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PostWimbledon, Tour de France, and MLB All-Star Game (David Duggan, USA, 07/13/16 4:09 am)
All this Brexit/new PM, England's busted performance at the Eurocopa, and other folderol has sadly eclipsed the most important sports news coming from the British Isles in the last 70 years: Andy Murray's straight-set victory over Milos Raonic at that cathedral of tennis, Centre Court Wimbledon in the Gentlemen's Finals. In winning his second Gentlemen's Championship, Murray-a born and bred Scot-became only the second Brit in the last 100 years to win multiple Wimbledons, joining the immortal Fred Perry (of sportswear fame, if not tennis), who three-peated in the 1930s (1934-36).
In beating Raonic, a Canadian, Murray also beat a fellow subject of Queen Elizabeth II, only the second time a Brit has done that in tennis's open era (Virginia Wade beat Australian Evonne Goolagong at the 1972 Australian Open, but in the era of amateurs only competing in the Grand Slam tournaments (pre-1968) Perry beat Aussie Jack Crawford for his first title). One would not think of Canada as a tennis powerhouse, but with Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard, the Canucks have put more people in Grand Slam singles finals this decade than the Americans (Serena Williams).
Equally interesting as the nationality of Murray's opponent is the proxy war that was transpiring on Centre Court between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl. Johnny Mac had been engaged as a "consultant" to Raonic, and Lendl recently re-joined Murray's box as ultimate guru. Thirty-plus years ago, Lendl v. McEnroe was the hottest ticket in tennis (if you preferred the men's game, sorry Martina-Chris). They had contrasting styles: McEnroe serve and volley, Lendl bludgeon you from the baseline; but in a larger sense they were both minimalists in their strokes, no extraneous motions, no flourishing wind-ups. Compare those strokes to Raonic's thoroughly whack service wind-up, where he looks as if he is serving a tennis ball to a waiting diner with his racquet as the tray, and Murray's hopping-off-the-back-leg forehand and crouching dragon-pouncing tiger backhand. Fittingly, as Lendl beat Mac 2-1 in Grand Slam finals (the only player to have a winning record in GS finals against the guy who knocked Bjorn Borg out of the game), Murray dispatched Raonic in straight sets, thanks to two tie-breakers that Raonic blew. With a 140+ mph serve, you'd think that Raonic would have capitalized on it in the tie-breaks, but evidently he didn't get that lesson (or watch re-plays of McEnroe's epic 4th set tie-break against Borg in the 1980 Championships). Oh well, McEnroe lost his first Wimbledon final, too.
Speaking of sports not normally associated with British excellence, Chris Froome wears the maillot jaune as the overall leader in the 2016 Tour de France, and Mark Cavendish, arguably the fastest man propelled only by the power of his 2 legs, has won 3 sprint stages in the first 10 race days. Froome won the 2015 TdF, the first Brit to do so in its 103-year history. What about Sir Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 winner you ask? Wiggins was born in Ghent Belgium to an Australian father and English mother. Froome, though born in Kenya and educated in South Africa, is a pure-bred Brit.
And tonight is Major League Baseball's All-Star game and Chicagoans will be playing starring roles. The Sox's pitcher Chris Sale will start for the American League, and my beloved Cubs will start four infield players (Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant, first to third), only the second time in major league history that has happened (the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals' "million dollar infield" which our editor may remember). Other than baseball's origins in the British games of cricket and rounders and the likely derivation of Bryant's and Russell's surnames, I can't find a British connection to the "mid-season classic."
JE comments: I really dig David Duggan's way with sports prose. This post came in yesterday afternoon, and in the meantime, the American League won what appears to have been a lackluster All-Star game. (I didn't watch, but all the runs were scored by the fourth inning.) Two members of the defending World Series champs Kansas City hit home runs for a 4-2 AL victory.
When I was youthfully passionate about baseball in the 1970s, the National League won nearly every year. But in the last two decades or so, the pendulum has swung the other way.