Professional tennis is in many ways a game of hierarchies and hegemonies, wherein the best remain at the top and generally throttle the lesser ranked competition on every front. Some seasons bear testimony to unbroken stretches of dominance by the Top Ten players, who vie amongst themselves in the semifinals and finals of nearly every major tournament and championship. Occasionally, however, an upset or an unexpected injury will shatter the status quo and send the establishment reeling.
In many ways, 2014 has been a season full of such upsets and unprecedented challengers. The Australian Open was the first major championship of the year to bear testimony to such an upset, with Stan Wawrinka’s victory over former champion Rafael Nadal in the final, and his brutal defeat of defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
The French Open quarterfinals played host to a variety of new and upcoming contenders, as did the grass courts of Wimbledon. The enthralled audiences present at the Championships witnessed the defeat of defending champion Andy Murray to Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and the unexpected resurgence of finalist and seven-time champion Roger Federer. Other pundits marveled at Rafael Nadal’s defeat at the hands of the 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios of Australia in the fourth round.
As Major League Baseball nears its trading deadline, there are many players who have been mentioned about as potential candidates to be moved. Perhaps the most talked about of these is the starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, David Price.
At one point not too long ago, many of the experts were almost sure that Price was on the cusp of being moved. Since then, many things have changed. Now it may no longer a possibility that Price is going to be traded before the end of tomorrow. Instead, it looks increasingly more like he is going to stay with the Rays, at least for the remainder of 2014.
Since being the first overall pick of the 2007 MLB Draft, the 28 year old Price has lived up to his billing. It didn’t take long for him to become the ace of the Rays’ pitching staff. In 2010, just his second full season, he started the All-Star Game for the American League, and went on to finish second in Cy Young voting. That year, he pitched to a 2.72 ERA, while striking out 188 batters.
The Boston Red Sox have been a pendulum of late. Twice now in years following a World Series victory, Boston has followed with a less-than-stellar season.
Not that Boston fans are complaining (or at least, they shouldn’t be). After all, it was 86 years between World Series victories before 2004, followed by only a three year gap with a title in 2007. Then Boston won again in 2013, immediately following a year in the cellar of the AL East.
Though the 2007 title-winning team included players who were still in or just past their primes, it also incorporated young talent who would be the backbone of the 2013 run. It would seem the Red Sox are able to rebuild, or at least retool, fairly quickly. They are not, however, the first team to see such sporadic success.
For the average recreational tennis player, a tennis court and a hard court are one and the same. The ubiquitous red and green paint, the fading white lines, and the rough, concrete-like playing surface are all characteristics of the court that dominates both the ATP World Tour and the vast majority of recreational and club tennis courts the world over.
Of the 65 professional events on the ATP World Tour, including Grand Slams, the ATP World Tour Finals, Masters 1000 events, ATP 500 events and ATP 250 events, 37 of these are held on some variation of hard court, made of either acrylic or synthetic material. Comparatively, only 22 events are held on clay, and a mere six are held on grass. Since 2009, no professional events have been held on carpet courts.
Over the years, some players have complained of the seemingly unequal distribution of tournaments and surface types. Some have bemoaned the fact that many injuries on the Tour occur because of the damage that hard courts often cause on players’ knees. Others have stated that the Tour panders to those players who perform best on the medium speed surface.
A.J. Pierzynski has seen his share of the league, playing for six clubs across a 17-year career. While he only stayed in two cities for longer than a year, he’s also had a measure of success behind the plate. For that reason, among others, his recent change of scenery should reap benefits.
Shipping out of Boston
When Boston released the catcher on July 16, it was fairly clear the 37 year-old would get a shot to help out another team down the stretch. Some in the media have attributed his release in part to clubhouse issues, though that may not be the whole story.
It remains the Red Sox aren’t going anywhere this year, and they decided to part ways with Pierzynski. The man who takes his place, Christian Vazquez, is 23. It seems to make sense for the Sox to figure out what he can do in an everyday role while David Ross, also 37, spells him as the veteran backup. Pierzynski didn’t fit into the Red Sox’ plans, so they let him go, which turned out to be a good move for everyone involved.