Top Spin 4

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When I bought Just Dance 2 for dance maniac Aiden I treated myself to a tennis game, Top Spin 4 for Wii.

After playing it a bit I must say I am pretty damn impressed. The graphics are pretty good for a Wii game, but for a tennis game that isn’t the important thing. The important thing is the playing feel and the feel in Top Spin 4 is great.

I love the controls too. With the nunchuk you move the player and control the placement of the ball and with the wiimote you swing the racket. Swing upwards to generate top spin, swing downwards for slice, swing horisontal for flat shots, hold one button for lobs and one for drop shots. Run faster with another button and that’s pretty much it.

It does require some skill to master it, but the learning curve isn’t that steep and as a tennis game fan I got into it immediately. There are plenty of top players to choose from such as current stars Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stanislaw Wavrinka, Gilles Simon and there are also legends of old like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Björn Borg, and Boris Becker to name a few.

You can play against friends and you can also go for a career mode where you create a player and start doing drills, play training matches and try to acquire more skill points that help your player improve.

The only downside of the game so far is that you have to get through a lot of pointless matches in the career mode to advance, but after you’ve done that the game is great fun.

A must have for tennis fans owning a console like PS3, XBOX 360 or Wii.

Federer’s “failure” in Dubai

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Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim (author of the fantastic book Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played) wrote this in his post on SI.com:

“Faulty Federer falls. Both the gleeful Federer buriers and concerned Federer loyalists were out in full force this weekend. Their man dropped still another match to Novak Djokovic, a shank-o-rific Dubai final that saw Federer lose 6-3, 6-3. While Djokovic played stellar, complete tennis once again, Federer did himself no favors, framing shots, hitting destinationless backhands and finding few answers when Djokovic posed the difficult questions. Federer is now like a stock whose beta/variance is starting to widen. He’s still capable of greatness — that London win over Nadal wasn’t even 100 days ago. Yet the dismal matches are becoming more common. Realistically, we knew the ride couldn’t go on forever. And Federer’s performance is in keeping with the life cycle of a champion. The consistency is the first thing to go. The old weaknesses, such as they are, start to surface. (In this case, the drive backhand.) There’s still magic left in the wand, but it’s not automatically discharged. I directed Federer fans to the 2002 U.S. Open in which Pete Sampras, struggling with his game and arriving with little momentum, found the touch for seven matches. I think that’s pretty much what we’re looking at for the rest of the journey. Know he’s capable of greatness; know it’s no longer a given.”

Being a Fed fan, the natural thing would be to defend, to say that Federer has slumped before to come back even stronger. If you look at the recent results of Federer, he is not doing badly though. He won the ATP Masters final, reached the semi’s in AO (where he lost to an amazing Djokovic) and has beaten all lesser opponents pretty easily in 2011. The only problem for Federer has been Djokovic and the Serb has been a major problem for anyone he’s faced across the net recently.

So is this erratic loss a tribute to Djokovic and a changing of the guards (everybody’s using this expression it seems)? No, I don’t think so. The guard in this case is not Federer, it’s Nadal, and I think Djokovic has a lot more to prove before becoming nr 1 in the world. Also, Federer does seem much more relaxed about his game (not necessarily a good thing) and I think a loss in an ATP 500 tournament to a good player doesn’t really hurt as much as it used to. He picked up some ATP points, won some money, stayed in one of his favorite places on the world map and got some training for the upcoming Masters.

This attitude you can criticize of course, because it doesn’t really become a top sportsman to be content and relaxed, but on the other hand you have to understand it with the career Federer is having (it is also somehow related to his playing style, which is so confidently relaxed it looks nonchalant). The you can’t win it all-attitude has got to get to you when you in fact have won them all.

So I although I think Wertheim has a point in that we can’t expect Federer to win a slam without losing a set anymore, I think it’s a bit over-the-top to compare it to Sampras who actually was very tired of tennis at the end of his career and just wanted a final triumph before he put the racket in the bag for good. In contrast I think Federer enjoys the game more now that he is allowed to lose (again, not necessarily a good thing) and that his love for the game and the sport together with his supreme talent should give him at least two more slams and a few nice victories before it’s time to take on the ol’ legend status and start hitting balls with the twins.

Read more interesting tennis articles at Tennisnerd

Roger Federer as a Religious Experience

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Now I have seen him live. Roger. Federer. The greatest tennis player ever.

I still have a hard time to believe that I was only a few meters away from the great Fed Express when he rolled over Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets in the Stockholm Open semi-final. I am still star struck from the experience. I am still thinking it didn’t really happen. But it did and it was magical.

This is quite strange feeling for me as I was never super-impressed with celebrities or “stars”. When I worked in the White House in Washington D.C. I met plenty of them and I thought I learned how to deal with meeting someone in real life that you’ve seen on TV a hundred times (I met people like Nicholas Cage, Ozzy Ozborne, (former) President George Bush, and others). You come to realize they are just people. Successful people of course, but people nonetheless.

But for me, Roger Federer is not people. He is a tennis god. He is partly reason for me taking up tennis so passionately after many years of absence. Seeing Roger Federer hit a tennis ball still moves me, still impresses me, still astonishes me.

So I of course felt like a little girl when I saw Federer characteristically “hover” around the court and hit perfect shot after perfect shot IRL. In Real Life.

I hope the Stockholm Open semi-final was not the only time I would see this live. Federer’s star might be fading slightly in the competition of other’s, but it is still remarkably strong and I hope he at least has two more Grand Slam victories in him and that I get to watch at least one of them.

Why not US Open 2011 in New York City? Seeing Roger Federer win the title for the sixth time in my favorite city in the world would truly be a religious experience.

Federer wins and Melody Gardot sings

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Yeah, that is how my day started. I tuned into tennisTV channel to watch Federer frame a few shots, and magically escape from the brink against Tomas Berdych and reach the semifinals in Toronto Masters. This creates a fascinating semifinal setup with Nadal against Murray and Federer playing Djokovic. Do I dare to hope for a Fedal?

Then I got a tip about a singer named Melody Gardot and I of course had to Youtube her. Her singing is jazzy, reminds me of Jeff Buckley at times and Random Jazz Legend (Judy Garland comes to mind) at other times and she captivates you with her soft, yet deep and dark voice.

What is equally striking is her background. In a biking accident she suffered serious head and spinal injuries and her pelvis was broken in two places. Gardot had to stay on her back in a hospital for a year and had to re-learn almost all the simple things she knew, like walking or brushing her teeth. Her neural injuries made her hyper-sensitive to light and sound and requires her to wear dark sunglasses at all times to protect her eyes. She also has problems with her memory and sense of time. She has described dealing with the accident as “climbing Mount Everest every day”. But through this horrible accident she used music as therapy and started writing her own songs and thank our lucky stars for that.

I usually say there is never a bad thing that doesn’t bring something good with it and if the disaster almost ruined Gardots life, it did create something lasting and fantastic for many, many people. I hope she understands what joy she brings through her work.

Here is If the Stars Were Mine

The Best Tennis Writer

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I wish I could write as beautifully about tennis as Steve Tignor does in his column Concrete Elbow. But since I can’t I suggest you check his writing out here

Tignor really captures the beauty, the fighting, the psychologial warfare and the ebbs and flows of a tennis match. He does the game justice with words. The only one I can think of doing it equally good is Jon L Wertheim in his book “Strokes of Genius”.

I recommend Tignor’s article (feels strange to call really good writing “posts”) about Federer’s match against Llodra. I also recommend tuning into TennisTV to see the highlights of a highly entertaining match of old school tennis. You have to really respect the two players immense love for the game and their ability to create some fantastically entertaining rallies. I truly enjoyed it.

All you tennis fans out there also have a really great day ahead of you with the Quarterfinals in Toronto Masters. Federer tries to get his revenge against Berdych, Murray will try to hold off an inspired Nalbandian and Nadal will likely blast Kohlschreiber off the court.

I am going to cheer for Federer of course.

Tears for Fed

fedI am a sensitive guy and I have no problem showing emotions. Strings  is always what does me in. In movies, in short clips like the link below, in music. It doesn’t matter how cheesy the movie may be or how much I disliked it, but if it has a happy ending with some heart-breaking violins playing in the background then I can’t hold the tears back. I remember vividly the weird look a friend of mine gave me when we watched the end of Lord of the Rings and I was all teary-eyed when all the people cheeered for the small and brave hobbits. It was a sensitive moment, ok?

I had a similar moment this morning after watching this clip. I have followed Federerer since he started winning slams and he feels like family although all I have is an autograph. Now that he took his 15th and record breaking slam it was like the saga had come to an end and a happy one too.  I now feel rest in my soul that Federer finally beat history and proved to everyone that he indeed is the one.

The other players were just playing different parts in the movie of Roger Federer.

Andy the fighter

BRITAIN TENNIS WIMBLEDONWhen Federer won his 15th slam in yesterday’s Wimbledon final I thought I would be more thrilled. But it was bittersweet. Andy Roddick is not the most versatile player, he is not an entertaining player to watch, but man this guy got heart! And some hearts he won as well after losing an epic five-setter against the greatest player ever by 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14.

Although Roddick was devastated in the closing ceremony he really held it together proving that he is a class act. Maybe his new coach Larry Stefanki has done wonders to his game both on and off the court? I for one think he deserves to win Wimbledon at least once. If you get to three finals you are definitely doing something right.

But the spotlight now shines on our beloved Fed express. 15 slams and nr 1 in the world again. Everything is as it should be.