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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Sports

We've said many times before, it's the "story" that makes sports so exciting. Watching a perfect throw, or perfect tennis stroke, or perfect run is awe-inspiring, no doubt, but what elevates sports to levels of drama worthy of winning an Oscar is the "human story" behind the athletic endeavor. And one of those great stories is unfolding this weekend at the U.S. Open Golf Championship.

Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy held a huge lead this past April at the Master's Golf Championship, but shockingly, he imploded on the last nine holes, and ended up in 15th place. His meltdown was so incredible, it was actually hard to watch. But he held his head up high, he didn't complain or whine, and now, just a few weeks later, he is dominating the second of the four major golf tournaments of the year. With only one day left in the tournament, McIlroy is at 14-under, with his closest competitor at 6-under. He's also just set the all-time record for three rounds with a score of 199. Everyone is rooting for McIlroy to win his first major, but what adds tension to the story is the fear in everyone's minds that he might experience another Masters-like meltdown on the final day, and once again, blow his chances for a win. Let's hope not. McIlroy is also electrifying the golf world because he's proving that there is, indeed, life after Tiger.

Wimbledon starts on Monday, but before we preview this year's championship, we want to first take a moment to recognize a bit of history. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the first Wimbledon win for one of the game's greatest players, Billie Jean King. The 17 year-old King, who then went by her maiden name, Billie Jean Moffitt, won the Women's Doubles Championship in 1961 with partner Karen Susman. King would go on to win her first singles championship at Wimbledon in 1966.

Now for the present Wimbledon. It's rare to have more than one, or maybe two, men who have a real chance to win at Wimbledon, and this year we have four. Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray all have a real chance to take the trophy, which makes this one of the most anticipated Wimbledon's in a long time. There's always a chance that someone else could slip in and play the role of "spoiler", but the way that the top four men are playing right now, that looks doubtful. Sadly, for America, we still don't have anyone on the men's side who has a real chance to make the finals; Roddick, Isner and Fish are all expected to flame out early. And the two best up-and-comer Americans won't be in the tournament this year: Bjorn Fratangelo, who just won the French Open Juniors Championship, opted not to play Wimbledon this year, and Ryan Harrison was just defeated today in the final round of the qualifying tournament, so he won't be in the main bracket unless someone else pulls out with an injury.

It's okay, though, as much as we'd like to see another great American tennis champion come along, we are practically drooling for the second week of Wimbledon to see what epic match-ups will take place between the current top four players, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, who all very much want to win. The great story-lines are all in place: Federer very much wants to take his seventh Wimbledon title to prove to all the doubters that his era of greatness is not yet over; Nadal wants to take his third Wimbledon and eleventh Grand Slam title, despite the fact that he claims he has no interest in being called one of the "greatest ever", trust us, he does. Andy Murray is desperate to take his first Wimbledon, providing Great Britain with their first hometown champion since the 1930's, and Djokovic is still smarting from losing at the French Open and having his perfect 2011 match record ended. Look for a very exciting second week on the grass. We can't wait.

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