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Post Making Tennis History
Created by John Eipper on 01/31/17 4:21 AM

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Making Tennis History (David Duggan, USA, 01/31/17 4:21 am)

The paroxysms suffered by the glitterati over Trump's "keep 'em out" executive order have sadly eclipsed the most exciting and significant weekend in tennis history. That the events took place in Melbourne, Australia may be the reason why this proverbial tree falling in a deserted forest has not received the recognition it deserves, but the kudos earned by Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams, Roger Federer and Serena Williams should be front-page news over Mr. Trump's plainly constitutional order.

Serena's straight-set victory over her older sister may not have been an epic match on par with Serena's 3-set victories at the Aussie Open and Wimbledon finals of 2003, but it gives her a total of 23 Grand Slam singles victories, one more than Steffi Graf. What is more, Venus and she have a total of 14 GS doubles titles, 13 more than Steffi. And she earned them over an 18-year career, from her first, the 1999 US Open to this year's Aussie Open, and has 4 Olympic gold medals (3 doubles) to Steffi's one. At 35 years old, Serena has outlasted all her rivals (Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, are you listening?) and has become the gold standard of athletic longevity and excellence. I dare say we shall not see her likes again. Bravo Serena.

And what more can be said about Roger which hasn't been said before? His 18th GS victory ties him with Jack Nicklaus on the individual sport excellence scale, and like Jack, he went five plus years between his 17th and 18th (the 1980 PGA and 1986 Masters for the Golden Bear and the 2012 Wimbledon and 2017 Aussie Open for Roger). Federer is now 18-10 in GS finals, perhaps on par with Nicklaus' 19 2d-place finishes in the 4 major tournaments (because there is no head-to-head in golf's majors, you could be playing hours before or after your closest rival, either waiting while the 54-hole leader putts out, or needing birdie on the 72d hole to beat the low-total guy in the clubhouse). He also has the career grand slam, winning all four tournaments, an Olympic gold medal (in doubles with Stan Wawrinka at the 2008 Beijing games, whom he beat in five sets in the semi-finals), and a Davis Cup victory for Switzerland, where there is scarcely enough flat ground to build a tennis court.

Roger's 18-10 record in GS finals may pale in comparison to Pete Sampras' 14-4 but is equivalent to Rod Laver's 11-6 and Rafael Nadal's 14-7. Rafa, who hasn't won a GS tournament since the 2014 French Open needs another Aussie trophy to garner the "double career grand slam" (i.e., winning each of the 4 majors twice) which no one has done in the post-1968 "open era." Roger needs another French trophy to add that title to his resume. Serena, meanwhile has the "triple career grand slam." Rafa still has a 6-3 record over Roger in GS finals (winning 4 French, 1 Wimbledon [2008] and one Aussie [2009], both mentioned as the greatest tennis matches of all time, while losing two Wimbledons and yesterday's Aussie). Curiously, they never met each other at the US Open, whether in the early rounds or in the finals (which, since they were ranked 1 & 2 for most of their joint careers would have been the more likely outcome). Rafa's 9 French titles is the most of any tournament by any one competitor, male or female, in the open era. Sampras and Federer each have 7 Wimbledons and Djokovic has 6 Aussies. Since no male has won the US Open more than five times (Sampras, Connors, and Federer), it gives credence to the hypothesis that the US Open is the fairest test. Admittedly both Chris Evert and Serena have won 6 US Opens, but 4 of Chris's were on clay (1975, 1976, 1977 & 1978). Serena is already in a class by herself.

Equally curiously, 3 of the 4 men's semi-finalists had 1-handed backhands (Federer, Wawrinka and Grigor Dmitrov). Not too long ago it was thought that this shot was going the way of the dodo bird as with 2 hands on the racquet you can add leverage and accuracy to the weaker side. But the Aussie surface was bouncing lower, meaning that you didn't need to hit the ball at shoulder height, a real struggle with one hand on the racquet. I think I noticed a slight change in Roger's backhand stroke (he was hitting the ball farther away from his body and was often in the air when striking it, a non-trivial feat on that wing) which meant that he wasn't giving away that side of the court to Rafa's amazingly penetrating forehand. Roger was cracking backhand cross-court winners to Rafa's forehand side that Rafa just watched go by. I can only dream.

And that executive order: as I read the constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Nowhere does this say people can't be excluded because of their religious affiliation, and nowhere do these two clauses erect a wall of separation between church and state as some have argued. In Korematsu v. United States and Hirabayashi v. United States (the WWII Japanese internment cases), the Supreme Court gave the president almost unlimited wartime powers in excluding or interning people because of their "ethnicity" and the cases have never been overruled (though Obama's discredited justice department filed a brief that they should be in Hedges v. Obama, but the Supreme Court did not take the case). With Mr. Trump's new appointment to the Supreme Court, I doubt that it will be anytime soon, and the Brooklyn judge's Saturday night temporary restraining order will be quickly reversed.

JE comments:  Citing WWII Japanese-American internment as legal precedent for Trump's Executive Orders cannot prevail in the moral court of law.  Or the international court of opinion:  the US image is sinking, perhaps to new lows.  At least, to Roosevelt's credit, the US really was at war with Japan.

As Eugenio Battaglia points out (next), Trump is keeping his campaign promises.  And ISIS is reportedly very happy with last Friday's EO, as it proves their heretofore spurious claim that the US is at war with Islam.

Yes, as Juvenal taught us, sports might be the best distraction in these troubled times.  Any WAISer thoughts on the upcoming annual ritual of TV gluttony, the Super Bowl?

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  • Trump's Executive Orders: Response to David Duggan (Istvan Simon, USA 02/03/17 4:07 AM)
    I am not an attorney, so maybe I am on perilous ground to argue with David Duggan (31 January), who is one. But I think he is completely wrong about the Constitution relative to Trump's executive order.

    Furthermore, at least three Federal Judges disagree with David and seem to agree with me, for they have issued injunctions which invalidated Trump's illegal order at least temporarily. The acting attorney general Sally Yates, whom Trump fired because she followed the law rather than being subservient to Trump, also disagreed with David. I applaud Sally Yates and I am afraid I have to criticize David Duggan's statement in the strongest terms.

    JE comments:  Golden Age Spanish theater is fond of rhyming the words "rey" and "ley"--the king makes the law, and essentially is the law.  Sally Yates may have been principled and doing the right thing, but was she following the law?

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    • Every Law Creates its Own Loopholes (Paul Preston, -UK 02/04/17 6:48 AM)
      Istvan Simon's posts on the Trump Executive Order made me think of a Spanish proverb: "Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa." Or in this particular case, "hecha la ley, hecha la Trumpa." [For every law, there's a lawyer's trick (trampa/Trumpa).]

      JE comments: Paul Preston and I exchanged some e-mails on how best to translate the wordplay trampa/Trumpa--a "trampa" in Spanish is a trap or trick.  How about this translation: Laws, inevitably, will Trump themselves?

      I have a thing for Presidential trivia, so here's a question:  how many US presidents were also a verb?  Trump certainly is, as well as Grant, and arguably Bush.  You can poke somebody, but not Polk.  Ditto with author/Arthur.  Fillmore, as in "fill more jobs/fill more seats" is a bit of a reach.

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