Balkan Bash at Wimbledon - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Balkan Bash at Wimbledon
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Nick Kyrgios in Wimbledon final (Wide World of Sports/YouTube)

The Aussie catches one between his legs and sends it back over but to no avail, the Serb is ready near the net to put it away. Another good serve and a crosscourt sizzler and he holds, 3-4. So the Aussie is still a break up and he plays it safe, big, huge serves to hold at love and he is at 5-3.

Amazing, no? Tennis, like baseball, never a dull moment. And yet, what is it all about? Is it about love? Life? Or is this redundant? Or just having fun? Or showing off? You should see some of the folks here, including British nobility, who appear to be advertising high-end jewelry, the duchess of who knows where, I think it is Cambridge, is said to be wearing earrings worth 15 thousand simoleons, or was it 15 hundred? I probably misheard.

In truth, I rather admire this young lady, a beauty by any standard and, I am told, a fine mother of three, married to a handsome young prince who is the first-born of the late, lamented Princess Diana of whom the great Brit pop man, Sir Elton John, sings. I prefer Sir Paul McCartney, who sings wisely of letting things be. Oh, my, I hope the sun never sets on this race, notwithstanding all their tyrannous cruelty in Ireland and beyond.

Ah, here we go, the Serb, in turn, holds at love though it takes a little longer, he did it not with those amazing aces — this is not PR but simple fact, everyone agrees the Aussie lad has the best serve in today’s tennis — but with some of his patented rallies. That may be his strategy for winning, at least in the first set, get into rallies and build to a winner; he is almost unbeatable — operative word here is almost — in those.

Three aces and some miscues: interesting, the Aussie plays his strongest card and then flubs on shots he has made a thousand times. Tennis, we see, is a game of the head; but he holds all, 6-4, game and set.

The Serb’s head is solid, his veins cold as ice, he comes right back out and starts the second set on serve, holds at love.

Okay, stop for a moment. Who, what, where, when? Eh? Forget the why, at The American Spectator we are strictly just the facts and fair and accurate as can be, even at long-distance tele-tech reporting. The Aussie is Nick Kyrgios, ranked somewhere up there in the 100s and beneficiary of a wild card entry into the most prestigious, oldest, expensive (purse is about four million simoleons) tournament in the sport. If he should get it, he will be only the second wild card to do so, the first having been Goran Ivanisevic in 2001, a brilliant player from Croatia who, like Kyrgios, had fallen out of the top ranks due to circumstances and therefore, despite having made the finals before, had to get a wild card.

The Serb is Novak Djokovic, world No. 1 and deservedly so, as his only rivals, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, who are older than he, are out with injuries.

Kyrgios evens the second set with two more aces and an unreturnable serve. The man’s amazing. 1-1.

Observe that in a certain ethno-racial-historical-cultural manner of speaking — which we at TAS eschew but mention because it is of interest to certain parties — this is a Balkan bash. Kyrgios is of Greek background on his father’s side (his mother is from Malaysia) and the great Goran — and this fact, not opinion, he is a great guy physically and humanly — is in Djokovic’s corner, his coach. He is a Croatian, but for these men sports transcends politics, they are brothers here and a model to us all.

In the days of Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson, greatest Aussie players of the days when sports were sports and men were men, they coached one another, played hard as they could, drank and laughed afterward. That was then. Corruption of money in big time sports? Ours not to say, especially with Aaron Judge being paid 20 million this season (or thereabouts) to help get the Bronx Bombers the pennant. I cannot wait because then if the Amazin’ win in the other league, half the Series will be at Willets Point and I can stick around after the U.S. Open (tennis) and catch some of it. Then I will ride back into the city on the No. 7 and go home.

Enough already with the deep think. Djokovic holds, then breaks, with a spot of luck as the Kyrgios serve falters a little — but what can you see from here, maybe it is rather that Djokovic is getting the feel of it — and also a lucky break as one of his shots hits the net. The break gives him the break and it is 3-1 now and a chance to even the match.

Sure enough, the master of Belgrade holds, with excellent serves and gritty defense against Kyrgios smashes (basic mechanics: get your racquet in place and turn the other man’s power against him). 4-1.

Kyrgios seems to be getting excitable, as is his wont, but he get the ball and serves masterfully again for the hold, 2-4.

Excitable here is not pejorative, but belongs to our fair-and-accurate creed. Mr. Pleszczynski — a great tennis player and basketball standout in high school who, sadly, was tempted by erudition and bookish things and became a superb editor, condemning him (and me) to poverty — notes that if you behave excitably, then you are excitable. As Senator McCarthy used to say of walking like a duck — but I digress. The observable fact is that Nick Kyrgios is arguably the most talented player of his generation (dixit Roger Federer), but he cannot resist acting out, insulting the umps, using psycho ops against his opponents, and also he claims he prefers basketball to tennis. No one can blame him, Australia is a free country, but what about the old fair play and good sportsmanship?

Well, there is no question it is his lack of discipline that has been his own worst enemy. He shows it as he misfires a big groundstroke and lets Djokovic hold for 5-3, which, note, is not to say the Belgradian did not earn it, as he served and then rallied with the assurance that makes him, as per above, world No. 1 and top seed at Wimbledon.

Kyrgios plays with a certain calm, maybe he has got it into his head that the aces are fine — he hit 34, 35 the other day against another Greek boy, was it? — but this is Novak Djokovic and you cannot beat him with one weapon only. So he remembers that he has one of the strongest forehands in the game, a superbly tough, consistent backhand, reflexes like a third baseman, athleticism, wit — oh yes, wit matters, because tennis is a tactical sport, outwitting the other man is crucial. But can he keep it up? Over three hours?

Or even the time of a game; in fact, some Djokovic marvels, notably a fantastic drop shot you would need a dustpan to pick up, gets him the break again and with it the set and Kyrgios appears to be messing with his own head, you know that means it is all over.

Problem with kids these day, low attention span. Too many shortcuts, due to high-end tech. Too much entitlement. Well, be fair: it is not over until it is over, and, serving first in the third, Kyrgios holds. Djokovic is in his element now, however; he has used two sets to figure his man out and he plays the rallies, the chips, the drops, the serves when he needs them. He holds right back.

Surprise: A lousy call looks like an easy challenge, but Kyrgios does not scream at the ump, allowing the first double fault of the match. And instead of throwing the game away in a tantrum, he steadies his ship and holds.

So it is 1-2 on the Novak service and a beaut of a background and closing a big serve, 2-2. Maybe they are both settling into a war of skill and will. Wimbledon tennis, “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you…” Must not forget: tennis was invented in England, as were rugby, soccer, stiff upper lips, evangelical religion, free trade. It is alarming to see Albion in difficulty. But who can talk? Look at us. But ours not to reason why. Problem with “conservative journalism” is the word conservative. Journalism is neither this nor that, but fair-and-accurate. So let us cast no stones.

Then too, there is nothing off-center in speaking of a “left-wing press” or a “right-wing press,” but that is an entirely different matter. Anyway, Kyrgios holds, despite another double and some issue with the ump. When he begins complaining about the spectators, you know it is an attempt to psy-op the opponent and that means he feels his game is not going to be enough to carry him through. The tactic worked against the young Greek boy, Stefanos Tsitsipas, because he is young and not steady in his own self-confidence. It will not work against the Serb maestro. Who holds at love.

Now it is 3-3; now, yes, tennis is a mental sport, and tennis places, someone noted once, are all head cases. But in a battle of minds, you will not beat Novak Djokovic. He may beat himself — as, arguably, he has done twice at the U.S. Open, including at last year’s final against the here-banned Russian star, Daniil Medvedev, but no one will beat him at this sort of thing.

Kyrgios is going full-Nick now, and double faults again to begin his service game. He is openly abusive now, like some kind of Trump — according to unsubstantiated reports, which is why I distrust the political news these days, they have forgot the old fair-and-accurate — but somehow he pulls it out.

By contrast, Novak’s service game goes over like an Aaron Judge blast. No question whatever. So my theory is standing up, he is keeping his head while opposite him the fellow seems to be losing his. At 4-4, you know it is make-or-break time, with exceptions of course.

The reason Daniil Medvedev is not in the draw is that the Brits decided to ban Russian and Belorussian players for reasons only they can explain. The explanation is that it would be a bad show if a Russian won this tournament while the entire Free World, Britain included, is rooting for little Ukraine against the Russian conquest of the Donbas, which they say will lead to more conquests and then the fall of the West. Both Kyrgios and Djokovic have been known to express doubts about mixing sports and politics.

Then what happened was that a Russian lass named Elena Rybakina, lovely pale flat Slavic face, long blond hair and legs and all, demolished the favored player in the ladies’ final. You could not complain: she combined superb sportsmanship and a fantastic serve and steady baseline groundstrokes to overwhelm Ons Jabeur. She had a slow start but grasped that she could use power to beat shrewd tactics, slices, and drops. Frankly, it was not a terribly dramatic game (3-6, 6-2, 6-2), and everybody was polite and good-sports about it even as they allowed as how Miss Rybakina, born and raised in Moscow, was playing under the Kazakh flag. Kazakhstan is one of these Marco Polo countries that Stalin enslaved, and as best anyone knows there may be more “ethnic” Russians living there than “ethnic” Kazaks or Mongols or Azeri or what-all. I mean look at us, our best new Congress person is an “ethnic” Mexican señora who is a redwhiteandblue American if ever God made one by this great country and the family that raised her.

Kyrgios is spinning out of control: two aces and yet he still blows it and gives Djokovic the crucial break, and sure enough he serves it out, two sets to one now. Kyrgios pleads for noise, appears to be blaming his own box for not leading the distractive yells. He knows very well the ump can throw penalties at him if his coaches say anything. Then presumably he would blame the ump for persecuting him and the show would really get rolling. Foggedaboutit, and although we should never predict anything — after all, Mr. P and I thought Simona Halep would be in the ladies’ final and look what happened — you can guess where this is going. Each man holds after the inter-set pause, 1-1 in the fourth.

The truth about the Kazak lass — she is only 23 — is that she played a better match than Miss Jabeur, no question, but the reason they were there in the first place was that the changing of the guard in the ladies tour is such that the field is wide open. Miss Serena Williams went down early, and was too hurt — this is pure speculation — to participate in the pageantry of the Centre Court centennial featuring Sir Cliff and Miss Ridings. Miss Ashley Barty, world No. 1 and top Aussie since the days of Evonne Goolagong and Margaret Court, retired young after winning the Oz Open a few months ago (she won Wimbledon last year). Miss Petra Kvitova is still a marvel on court, but if you want my opinion she has not quite recovered from the knife attack she suffered at the hands of a lunatic deviant criminal. Miss Emma Raducanu, England’s young hope, and Miss Leyla Fernandez, Canada’s, are still too young and their sensational runs at Flushing Meadows last year, in hindsight, had something to do with the luck of the draw. So, you know.

Say what you will about sports and politics, Miss R. earned it and she is a beaut on the court and off and the Kazaks may be former Soviet Central Asian primitives, they called it right when they invited her to play for them due to the boorish Russian Tennis Federation dropping her. It is not just the Russians, either: the USTA failed to support the Williams sisters adequately, which was why Richard Williams, their dad, homeschooled them. And they did it again with Taylor Townsend, one of the nicest, most talented young American girls.

Human judgment is fallible. Meanwhile, while we contemplate the ladies’ draw the match produces one service hold after another and they get to 4-4. It appears Kyrgios to his credit realizes this could be it, and Djokovic will not be distracted by head games, so let’s play ball, Nick, he says to himself, and so they hold, hold, hold, using aces when they need them and careful execution in the rallies, almost holding back, prudent setups. Unless I missed something which, fair-and-accurate, is always possible.

Goodness, three aces and Kyrgios this time does not concede the crucial ninth game. He has hit 29 aces and now he must break Djokovic or it will be 5-5 and — but let the fact speak for themselves.

And the facts are that Djokovic is his typical self under pressure. At the end, he will have half as many aces as Kyrgios (15 to 30) and substantially fewer winners (40 to 60, or thereabout), and yet he wins in points won, 130 to 110 or thereabout, and, crucially, break points (two out of four chances vs. one for six). He played a classic Djokovic defense-is-the-best-offense game, and Kyrgios could not crack it.

Five-all, Novak the Great opens with a double, but keeps his head, recovers, closes with an ace. Now Nick must absolutely hold and force a tiebreak. Djokovic usually wins tiebreaks; on the other hand, keep in mind Kyrgios is one of the few players to have a winning record in matches against him; in fact, it is safe to say he is the only one. But then again, they have only met twice before this time.

Anyway, he holds. And on one of those serves, it looks like he definitely could have challenged an out call. This shows he is concentrating on playing not play-acting and, I suppose, it also shows how his antics can be controlled when he wants to control them, meaning they are tactical. Which would not excuse them if they were purely emotional. But he is the way he is, and I blame it all on the modern world.

No, I blame it on human nature, deeply flawed. Look at what happened in the mixed doubles. In the mixed doubles, it was an American triumph, with the very pretty Californian, Desirae Krawczyk, teaming with Nick Skupski to beat Matthew Ebden and Samantha Stosur, higher-ranked veterans. Well, it was a nice Anglosphere finale in that draw (Skupski is English), and Ebden, who is a throwback to gentlemanly class sportsmanship, won it all in the gentlemen’s doubles with fellow-Aussie Max Purcell, and those two really deserved it, going five sets twice to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, first from the No. 1 seeded Anglospheric Ram–Salisbury team and then in the final from yet more Balkan boys, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic. This means they beat the No.’s 1 and 2 seeds, both in five-setters and coming from behind, fantastic clutch and guts and grits.

They go to the inevitable tiebreak, as Djokovic plays it cool and shrewd. For the rest, you can figure it out.

And that’s all folks, see you next time. Not to bring politics into it, but clearly the best chance for our blessed land and our great Republic is a subway World Series and a bipartisan ticket, Webb-Crenshaw for ’24.

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