A special report on this year’s U.S. Open, killer instincts and lack thereof, eateries and politics on Washington’s east side, and more.
Overconfidence, fatigue, or what? Of course, there is always the possibility that the other player plays better. This was the loser’s own sober conclusion after the fact, yet it was astonishing to watch Roger Federer twice miss break chances that would have won his U.S. Open semi-final match against Novak Djokovic. No less surprising, the young Danish champion Caroline Wozniacki fell in the ladies’ semi to an excellent and hauntingly lovely but uneven Russian, Vera Zvonareva, who not at all surprisingly was crushed in the next match, during which she played without focus or spirit, by the Belgian tennis mom, Kim Clijsters, who in her semi-final had disposed of her rival, the magnificent if somewhat flashily attired American, Venus Williams.
Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams are past U.S. Open champions, and the crowd at Flushing Meadows felt sentimental about them as familiar faces. The 20-year old Caroline Wozniacki lost in the final to Miss Clijsters last year, but was seeded No. 1 due to an excellent season, and with her flying blond pony tail in the unusually windy conditions she looked like a football cheerleader, as did the other well-known favorite, Maria Sharapova, who lost to Miss Wozniacki in the fourth round. Kim Clijsters won the fans’ heart with her sunny nature and their minds with her strong steady play.
Novak Djokovic too is strong and steady and in his match with Roger Federer he imposed a grinding defensive game, closing points with brilliant passing shots when opportunities arose. The effort cost: by the fifth set he looked exhausted compared to Mr. Federer, but he hung in and trusted in the great champion’s self-defeating game. The legendary Swiss precision evaporated again and again as Mr. Federer’s forehand went wild, though it was with a backhand that looked like a gesture of exasperation that he lost the last point at the end of a long rally. He hit more that 60 unforced errors. Think about it: more than one per game. For an ordinary player, that would be not bad — give one up, win two, you can stay ahead. But Roger Federer? Against the number three seed? When every game counts?
However, Mariano Rivera that same weekend hit a batter on the shoulder with the bases loaded.
Not to belabor the obvious, but athletes are human. Ted Williams had a tendency toward rude arrogance, and Mickey Mantle had a self-destructive streak. No comparisons, of course, but personally, I lack the killer instinct, I admit. I tried to explain this to Mr. Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, assuring him playing with me would be no sweat, but he demurred, alleging family obligations and a heavy work load while Mr. Tyrrell journeyed into the wild blue. Actually, Mr. Pleszczynski is my kind of sportsman, quiet and thoughtful and with a deep memory and he never calls a dubious shot in his own favor. Like me, he prefers to call, Good shot old man, than, Motherf***, which is the language I usually put up with on the public courts, but you know me, I accept that our nation allows for diversity.
I have to confess I may have been spending more time than is reasonable on the public courts of Washington’s east side. The extenuating circumstance is that last spring my erstwhile partner said the hell with food. We tried to run a restaurant after the failure of our Juba Express idea. His wife walked out on him and he took a studio in Arlington and went back to teaching tennis in East Potomac Park and said food is for the birds (which is belied by his own healthy appetite) and if I found investors for our projected Tennis Club Marrakesh, as we had often discussed, to call him. Meanwhile my better half was preparing her bid for the city council. She is popular in the neighborhood, also she has a little business to run.
Abandoned on all sides, I sank to hustling games on the local public courts and left the food thing in the capable hands of my Jamaican cook, Miss Barbara Harris, who has the sunniest personality in the world and a smile to melt the ice box (actually a room), and our buddy Mr. Malloy, an ex-Marine and a retired cop who is rather on the paranoid side (like many chefs), but he has a big heart and a good head when he uses it. His cheese steaks are very big sellers, though I myself have never tasted one. I never eat restaurant food. If you knew what goes on in — but never mind.
I am not much of a betting man, but I had to hustle games if I was going to give free lessons to the local kids. There stays a bit of the teacher in me and I cannot say no to kids. Except when it is in their own interest. You have to learn when no is no. However, during the summer I cannot say “Show me your homework” before handing them a racket and letting them on the court, so they have it easy.
THE KILLER INSTINCT is what seemed to be lacking in Roger Federer all year. He started out well, beating Andy Murray at the Australian Open, but he messed up in Italy, then he messed up in Spain, then he messed up in France, then he messed up at the All-England, and then he messed up in Canada (where Murray won, briefly raising England’s hopes, though he happens to be a Scot). He played brilliantly in the early rounds of the U.S. Open, notably avenging his Roland-Garros loss to the Swede powerhouse, Robin Soderling, by taking him apart in three masterful sets. Did this make him over-confident against Novak Djokovic, or did the effort tire him? Somehow, he let things slip when he had the chance.
My ex-business partner, who was in the tour many years ago and rose to a respectable place somewhere around 200, which when you think about it — but I digress — my so-called partner told me it was stupid to waste any more money on a greasy spoon and dead-end ghetto kids and join him at Hanes Point. “You could teach young players to develop the killer instinct,” Mr. Ba said, “young players who are not going to end up in jail for sticking up your stupid shop.” He can be brutal. He apologized, however, saying he only meant you should not try to do what you cannot do.
“But I don’t have the killer instinct,” I said. I could have said I am basically a soft touch but that would have overstated the matter.
“My point exactly. Hey, did you mention our idea to the Moroccan ambassador?”
I did not want to explain that my research showed that a new tennis club in Marrakesh was not such a great idea, for all kinds of reasons, and that we should be looking further south, which meant talking to people whom the Moroccans hate. Although Mr. Ba is surely the best player against whom I have ever played a set (the score was 0-6 last time, and I seem to recall, probably in my dreams, that one time it was 2-6 due to his playing with a ping pong paddle), he has zero interest in politics and is only vaguely aware that the countries to the north of his native Senegal have, as they say, international issues.
The tennis hustle did not work very well because I never could bring myself to take money off guys I was friendly with, but the lessons were fun. Kids can get a bit rowdy, but I kept the drills going at a steady rhythm. Something went wrong with the Reinvestment Act because the neighborhood pool and club house next to our courts on Anacostia Avenue were supposed to be rebuilt (a fine use of your tax dollars), but instead they were torn down and then nothing happened. Admittedly they were putting the finishing touches on a brand new community center in the Deanwood neighborhood further east, but they only built one tennis court over there and the folks in Kenilworth were never told why some moron downtown ordered their swimming pool torn up and no replacement. This summer it got awfully warm on the public courts, and unlike last summer we could not move over to the pool when the drills ended, so we sat under the nearby tree and I brought out an ice filled cooler with drinks from the restaurant, and suggested we go spend the afternoon at the new neighborhood library — they actually did finish that project — but the kids wanted to go to the pool at Deanwood. Which figured, as who wants to sit in a library when you can be in the pool?
I said I would do it if we could get at least two parents to come along because I did not want to drive a bunch of screaming kids and then keep an eye on them in a crowded pool, exposing myself to legal hassles if one of them drowned. I know this is a cop-out. There were no parents available and I knew it. But what do I do if there is trouble, ask Vince Gray for help? When one of his people came around to the restaurant asking us to put up his campaign posters I said I wanted a liquor license in return, and I never heard from them again. But I did not put up the Fenty people’s poster, either. We put up “We Miss Marion” posters and increased sales. It is a fine neighborhood, a bit third world but hey, America is diverse. Meanwhile, my sweetheart ended her campaign and threw her support to Fenty. This did not get me a liquor license, either.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online