Rafael Nadal vs. 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.

Is Serena Williams The Best Women’s Tennis Player Ever?

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Who are the best athletes ever?

In some sports, there is an ongoing, if not raging debate about who is the G.O.A.T., a.k.a., the greatest of all time. But not in women’s tennis. In women’s tennis there isn’t even the slightest hint of discussion about the best to play the game, ever.

In Basketball, the debate rages on between LeBron and Michael. And for football quarterbacks, it’s Brady vs. Montana, with honorable mentions to Bradshaw, Marino and Favre, Steve Young and John Elway and Peyton Manning, and of course, Roger Staubach.

Hockey is easy: Gretzy the Great will forever hold that title. Baseball is a little harder to pin down, but certainly it’s got to be the Babe or some other Yankee. In other sports, such as women’s gymnastics, Nadia Comaneci’s name comes immediately to mind as she is certainly is at the top of the list. In men’s swimming, Michael Phelps has dominated of late.

Since it’s the season for Wimbledon, we focus on tennis. In men’s tennis, Federer just lost in the quarterfinals for the first time ever (that was a fluke, right?), but he’s still got to be at the top of the list along with Nadal and Sampras and my man Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl and McEnroe and Andre Agassi and even Jimmy Connors.

But when it comes to women’s tennis, there is absolutely no debate. None. We all loved watching Chrissy Everett, and respected Martina Navratilova, and Monica Seles and Steffi Graff. But when it comes to tennis, there is only one queen. Serena. Not even her sister Venus gets an honorable mention. Serena reigns supreme.

Serena is one win away from wining her eighth major championship, at Wimbledon alone. Here’s how ESPN put it:

“Even after more than a year away from the tour, even after a health scare while having a baby a little more than 10 months ago, Williams is still capable of dominance.

A relatively routine 6-2, 6-4 semifinal victory over 13th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany on Thursday put Williams into her 10th final at the All England Club and moved her closer to a 24th Grand Slam title, which would equal Margaret Court’s record.

‘It’s crazy. I don’t even know how to feel, you know, because literally, I didn’t expect to do this well in my fourth tournament back,’ Williams said. ‘I just feel like when I don’t have anything to lose, I just can play so free, and that’s kind of what I’m doing.’

After hitting five aces with a serve that reached 119 mph, delivering 16 winners to only seven unforced errors, and covering the court so well with speed and effort against Goerges, Williams will face another German, 11th-seeded Angelique Kerber, on Saturday. http://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/24076249/wimbledon-2018-serena-williams-angelique-kerber-reach-final

That was the play-by-play. Now here’s the commentary: the great ones in every sport inspire us to do our best, to be at our best, and to stay at our best. Because we love to watch the best, and only the best. We like excellence in everything, especially sports. And that’s what sports do for us. Great players give us excellence, and the best ones do that (mostly) all of the time.

Spiritually, God requires excellence as well. Since we can’t be at our best all of the time on our own, He now asks — not demands, but asks — that allow Him to help us be at our best, live at our best, and stay at our best, all of the time. Naturally, that’s what Serena is doing on the court. Naturally and spiritually, that’s God wants to help us do every day in every way.

World Series GRAND SLAM!

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When’s the last time you saw a grand slam in the World Series? Never? Probably so. The last grand slam home run hit in a World Series was in 2005. And so we’ve got ourselves a humdinger of a World Series. So there is hope for the Chicago Cubs, and their if’s maybe turning into when.

Yes, “if” may be turning into “when.” The Chicago Cubs are leading 7-0 (now 7-2) in Game 6 of the 2016 World Series, ON THE ROAD in Cleveland, and they seem to be on their way to tying this series at 3-3 after being down 3-1. And so I say again, the “if” may be turning to when.

When the Cubs fell behind 3-1 in games, we said that they needed a miracle. And “if” they could pray up a miracle, then “when” could come. Well . . . I believe in miracles. And the Cubbies and their championship starved fans may well have prayed up a miracle of miracles tonight as Addison Russell hit a one out Grand Slam bomb to center field to blow the game open in the bottom of the third inning.

So, the question was “if” the Cubs could hit, or when the Cubs do hit, they might be able to get back into the series. The “if” has now turned into when as the Cubs hit a Grand Slam, and they are still hitting.

So, we’ll see you at Game 7.

Serena Is At It Again

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When you’re hot you’re hot. And Serena Williams is hot and she’s at it again. She’s playing at a high level and showing the rest of the tennis world how it’s done. And in so doing, she is showing us how life can be lived when we focus and dial in and double down on destiny.

Serena is marching and moving and making her way toward destiny and history. Serena sees the light at the end of the tunnel, which is a calendar year Grand Slam – winning the Australian, French, and US Tennis Opens in a calendar year, with Wimbledon mixed in between.

Serena is in the moment. And knowing and seizing and grasping and grabbing the moment is something that few athletes can do. And yet Serena is right there. And that’s a testimony and a testament for us all. Serena is on a mission, and we are going along for the ride. Serena is sassy and sizzling and yes, sensational. And we are enjoying every point and every serve and every return and every forehand and every backhand and every ace of this race to extend her dynasty and to further establish her legacy.

For those of that can’t play a lick of tennis, we can listen and learn and study and survey and assess and appraise the great ones, and take from them the nuggets and tidbits and morsels and fragments that fall from their tables and feast on them ourselves.

And more than that, we can learn the lessons and take the treats and pocket the pleasures that a sports great like Serena is serving up and apply them to our everyday lives.

Work Ethic: A Family Affair

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God worked.  He worked for six days, creating the heavens and the earth, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea and the beasts of the field.  God worked diligently and deliberately. God worked efficiently and effectively and he expects us to do the same. God worked and I believe God worked hard and He worked smart. If He could, God would have come early and stayed late.  God would have worked overtime if He had to, to get the job, or “get ‘er” done. Yes God finished the work he had been doing and rested on the seventh day, but for six days, He worked.

Adam worked.  God made man to work.   “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  Adam worked hard and he worked smart.  He was responsible for all of the animals and the tilling of the ground. Adam had and developed a work ethic.

Work ethic is a value based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. A work ethic includes being reliable, having initiative, and pursuing goals and new skills. Players and workers exhibiting a good work ethic in theory should be selected for better positions, more responsibility and ultimately promotion.

Rahab worked. She had faith, but was also  justified by her works. “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25).   James goes on to say that “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (v. 17). Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” 

The Williams sisters have a solid work ethic.  A solid  work ethic has led Serena Williams to win an astonishing seventeen-time Grand Slam titles. The older Venus is a seven-time Grand Slam title winner.

The Williams sisters have worked for the honors they have achieved. Both sisters have had the honor of being ranked by the Women’s Tennis Association at the World No. 1 position. In 2002, after the French Open, Venus Williams and Serena Williams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. During the 2010 French Open, they became the co-world no.1 players in women’s doubles, in addition to holding the top two positions in singles tennis as well.

Williams Sisters

Because God worked, and Adam worked, and Rahab and all of the other mighty men and women of faith worked, we are to work as well.  “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).  And here is the kicker: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (v. 20).

So work hard and work smart. Pray. Fast. Fast and pray. Study the Word of God. Work at it.  Be diligent and deliberate, not haphazard and higgledy-piggledy; be efficient and effective, not jumbled and mumbled. Your spiritual hard work will pay off. And you will be able to “rest” from your labor, AFTER you work.  When we die to our selfish and sinful ways, our “death” will result in new life. Dying in the Lord is both natural and spiritual.  Resting is both natural and spiritual as well.

“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them’ (Revelation 14:13).