Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Djokovic Outlasts Nadal for Australian Open Title

After going nearly five hours in a semifinal Friday, Novak Djokovic battled past the Spaniard, winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 5 hours, 53 minutes to repeat as Australian Open champion. Djokovic is on a Federer-like roll, having won four of the past five majors, and he handed Nadal an unprecedented third consecutive defeat in a Grand Slam final in the Open era.

Djokovic overcame a break in the fifth set to win his fifth Grand Slam tournament and third in a row. None, though, quite like this.

This one involved tears, sweat and, yes, even a little blood. It was the longest Grand Slam singles final in the history of pro tennis and it came against Nadal, the player who built a career on his tenacity -- on outlasting opponents in matches like these.

"It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies," Djokovic said. "We made history tonight and unfortunately there couldn't be two winners."

When the drama was finally over at Rod Laver Arena, the 24-year-old Djokovic joined Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Nadal as the only men who have won three consecutive majors since the Open Era began in 1968. Nadal was his vanquished opponent in all three.

Djokovic will go for the "Nole Slam" at Roland Garros in May.

A few minutes earlier, after hugging Nadal at the net, Djokovic tore off his sweat-soaked black shirt and headed toward his players' box, pumping his arms repeatedly as he roared. He walked over to his girlfriend, his coach and the rest of his support team and banged on the advertising signs at the side of the court.

"I think it was just the matter of maybe luck in some moments and matter of wanting this more than maybe other player in the certain point," Djokovic said. "It's just incredible effort. You're in pain, you're suffer(ing). You're trying to activate your legs. You're going through so much suffering your toes are bleeding. Everything is just outrageous, but you're still enjoying that pain."

The match was full of long rallies and amazing gets. Djokovic finished with 57 winners, along with 69 unforced errors. Nadal had 44 winners against 71 unforced errors.

Laver was part of the 15,000-strong crowd when the players walked on at 7:30 p.m. Sunday to flip the coin and start the warmup. He was still there, along with most of the crowd, after 2 a.m. for the trophy presentations.

Djokovic called it the most special of his five Grand Slam wins.

"This one I think comes out on the top because just the fact that we played almost six hours is incredible, incredible," he said. "I think it's probably the longest finals in the history of all Grand Slams, and just to hear that fact is making me cry, really.

"I'm very proud just to be part of this history."

Nadal thought his win in the 2008 final against Federer was the best match he's played, but gave Sunday's match a top place in his personal rankings nonetheless.

"Physically was the toughest match I ever played. I think we played a great tennis match. I enjoyed being part of this event and this match. I wanted to win, but I am happy about how I did. I had my chances against the best player of the world today. I played one against one. I didn't play at lower level than him for a long time, so that's a very positive thing for me. The important thing for me, is during all of 2011 I didn't play as well as this."

More information:
ESPN: "Djokovic Served Up A Storm"
ESPN: Five Most Memorable Grand Slams in the Open Era
Rafael Nadal: To Beat the Devil

"To dictate the pace Nadal needs to not be afraid to hit hard on his crossed backhand so he can turn around to his forehand. He has to hit more forehands down the line to try and hurt Djokovic rather than protect himself. And he needs to hope Novak Djokovic can't keep up the blistering play that has brought him four major titles in the past 13 months."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Shaun White Ends Winter X Games Perfectly

The 2012 Winter X Games, which ran from January 26-29 in Aspen, turned out to be one of the most exciting ones yet. Here are some of the most notable moments and stories from this year:

The games started with a somber note, as popular freeskier Sarah Burke tragically died on Jan. 19 from injuries sustained while training. The 29-year-old Canadian had taken the Gold in last year's SuperPipe, and would have been going for a repeat. The opening night of the Games included a candlelight vigil at the top of the SuperPipe in memory of Burke, and throughout the week her fellow athletes paid heir respects anyway they could.

Triple Cork Madness
Friday, Jan. 27 proved to be a historic day in the Big Air. A triple cork had never been successfully landed in the Winter X Games in this event, but both Mark McMorris and Torstein Horgmo pulled one off. These amazing feats helped earn McMorris the gold and Horgmo the silver. The 18-year-old McMorris would also take first place in the Slopestyle the very next day — make sure to remember his name.

Clark Does It Again
SuperPipe virtuoso Kelly Clark once again turned in a dominating performance—complete with a frontside 1080—which gave her a fourth gold and ninth medal in the event. Explaining her consistent excellence, Clark said, "I approach every contest, every run, every trick in that moment, one run at a time."

Snowmobiling Front Flip
In another Winter X first, Heath Frisby nailed a front flip in the Snowmobiling Best Trick. He deservedly won the event, which gives him a career total of seven medals. Frisby had to wait quite a long time to get his first attempt after Justin Hoyer hurt his right arm on a failed double backflip.

No Stopping Shaun White
ASPEN, Colo. -- Shaun White scored the first perfect score in Winter X Games history in Men's Snowboard SuperPipe finals on Sunday, winning his fifth consecutive gold medal -- a first in Snowboard SuperPipe. The victory comes after a left ankle sprain that plagued him earlier in the week forced him to miss the Slopestyle event he had hoped to compete in.

"It's unreal," White said, after scoring 100 out of a possible 100 points on his final run. "I've been wanting that 100 forever. Thank you so much, everybody, tonight. I came here on a mission: I couldn't compete in Slope and it kind of broke me. I didn't know what to do. I was sitting around icing my ankle wondering if I could even ride tonight, and I kind of took out a little bit of that anxiety and anger that I couldn't compete in Slope in the pipe tonight."

The historic run included a 18-foot backside air, a frontside double cork 1080, a Cab double cork 1080, a frontside stalefish 540, a double McTwist 1260 and an unprecedented frontside double cork 1260 to finish it all off.

Many fans expected Iouri Podladtchikov, who is the only person besides White to have successfully landed the double McTwist 1260, to break out a secret weapon of his own: The switch backside 1260. He has only successfully landed it once, this summer in New Zealand. It might have made it a closer competition if he'd tried it, but Podladtchikov said he was content with the run he did complete.

"I'm real happy because I've never put that run down so clean," said Podladtchikov. "I wish I had one more run. I'm just getting warmed up! For me it was my personal best run by far, for sure. I guess it was one of those days."

White has now won the Snowboard SuperPipe every year since 2008, bringing his total Winter X Games medal count to 17 -- 12 of them gold. He also has five X Games medals in Skateboard Vert, two of them gold, and topped the Skateboard Vert podium at X Games 2011 in July. And, of course, he's best known as a two-time Olympic halfpipe gold medalist. He's now looking forward to the Sochi Games in 2014, where he may have an opportunity to compete in both Halfpipe and the debut of Slopestyle as an Olympic medal event.

More information:
ESPN: Top X Games Moments

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NFL Playoffs: NFC Championship

New York 20 : 17 San Francisco
Vernon Davis caught two touchdown passes for the NFC West champions (14-4), who went from 6-10 a year ago to a contender and ended an eight-year playoff drought. Eli Manning went 32 of 58 for 316 yards and two touchdowns and overcame six sacks in his record fifth road playoff win, New York's fifth in a row overall. Five plays after the 49ers' Kyle Williams fumbled a punt, Lawrence Tynes kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime and silenced the towel-waving, poncho-wearing sellout crowd at cold, rainy Candlestick Park.

NFL Playoffs: AFC Championship

New England 23 : 20 Baltimore
The Patriots beat the stunned Ravens on Sunday after Baltimore's Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field-goal attempt with 11 seconds remaining in Foxborough, Mass. Before Cundiff missed, the Ravens had a chance to go ahead two plays earlier, but wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone by backup cornerback Sterling Moore. Tom Brady scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard leap over the vaunted Ravens defense in the fourth quarter. "Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," Brady said after throwing for 239 yards, with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no touchdown passes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

SOPA and PIPA 'Indefinitely Postponed'

Huffington Post:
In a significant victory for open Internet advocates, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) both indefinitely postponed votes on controversial anti-piracy legislation.

"In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the Protect IP Act," Reid said in a written statement.

The move followed a frantic week of political jockeying on Capitol Hill amid intense online activism, in which Wikipedia and other major websites voluntarily blocked access to their content in protest of the bills. The Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate companion, Protect IP, would have given the government broad powers to shut down entire websites accused of violating copyright laws -- without a trial or a traditional court hearing. Hollywood movie studios and other content creators would also get new powers to sue companies like banks and advertisers that do business with websites accused of piracy.

In the House, Smith had been planning to hold a committee vote on SOPA in February, which lobbyists on Capitol Hill expected to closely mirror whatever legislative language passed the Senate. While the delayed Senate vote does not necessarily mark a final failure for the anti-piracy legislation, it almost certainly delays any vote for months. During an election year in which lawmakers are particularly cautious about bringing up controversial legislation, the bill's supporters now face a steep uphill battle to pass anything on piracy at all.

Hollywood had been pushing the bills hard for months, and had secured broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. But free speech advocates warned that the power to shut down whole sites, rather than current powers to remove infringing content, created the prospect of widespread First Amendment violations, while tech experts noted that the anti-piracy tools envisioned by the legislation would threaten the basic functionality of the web.

Reid's decision to pull the bill was an unusually abrupt changing of the political tide in the nation's capital. As recently as Thursday afternoon, Protect IP opponents did not believe they had the votes to block the legislation on the Senate floor, and had almost no power to revise the bill's language ahead of a vote. On Saturday, January 14, the Obama administration issued a statement opposing the bill. Nevertheless, Reid refused to delay a vote on the bill, instead diving into a set of backdoor negotiations with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.). All three Senators supported the original bill. No Senator opposed to the bill was included in the negotiations about how to revise the legislation before bringing it to the floor for a vote, while tech lobbyists and experts were excluded from the talks, as well.

More information:
» Huffington Post: Thousands of Websites Blackout in SOPA Protest
» FBI, DOJ, RIAA Sites Downed After Megaupload Crackdown

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Eagle-Eye Cherry - "Save Tonight" (1997)

"Save Tonight" is a song by Swedish rock musician Eagle-Eye Cherry and the lead single from his 1997 debut album, Desireless. It is the album's opening track and gained substantial radio success, reaching #3 in Ireland, #5 in the US, #6 in the UK, and #2 in Cherry's native Sweden.

Eagle-Eye Lanoo Cherry was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of African American jazz artist Don Cherry and Swedish painter/textile artist Monika "Moki" Cherry (née Karlsson). He is half-brother of singer Neneh Cherry, his mother's daughter, and stepbrother to singer Titiyo. He was named Eagle-Eye because the first time he looked at his father, he did so with only one eye open.

His father died in 1995. In 1996 Cherry moved back to Stockholm to focus on his music over the acting career that had taken precedence in his professional life. He began writing and recording his debut album, Desireless in his bedroom studio on an acoustic guitar. The album became a commercial success throughout the world during 1998 and 1999. Desireless went platinum in the United States, selling a total of four million copies worldwide.

NFL Playoffs: NFC Round 2

New York 37 : 20 Green Bay

San Francisco 36 : 32 New Orleans

NFL Playoffs: AFC Round 2

New England 45 : 10 Denver

Baltimore 20 : 13 Houston

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bama No. 1! Roll Tide!

With a smothering display of old-school football, the No. 2 Crimson Tide blew out the top-ranked Tigers 21-0 in the Allstate BCS Championship Game Monday night.

Coach Nick Saban's Tide also moved into the top spot in the final Associated Press poll for the eighth time, tying Notre Dame for the most of any team in college football.

LSU had beaten eight ranked teams -- including Alabama 9-6 in OT in early November -- to establish itself as the clear No. 1 going into the bowls, but the Tigers didn't come close to matching their performance from the Game of the Century in Tuscaloosa. Instead of putting up a "Godfather II," this one was more akin to "Speed 2."

The Tigers were outgained 384-92 in total yards. On that one and only trip into Alabama territory, they quickly went back, back, back -- the last gasp ending appropriately with the beleaguered Jefferson getting the ball knocked from his hand before he could even get off a fourth-and-forever pass.

"We didn't do a lot different," Nick Saban said. "We did some things on offense formationally. Our offensive team did a great job. Defensively, we just played well, played the box. Our special teams did a great job."

He has won a pair of BCS titles at Alabama, plus another at LSU in 2003. He's the first coach to win three BCS titles, denying LSU's Les Miles his second championship. The Tigers will have to settle for the SEC title, but that's not likely to ease the sting of this ugly performance.

AJ McCarron was the offensive MVP, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards. Trent Richardson added 96 yards and a TD on 20 carries. But an even bigger cheer went up when the defensive award was presented to Courtney Upshaw, who had seven tackles, including a sack, and spent a good part of his night in the LSU backfield.