Wimbledon and All Else

Unfortunately for Wimbledon, the World Cup has taken center stage in the world of sports, despite some of the best weather the courts at SW19 have seen in years, the existence of some high-quality tennis, topped with contested matches.

The biggest sporting event in sports, the World Cup, has overshadowed Wimbledon, just as it did Roland Garros two weeks earlier. Well, of course, that is unless you are an American. Other than the Americans who think it's "cool" to make fun of World Cup and the crazy soccer fans, or even dare to call soccer "boring" (while calling the slowest sport of all-time, baseball "the national sport," go figure!), tennis fans around the world have made Wimbledon their second choice these last two weeks.

There is something to be said when Andy Murray is playing against Andy Roddick on Centre Court and the majority of the spectators had earphones on, making "ooh" and "aah" sounds every time England missed a penalty against their World Cup quarterfinal match against Portugal.

In fact, there is a lot going on at Wimbledon. France's Zinedine Zidane is not the only 34-year-old athlete in the spotlight. Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, out of nowhere, has come and captured the hearts of many by reaching the semis against Roger Federer. At the time of this article, the match has not taken place yet. I must confess, however, that somehow it feels like Zidane has a better chance for a happy ending than does Bjorkman.

There is also Rafael Nadal, who is trying to prove that what Bjorn Borg did at his time is indeed possible and not superhuman. So far so good for Rafa! Only two sets lost in the second round and nine sets in a row won since then, without facing a break point. He has Jarkko Nieminen and Marcos Baghdatis standing on his way before facing most likely Roger Federer for another edition of the "critically-acclaimed" rivalry. Unless a serious mental block is in question, Federer should come out on top of this "grassy" edition.

There is also an exciting set of players who will be facing each other during the semifinals. You will not find a better final four than Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Maria Sharapova, and Amelie Mauresmo on the WTA tour currently. The first clash of the Belgian ladies on the grass courts of Wimbledon promises to be especially intriguing considering how one-sided their rivalry has been in favor of Henin-Hardenne when facing each other in the Slams.

Of course, there is the depressing fact that there are no Americans left in the quarterfinals. Same can be said for the British. On the lighter side, there is once again crazy people running into the court to voice their agenda, this time two father's rights activists entering the court during Federer/Mario Ancic quarterfinal match. There is also Martina Navratilova, who said for the umpteenth time that she will retire. I wonder how long it will take this time around for her "spotlight" addiction to kick in again.

After a climactic Sunday which features both Wimbledon men's finals and World Cup final match, it will be all over. For soccer fans for about a month there will be nothing but useless transfer talk. For tennis fans during that same period, there will be some ATP International Series tournaments, a group of tournaments in Europe that are on clay, kind of lost between the Slam-oriented summer season and the beginning of U.S. Open series.

If you have not followed my advice from my previous article and planned to go to one of these fantastic locations as your planned vacation, fret not, my friends! You can always pick up a tennis book and entertain or educate yourself, depending on your perspective. Here two book reviews for those interested:

1) The Agassi Story, Written By Mike Agassi

If you are reading this because you want to read about Andre Agassi's life, you may be disappointed. About a third of the book is solely on Mike Agassi's life before Andre, and the kids before Andre. It all written from Mike Agassi's point of view. I sensed a little bit of the same apprehension that I had when I read John McEnroe's You Cannot Be Serious in that Mike Agassi is still in touch with the people in his life and he is still active in his worklife. It's too bad because like McEnroe, Mike Agassi has to hold back with his comments about certain people, remains too diplomatic at times, is protective of the people that he favors, all of which contribute to a bit of a shadow when rating the candidness of the book.

However, the book is still a fantastic story of a man who made a colorful life for himself out of nothing during his childhood. I found that the description of the intriguing childhood of Mike Agassi coupled with the part of the book not involving Andre Agassi was the best of what this book has to offer. Because his life in Iran and the first part of his life in U.S. immediately following his immigration to the U.S. happen to be the periods that he can talk about freely, he didn't worry about consequences of his thoughts and words. Overall, this book remains above average, but probably should not be a priority on your list of "tennis books to read."

2) Big Bill Tilden, Written By Frank Deford

This was the second time that I read this fascinating book. The first time was about 12 years ago, which was why I did not include it in my first article that contained book reviews.

Before I write a review about it, I wanted it to be fresh in my mind. This is masterful book written by one of the best in the business of sports. The second time around, it was even a better experience, as this book remains one of the very few books to give detailed facts not only about Big Bill Tilden himself, but is filled with fascinating anecdotes about the time period and where tennis stood with the culture of the society back in the beginning of the century.

The reader starts the book to learn about Bill Tilden, and goes through the book wondering at the complexity of the tennis world in that era, finished the book finally still wondering about the complexity of this man's persona and character.

This book would make a great biographical movie, except that any producer would have a hard time finding an actor to play the role of Bill Tilden, meaning he must fit the profile of a tall lanky man, a man who can hit a decent tennis ball, and who can successfully profile a pedophile with homosexual tendencies. Overall, a must read, I would place it in my top five tennis books to read.

Until next time, take care, everyone.

Comments and Conversation

July 6, 2006

Isik Okte:

Frank Deford’s masterpiece on Bill Tilden is a must read for every human being who is remotely interested in figuring out who the real Big Bill was…

He was larger than life, in every sense of the word - a Babe Ruth like character in many ways, but unfortunately when people talk about him today the only issue that comes to people’s minds is that of his homosexuality and pedophile tendencies. What a cruel world we live in!

Bill Tilden was the first larger than life character our sport has seen. And Deford does a masterful job in bringinghim to life…

July 12, 2006

Jennifer Tams:

As always it is great to read your articles. Thanks for the book reviews.

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