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athletes Athletics sport tennis

Tennis: The Greatest Hits.

Your author has spent many an hour in rapt engagement with the sport of tennis. Since the early 1970s, it has been my favorite sport to watch and to play. The above constitutes my highly opinionated (yet utterly impartial…) list of the greatest practitioners I’ve ever witnessed. The order might well be in flux, but as for now, I feel comfortable with Roger Federer at #1, Pete Sampras #2, BjΓΆrn Borg #3, Raphael Nadal #4, and Novak Djokovic #5.

Those who follow these five legends could all be considered “Honorable Mention”, as I feel the top 5 are simply a cut above. This is certainly not meant as a slight, as all included here are geniuses of the game. In no order, I’ve selected John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Arthur Ashe, and Boris Becker.

What criteria were used? Mostly, the eye and gut test. Certainly, career accomplishments were very much factored in. But, I went primarily by feel. Federer is quite simply the greatest tennis player I’ve seen. No one quite compares. What he’s done on the court is both sublime *and* ridiculous. After the Swiss maestro, we thought Sampras barely nosed out the Swede on the strength of, surprise, his immense first and second serves. Borg, the mightiest titan I had beheld in my youth, is next; the man’s groundstrokes revolutionized the game, with their blistering topspin. He was also *insanely* fast. Rafa takes #4, on the merits of his own wicked topspin forehand, foot speed, and indomitable will. And speaking of indomitable, the same applies to Mr. Djokovic. His return of serve is also probably the most effective/intimidating we’ve seen.

A final word on Federer, from the man who knows him best: Rafa Nadal. “If he is playing very good, I have to play unbelievable. If not, it’s impossible, especially if he’s playing with good confidence. When he’s 100 per cent, he’s playing in another league. It’s impossible to stop him.” – 2007

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athletes Athletics Dominic Thiem photography sport tennis

Dominic Thiem: A Major Milestone.

2020 featured a sensational, stomach-churning final for the men’s US Open trophy. Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem battled for over 4 hours, each getting excruciatingly close to the crown. Jangly nerves, cramps, and courage played as large a role as each player’s formidable arsenal of shotmaking weaponry. The Austrian finally prevailed by the slimmest of margins in the final set tiebreaker. A heartbreaking pill for Zverev to somehow swallow, and the first major championship for Dominic Thiem, who had * just* enough will at the finish to outlast his friend.

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athletes Athletics Naomi Osaka photography sport tennis

Naomi Osaka: Three Times a Ladies’ Champion.

The final of the 2020 US Open featured everything one could desire in a championship match: high level of play; swings in momentum; and commendable bravery from both players. Naomi Osaka emerged the victor in an epic struggle with Victoria Azarenka, claiming her 3rd major trophy in the process. Both players exhibited tremendous desire, not to mention wondrous shotmaking. It will be a long-remembered match for the championship level on both sides of the net. Osaka’s wicked groundstrokes, formidable serve, and grace under pressure eventually prevailed.

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athletes Athletics photography sport tennis

Relentlessness Incarnate: Daniil Medvedev.

25 year old Daniil Medvedev, the world’s 2nd ranked player, plays a fascinating game of tennis. Though 6’6″, he plays mostly from the backcourt, where he is utterly ruthless. Ceaseless probing, penetrating groundstrokes, hit mostly flat, help him gain control of the point, and he is not one prone to relinquishing it. A formidable competitor, Medvedev plays controlled offense superbly, has a very effective serve, and has excellent foot speed. He seems destined to be at or near the top of the men’s game for many years.

{Revised 9/12/21}

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athletes Athletics Basketball NBA photography sport Steph Curry

Magician at Large: Steph Curry.

The inimitable magic of Steph Curry, which for him is a mere bagatelle. Curry is without a doubt one of the greatest long range shooters ever, possesses magical ball handling skills, is an electric passer, and is an ΓΌber-inventive, potent scorer from anywhere on the court. The 2 time league MVP holds a number of NBA records, including highest free throw percentage for a career, most points in an overtime period, most 3 point shots made in a season…the list goes on. Steph is the only player ever to lead the league in scoring while achieving the 50-40-90 shooting trifecta. The 6’3β€³ guard has revolutionized the way the game is played, and is a joy to watch.

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athletes Athletics Horse Racing photography Secretariat sport

King of the Sport of Kings: Secretariat.

The immortal Triple Crown winner Secretariat is generally considered to be the greatest thoroughbred racehorse ever, along with Man o’ War. After winning Horse of the Year as a 2 year old, a rare feat, he took part in the triple Crown races as a 3 year old. He swept them, running the fastest Derby, Preakness, and Belmont of all time in the process. Sham, a very fine horse, who finished behind the big chestnut colt in the Derby and Preakness, ran the *second* fastest time ever in both. Secretariat set a *world* record in the 1 1/2 mile Belmont, besting the old mark by a simply unreal 2 3/5 seconds. His winning margin was an absurd 31 lengths.

Later in the season, he took part in the Marlboro Cup, which featured his stablemate Riva Ridge, a champion 4 year old. Secretariat prevailed easily, and ended up setting yet another world record for the distance, at 1:45 2/5 seconds. Truly the stuff of myth and legend.

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athletes Athletics BjΓΆrn Borg John McEnroe photography sport tennis Wimbledon

BjΓΆrn Borg and John McEnroe: Their Epic Confrontation.

Homeric valor, unfathomable resolve, and titanic talent were exhibited by both champions in this unforgettable battle.

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athletes Athletics Basketball NBA photography sport Wilt Chamberlain

A Giant Talent: Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt Chamberlain accomplished Herculean, seemingly impossible feats. 100 points in a game; a 50.4 scoring average in a season; 55 rebounds in a game; seven consecutive scoring titles to begin his career. And on and on. As a Harlem Globetrotter, he hurled Meadowlark Lemon around in one skit as if he weighed 210 ounces, rather than 210 pounds. Lemon called Chamberlain the strongest athlete who ever lived. He was certainly one of the greatest.

Wilt won his 2nd and most satisfying NBA championship in 1972 with the Lakers, who set a then-league record with 69 wins, including a stunning 33 in a row. His role had changed, and he showed he could dominate by defending (though he was already a great shot-blocker), rebounding and fuelling the team’s lethal fast-break. A legendary, iconic sporting figure whose true talents may never be fathomed.

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athletes Athletics baseball Competition Giants MLB photography sport

Giant Steps. SF World Series Championships.

Highlights from the 2010, 2012, and 2014 World Series Championships for the San Francisco Giants.

Please see our related post focusing on 2010 and 2012, at our site Bideodromage II.

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athletes Athletics Basketball NBA photography sport

Purvis Short: Elite Bucket Accumulator and Top-Tier Rainbow Shooter.

One of the premier pure shooters we’ve ever encountered, Purvis Short was quite capable of finding creative ways to score, as well. He averaged a healthy 28.0 ppg in 1984-85. It always seemed so easy, almost casual. A vastly undervalued star. And, as far as sheer beauty is concerned, his silky-smooth, high-arcing jumper is at or near the top of the heap.