Today in the World of Sports…
It is fairly reasonable to say that Spaniard Rafael Nadal is currently the best male tennis player on clay – and possibly ever. Whether the 24-year-old is eight feet behind the baseline or hitting a cross-court backhand, he holds a distinct advantage on the red clay at Roland Garros. Finishing on Sunday, Nadal did not drop a set on the way to his fifth French Open title and seventh overall major. Amazingly, with the contribution of Swede Robin Soderling, a 2009 French Open finalist, knocking out Roger Federer in the fourth round, it was only the second time Nadal played someone other than Federer in a major final. The other was Mariano Puerta in Nadal’s first grand slam final at the 2005 French.
Considering many, including myself, doubted Nadal’s staying power after severe knee problems kept him out of last year’s Wimbledon, this French Open win was hard-earned. Beginning today, Nadal reclaims the world’s No. 1 ranking from Federer. I did find it interesting how in a post-match, on-court interview with NBC’s John McEnroe that Nadal said he hopes to see McEnroe after the U.S. Open, the only major Nadal has yet to capture, in a similar post-match scenario.
Jacksonville Suns outfielder Mike Stanton will make his professional debut for the Florida Marlins on Tuesday when they play the Philadelphia Phillies. In 52 games with the Double-A Suns, the 20-year-old Stanton hit 21 home runs and drove in 52 runs with a .726 slugging percentage. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez stated he plans to play the 6-foot-5 Stanton every game. If Stanton can avoid a high number of strikeouts [he had 53 this season in Jacksonville] and hit for power, expect the Marlins to trade him away within three seasons.
In a 103-94 victory for the Boston Celtics over the Los Angeles Lakers, the big story was Celtics guard Ray Allen setting the NBA Finals record for most three-pointers made with eight. Seven was the previous record held by Scottie Pippen and Kenny Smith. In the first half, Allen nailed seven out of eight from three-point range and had 27 points. Besides Allen, the other news is the continued growth and progress of Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. He finished with a triple-double in 42 minutes of action. For awhile, I disagreed with those who said Rondo would be the best all-around point guard in the league within a few years, now I am one of them.
At times, I have been scratching my noodle thinking maybe former NBA referee Tim Donaghy has been on the court during the first two NBA Finals games. They have been so poorly officiated. Of course, that is an end result when players can essentially tuck the ball and run.
I have a fascination with former college stars that never blossom at the professional level. In the NBA Finals, there are two obvious examples riding the pine. Both were top-five selections in the 2006 NBA draft. For the Celtics, Shelden Williams, a former Duke All-American, has played in seven playoff games while averaging less than seven minutes and about two points per game. Williams, the husband of WNBA star Candace Parker, has also spent seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves. On the Lakers bench is an ex-Gonzaga standout and the 2005-06 college basketball Co-Player of the Year – Adam Morrison. Morrison, 25, has only seen playing time in two 2010 playoff games. I cannot imagine the transition from being praised daily for your game-day performances to crossing your arms and watching more talented individuals play. In a way, you go from a player to a season-ticket holder.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Scott Hartnell takes the playoff beard look to the next level. I don’t think Hartnell is scaring the Chicago Blackhawks or Vince Vaughn.
Who are the crazy television executives who decided to air Game 2 of the NBA Finals and Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the same night?
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.
Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville and 103.7 FM at the Jacksonville Beaches at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard also hosts Inside the Game every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WBOB.
Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.
Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer and his Twitter @MillerOnSports.