Bianca Andreescu: The New Tennis Queen

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In 2019, Bianca Andreescu went from an unknown to the top of the charts. She went from the bottom of the heap to the top of the hill. Her’s is a rags to riches sports story for the ages.  In Andrescu, we see that the little Davids are still conquering the giant Goliaths of sports,  and it gives us the hope and the heart to do the same.  Here’s what sports writers wrote about her epic performance this year:

“What impresses you most about Andreescu? There are so many choices. Power. Athleticism. Strategy. Toughness. Winner’s mentality? Which one did Andreescu use to win?

I resist choosing one, because there’s interplay between all the things you just mentioned. But I remain dumbfounded by the way the final played out. Truth serum: when Andreescu failed to convert that match point at 6-2, 5-1 and suddenly the score was 6-2, 5-5—with the Mighty Serena Williams awoken; a crowd of 24,000 squarely partial to the veteran player; a transformative moment seeming to have passed—I had existential concerns.  My thought process: “Serena is going to win the match now, and tie the record. The crowd will go wild and this will be an incredible, indelible moment, a fitting coda to Serena’s career.”

https://www.si.com/tennis/2019/09/11/tennis-mailbag-us-open-rafa-nadal-bianca-andreescu

But it didn’t happen. Here’s what did happen, according to the New Yorker:

“In her 2019 U.S. Open Victory, Bianca Andreescu showed us the swagger that Serena Williams brought to women’s tennis.

Before 2019, Bianca Andreescu was mostly unknown. She began the year ranked No. 152 in the world. But, ever since, she has defeated some of the best players in the world, demonstrating a stunning array of skills—flat, deep ground strokes topping out at close to ninety miles per hour; moony topspin shots designed to disrupt the rhythm of her opponent; nasty skidding slices and delicate drop shots—and the intelligence, imagination, and audacity to use them effectively. She exposed Kerber’s defense-minded game, which Kerber has used to win three grand slams, as one-dimensional. More than that, though, she showed self-assurance—the kind of competitive intensity and unapologetic swagger usually reserved for a few legends of the game. She carried herself more like Serena Williams than like what she was: a teen-ager with a wild card.

That shoulder problem turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. Andreescu had to retire from her fourth-round match in Miami. After pulling out of her second-round match at the French Open, still struggling with the injury, she missed the entire grass season. Then she returned to tour—and promptly won the Canadian Open. She has not lost a completed match since March 1st. She has never, in her career, lost to a top-ten player. (She is now 8–0.) And, on Saturday, she defeated Williams in dramatic fashion, 6–3, 7–5, to win the U.S. Open.

That was part of the story of the women’s final. There was also the player on the other side of the net. Williams came into the match just having won her hundred and first match at the U.S. Open. She was seeking her twenty-fourth grand-slam title, which would tie her with Margaret Court’s total—a record that, given the number of titles Court won in Australia, against weaker fields, only means anything because it seems to have become a strange sort of stumbling block for Williams. Since coming back last year, after giving birth, she has made four slam finals. The over-all level of the tour had risen in her absence, and yet no one else could claim that kind of consistency. But the finals matches themselves have been another story. She had yet to win a single set in any of those matches.

This time, though, there was an air of inevitability about her. She had played well all tournament, starting with a sharp performance against her favorite honing steel, Maria Sharapova, and including an utter dismantling of Wang Qiang, in forty-four minutes, in the quarter-finals, and an even more impressive win against Elina Svitolina, in the semifinals. It wasn’t solely the show of her usual power, which few players can match. She was also fit in a way that she hadn’t been since recovering from the difficult birth of her daughter, which was followed by a string of injuries.

In this final, her movement—not only forward and back but side to side—was finally there, both steady and explosive. Against Svitolina, who has risen into the top five on the strength of her ability to extend points, Williams was actually the superior mover, and won the majority of their long rallies. She had, too, a calmness about her that had often seemed lacking during her comeback.

As a cultural icon—as an inspirational figure, as a brand—Williams has never been bigger, but during the finals matches her aura had seemed diminished. She has won countless matches in her career by imposing herself before the first serve was even struck, but her past four finals opponents had come out obviously feeling less pressure than her. This was understandable, given what she was up against—not only her opponent but also the expectations, even the assumptions, of millions, most of all herself. But, during this tournament, the confidence seemed back. Her first serve, always the most important weapon, was humming at high speeds; the tuning fork seemed to be struck.

It wasn’t that Andreescu was oblivious to any of this; she knows the legend of Williams as well as anyone. There was never a time, in fact, during Andreescu’s life when Williams wasn’t winning; Williams won her first U.S. Open title before Andreescu was even born. Andreescu admitted to being nervous before the match. But she seemed more concerned with her own inevitability. She really did carry herself like a queen.

Williams began the match with an ace, but Andreescu was unphased. She put pressure on Williams’s serve with heavy, attacking returns. “I think she was intimidated a little bit by it,” she said afterward—not something I can remember anyone saying about Williams, ever. But perhaps she was right: Williams double-faulted twice to give Andreescu the first break. From there, Andreescu seemed only to get stronger. She used big body serves to bail her out of trouble—much the way Williams always has. She used the depth of her ground strokes to set up sharp angles or rockets down the line. She set patterns and broke them, and seemed to unsettle Williams, who put only forty-four per cent of her first serves into play and finished with eight double faults. Williams’s footwork was off. Andreescu’s shouts of “Let’s go!” and “Come on!” echoed strangely in the silent stadium. She reached her first championship point up 5–1 in the second set. It seemed, for a moment, hard to watch.

But Williams, ever the competitor, fought back. She saved championship point with a forehand into the corner, and then started to move. Andreescu was the one then whose racquet looked heavy, her swings slower and her serves starting to miss. Williams levelled the score at 5–5, lifted by and in turn lifting a raucous crowd—which was so loud, and so much in Williams’s favor, that at one point Andreescu covered her ears to try to block it out.

Another young player might have cracked at that point, watching such a lead slip away, playing passively, while knowing what Williams can do when she finds her form. Andreescu, though, settled herself, held serve, and broke to win the match.”

https://www.newyorker.com/sports/sporting-scene/in-her-us-open-victory-bianca-andreescu-shows-the-swagger-that-serena-williams-brought-to-womens-tennis

Rafael Nadal v. Daniil Medvedev: Survival Of the Fittest

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Rafael Nadal just won his 19th Grand Slam singles title as he was recently crowned the 2019 US Open Tennis Tournament champion. But it wasn’t easy. Nadal won because he outlasted his opponent. That’s it.  Nadal didn’t necessarily play better or serve better or volley better. He just lasted longer. And that’s the life lesson; sometimes you don’t win big by blowing out your opponent. Sometimes you just figure out a way to stay on your feet for five hours and will your way to a win. It takes guts and grit and resolve and a unanimous resolution to win the match we saw Rafael win on Sunday night. And it was one for the ages.

There were so many lessons and so many story lines and so many memories made that time would fail to capture them all in in one blog. But there’s one story line that I love. It’s about the heart of a champion. Here’s how a Washington Post writer described Nadal’s marathon match with Daniil Medvedev:

“In one of those occasional and stupendous sporting events that winds up flattering the runner-up every ounce as much as the winner, Rafael Nadal spent Sunday evening withstanding a championship match donnybrook rich in unbelievable volleys and awe inspiring, gasping points. A U.S. Open final that was an almost peerless, instant classic was built to such heights that the far-fetched story within it seemed to outweigh even the long-term significance it caused.

Daniil Medvedev, the 6-foot-6, 23-year-old Russian who looks as if he has never encountered a fat gram, spent the 4 hours 50 minutes of Nadal’s 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 win showing that his beanpole frame houses a humongous heart.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/09/08/us-open-mens-final-rafael-nadal-seeks-th-grand-slam-title/?noredirect=on

And so there you have it. Every time we outlast an opposition, we wonder how we made it over. The how is in the heart. And you don’t just need heart; you need a humongous heart, just like the tender, leathery heart of love that our Lord displayed for us on Calvary. The victory of the Cross wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Rafael Nadal would say the same about his momentous US Open Championship win.  And when we are still standing after the enemy has thrown his best at us, we too can say the same.

Tiger Woods Wins The 2019 Masters!

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In what might be the greatest comeback in sports history, Tiger Woods outlasted a loaded leaderboard to win the 2019 Masters and win his first major in more than a decade.

Tiger did it. He absolutely did it. After five years and major surgery, Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters golf tournament. And despite what you think of him or what he went through, his comeback is noteworthy. It took faith and guts and fortitude and gumption.

So here’s to Tiger. He came back and his comeback is a throwback to when we fell in love with him way back.

Here’s how Sports Illustrated reported the epic win:

“Tiger shot a final-round 70 on Sunday at the Masters to claim his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship, his first since 2008. Woods trailed Francesco Molinari by two shots entering the final day, but used a vintage back-nine to claim the tournament, redemption and a victory many golf fans thought they would never see.”

So you see, on this Good Friday, we look back to the Cross, the Old Rugged Cross, and remember that after death comes life. And for Tiger, after a meteoric rise and a very public and humiliating fall, he too has risen from the dead.

18 Innings?  Dodgers Win Instant Classic In A World Series Seminar On Perseverance

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Max Muncy Celebrates His 18th Inning Walk Off Homer in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series

Some wins don’t come easy. And some loses come after you’ve given it all you’ve got. So is the story of Game 3 of the 2018 World Series played at storied Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles between the Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers. It has become an instant classic for its longevity and its lesson on durability.

Late into the Pacific time zone night and early into the East Coast morning, neither team was willing to yield an inch in this pivotal, potentially Series deciding game between these two baseball superpowers. It was a vintage Ali-Frazier, 15 Round heavyweight fight which left both boxers bloody and bludgeoned. After 18 innings of jitters and nerves, the Dodgers emerged, or rather survived, this bought with the hope and confidence that they can yet pull another rabbit of their hat and actually win this Series. Lose the game and they would be down 0-3; win and they cut the deficit to 2-1; it’s a difference and differential that’s as wide and wanton as you can get. No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in the World Series.

This game had enough ups and downs and gripping drama and nail-bighting tension to fill half a season, all wrapped up in a 7 hour and 20 minute baseball battle. Ironically enough, I wrote about the last longest game in postseason history too. That one was “only” six and one half hours long. See https://godandsports.net/2014/10/05/unforgettable-wins-and-unspeakable-loses/

We all like quick and easy. We all like instant and immediate. We all like it and want it now, and when we’re in a hurry, “right now.” But life is not always so obliging. Life does not always cooperate with our desires and demands. The hard but necessary lesson is this: Heaven uses the vicissitudes of life to teach us that what we want does not always come when we want it. Sometimes we are required to wait it out and tough it out. Sometimes we have to persist and preserve through an 18 inning type of trial and suck it up and stick it out until victory is won.

It’s a part of our spiritual training and is a page out of God’s playbook. To endure and to stand and to stomach and hold on and hold out will teach us how much God loves us and how much He has already endured for us, especially on the Cross. Ours is to trust that He still knows what’s best for us.

I don’t know where you are, but that’s where I’m at, because “life can be queer with its twists and turns, as everyone of us sometimes learns . . . but just don’t quit.”

Here’s how ESPN Staff Writer Bradford Doolittle put it:

“With a Cody Bellinger throw and a Max Muncy blow, the Los Angeles Dodgers have crawled back into the World Series. It only took the longest game in the history of the Fall Classic to do it.

Muncy’s dramatic opposite-field home run in the 18th inning off Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi lifted the Dodgers to a will-testing 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series, which started late Friday afternoon but ended early Saturday morning, cutting the Red Sox’s lead in the World Series to 2-1.

It was L.A.’s first walk-off Series win since Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 homer off Dennis Eckersley in 1988, which sparked the Dodgers to their last title. Muncy became the first player to hit a game-ending homer in a World Series game since former Cardinal and current Dodger David Freese in 2011. Not bad for a player who was released by the Oakland A’s before last season.

“It’s been a dream,” Muncy said. “This whole year has been a surreal experience that it’s hard to put into words. Just getting a chance to play in the World Series has kind of capped it off. Getting a chance to hit a walk-off home run, obviously there’s not many words I can use to describe that. The feeling was just pure joy and incredible excitement.”

It also was an act of mercy for everyone on hand at Dodger Stadium and watching on TV. The homer ended a game that lasted 7 hours, 20 minutes and ended at 3:30 a.m. Boston time. The time of game would have been long for a doubleheader. It also was the longest World Series contest by innings.” http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/25094012/mlb-max-muncy-gives-los-angeles-dodgers-epic-world-series-win

Note to Jason Garret: Go For It!

Jason Garrett Jason Garret, the current (emphasis on “current”) coach of the Dallas Cowboys, decided to punt the ball back to the Texans in OT instead of going for it on 4th and 1. Seriously.  And it cost his team the game.  The lesson is crystal clear: there are times to play it safe and there are times to take a chance, or a risk, or more pointedly, a leap of faith.   The only problem is, you need to know in your knower which time is the right time, and which time is the wrong time, to go for it. But you absolutely have to know.

Winning is all about faith. It’s about believing in yourself and in your teammates and having the courage to move forward when the odds are against you.  To get touchdowns you first need to get first downs, and Dallas failed on both counts last night against the Texans. And it was a bad decision by the coach that lead to the latest Dallas debacle.  

Here’s how one sports writer put it:

“I’m going to say something that folks who cover the NFL haven’t have reason to say in a long time — Jerry Jones was right.

In overtime of Sunday night’s loss to the Texans, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett opted to punt on fourth-and-1 from Houston’s 42-yard line on the first possession of the extra frame. That needlessly cautious decision gave Houston the ball back, and they drove 72 yards down the field to kick the game-winning goal.

After the game, Jones called out his coach. ‘We were being outplayed. It’s time for risks at that particular time.’

He’s right.” Jerry Jones, for once, was absolutely right. This time. https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/10/8/17950526/cowboys-texans-fourth-down-punt-overtime-jerry-jones-criticism-jason-garrett-hot-seat

So let’s learn the lesson; when everything is on the line, don’t play it safe . . . GO FOR IT!

Aggressive Faith: How To Come Back From Way Back

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Stanford Coach David Shaw Says You Just Gotta Believe

 

We love college football. And the only thing we love more than college football is college basketball and March Madness. But it’s the first full day of Fall 2018, and it’s football weather, so we’re in for upsets, comebacks and turnarounds, college football style.

In the Stanford – Oregon game — played in Eugene Oregon, mind you – with the score 24 -7, Ducks, Oregon running back Jaylon Redd appeared to have scored a touchdown, but he was later ruled to go out-of-bounds just inside the 1-yard line. He hit the pylon, and the pylon is out of bounds. It is?  Who knew? Anyway, no big deal, right? The way the Ducks were playing, they were destined to punch it in on the next play and take a seemingly insurmountable 31-7 lead in the first half. Right?  Wrong.

Wouldn’t ya know it, a bad snap sailed over Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert’s head. Stanford’s Joey Alfieri scooped it up and ran 80 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden, a 14-point swing has the Cardinal down by just 10 points. After the game, Coach David Shaw called it the turning point of the game. And then, the Ducks go three and out, and the next time Stanford touches the ball, they go right down the field like it’s a walk in the park and they get another touchdown. That made the score 24 -21 at half-time, when it could have been 31 -7, Ducks.  Unbelievable.

And the final score? Stanford 38, Oregon 31, OT. Talk about a comeback for the ages.

The Stanford Cardinal (Cardinal is singular, mind you – but don’t ask) is ranked No. 7 in the nation. No. 7!  But they sure didn’t look like it in the early going, as Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert picked Stanford apart. It looked like a shooting gallery. It was like shootin’ ducks in a barrel – get it? Ha ha.  Anyway, Stanford couldn’t do anything right, and Oregon seemingly couldn’t do anything wrong. But that all changed in an instant. And as we live and breathe, we also believe that what’s going wrong can go right, if we only put feet to our faith.

After the miraculous comeback, Stanford Coach David Shaw said this:

 

We talk so much about believing. And not just about believing, but believing in the work and the effort and believing in the passion that we have for each other.

Wow. Coach Shaw sounds like a preacher! And he’s right. He’s exactly right. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. But you first have to believe; you must have faith.  And then you must put feet to your faith. We need not just talk about believing; we need to put our faith in action put our confidence in God in motion and do more than just believe. And that’s exactly what Stanford did.

Stanford came back from way back because they hung in there. Stanford was aggressive in the second half, and took advantage of every opportunity that came their way. And that’s what we need to do. We need to have aggressive faith. When we’re down, we should never feel like were out.

In this season, many of us are praying for revival. As we pray for a revival in the land, we should also pray for a revival in our souls. We should ask God to give us a personal revival. And as we pray, we should sing this great hymn by W. P. Mackay:

Hallelujah, thine the glory!

Hallelujah, Amen!

Hallelujah, thine the glory!

Revive us again.

 

 

 

Note to Vonte Davis: “Don’t Quit Halfway Through”

 

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Vontae Davis Walks Out and Walks Away

Vontae Davis quit halfway through.  That’s right. A PROFESSIONAL NFL football player actually played one half of a game, took a look around him, and realized how bad the situation was, and, instead of pledging to help make it better, he quit. Forget this retirement rhetoric; that’s garbage. Dude quit.  Vontae Davis called it quits at halftime, when his Bills were losing 28-6 to the Chargers.  The final score was 31 – 20.

For the first time in NFL history, a player, namely the Buffalo Bills’ cornerback Vontae Davis, called it a career and retired at halftime. With the Bills looking like the worst team in the NFL, per CBS Sports, this sudden change to the team’s roster is unlikely to make things better.  

The veteran defensive back  pulled the most incredible exit in NFL history yesterday when he decided at halftime that he was calling it a career. He pulled himself out of the game,  put on his street clothes, walked out of the stadium and decided to retire, right there. This is one of the Bills’ starting cornerbacks!  The 30-year-old cornerback, a first-round pick in 2009, spent a majority of his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts. He played in 121 games and finishes his career with 22 interceptions and 98 pass deflections. 

So let’s analyze the situation for a minute: Yes the Bills stink. In the season opener on Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Baltimore Ravens dominated the game and slaughtered the Bills with a final score of 47 to 3.  That’s beyond bad. And no, you don’t get better in an instant. But yes, the Bills were a playoff team last year. But no, you don’t quit halfway through. It’s that simple. It’s like cheating, or accusing someone of cheating that isn’t cheating. You don’t. You just don’t. 

Davis said later that he came to the realization during the first half that he didn’t belong on an NFL football field any longer and that he should just retire. (Buffalo was down 28–6, so maybe a few other players should have had the same epiphany.) He said he didn’t mean to disrespect his teammates but they clearly still felt disrespected.

But don’t we teach our children not to give up and not to give in? Don’t we teach our boys and girls to be team players and not to be selfish? Aren’t we supposed to model before the next generation how to gut it out and suck it up? 

Incredibly, some are defending Davis for what he did. Why? Because this is a me first generation. This is an “I before we, me before you” and everybody else society that doesn’t give a hoot about how their actions affect anyone else.  And it’s said. It’s all so, so said.

 Here’s what Mr. Davis had to say for himself:

“This isn’t how I pictured retiring from the NFL,” Davis said, via NFL network. “But in my 10th NFL season, I have been doing what my body has been programmed to do: get ready to play on game day. I’ve endured multiple surgeries and played through many different injuries throughout my career and, over the last few weeks, this was the latest physical challenge.”

“I meant no disrespect to my teammates and coaches. But I hold myself to a standard. Mentally, I always expect myself to play at a high level,” Davis said, via NFL network. “But physically, I know today that isn’t possible and I had an honest moment with myself. While I was on the field, I just didn’t feel right, and I told the coaches, ‘I’m not feeling myself’.”

So you quit at halftime? Seriously?  He signed a one year deal with the Bills who weren’t that bad last year. But that was then, and this is now.  We’ve all learned that decisions should not be made on a whim or in the heat of the moment. Davis’s snap decision in the “now” moment certainly could be rethought or, even rescinded. But based on his statement, it doesn’t look like that will be the case. 

Mr. Davis went out and he put a bad taste in a lot of fans and players mouths.  And that’s just not how one should want to be remembered.