I dropped into my local Japanese restaurant for lunch today and ordered my favorite dish – a salmon salad. Just because I go to a Japanese restaurant doesn’t mean I eat Japanese food. Anyway, the woman who works lunch grew up on Long Island and used to go to the U.S. Open with her father. Even so, when I ran into the restaurant last Thursday and implored her to turn on the television so I could watch the mind boggling marathon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Wimbledon, she didn’t believe me.
She could see my desperation to watch the match but the score hadn’t made any sense to her. I told her the score was 39-39 in the fifth set but it hadn’t registered. World Cup soccer had taken over the tennis broadcast so the score still wasn’t real to her and it didn’t sink in till she went home and saw the rest of the match.
Kind of. It was the never ending first round match that died at 59-59 in that evening’s darkness only to end with a 70-68 Isner victory the next day.
By the way, I know Isner and Mahut were eating something or other but don’t they have labor laws that cover lunch breaks and dinner breaks in that situation? And I can guarantee you, I’d have needed a Stadium Gal setup for bladder relief and a rubber donut after sitting for more than six hours if I’d been the chair umpire
It’s virtually impossible to overhype a 163 game match with 215 aces that went longer than 11 hours, but that didn’t stop a bit of overanalyzing in the aftermath. John F. Murray, sports psychologist and author of Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game, was concerned about Mahut’s mental health after ending up with a loss after such a heroic effort:
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest this loss could manifest itself in him calling an end to his career.
I would say it’s an exaggeration. Mahut went through a cathartic crying jag at the end of the match then picked himself up and played his scheduled doubles match the same day. I’m much more worried about Andy Roddick’s Wimbledon hangover. After losing last year’s Wimbledon final to Roger Federer by the measly low score of 16-14 in the fifth set, Roddick went out to 82nd ranked Yen-Hsun Lu in the fourth round this year. And that’s really tough because Roddick won’t have that many more chances to fulfill his dream of a Wimbledon title.
And speaking of 82nd ranked players, Venus Williams lost to 82nd ranked Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinals today by the eye popping score of 6-2, 6-3. Pironkova is making sure we don’t entirely forget the quirky game of Fabrice Santoro with that funky forehand slice of hers. She moved Venus around and changed speeds enough to put Venus off her game and that’s not a fluke, Pironkova also took Venus out in the first round at the 2006 Australian Open.
The person I’m most worried about at the moment is Jennifer Capriati. It’s not just the prescription drug overdose that landed her in the hospital on Monday morning but the friends she keeps. The media called it an “accidental” overdose in what is probably an attempt by her family to ease the perception of the situation, but Justin Gimelstob wasn’t going along with the spin.
Gimelstob went on The Early Show on CBS today and described Capriati as being in “in tremendous pain physically and mentally. She struggled with depression, and it’s a tough story.” Some of this is common knowledge but Gimelstob is a friend of Capriati’s while, at the same time, a member of the media, so how much should he be saying while Capriati is in the hospital?
Celebrity websites outhustle more traditional news organizations these days and the line between members of the media and their subjects has shrunk. People with video cameras line up outside clubs and restaurants and sell their footage of sports and entertainment figures to TMZ.com. But friends should clear personal comments with their subjects before going public.
There’s another friend too. A former boyfriend of Capriati’s has used her woes to advertise his own career. Dale DaBone – who must have been named by one of his employers – is a retired porn star who told TMZ that his decision to return to porn had left Capriati “hysterical.” Capriati’s story just gets sadder and sadder.
I often find pro tennis players conservative in their reluctance to talk about other players but in this case I appreciate it.