ROGER FEDERER VS RAFAEL NADAL REBOOT A CLASSIC

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“Familiarity breeds contempt.”

That was certainly the case for two tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the early 2000’s. They saw way too much of each other with the net between them in the hottest rivalry in men’s tennis at that time.

But time dimmed the lights and a friendship grew. In fact they came together on a project that was true to both their hearts, the future of the game. Federer attended the ribbon cutting ceremony marking the opening of Nadal’s tennis academy.

“I was blown away by that academy and by what Rafa was able to build there,” Federer said.

Now these two opposed one another for the 2017 Australian Open Final and all eyes were upon them once more. The stories were inspiring. Federer leaving the sport for six months to tend to his health and he showed he could learn from Nadal in his comeback from knee surgery.

“I thing is Rafa’s always been unbelievable at comebacks,” Federer said, “I think maybe on this occasion, he’s going to lead the way for me, to show how it’s done.”

He has also re-invented himself, altering his game to more of a net aggressor. Nadal, the Spanish splinter in Federer’s hand for twelve years leads the series 23-11. No one else did as well against the best in tennis. They are the only men to finish in the top two for six straight years. Together they have won 31 Grand Slam titles.

That’s what makes this match so tastefully surreal. You know what you are going to get. Nadal has won all three finals against Federer. Until now. It was close and competitive as it always is with these two. But this time Federer pulled out the five set classic as they traded the first four sets until finally the rebranded Federer rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win 6-3. And they are still friends.

Monica Puig and Maria Sharapova Share Gift of Giving In Exhibition

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They were two tennis players going in opposite directions in 2016. Maria Sharapova, the best paid women’s athlete in this decade but banned from the sport in March for failing a doping test. Monica Puig, the Puerto-Rican woman who fought a slow battle to join the elite but superceding her previous efforts with a gold-medal winning performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first woman from the island to win such an honor.

Now, recently in a spirit of goodwill which represents the idea of the holidays, Monica played Maria Sharapova in her own tournament last week, the Monica Puig Invitational in San Juan after Sharapova’s sentence was reduced. Sharapova was pleased to be coming to Puerto Rico for the first time to help open the festivities.

“Monica’s Olympic story brought so much joy and pride to the people of Puerto Rico and I am happy to support her dream of playing tennis in her homeland.”

It turned out to be quite a classic with Puig and Sharapova splitting the first two sets until Puig won a tough final set 10-6 in front of 12,000 adoring fans. Sharapova responded to the love she received.

“Maybe when I come back in 10 years and retire, we’ll need a bigger stadium,”

Sharapova was impressed by the event and credited Monica expressing that together they accomplished something lasting through the sport in Puerto Rico. This event was a nice positive for Puerto Ricans who have been dominated by financial troubles throughout this year and Monica is determined to do her part in bringing something new to the table.

“I am very fortunate to be in the position that I am — both in life and as an athlete,” she said. “I want to bring tennis to Puerto Rico, help grow the sport, and have people enjoy and take pleasure out of this great sport and also for the next generation to be able to learn to play tennis, and use it as a tool to be successful in life.”

MONICA PUIG IS NOW THE GOLD STANDARD FOR PUERTO RICO

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She was not the first Puerto Rican to win a gold medal or the first woman for that matter. If you look back you have quite a few athletes that are Puerto Rican by birth or descent who have won gold in the past and the current 2016 Rio Olympics. But whether through personal choice or circumstance, athletes like Gigi Fernandez, Carmelo Anthony, and even gymnastic star Laurie Hernandez, all added their tallies to the United States.

Never has the Puerto Rican national anthem been played at an Olympics. Then a 22-year old professional tennis player, who has never been ranked higher than 33 and owns only two singles tournament wins, grinded through a tough field to the top of the mountain with a finals win over Angelique Kerber to bestow the honor of Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal in Olympic history.

“I think I united a nation and I just love where I come from,”

Monica explained shortly after her defining victory.

The reaction on the island nation was nothing short of elation. Puerto Rico, who through it’s complicated relationship with the United States has always been given the tools but never the option of using them. This victory was solely for Puerto Rico and it was both strange and empowering to see the flag raised above and “La Borinquena” playing for the first time.

Puig’s tearful reaction was as much a release for a people who are economically troubled but on this court, Monica was in control of a country’s sporting destiny and through this humble woman from Hato Rey, took their place among the relevant in Olympic lore and is forever worth more than gold to her countrymen.

SPAIN OFF TO EXCELLENT START IN U.S. OPEN

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The 2015 U.S Open of Tennis is in its opening round and for one country the early returns are quite encouraging. The obvious stock to invest in is Rafael Nadal, who is healthy and determined to make a statement. He did. But so did another from position 31 in the seed department.

Nadal needed four sets to dispose of Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. But it was another Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, of La Roda, who had the match of the night. Lopez, a 13 year veteran, has made a living in the world of doubles. He has often stayed long enough in New York for two dinners sometimes one. But there was a purpose to his game.

After winning a opening tiebreaker 7-6 over Janko Tipsarevic, he lost two straght by 6-4 scores. Lopez had an ace in the hole. Guillermo has nine wins over Top Ten players, including Nadal in 2010 when Rafael was number one. But Jano was a single tournament winner with none of them major, so Lopez did not have to stretch to the depths for this one, winning 6-3 and 6-1 to return for that all familiar second dinner. Maybe at 32, he can hang around a little longer. After ten years, he is quite overdue.

RAFAEL NADAL WINS HEARTS IN FUNDRAISER

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The Tennis world is very familiar with Rafael Nadal. The Spanish star from Mallorca has been a fixture at the top of the tennis world since he exploded onto the pro scene at seventeen, a force at nineteen. He has held the number one position five times and his fourteen Slam titles are second all time tied with Pete Sampras and trailing only Roger Federer (17).

Though only 29, Nadal has fought through injury woes recently but is looking to do big things at this years U.S. Open.

“I feel well, now I need to win.”

Nadal explained,

“I have to be patient and wait for my moment.”

He sees how unique his rise at an early age was, something he sees not as easy to duplicate. “My feeling is not at all. It’s because something changed,

It was a period of time with me and Roger (Federer) but not every generation is the same.”

We learned about these at the Johnny Mac Tennis Project. John McEnroe invited him and Nadal showed his character by coming without a fee while also serving verbal lessons to younger stars like Nick Kyrgios, whose mouth has made waves in the tennis world recently. “He’s done me a huge favor coming here and I owe him big time.” John McEnroe said.

“Rafa has been a class act for many years on the tour.”

As a result, he was removed from a doubles match that had Kyrgios as partner and moved into a singles match with Lleyton Heweitt. Nadal entertained the crowd with smiles and at times hints of world class shotmaking in his single set win.

“I think I recovered alot of the things I lost, namely intensity and passion.”

Its those emotions that fueled Nadal in his early years and its that which has been tempered by time and health yet Nadal feels he is starting to regain some of his form. The U.S. Open will test that idea from the start. “The passion is there. I have my ups and downs.” Nadal said,

“During the season there are moments that change the dynamic. My feeling is I am playing better most of the time.”

The fundraiser Nadal took time to appear in has been a boon for inner city children as John McEnroe has been working dilligently to find the next stars that are hidden in the United States. “You can see how inspired the kids are in Spain because of Rafael and my goal is similiar as all the money will be going to that cause to help out as many kids as possible.” McEnroe shared. Nadal agreed,

“Its a great inspiration for the rest and a great example for the next generation.”

Nadal added.

Nadal is also doing his own work in providing facilities in Spain for young kids, something that appeals to him and as he noted other sports fail to pursue.

“I want to give something back to the kids.”

Nadal said, “I want to give them the benefit of my experience.” Nadal is a role rodel for Latino youth and the world at large and if he returns to the top or not, his legacy is intact.

“He is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest effort players I have ever seen.”

McEnroe points out,

“He is one of the best two players ever.”

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MONICA PUIG BRINGS “PICA POWER” TO U.S. OPEN

American Express And USTA US Open Fresh Courts Challenge With James Blake, Sloane Stephens, Jack Sock, And Monica Puig

Puerto Rico has never been able to produce a potential singles star in tennis sports history. A young woman from Hato Rey is poised to change that as she has slowly worked small significant victories to personal highs. Currently ranked 69 in the World, she was as high as 41 in May when she won her first WTA title in Strasbourg.

But Monica is hungry to reach the elite level as shown by her hiring of coach Antonio Van Grichen, who worked with #1 women’s player Victoria Azarenka. Monica has won a gold medal at a regional games. She has four ITF titles and made her deepest run in a Grand Slam tournament, falling in the fourth round at last year’s Wimbledon.

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As a Latina she has gained a following in the traditionally more louder U.S Open, something that makes it differ from tennis other major title cities. She credits her determined rise to a philosophy called “Pica Power.”

“It’s like a picking away at a stone until it becomes perfect.”

Monica has seen those start to produce results. Puig rallied to defeat T.Smitkova in the opening round after losing the opening set. Today , as of a few moments ago, however, in a three set duel with #18 ranked, A.Petkovic, Monica’s mistakes cost her in the clutch. After winning the first set, Petkovic won the second, and in the third, they went to a third set tiebreaker, with Puig falling short 7-5. Despite this result, Monica determination in defeat has put the tennis world on notice that Puerto Rico has a player to be dealt with in years to come.