Paul E. Anna: High Points
Aspen, CO Colorado
What a year it has been for the individual sports.
First we had an epic U.S. Open golf tournament where Tiger Woods returned from knee surgery to sink a 12-foot put on the final hole and force a Monday playoff. That mano-a-mano Monday round with Rocco Mediate was one of the great matches in golf history as Tiger prevailed, again on the 18th, and promptly went back to Park City for more knee surgery.
Then there was last week’s epic 4-hour, 48-minute drama at The Championships. The Wimbledon men’s final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was one of the great events not just in tennis history but also in the history of all sport. Two champions at the top of their game banging it out with clutch point after clutch point into the fading light at Wimbledon’s centre court. It was just riveting.
Due to rain delays the contest lasted more than seven hours, with Nadal emerging triumphant, gaining a 9-7 final-set decision. It was one of those rare events where you wanted both players to win, and, in the end, neither player was a loser. Consider that Nadal won 209 total points to Federer’s 204 points in the match. If the points averaged four shots per point (and that would be conservative despite the 31 combined aces ” 25 for Federer, 6 for Nadal), that would mean the pair hit more than 1,600 shots. And at the end they were playing as if it were the opening salvo. Simply incredible.
Now we move south for the Tour de France. While the past few years have seen scandal, and the shadow of Lance still looms large, the Tour is still one of my favorite events. Each night the French countryside illuminates my kitchen and living room as it hurtles by in high-definition on the big screen. It is video wallpaper for hot July nights. Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin, the two TV commentators who broadcast the event on Versus, seem like houseguests as the miles roll by.
I may not be able to tell Christian Vande Velde from Alejandro Valverde in the other 11 months of the year, but in July they take center stage in our house. I watched with horror last night as race-leader Stefan Schumacher clipped the rear tire of Luxembourg’s Kim Kirchen in the final kilometer of the climb to Super-Besse and tumbled to the pavement, losing the yellow jersey to, ironically, Kirchen, who must be the man in Luxembourg today. The stage win went to Italy’s Riccardo Ricco, and I can’t wait to see how the Cobra does in the mountain stages as the Tour trudges towards the Pyrenees.
The Tour will continue to wind its way through France until Sunday, July 27, when the riders will take several largely ceremonial laps around the Champes Elysees. A new champion will be crowned, and it will all be over until next year.
But never fear. Just 12 days later the Olympic torch will be lit, and Beijing will be my new wallpaper.
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