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

You Wanna’ Bet?

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The Eagles were not supposed to make the playoffs this year, but they did. At one point in this post Super Bowl celebration season, the Eagles were 4-6 after being embarrassed by the New Orleans Saints in a 48 -7 blowout loss.

The Eagles weren’t supposed to beat DA Bears in Chicago at Soldier Field. But they did.  The Chicago Bears have the NFL’s No. 1 Defense, and everybody said that the Eagles didn’t stand a chance against them.

And Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey WAS supposed to make a field goal to win the game, but he didn’t. Cody Parkey missed a very makeable 43-yard field goal with five seconds left on the clock. And Parkey didn’t just miss it, he hit the left upright – again (he hit the upright five times this season) and then the ball bounced off the crossbar into the end zone.   And the final irony is that Cody Parkey is a former Eagle!

Final score: Eagles 16 – Bears 15. Game over.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles did it again. Nick Foles lead the Eagles to yet another improbable, late game comeback. This time it was against the most dominant defense in football, on the road, late in the game with his team’s back against the wall.

Saint Nick engineered a 12-play, 60-yard drive in the closing minutes and found trade-deadline acquisition Golden Tate for a 2-yard touchdown on fourth down to lift the Eagles over the Chicago Bears, 16-15, in a wild-card matchup at Soldier Field. The Eagles earned the right and advance to play the top-seeded New Orleans Saints in the divisional round Sunday.

The slang term “you wanna bet” is said in answer to something that someone has said, meaning that you are certain that they are wrong. Case in point, the Eagles improbable Super Bowl Victory last year when everybody bet against us, but we still won. Need I say more?

Now, in this post Super Bowl celebration season, Eagles fans believe that we are playing with house money. According to the Urban Dictionary, “playing with house money refers to money that was given to you, easily obtained or stumbled upon. In other words risking it in a bet means you would have nothing to lose. Eagles fans are certain that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain in these playoffs. It’s kinda like last year when no one picked us to win the Super Bowl when Carson Wentz went down to injury. But everybody was wrong.

In sports playing on house money refers to going up against an overwhelming favorite and playing loose and free like you have nothing to lose. A number 16 seed playing against a number one seed in the NCAA tourney would be playing on house money. And the Eagles, the No 6 Seed in this year’s NFL Playoffs tournament, are absolutely the underdog AGAIN!

Living life on house money refers to narrowly escaping death at some previous point in your life. In other words you have defied death and every day that you are still breathing is a bonus. And that is what we as believers do. Through Jesus Christ we have escaped death. Now we have nothing to lose and everything to gain if we live our lives sold out in complete obedience to the will and ways of God. It takes faith and courage. Because God never fails.

So the moral of the story is, I don’t encourage or endorse betting, but you can always bet on God. Always.

You wanna’ bet? 

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Nick Foles

In Philly, Nick Foles is a saint.  Nick may nay not nary be a saint in the eyes of the Catholic Church, but in Philly he was eligible for sainthood last year, because he was the MVP of the SUPER BOWL! And this year he’s just adding to own his lore and legend, because he works miracles on the football field.  A few weeks ago, the Eagles didn’t have a prayer of making the playoffs. Now, with Saint Nick doing his thing, all we need is faith in “The Process.”

Saint Nick just did it again.  “The Process” seems to be to trust in the Eagles as the underdog, and throw caution to the wind. Nick just came off of the bench at the end of the season and marched into the fray to stave off elimination from the playoffs in front of a rabid, ravenous crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philly.  

AND Nick just had the game of his life as he set a personal and FRANCHISE record for an Eagles QB.  In other words, Saint Nick just had a better game than Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb AND Carson Wentz ever had.  Saint Nick threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns with an interception that was not his fault (sounds like the Super Bowl!)  Nelson Agholor caught five passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, Zack Ertz caught 12 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns and Alshon Jeffery caught three passes for 82 yards. Wow!

But the Texans didn’t go down without a fight.  Houston QB Deshaun Watson went 29-of-40 for 339 yards and two touchdowns. He was the Texans’ offense, leading the team in rushing with 49 yards and two rushing touchdowns on eight carries The Texans rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a one-point lead with 2:04 remaining. But Saint Nick did Watson one better.

Saint Nick drove the Eagles to a game-winning field goal on the final play, keeping his team’s playoff hopes alive with a 32-30 victory. Philadelphia needs a win next weekend at Washington plus a Vikings loss to clinch the No. 6 seed.

And let’s not forget about Jake Elliott, who missed an extra point earlier in the game but redeemed himself as he kicked a 35-yard field goal after Foles drove the Eagles 72 yards in 11 plays in the final 2:04.

And so the moral of the story is this: Saint Nick is absolutely playing better than Carson Wentz. There. I said it. All of Philly loves Carson Wentz , but right now, Saint Nick is the one with the marvelous, miracle, almost mysterious football mannerisms. Nick is my pick to kick start the Eagles right into the playoffs . . .

 . . . and beyond.

Cinderella vs. Cinderella!

I called it! I’m not bragging or anything but I absolutely called it. The Washington Capitals just defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Game 7 ON THE ROAD, and for the first time in franchise history, mind you, they’ve reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Now it’s the Las Vegas Golden Knights versus the Washington Capitals for the championship – Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s a unique matchup. It’s unprecedented and almost unheard of.

These two teams were not picked to go this far or to fair this well. But they have overcome the odds and come over the obstacles laid out against them. The Caps and Golden Knights have recovered their own fumbles and debunked the doubters and jeared the court jesters to reach the threshold of the summit of their sport. These two teams now make it almost impossible for the casual observer to choose a fair-haired favorite or pick the one most popular.

Sports fans now have a “Sophia’s Choice.” In other words, the NHL now has a peculiar problem. We now have two Cinderella teams going head – to – head, playing for all the marbles. But only one team can win. Because no participation trophies will be given out here. The lone winner takes home the Stanley Cup Trophy!

So who ya got?

The Las Vegas Golden Knights!

Who would have thunk it? Few would have thought it. And fewer still would have dreamed it. The expansion team in Vegas, the Golden Knights, the dark horse in the race to win the Stanley Cup, are one step away from winning it all. What a story.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights became the second expansion team in the NHL, NBA, NFL or MLB history since 1960 to reach a championship series in their first season. The other team was the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues. It’s an incredible success for a team that had no expectations. The Golden Knights’ management publicly declared a goal of making the playoffs in three years and competing for a Stanley Cup in six.

But in their maiden voyage year, this upstart is about to pull off the unthinkable; an unprecedented triumph of epic proportions. The odds makers had Vegas at 500-1 to win the Stanley Cup Finals! Not 10-1, or even 100-1; 500 -1! Incredible! In theological language, that translates to “they didn’t have a prayer.”

But they must have prayed, because the Hockey gods or the God of Heaven has heard and headed their humble cry.

Who said miracles are a thing of the past?  I’ll be rooting for Vegas!

Heartbreak Sixers Leave Fans at the Playoff Altar

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Joel Embiid Runs Out Of Gas Against the Celtics

Philly fans love their Sixers. Truth is, we love our sports. We just won the Super Bowl, the Flyers made the playoffs and are relevant, and the Phillies are doing their part by winning too.

But it’s the Sixers that just broke our hearts because we had our hopes up, but maybe too high; and that’s the fans fault. They told us to “Trust The Process” and we did. They promised us the playoffs and they delivered. They teased and tantalized us into thinking they were better than just making the playoffs. And truth be told they are and they’re not.

The Sixers just lost ANOTHER heartbreaker, this time AT HOME in OT to the Boston Celtics. With 1.7 seconds left on the clock in regulation, they forced overtime on Marco Belinelli’s answered prayer-two pointer that looked like a three at the buzzer to force an extra session, but it wasn’t enough.  Embiid wasn’t enough. And Simmons (better than one point) wasn’t enough.  And the coaching wasn’t enough. And the Sixers didn’t have enough. It’s thar simple.

They just didn’t have enough. They showed more promise than poise and their mistakes — correction — they’re costly mistakes with the game on the line, cost them dearly. And I almost forgot to mention the confetti coming down on the court because after regulation the Wells Fargo Center crew thought the game was over and the home team had won with the Belinelli shot, but his foot was on the three-point line. What a tease. Oh well.

So what’s the verdict? We still Trust The Process because it took us further than we thought we could go. But we still have a long way to go. The coaching was suspect and the lack of ball control and discipline from a young team was glaring. But they ARE young, right?

So let’s end on a good note. We made the playoffs. We won a playoff series. WE have Embiid. We have two of the best rookies in the game (we just need to get Fultz on the court). And we may have the Rookie of the Year (ROY).

We will get better. Things will get better. Things have already gotten better. Just think; just two years ago we just won 10 games. I’d say we’ve made significant progress, right? It’s just that we thought that we were better than we really are.

Spiritually speaking, that’s just like most of us. The Bible says that all of righteousness is no better than filthy rags. We must be dressed in His righteousness alone. Only then will we stand faultless before His throne.

Go Sixers!

My Book Is Out! “Upsets, Comebacks & Turnarounds” Coming Soon

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Hey Everybody! I birthed a book!

After years of writing and editing and kneading and massaging this baby of an idea inside of me, voila, my book is here!  It will be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com soon so stay tuned! I hope you read and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s a pick me upper and a shot in the arm for all who love the little guy and the also-rans in sports and in life. 

Here a few excerpts from the back cover:

In the World of Sports, there’s nothing like an upset win, a comeback from way back, and a complete turnaround. The same is true in life. In sports, we celebrate the underdogs, both the teams and the players who are at a distinct disadvantage and are expected to lose. Yet some way, somehow, these teams and players  find a way to triumph in spite of adversity.

Upsets, Comebacks and Turnarounds looks back to those who have alreadly overcome and looks forward to those facing overwhelming obstacles yet to be overcome.

This book examines the intersection of God and sports . . . and is a tribute to all of the biblical long-shots; to all of those who, in sports and in life, “didn’t stand a chance.”