks to my team: without them this would have been really hard to do, to all argentines here and specially to my Mom, my Dad, Julieta, my Grandparents and to all my friends and people who supported me always, this is for you.

Dapxin said...

there is something
incredibly addictive about
coming here Craig - its wonderful
ie. I just woke up again :)

just wanted to say,
there is nothing more
refreshing than,
seeing a wannabe
move to been-there, lost,
to was-there, tried,
and finally to
right there, done it!

Its darn! inspiring!
it reflects on the
greater sides' of sport
that we all dont know; but feel!

Well done delPo!

oddman said...

Congratulations to Juan Martin! Played great tennis and didn't let a few bobbles here and there get him not believing.

Maybe he wrote 'creencia' on his shoes?

It is nice to see someone new win a slam. Vamos, Del Potro!!

Noel said...

I agree with your analysis of the match and the behaviour of Dick Enberg toward Del Potro. However there is one error in your post: Marat Safin won the 2005 Australian Open, and Novak Djokovic won the 2008 Australian Open, so in effect 5 players have won slams since Wimbledon 2004 - Federer, Nadal, Safin, Dkokovic, and now Del Potro.

Noel said...

Andresarista -Thanks for the translation, to not allow him to thank his family, team, and supporters in his native language would have been unconscionable. A person's native language is a signifier of their culture, now I know why he teared up during his speech in Spanish. Enberg is an idiot.

Rough translation for those who wondered:

"I want to say thanks to my team: without them this would have been really hard to do, to all Argentines here and specially to my Mom, my Dad, Julieta, my Grandparents and to all my friends and people who supported me always, this is for you."

Thanks for the excellent blog Craig; it's like you're speaking my words exactly.

Michael said...

Only two votes on the poll that Del Potro would win it all. We certainly didn't see it coming. We knew he was a force, but with that draw...

Dapxin, keep that poetry coming. You're giving me goosebumps.

Noel, Craig said the 3rd NOT named Federer or Nadal to win a slam. So you agree.

Andresarista, thanks for that translation. I can't believe Enberg rattled on for over a minute about his prize money and the idiotic US Open series and his shiny new car (keep those corporate sponsors happy), for a minute and 15 seconds and Del Potro's Spanish was barely 20 seconds long. Priorities, guys? This match could have gone much much longer. The 5th set was 6-2, so you have time CBS. Someone made a quick decision after it to shoot for a certain time and that's beyond idiotic, especially in contrast to how they allowed Wozniacki to speak in 3 languages. Kim didn't speak in Flemish, did she? Strange.

Craig Hickman said...

DelPo got 26 votes (17%) in the poll. You have to scroll over the results to see them.

Michael said...

Thanks for the clarification Craig. I thought it was odd for him only to get two votes.

John said...

Juan Martin DEL POTO finally delivers Argentina another Grand Slam glory. It was a thriller game in my opinion one that will go down as one of the best in Grand Slam history. Roger FEDERER who was forced to play a fifth set in a US Open final also deserve my respect for putting up another amazing performance.

Juan Martín DEL POTRO has always said his favourite tournament was the US Open and tonight he made the miracle happen against the toughest possible rival who, as expected, didn't make his life easy. The Argentine took the last two sets and won his first Grand Slam title to make the whole country celebrate.

We salute the brilliant Juan Martín DEL POTRO on the biggest day of his professional career (and probably his whole life). The big question remains will Delpo continue this fine form that has taken him this far? Only time will tell. In the meantime, appreciate your thoughts about him and the final overall.

Helen W said...

Maybe a little off topic, but here's a link to a touching story about Novak DjokovicTennis ace Djokovic moved by 9/11 children at the US Open.

xpclient said...

Wish I could spank that idiot Dick Enberg with a stick for saying "We're running out of time" when JMDP softly asked "Can I speak in Spanish"? First thing I'd do to improve the US Open is get of zilch like Dick Enberg.

Michael said...

Enberg was clearly under pressure from "someone" to get this thing done so we could go on to the next boring CBS show. So it's not his fault alone. He should have realized that he could let JMDP speak for 20 seconds, damn the lost ad money or "fewer" viewers of the next show. The crazy thing is he tried to skip the most compelling part of the awards ceremony, replacing it with boring accounting.

MMT said...

Although I'm no fan of Dick Enberg for tennis, I agree to an extent that the time constraint is not his fault. However, he really screwed the pooch by allowing Federer to free form knowing he was short on time. Fed probably had no idea he was eating into DelPo's time, but Enberg should have and should have kept the question short and quick. Also, he really bungled the introduction once he agreed to let delPo speak in Spanish. If I'm in that situation I'd just finish my first answer in my native language and without asking for permission and let them deal with the mess.

Helen W said...

Can anyone name another TV personality besides Enberg who has held down such a plummy job for yonks with so little to offer? His "commentary" seems limited to telling us how many points a player needs to win the current game, delivered in gushing tones. Why on earth was he even part of the ceremony?

Is it really so hard to figure out that the fans are way more interested in hearing from the players themselves then from various figureheads and assorted hangers-on?


Noel said...

Dick "Oh My" Enberg is tiring; I've never been able to figure out how he's been able to keep that cushy sports commentating gig for so long - I think he's been doing it for over thirty years, as far back as I can remember. He's at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open; hopefully he'll retire soon.

Here's the thing, had Federer won the match Enberg would have allowed him to speak for as long as he wanted; things did not work out the way Enberg had hoped, so he started rushing through the trophy presentation and Del Potro's speech.

Have you ever listened to him speak about Sharapova, jezzz he's like a 15 yr old with a crush "Oh My" this, "Oh My" that... it's sickening.

Enberg treated Del Potro as an addendum to the post-match ceremony rather than as the main topic. I'm glad Del Potro kept asking to speak in Spanish, as a matter of fact I respect him more for that, he is only 20 yrs old and refused to be set-aside, good for him. Bravo.

sG said...

I had no intention of watching this but ended up watching it in the middle of the second set. Good on you, JMDP. He's not my type of player but I agree with Craig that he is the fruition of potential and I'm glad to see at least one of them step it up. I never thought he'd win a Grand Slam this year though.

jl said...

ted robinson is the best and it's a shame he's been completely shut out of the open once again. patrick is excellent as well ... enberg is probably tight with the higher-ups or something because he adds nothing for either the hard-core fan or the casual one.

Craig Hickman said...

There are so few real commentators anymore. Virginia Wade is in a class all by herself.

Most everyone else is a propagandist, a fool, or both.

persimmon said...

Thanks for this blog, Craig. I feel it offers it little bit of sanity in a crazy world where people feel that they can say anything. People here all have different preferences and can speak their mind without being blasted. Like that!!!

Please don't go away! And congrats to DP and KC! I think Serena will come back stronger and Roger (if he wants).

Love tennis - one feels so passionately about their 'loves'.....

Noel said...

Excellent article, Zirin provides context (socio-economic, historic, cultural, and political) for the Serena incident. Of course everyone will speak about the "degree" to which the players were offensive, and of course Serena's outburst was more offensive, however it was also in response to a much more critical part/point in and of the match.
I've just received this in my email.

The Serena Williams Double Standard
by Dave Zirin

A top-ranked tennis player in a moment of rage cursed out a judge and shocked the world, headlining every sports and news program from ESPN to MSNBC. Meanwhile, another champion tennis player hurled expletives at a judge and the media barely yawned. While the tennis world still reels from Serena Williams's f-bomb-laced tirade against a line judge on September 12, the "classy" Roger Federer pulled a similar tantrum two days later and didn't get half as much coverage.

In US Open finals on September 14, Federer lost in five sets to the previously unheralded Juan Martín del Potro. In a tense third set, after a challenge by del Potro, Federer became infuriated with the line judge. After the judge told Federer to settle down, he said, "Don't tell me to be quiet, OK? I don't give a [expletive] what [del Potro] said, OK?" The 6-foot-6 power-serving Argentinean frustrated Federer throughout, and the favored player lost his famous cool. But after the match, there were no press conference apologies from Federer. And there were no calls for him to be suspended, fined or sanctioned. This despite the fact that his profanity was directed toward del Potro, a serious breach in tennis etiquette.

Williams without question lost control as well. After being called for a critical foot fault in her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters, she said to the line judge, "If I could, I would take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat." The foot fault was a terrible call, and it cost Williams the match. After her rant, she was given a point penalty, and the match was effectively over as Clijsters looked on in a state of bewilderment. It's worth mentioning that the call by the line judge was the equivalent of calling a technical foul in Game 7 of the NBA finals with the score tied in the closing seconds.

Noel said...

(Cont) The behavior of Federer and Williams in these matches are examples of bad sportsmanship at its worst. But the double standard is enough to make you want to swallow your tennis ball. When Williams lost it on the court, she later apologized and admitted idolizing tennis's infamous enfant terrible John McEnroe. McEnroe, now an announcer on CBS, responded, "I guess she idolized me for the wrong reasons, apparently. I feel like I'm on the hot seat now.... I can't defend the indefensible." His co-anchor, Mary Carillo, was even harsher, saying, Williams "could have won the Oscar" for her calm performance at the press conference after the match.

On September 13 on ESPN2, Carillo called for Williams's suspension, saying, "If you care about the integrity of your sport, you throw somebody out of the game for a while." Later, she called Williams's $10,500 fine a "joke" and an "embarrassment." By contrast, when Federer cursed, CBS broadcaster Dick Enberg drew a distinction that it was not "venomous."

The question is not whether Williams was right or Federer was wrong. They were both wrong. The question is whether hypocrisy is acceptable. The double standard is obvious if we perform the gender flip test: if Williams were a man, would her behavior have been met with similar outrage?

To ask the question is to answer it: from McEnroe to Jimmy Connors, male players who blow their tops are part of tennis lore. McEnroe has repeatedly made calls for current pros to not be "robots" and have the "passion" he displayed. But in the country-club white-skirt-and-ponytail world of women's tennis, different behavior is expected. Williams, to put it mildly, doesn't wear white. She is the person who introduced the "cat suit" to the tennis court. Her physical dominance is heretical to demure expectations that still permeate the sport.

When you couple gender expectations with racial ones, the inconsistency is no longer just obvious, it's glaring. If Williams were a petite blonde, like 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin, and was called for a match-ending foot-fault-cum-disqualification, the US Open crowd would have turned Arthur Ashe Stadium into Attica. But Williams was booed throughout the match against Clijsters; and when her outburst began, the booing intensified. The next day when she played doubles with her sister Venus, Serena Williams was repeatedly heckled. Her "Americanness" at the US Open was in open question in the way a white player's cultural heritage never would be. Ironically, her most infamous match against Clijsters, as all tennis fans know, was at Indian Wells in 2001 where she was subjected to repeated racial taunts and slurs. She has boycotted Indian Wells ever since and has said she will continue to do so, even though she has been threatened with fines and sanctions.

The Williams sisters' ascendance from Compton to queens of the tennis world has been well documented and earned them millions of dollars plus fans around the world. But it has also gained them tons of detractors, from the stands to the blogosphere. This doesn't excuse Serena Williams's conduct, and it's not an attempt to "play the race card"; it's just a fact. When it comes to conquering race and gender in tennis, we are nowhere near match point.

[Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at .]

Craig Hickman said...

Thanks for that article, Noel. It was food for thought.

rabbit said...

You know, I felt happy for Del Potro after he won yesterday.

But today, today, it feels different. Thirteen double faults, two stupid tiebreaks, one Australian fifth set. And yet he was only two points away.

Mad Professah said...

Thanks for posting the Zirin article; I not only think the Serena incident is racialized it is also gendered.

And Mary Carillo's behavior was OUTRAGEOUS in my eyes. They all know that players cirse at linesmen ALL THE TIME.

To say that Serena should have been suspended was absolutely f***ed up.

I would have people note that Serena STILL faces sanctions from the Grand Slam committee, which could be as a high as PERMANENT BANNING from grand slam play!

Craig Hickman said...

Serena isn't going to be banned from Grand Slam events, Mad. She wasn't even defaulted from this event. She lost on a point penalty.

You honestly think the organizers of Slam events would want her banned?

Not gonna happen.

Michael said...

Noel, I think your posted article is overstating its case. There is a HUGE difference between dropping a single F-bomb while speaking in a somewhat controlled manner to the chair umpire and hauling off a slew of verbal expletives and something along the lines of (hypothetical) threats. (Is that what you call "If I could, I'd ...").

If we reverse Federer and Serena completely, I don't think Serena gets a point-penalty for saying "I don't care what the F Wozniacki said" to the chair. If Federer went off on the line judge as Serena did, I think he would probably have gotten a code violation. Could he have gotten away with that? Surely not? But he's more likely than Serena to get away with it, I think.

I think Federer and the men get away with more in general, but in this particular instance.