Monday, July 07, 2008


Viva Espana!

For the second time this year, Spaniards have a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of their athletes.

Rafael Nadal, a twenty-two year old native of Mallorca, outlasted Roger Federer to win the Wimbledon tennis final in London.

Both men were completely drained at the end of the match, described by many as the greatest tennis match ever played. Having followed the game for half a century, you will not get any argument about that comment from me. The last Spaniard to win at Wimbledon was Monolo Santana in 1966.

Santana watched the match with Bjorn Borg, the Swede who owned the single men’s title at Wimbledon for many years. They were both great players, but did not possess the game that Nadal and Federer have today.

For Federer, it was a tough loss. He had won the last five titles at Wimbledon, and no one has won six in a row since 1880. Nadal is the first to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same year since Borg. This can be attributed to one’s ability to play on all types of surfaces. Federer excels on grass, Nadal on clay. Rarely does not do well on different surfaces.

Next year, the final will be played in different conditions, thankfully. There were rain delays this year, and the last few games were played in poor light. They had been at it for almost five hours, and had waited through a couple of rain interruptions.

Both of these players are also gentlemen. That has not always been the case on the tennis court. Agassi, Connors, McEnroe and a few others nurtured a brat image for the game. But in the dark, following the match, as the flashes from the patrons blistered the finalists, Federer politely criticized the conditions following his loss: “It’s tough on me now, you know, to lose the biggest tournament in the world over maybe a bit of light.” An understatement, to be sure.

There are also building a retractable roof over the centre court next year. About time. There are only a few of them in the world today, and one of the finest is in Toronto. I cannot fathom why anyone, in our climate area would build a new stadium without some type of roof.

The other moment of joy that led Spaniards into the bodegas for a sip of Sangria came when they recently won the European Championship in soccer. Fernando Torres trickled in a first half goal, the team dominated the German side, and the Spaniards returned to Madrid with their first international success since 1964 when they won the UEFA cup.

A midfielder, Xavi Hernandez, who plays for FC Barcelona, was chosen as the top player in the tournament. The coach, Arragones, was the epitome of demonstrative emotion on the sidelines.

Despite the torrential rains that swept across Austria and Switzerland, the host countries, the tournament went off with very few hitches. There is no doubt that the people from Bejing were watching carefully, as they prepare for this summer’s Olympic Games. Let there be no political games in China.

The Spaniards completed Group D play with nine points, followed by Russia with six, Sweden with three and Greece, held pointless. I am sure heads will roll in Athens!

The boys from the Iberian peninsula then advanced past Italy with a nil-nil draw, trounced Russia 3-0 in the semi-final, and dusted Germany in the final.

Two great triumphs for Spain. Felicitaciones! Bien hecho!

James Hurst

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