1. Roger Federer's run as the tennis world's best player is officially over.
Anyone who stayed up for Sunday morning's epic match-up between Rafael Nadal(above) and Roger Federer in the Australian Open were treated to a pure classic. We all saw the two superstars duel in London last summer in a match dubbed as the greatest of all-time, this one wasn't too far off.
Nadal won the year's opening Grand Slam through hard fought sets with Federer, never feeling comfortable with the Swiss legend giving Nadal all he could. The opening set was right out of the classic Wimbledon match, as both players were relentless on break points, and the two exchanged long rallies which dazzled the Melbourne crowd.
Federer's gameplan from the begining was to wear down Nadal who was coming off a marathon semi-final match of more than five hours. He ran the Spaniard back and forth across the court, to which Nadal responded with precision backhand returns. Despite the first set going to Nadal 7-5, Federer's plan worked in the second stanza as he breezed to a 6-3 victory, reclaiming momentum and allowing Nadal to regroup for the third.
The third set was a battle from the start, with Nadal matching Federer stroke for stroke, eventually winning 7-6(3). But it was probably the fourth set that sent tennis fanatics home grinning ear to ear.
In one of the most beautiful points you will ever see, Nadal fought off a plethora of returns from Federer which chased Nadal across the court, running wind sprints back and forth only to beat Roger with an off-balance backhand in the corner. Nadal raised his hands into the air as if he won the title on that point, which metaphorically he did.
Going into the deciding fifth set, Nadal was step for step with Federer, and completely dominated the final set to win his first Australian Open. He won 15 of 19 serve points, as Federer was clearly worn down and defeated.
The win was so much more than Nadal's first championship down under, and his first Grand Slam on hardcourt, it was the match that officially ended Federer's run. Federer has lost three straight Grand Slam finals with Nadal, each on different surfaces. He's 27 and past his physical peak, while Nadal is 22 and getting better.
Federer couldn't hide his emotions after the match, breaking down on the court, and passing the torch onto Nadal with each tear.
"The first moment you're disappointed, you're shocked, you're sad, you know, then all of a sudden it overwhelms you. The problem is you can't go in the locker room and just take it easy and take a cold shower. You're stuck out there. It's the worst feeling. ... it's rough."
Federer will surely is finished, and still is very likely to match or best Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slams, a title that Roger could have tied on Sunday. But for all intensive purposes, the Federer era as the dominant force of tennis is over. Fittingly however, Rafael Nadal is the king of the tennis world, the second most humble superstar in the world, behind Federer ofcourse.
"Maybe I'll try later. God, it's killing me," the 27-year-old Swiss star said, sobbing. He returned to congratulate Nadal within minutes, saying: "You deserved it. You played a fantastic final."
"Roger, sorry for today. I really know how you feel right now," Nadal said. "Remember, you're a great champion, you're one of the best in history."
2. Super Bowl XVIII's fourth quarter was the best ever, even better than last year.
The quarter had everything a fan could want: a 13-point comeback, a safety, a 64 yard touchdown pass, 112 receiving yards from Larry Fitzgerald, 2 Kurt Warner touchdowns, countless momentum swinging penalties, a fumble, a controversial ending, and oh yeah, a game winning touchdown catch with only 35 seconds left.
Last year's Super Bowl was called the greatest ever, but how can it compare? Other than the undefeated story lines, and a heady catch from David Tyree, last year was nothing to this year's fourth.
Put aside the underlying tones of sophomore coaches who went after the same job, and an Arizona franchise which hadn't won since 1948, this was pure football. This was glitz, this was glamour. All-American style, without the heartless Cowboys and egos of the Patriots, but with dedicated fans and players.
"I think what makes America's Team is that anywhere you go in America, that's your home stadium. It's called Steelers Nation for a reason. [The Cowboys] may be called 'America's Team' because they have reality shows. They like to be in the headlines, things like that, but it felt like we were in Pittsburgh tonight.''
—Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers, Safety
—Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers, Safety
It was clear in those final five minutes that both teams wanted it so bad. Larry Fitzgerald was silent throughout the first three quarters, but like winners are supposed to do, the Cardinals' best player did what he does best, carrying the team upon his shoulders. He grabbed the team by the back of their neck and showed true heart and grit, rallying the troops to their comeback, scoring twice along the way.
Ben Roethlisberger had been average all game long, but for those two minutes on that last drive, he was Joe Montana, he was John Elway, he was Tom Brady, and Johnny Unitas wrapped into one. He was a man possessed. He fought off countless blitzes and hit open receivers like Santonio Holmes.
Holmes(above) came up big on the final drive, with two epic catches, putting him into Pittsburgh lore. The last catch will go down as one of the greatest touchdown catches in NFL history, as he kept his toes in bounds to snare in the Super Bowl winning score with just 35 seconds left, a la Plaxico Burress one year ago.
Despite the glory of the Steelers, the despair of the Cardinals was painful to watch as a non-partisan fan. I couldn't help but feel sorry for the NFC Champions. They had come so far, played with so much heart in the fourth quarter, and yet when Kurt Warner "fumbled" the ball with seconds left, they lost.
The questionable call as time ran out to not review the fumble leaves us as sports fans to wonder, what could the Cardinals have done with a chance at Hail Mary? With Larry Fitzgerald on your team, it can't be too difficult right? Sadly we won't have that chance. But nonetheless, the game did not lack excitement. I shouldn't be too greedy and ask for more.
3. Sunday was the year's best day in sports.
There can't possibly be a better day in 2009 for the sporting world. With Nadal trumping Federer, and the Steelers winning the Super Bowl in the last minute, the bar is set high for the remaining 333 days in 2009.
If someone we are treated to a better day, then it will be one hell of a day.
4. Lightning does strike twice for the Lakers.
Andrew Bynum's left knee injury last season left them wondering what could have been. This year, they may be wondering the same thing. Kobe Bryant rolled into Bynum's right knee Saturday night, spraining it and placing the up and coming superstar's status in limbo, along with the Lakers' championship aspirations.
Results of an MRI have yet to be released, only adding to the drama. The loss of Bynum is crucial for the Lakers, as they just got healthy with the return of Farmar last week, and now they lose their hottest player.
Bynum had averaged over 26 points, 13 boards and 5 blocks over his last five contests, and has been turning into the dynamic inside presence that Mitch Kupchak envisioned when he drafted the youngster four years ago.
Although Bynum says his knee feels better this time around than last year's knee injury, the freak injury won't stop Laker fans around the globe from panicking mid-season on the Purple & Gold.
5. Being No. 1 in college basketball is overrated.
Once again, the top ranked team in college hoops, Wake Forest, was defeated this week. Wow, big shocker. When are people going to realize that the rankings in college basketball far defer from their meaning in football.
Every year the elite teams will stumble along the way on the road to lesser opponents, and other than their rankings, the losses make little difference for the losing team. The winning team gets the glory and the props when it comes to the RPI and their seeding in the tournament, but the loser really doesn't lose.
Unlike football, where a loss can absolutely kill your season, college basketball is a different game. So why does the media apply the same logic when it comes to rankings?
The No. 1 ranking doesn't mean "best". Instead it is a statistic marking when you last lost, and acts like the succession line to the throne rather than a measurement of greatness. Until basketball season really starts to count for the elite teams, in March, the rankings are just a joke.
Photo: The Telegraph, Huffington Post