Queen Elizabeth will be at Centre Court Wimbledon today for the first time in 33 years to, apparently, watch three matches. The featured players the All England Club is rolling out for the monarch’s amusement are Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki.
For the first time in 30 years, Queen Elizabeth is planning to attend matches at Wimbledon this week. With players previously required to bow or curtsy when in the presence of the Queen, the appearance of the English Monarchy has apparently led to a dilemma for the U.K.’s top player and tournament fourth-seed Andy Murray.
Murray, who is Scottish, is from a country that for centuries fought England for its independence and continues to celebrate many of its customs and traditions separately from England.
So it isn’t as automatic for Murray to bow to an English King or Queen as you might think. Add on Murray’s first blush reaction to the British press about the prospect and a bit of a panic set in across the pond.
While Brooks and the rest of the SbB crew worked hard to get you the very latest on the Steve McNair murder, Sunday turned out to be a pretty big day for three of the world’s biggest athletes — who just happened to have co-starred in the “Citizen Kane” of awkward athlete endorsement campaigns.
That’s right, now that Thierry Henry has been booted from the Gillette posse (at least in America), all three razor-wielding superstars had pretty huge days.
First, Roger Federer made history by winning his 15th Grand Slam title in a crazy five-set win at Wimbledon over Andy Roddick. Pete Sampras was in the audience, taking in the match as only Sampras could — puking his guts out on the sideline looking bored out of his gourd. The 30-game fifth set was the longest in Slam history by a full 10 games. The final game was the only time Federer broke Roddick’s serve the entire match. Only Roddick’s inability to put away four set points in a second-set tiebreak kept him from pulling off the huge upset.
As Federer was accepting his trophy, Tiger Woods was getting ready to tee off in the final round at the AT&T National, which he hosts. I’m not sure I understand the “host” thing, is that like when Heidi and Spencer “host” a party at PURE? He started the day in a tie with defending champion Anthony Kim, but soon found himself needing to keep up with Hunter Mahan, who started well back but fired a 62 to zoom all the way to the top of the leaderboard. Tiger drained a 20-footer on the 16th hole to take the lead, and he got to the clubhouse with two easy pars to wrap up his 68th PGA Tour win. And he interviewed himself afterward. I have to give him credit, though, as it was the first time the questions in a Tiger interview were as boring as the answers.
Jeter got more votes than anyone else in the AL, but is joined in the starting lineup by just one other Yankee — first baseman Mark Teixeira. A-Rod is nowhere to be seen, with Evan Longoria getting the starting nod instead. Josh Hamilton was voted into the starting lineup despite missing all of June with an injury, and this year’s recipient of the Lance Carter Memorial “Who?” Award is Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey, who is a fine pitcher but a guy even baseball fans would be hard pressed to tell you anything about. And while it looks like manager Joe Maddon pulled some homerism by adding Jason Bartlett, Carl Crawford, and Ben Zobrist to the team, all three of those guys are having huge years. And yes, if you’re scoring at home, Zobrist is the last All-Star ever, alphabetically speaking. The other big story is that of 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, who surprisingly has never been an All-Star until now. And congrats to the Royals for producing an actual All-Star this year, rather than their usual token “we gotta put someone on the team” guy.
The NL team is headlined by Albert Pujols, who received the second-most votes ever (only Ken Griffey Jr. got more, in 1994). At age 37, Raul Ibanez is an All-Star for the first time, and has been voted in as a starter. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s probably not going to be able to play. Nor is fellow outfielder Carlos Beltran. That means that reserves Hunter Pence and Brad Hawpe are likely to be out there when the game starts. No true no-name on the roster, as even Pittsburgh’s representative — Freddy Sanchez — is fairly deserving of his spot.
• If you click on only one link today, read this story in the L.A. TIMES about Zac Sunderland, a 17-year-old kid who is nearing the end of a solo circumnavigation of the world on a sailboat. Pirates, broken sails on the open seas, armed police escorts in New Guinea. It’s safe to say he had a more eventful year than the rest of us.
• OK, there was something called the “Junior World Football Championships” going on for the last week, and you’re not going to believe this — but the USA won. Shocking, considering our boys had to take down the likes of France, Mexico, and Canada (which they did by a cumulative score of 174-3). Next time, in an effort to even the playing field and give other countries a fighting chance, the U.S. is just going to send Washington State’s football team instead (they might be able to beat Sweden).
In the long run, not only did Jerry Manuel’s latest brainstorm contribute to team unity, but it’s going to save the Mets a ton of money. On Tuesday following New York’s season-worst fifth straight loss, Manuel read the riot act to his underachieving minions in a closed-door meeting, and ended things by making an unexpected transportation demand. For their game on Wednesday against the Brewers, the team would eschew their separate taxi rides and travel together in the team bus.
Not sure how much hazing occurred in the back seat where the driver couldn’t see what was going on, and … hey Beltran! Quit mooning those girls and get back in your seat! But the result on the field was positive, as the Mets prevailed 1-0 behind 7 2/3 scoreless innings from Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey, ironically, was the only player who missed Manuel’s mini-tirade the day before, having received permission to leave early to rest for Wednesday’s game.
Oh, don’t worry — they’re still the Mets. New York struck out 12 times against Yovani Gallardo (8-5). But Ryan Church’s one-out single in the sixth, which scored Luis Castillo, who had doubled, was the only offense needed. So New York (38-39) moved back within a game of .500, two games behind the first-place Phillies. The Mets head to Pittsburgh for a rainout makeup today before a weekend series at Philadelphia. That’ll be a long bus ride.
Meanwhile, check that Wimbledon ticket you just bought online — I’m pretty sure you’ve been duped. Andy MurrayMania has gripped this staid tennis event with a fervor, as tickets for Sunday’s men’s final are being offered for as much as £20,000 each on some sites. I’m not sure what that is in American money — a million bucks? — but it’s a freaking lot for tennis. Of course it’s all because Murray is British, and someone from those shores hasn’t won Wimbledon in 73 years (down with the Kaiser! Where’s the Titanic? It’s overdue!). Murray, a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 quarterfinal victor over Juan Carlos Ferrero, could be on his way to his first grand-slam title.
His semifinal today against sixth seed Andy Roddick could set up a final against Roger Federer, which even I would watch.
Fans have been queueing outside Wimbledon for 48 hours to get their hands on tickets for the semi-finals and final, while agencies report that demand is up four-fold. But the prices are higher than ever, with a pair of quarter-final tickets for Murray’s Centre Court match yesterday, worth £170, selling for £6,100.
With the avalanche of demand has come the threat of fraud. Wimbledon authorities are investigating bogus websites charging thousands of pounds for tickets that do not exist. One site under investigation — onlinewimbledontickets.com — is almost a replica of the official Wimbledon website, in the familiar green-and-purple livery, offering Centre Court tickets for the final at £2,499.
A Romanian businessman, who paid more than £11,000 online, is among more than 50 victims, mainly from mainland Europe. The website, with telephone numbers in London and Ireland, takes the money online but does not deliver the tickets. Their phone lines were dead yesterday.
And now for something completely different. It always pays to read the fine print, as a Twin Cities sportswriter has learned after mistaking the blog Sir Charles In Charge as being authored by the actual Charles Barkley. ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS writer Don Seeholzer attributed an item on the blog to Barkley, writing that Sir Charles was promoting Del Harris as the next head coach of the Timberwolves. Actually Barkley has nothing to do with the site, as it states in the disclaimer.
(”Is that a blog, or a duck? Damn, I’m confused.”)
You may think that Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival in Cleveland won’t make that much of a difference, but Vegas types tend to disagree. Bodog.com has just installed the Cavaliers as co-favorites with the Lakers to win the NBA title, both at 9/4. Bodog had Cleveland at 3/1 on June 15. Rounding out the top five are the Celtics (5/1), Magic (6/1) and Spurs (11/1). Once again I shall slap down a ten-spot on my Golden State Warriors, at 100/1.
Oh, and Bodog’s pick to win Saturday’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest: Joey Chestnut at 2/3 (Takeru Kobayashi is second at 6/5, Tim “Eater” Janus third at 12/1). Over-under on hot dogs consumed: 61 1/2.
Attention, Scott Boras: Eric Whitfield, 12, son of former major leaguer Terry Whitfield, had four home runs in four at-bats and also pitched two innings of perfect relief to lead his Hillsborough (Calif.) Little League All-Star team to a 17-0 win over Redwood City National on Wednesday. Hillsborough has won four of the past five District 52 All-Star titles (district play being the first rung on the ladder toward the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.).
Unfortunately, America is apparently not yet ready to see a video of Chris Cooley burning the body of a dead horse which he found on his property. After much soul-searching, Cooley decided not to post it on his blog. Even though “the video is amazing! I spent over an hour today putting it together and it is one of my finest works, one that my kids will look back on and cherish. So for now, I’m sad.” As always, the comments are the best part.
And speaking of celebrity golf, here’s your Jessica Simspon, Tony Romo, Tiger Woods fix for the week. It’s the opening ceremony of the AT&T National on Wednesday in Bethesda, Md., whee! Also on hand were Bruce Boudreau, Jason Campbell, Antwaan Randle El, Rock Cartwright, Shaun Suisham and Leon Harris. Thanks for the photos from Dan Steinberg at DC SPORTS BOG, who also noted that “Some wise soul managed to write “Go Redskins” in Romo’s yardage book, which was one of the better moments of the day.” Jessica also favored all in attendance with a tune.
The Dallas Mavericks are preparing to offer Jason Kidd $25 million over three years, according to ESPN. The Knicks may also be ready to offer a three-year deal, although for what amount, it isn’t certain.
OK, some hockey news. Fine. Marian Gaborik, the finest athlete with a Marian-sounding name since Marion Morrison, agreed to a five-year deal with the Rangers for $7.5 million per year.
Prepare for the lovefest surrounding the return of drug cheat misunderstood genius Manny Ramirez, who returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup on Friday night in San Diego. LA went 29-21 without him, and are seven games up on the second-place Giants. Why not stop by Petco and give him a standing ovulation … er, I mean, ovation?
Last week, we presented some photographic proof of Maria Kirilenko & Tatiana Golovintaking off their tennis dresses for some good ol’ fashioned Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoots. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that there was a third tennis temptress who put down her racket and put on a bikini: Daniela Hantuchova.
Sadly, the Slovak sweetie’s sojourn in this year’s Wimbledon came to an abrupt end with a 6-3, 6-1 shellacking at the hands of Serena Williams. But let us not dwell on such disappointment for Daniela. Maybe some more hot shots of Hantuchova will cheer us all up:
Let the record show that the fourth-round match between Amelie Mauresmo and top-ranked Dinara Safina became the first Wimbledon matchup that God was not allowed to watch. The second half of it, anyway. The contest, led by Mauresmo 6-4, 1-4, was halted by light rain, prompting the closure of Wimbledon’s new retractable roof (chorus of angel voices here).
There are some things that just don’t seem right: What’s next, ice hockey at Wrigley Field?* The court was initially covered with a green tarp in case the rain subsided so play could resume. But All England Club officials quickly decided to shut the roof, which is making its debut this year atop the stadium built in 1922. Not only did fans cheer the roof, but when the floodlights came on, that too drew applause. Tennis is weird. Read more…
Earlier this week, we reported how tennis commentator Michael Stich ruffled a few feathers when he, um, commented about how women players at Wimbledon are there to “sell sex” (well, not literally). Although it sounds sexist & unfair, it seems there’s a kernel of truth to his statement. And maybe not just a kernel, but a whole bag of Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn.
Turns out that when selecting which match-ups will play at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, it’s not always the higher-seeded ladies that get to play in the main arena. Instead, it’s the lower-seeded cuties that are often the ones courted to take Centre stage.
If you’re born with a stutter, don’t go into public speaking. If you’re born without hands and feet, don’t go into MMA. And if you’re allergic to grass, maybe professional tennis player isn’t the job for you.
Viktor Troicki is allergic to grass, and not in the Rafael-Nadal-is-only-good-on-clay sense. As if having to play national hero Andy Murray in front of a partisan audience today isn’t enough, the court itself is actively trying to kill him. How will he cope? How will he survive? Finally, some drama in tennis.