Maestro or Matador? We, the tennis fans, win

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Few rivalries in sport can rival the one of Federer-Nadal. Swiss vs. Spaniard. Single-handed backhand utilizing the right arm against a two-fisted lefty. GQ’s “Most Stylish Man of 2016” vs. the underwear model of Tommy Hilfiger. Wimbledon grass maestro vs. French Open clay-courter.

But as contrasting as their playing styles are, you cannot find two future Hall of Famers (with a combined 31 majors) who are more humble, genuine and courteous — the perfect role models off and on the court in this era of trash-talking Trump and Duterte. (Or Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.)

Who will win tonight? Ha-ha. It’s like asking me if I prefer biking or running, or tennis over a steak dinner. Crazy comparison, I know, but that’s the offering in tonight’s menu.

Tennis is like boxing. It’s mano-a-mano. But what makes a five-hour marathon played inside that rectangle even more challenging is this: you’re alone. Split in between by a 3-foot-tall net while swatting that bouncing yellow ball, there’s nothing else that will separate Roger and Rafa.

Nobody expected this. Not even these two legends who’ll trade 19-shot blows, slice drop volleys, and pump fists while respectfully staring the other. Tonight, blood in the form of sweat will flood Rod Laver Arena. Passing shots will wow the Aussies as 205-kph aces will fly; Roger fans will paint their faces red while Rafa’s followers will hoist bandera Española.

In this era of boring backhands by Murray and Djokovic, an endless pingpong of counterpunches, who’d have expected the 17th and 9th seeds to meet? Destiny.

For Roger, expect him to cry if he wins No. 18; nobody is more gifted than RF (even his baby-making skills are incomparable: he has two sets of twins, girls then boys, with wife Mirka).

For Rafa, tired after a five-hour slugfest with Dimitrov and unfairly given only 39 hours of rest compared to Fed’s three days, it’s all about his heart. No one gives 1,001 percent, screams louder, punishes his body more than the Mallorcan. Roger fans hate Rafa but they honor his doggedness and grit. But as ferocious and Spanish bullfighter-like as he is, Rafa is polite and gracious.

In defeat or in triumph, he and Roger exhibit this outstanding humility — not just as athletes but as human beings. Consider ourselves blessed. This is it. I’m doubtful if this boxing slugfest — their 35th fight — will ever happen again. Go, Roger! Vamos!

What’s wrong with Rafa?

He’s slipped to No. 7. He lost to Andy Murray, whom he’s never lost to before on clay, in Madrid. He’s on a four-loss record on clay (the worst since he was a teenager). Heading into Rome, this is the worst preparation he’s encountered so far.

His reply? Classic Nadal. “I cannot leave Madrid not happy. I have to leave happy and just delete what happened today. I will just stay with the good things that happened this week, and there are a lot of them, more good than bad. I will try to recover the good feelings in Rome.”

Champions, they say, need to have both long and short memories. Long memories to remember how good they are (Nadal’s a 14-time Grand Slam champ) and short enough to forget the most recent loss.

With the major prize coming up in Paris in two weeks, I can’t wait. First-hand, I’ll watch if Rafa can win his 10th French Open trophy.

What’s wrong with Rafa?

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This is the problem when you’re No. 1. When you’ve won 90 percent of your clay-court matches. When you’ve triumphed in every French Open, except one, from 2005 to 2013. This is the problem when you’re Rafael Nadal. His middle initial is P. That stands for Perfect. (It’s actually “Parera.”) You can’t make a mistake. You. Can’t. Lose. A. Single. Match. Because while your socks get brown-colored-dirty, when you’re Rafa you’re supposed to be without blemish. You are Spain’s Superman.

Rafa has been invincible. At the Barcelona Open, he won eight titles. Same in Monte Carlo, eight trophies. In Rome, it’s seven championships. These are records that even Bjorn Borg couldn’t achieve; even Thomas Muster couldn’t muster. I’m unaware of any other athlete who’s been as dominant as Rafa has been on clay.

But remember the cliche, “All good things come to an end?” Is this the End of Rafa? No, he’s not retiring after the French Open ends on June 8. But is he having difficulty dominating like before? Absolutely. This 2014 has been his most challenging year since he burst into the scene as a 19-year-old to win the French Open.

He turns 28 this June 3. “At this age, (Bjorn) Borg was doing other things,” Rafa said last week. “It’s not possible to win for 10 years with easy scores and easy matches.”

Three weeks ago, Rafa lost to Nicholas Almagro. The week before, he succumbed to the topspin of David Ferrer in Monte Carlo. Last January, when he was expected to romp to his 14th Grand Slam title, he melted like Swiss cheese to Stan Wawrinka. Despite an ATP-leading 34 wins on the tour this year, he’s already lost six times. Not bad. But not Rafa-good.

In his titanic rivalry against Novak Djokovic, they seem to have these see-saw moments when one sweeps through several victories before losing a quartet of matches. Thus far, Nadal has lost his last four encounters with Djokovic. In the game of the mind, this is bad for Rafa. And so was this statistic in their final yesterday: Nadal had 15 winners/27 unforced errors while Djokovic had 46 winners/30 unforced errors.

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Which brings us to Roland Garros, the official name of the French Open. It starts this Sunday and will run for two weeks. It’s one of tennis’ four majors and it’s the only one played on clay.

What’s clay? It’s like the surface of most of our courts here — Baseline, Alta Vista, Cebu Country Club. Among the various surfaces (hard-courts, grass in Wimbledon, indoor carpet), it’s the slowest. Why? Because when the ball touches the ground, it doesn’t skim on a slippery surface like cement; on clay, the ball settles and plunges, often taking some soil to intertwine with the fluffy yellow ball.

I’ve been inside Roland Garros. This was in 2001. With the family of Jack Mendez, my beloved father-in-law, we opened the gates that September and roamed the site where Rene Lacoste was victorious three times. I touched the clay in Paris. It’s thick and red — slower than our “anapog” courts here. (Next week to commemorate the Paris major, I’d love to play in the CitiGreen indoor courts in Punta Princesa, Cebu — they’re red clay!)

Back to Mr. Nadal, is he most vulnerable this year? Yes. The only clay-court event that he won prior to Paris was in Madrid. And he should have lost that. Trailing Kei Nishikori in the final, it was only after the Japanese got injured that the Spaniard surged.

Also, if you recall their semi-final meeting last year, Djokovic led Nadal, 4-1, in the fifth set before that infamous net-touching incident by Novak. The Serb ended up losing to the Spaniard, 9-7, in the fifth.

Next week? Wow. They can only meet in the final and it will be a colossal finale if the world’s top two face-off.

Still, Rafa is Rafa. He’s won 59 of 60 matches in Roland Garros, translating to a 98.3 winning percentage. He’s the King of France from Spain. The memories, the triumphs, the surroundings, the roaring French cheers, the green backdrop with the “BNP” initials — all these will energize the lefty. Vamos.

The Internazionali BNL d'Italia 2014 - Day Six(Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

London calling! It’s Nadal v. Djokovic for No. 1

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If you follow the ATP Tour of men’s tennis, then you’ll know that this week is important. The venue is England. The players number only eight. It’s the season-ending finale called the ATP World Tour Finals. Many refer to this as the “fifth Grand Slam of tennis” that’s played indoors. It’s being held at the 02 Arena in London — one of the world’s busiest where concerts rock audiences and sporting events thrill spectators.

By-invitation-only, the world’s top eight are joining. Minus hometown boy Andy Murray, who’s recovering from back surgery, the likes of Wawrinka, Gasquet, Ferrer and Berdych join the popular names of Del Potro, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

Instead of a knock-out format like in all others (you lose one and you’re out), this week it’s round-robin play. Two groups of four are divided; the top two of each bracket advance to the semifinals.

One million six hundred thousand dollars awaits the undefeated champion. And, for the non-winners, even if you lose every single match, you’re still richer, just by showing up, by $120,000. Not bad.

The sub-plot of this mega-event is the battle for the title, “2013 World Tennis Champion.” Will it be Rafa or Novak? Last night at 10 p.m. (Phil. time), Rafa played Stan Wawrinka. If the Spaniard won, he would have clinched the year-end No. 1 spot. If he lost, Novak still has a chance.

images-1For Roger Federer fans, it’s not game-over yet for the 32-year-old Dubai resident. Though he’s amassed nearly $80 million in prize money and owns most of tennis’ records (17 slams and 302 weeks as No. 1), he’s only been victorious in one tournament this entire 2013 (Halle, on grass, in June). This is embarrassing for The Great One who’s garnered 77 total tournament career wins. Can he win one more Grand Slam title? I’m unsure. His best prospect is Wimbledon, where he’s won seven, but basing on his result this year (he crashed out in the second round), it doesn’t look good for RF.

What’s working for Federer is his good health. Unlike the injury-plagued (and five years younger) Nadal, the Swiss has hardly ever been injured. He stretches. He doesn’t grunt and grind and exert as much physically as Rafa. And as long as the cute twin girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, don’t pester their dad too much, Roger is expected to play for three or more Novembers.

With Nadal, what a comeback year. Out for seven months under rehabilitation, his rejuvenated and second-hand/good-as-new body wins 10 tournaments this 2013, including the French Open (which he forever owns) and the U.S. Open. Can he add the only missing piece in his storied life story, the ATP World Tour Finals, which he’s never won before?

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“Last year was a big miss for me,” Nadal said. “Even if I was not able to play my best a lot of times here, I really have great feelings every time I have the chance to play in this stadium.”

Will he emerge as champion this Sunday? We’ll see. But the way Djokovic has been playing of late — winning Beijing, Shanghai and Paris; 18 undefeated matches so far — I’m rooting for (though I’ve never been a huge fan of) the Serb.

On the topic of indoor tennis, I like it. If you watched the Paris Indoors last week, you’ll see the difference. Lights are dimmed. Loud music pumps the hearts of the fans. Smoke machines fumigate harmless excitement. Laser lights dance as the players prance. Unlike the sunny/sweaty drip of the outdoors, indoor tennis is cool, concert-like, captivating.

urlSpeaking of ticket prices, I checked the website and they range from P1,600 to P4,800. In the finals, it shoots up to P7,000 — but they’re sold out. That’s in London.

To us here in Cebu, the best thing is called HD TV. That’s High Definition. If you’re subsribed to it (mine’s on SkyCable; channel 702), then I need not explain further. As the saying goes, “It’s best seen, not explained.” If you love sports and can spend a little bit more on home entertainment, go HD.

Can David beat Goliath in Paris?

It’s David vs. Goliath in today’s Men’s Final of the French Open.

David Ferrer, in his first-ever Grand Slam final, will be facing a fellow Spaniard who’s called the King of Paris. Rafael Nadal, since he started playing in Roland Garros, has amassed a record that screams, “That’s Impossible!”

Nadal has played 59 times on the red clay of the French Open and has a 58-1 record. ‘Unbelievable’ is an understatement. He’s won seven titles there (apart from similar crazy-to-believe records/titles: eight of nine in Barcelona, seven of nine in Rome and eight of 10 in Monte Carlo).

Sorry to all fans of the underdogs: this dogged retriever named David (Ferrer) won’t beat Nadal tonight in the final. (Head to head, Nadal has won 19 and lost only 4 to Ferrer.)

The semi-finals between Nadal and Novak Djokovic? Wow! From 7 P.M. until 12 midnight last Friday (PHL time), I hope you stayed home to watch it. (I’m in Bacolod and, despite the cravings of all the good eateries here, we sprinted back to watch it from our Sugarland Hotel room.)

To those of us who saw the game, it was one of the best ever matches our eyes have witnessed. It had everything. A 7-time champion versus a contender who had never before won the Grand Slam of France. It was Spain vs. Serbia. It was lefty against right-hander. It was between a bandana-wearing Nike endorser versus a white-cap-wearing of Uniqlo.

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(Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

For a set and a half, Nadal was unstoppable. He won the first set, 6-4, and led the second, up a break, 3-2. That’s when Djokovic — one of the most resilient fighters in sports today — would not give Nadal a straight-sets victory. He won the next four games to snatch the second set, 6-3. It was one-set apiece.

The third set was puzzling. After gaining the momentum with his 2nd set win, Novak collapsed. His body did. He was so tired that he committed error after easy error. For the fittest tennis player on earth, I couldn’t understand why he had gotten so tired. He almost lost 6-0 but salvaged a game to lose the third set, 6-1.
In the fourth set, everybody who watched thought the match was over. With Djokovic tired and Nadal still bouncing and sprinting and repeatedly scratching his behind, it would be a straightforward 4-set win for Spain. But, no; ever the combatant, Novak wouldn’t yield the fight. He wanted war.

At 5-all in the fourth set, Nadal broke Djokovic’s serve to lead 6-5. At that point, Balls TV started to show what was coming next: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer. They devoted footages on the two (next to play) semi-finalists. It was only a question of a few minutes left before they would be next.

But, wait. I’m the world No.1, Novak screamed. I won’t yield. Not yet! Despite a 30-15 lead, Nadal was broken. The match was 6-all and a tiebreaker ensued. Nadal lost.

This heightened the drama. Another epic, titanic, here-we-go-to-another-four-hour-long drama was unfolding. To Nadal fans, ouch! What another wasted moment. Was this to be another Australian Open heart-breaker, when Nadal was sure to win — only for Novak to win in five hours, 53 minutes?

And Djokovic — previously looking pale — he was back to life. He had his second, third, fourth wind. He was going for the win.

In the fifth set’s first game, Nadal lost. Djokovic moved ahead to 2-0. Oh no, Nadal fans — like Bobby Lozada and Ernie Delco — would cringe. Novak led, 3-1. Despite trying so hard, Rafa couldn’t break the serve. It moved on to 4-2, Novak leading in the fifth set, with only two more service games to go.

That’s when Rafa leveled the match and it continued on and on.. Serving first, Rafa had an advantage. He led, 5-4. Then, 6-5. Next, 7-6. At 8-7, that’s when Novak’s tired body — and Nadal’s winners — resurfaced.

Finally, after 4 hours and 37 minutes, Rafa won. The funny part is, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t the final yet. But, Rafa fans, don’t worry. The coronation was only delayed by 48 hours. Later tonight, the crowning of the trophy will transpire. A Spaniard from Mallorca will slay David and be crowned the King of France.

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Rafa, injured again? Roger on that!

He is a graceful ice skater wearing tennis shoes and wielding a racket. He glides. He floats. He’s effortless and exquisite — hovering and dancing on court.

Twice, I had the chance to watch Roger Federer play. The first, in Kuala Lumpur, was an exhibition contest against Pete Sampras. That weekend in KL with our Cebu contingent (Chinggay Utzurrum, Michelle So, my brother Charlie and his wife Mitzi, Rene Ven Polinar, Dr. Ronnie Medalle and his wife Steph) was extra memorable because I joined a by-invitation-only gathering with Roger and Pete. (In the quick photo-op, I shook hands and had a photo with Pete — it should have been with the Swiss!)

Then, in Beijing four years ago, Jasmin and I watched several of Roger’s forehands. One was at ringside when he dismissed of Dmitry Tursunov as LeBron James sat in attendance. Another was his Olympic gold medal doubles win.

My observations of the 17-Grand Slam winner? RF makes tennis look so easy. And tennis isn’t child’s play. There’s topspin, underspin, sidespin and the American twist. There’s a delicate drop volley, a flying overhead smash, an inside-out forehand.

Roger is so gifted that, if God were to create just one magical netter, he’d be the 31-year-old Basel-born father of twins who just won Cincinnati trophy No. 5.

Of all the success stories surrounding Roger, you know what I find most phenomenal? That he’s hardly gotten injured.

Tennis is an injury-prone game. It’s not physical like football or basketball and there’s no wrestling like the UFC. But, you’re all alone in tennis. You sprint miles, zigzag, swing, jump, slide. Your wrist can snap, knee can twist, ankle can roll. (Dr. Tony San Juan operated on my shoulder over a year ago.)

Roger, who has amassed 76 career titles and won 862 of his 1055 matches (an 81 % winning clip), has almost never gotten injured. Can you believe that?

In contrast, Rafael Nadal is suffering the opposite. Five years younger, Nadal’s succumbed to multiple injuries.

His current trauma — Hoffa’s Syndrome or the Fat Pad Impingement — is a knee-related injury that can be extremely painful. Because of this, Nadal did not defend his Olympic gold and he’ll skip the US Open, which begins this Monday. Painful? Yes, figuratively and literally.

Why this sad Rafa predicament while Roger doesn’t miss a single day at the office? I also watched Nadal in person twice and, while sitting on my chair, I was exhausted watching his type of physical, brutal and merciless play.

“Rog is uncomplicated and smooth while Raf is laborious and excruciating,” I wrote in an article last Sept. 2009. “The former results to less injuries; the latter, well, eight weeks off the Tour… With Rafa, you can see the muscles flexing; he’d jump, scramble, sprint, flick his wrist like it would snap. He’s too physical—and too likely to get injured. Roger is a ballerina on rubber shoes. He doesn’t run, he skates. Glides. He hovers. Waltzing around the tennis rectangle, he skims. Sails. He tiptoes. The result? His body’s not battered.”

Longevity? We know the winner.

CONGRATS. The past weekend was a triumphant one for us. It was my brother Charlie’s birthday. My mom, Allen, climbed three bridges (or was it four because you traverse up Cansaga Bridge twice?) in the 7th University Run and finished the grueling 25K with her trademark smile.

Plus… the day that I awaited finally arrived: my 13-year-old daughter Jana beat me in tennis. The score? She won the first set, 7-6. In the second, she led 5-1 before I won the next five games to win 7-5. In the third set, she raced to another 5-1 lead before I clawed back to 5-4. Then, with a handful of match points, she served a “down-the-T” ace to beat her dad, 6-4.

Yesterday was the most satisfying loss I’ve ever had.

King of Clay beats the King of Tennis

I’ve never been to Monte Carlo. But my wife Jasmin and her whole Mendez family did, back in 1993. Says Jasmin: “Monaco is one of the most picturesque locations in the world. You’re standing up on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, gazing at multi-million dollar yachts and Lamborghinis. It’s Europe’s rich-and-famous playground.”

One man who calls Monte Carlo his playground stands 6-foot-1, weighs 188 lbs. and is tennis’ version of The Gladiator: Rafael Nadal.

Isn’t he the world’s happiest person today? He is. After losing to Novak Djokovic the last seven times, all finals, he won last Sunday on the red clay of Monte Carlo, 6-3, 6-1. Vamos, Rafa!

“Nobody beats Rafa eight times in a row!” as if he was to scream to the world. Now, Frank Malilong, the lefty lawyer, can exhale a huge sigh of relief. His idol won. Same with Manny Sainz, Bob Lozada, Noy and Amale Jopson, Fabby Borromeo, Ernie Delco and millions of other Rafa-natics!

“Monte Carlo is the most beautiful Masters 1000 tournament for me,” Nadal said. “To start the clay-court season winning here is an amazing feeling. To beat Novak in a final after losing a few is an important result for me. It was important to break this series and to do it here – it’s perfect.”

Rafa’s eighth victory in one event is not only amazing—it’s outrageous. It’s not fantastic; it’s irrational. Monte Carlo is a Masters 1000 tournament—one of Earth’s biggest in tennis. Starting 2005, he’s won every single match.

“To have eight victories, you must be lucky, you have to have no injuries, perfect conditions for eight years in a row. That’s the first thing,” said Nadal. “And you have to be playing almost perfect to win eight titles in a row, especially in a Masters. The best in the world always play – you have to win against the best.”

In all these eight years—take a deep breath on this ludicrous statistic—Nadal has lost only six sets. He lost zero sets this 2012. And won $603,000 to increase his career total to $48 million. No, our ‘Man… Pac is still richer, but $48M translates to over P2 billion pesos. Wow. And this excludes Nike’s dollar payments.

On the significance of last weekend, Peter Bodo, my favorite tennis scribe, wrote this: “This is also a record 20th Masters title for Nadal, and perhaps most significantly if not most glamorously, his first tournament win of any kind in 10 months—since he won the French Open in early June last year…

“This overwhelming win may has enabled Nadal to hit that reset button for which he’s been groping for so long now, going all the way back nearly a full year to Madrid, where Djokovic pulled a nasty surprise on the then-No. 1. He pummeled him on clay, a feat that by then many had consigned to the realm of the impossible.”

More? Here’s one more: April is Rafa’s lucky month. On this month, he’s won 72 straight matches on clay. King of Clay? Yes. But, also: King of April.

Still, the King of Tennis isn’t him. It’s still the Serbian 6-foot-2 (Novak) who leads the world rankings with 13,270 points. Rafa only has 9,715 while R. Federer trails with 8,880. At No. 4, A. Murray lurks with 7,860.

I’ve had the chance, twice, to watch Mr. Nadal in person. The first was in 2007 when, together with Dr. Ronald Anthony Medalle and his beauteous wife Stephanie, I sat with Jasmin inside the Malawati Stadium in Kualu Lumpur, Malaysia. Rafa played an exhibition match against Richard Gasquet. That was a most memorable trip (two days after, it was Sampras-Federer) that included a bus ride from KL to Singapore.

Jasmin and I again saw Rafa during the Olympics. We witnessed him fall to the Beijing floor after championship point to claim an Olympic gold medal.

Why is this fierce, Gladiator-like warrior so likable? Because he’s both: humble and soft-spoken with the killer instincts of a Navy Seal. As buotan as he is during interviews and off-court, he has the complete opposite, I-will-do-everything-to-beat-you attitude when he’s inside that tennis rectangle. I can’t wait for May 17, the French Open.

R & R

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7 points on Novak’s 7th straight win over Rafa

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I hope you watched the ultra-marathon tennis battle last Sunday night. Seven minutes short of six hours, Novak Djokovic won for the seventh consecutive time against Rafael Nadal. “7th time unlucky?” I asked two days ago. What a premonition. What a Gladiator-like battle. Here are seven points….

1) AGGRESSOR WINS. One of my dad Bunny’s favorite lines is this: “Play to win and don’t play not to lose.” True. For most of the match, Rafa was too defensive. He’d stay five meters off the baseline. He counterpunched. His shots landed short, midcourt. Novak would pound on them and run Rafa left to right like his dog from Serbia. To win, Rafa has to stay closer to the baseline and take risks. This is his only option against Novak. In sports—like in business—those who take risks, win. The bigger the risk, the larger the reward. Novak is the master risk-taker.

2) TRIVALRY. I’m talking about Novak-Rafa-Roger. Here are interesting stats: Between Rafa and Roger, it’s the Spaniard who dominates. Their record is 18-9 (8-2 in majors). It’s lopsided. But, between Rafa and Novak, it’s the opposite. Excluding their earlier contests, it’s been 7-0 since last year. So, Roger loses to Rafa who loses to Novak. (We’ll include Murray in the picture once Lendl aids him in winning a GS title.) Why does Rafa dominate Roger while being dominated by Novak? Here’s why: Roger’s single-handed backhand is his weakness. Rafa pounds on that side. But against Novak? His two-fisted backhand is, like Agassi’s, the best. Novak drills it crosscourt; he smothers it down-the-line. Novak’s forehand is even deadlier. Either wing, Rafa suffers.

3) EMOTIONS. This is what makes tennis so enjoyable to watch. It’s one on one. Unlike football or basketball when the focus is on 10 or 22 players, with tennis, it’s just two. And what facial expressions they display. Rafa winces. Rafa pumps his fists seven times after winning Set 4. Novak falls to the ground. Novak’s eyes turn smaller, a sure sign of extreme fatigue. Their personalities and feelings are in full display. No other sport shows mannerisms (“kuot sa lubot”) and expressions (Novak’s sign of the cross) like tennis.

4) MENTAL. Sport is physical yet it’s won by the mind. The toughest of all competitors, Nadal, was en route to winning his 11th Grand Slam title. He led 4-2 in the fifth set and had an easy backhand down-the-line. He missed. He missed the chance the avenge Novak. What guts the Serbian has. He limped. He collapsed. His knees wobbled. A jab by Jun Intor would have KO’ed him. But, no. Djokovic’s mind would not allow his body to collapse. What courage. To defeat Nadal mentally is Novak’s greatest strength.

5) MEN’S RIGHTS. We’ve all heard of Women’s Rights. I’m making up a new term. You see, the prize money of the champions of both sexes are the same. The winner each gets 2.3 million Australian dollars. In pesos, that’s P105,000,000. But here’s the interesting part. While the men’s final took 5 hours and 53 minutes, the women only took 82 minutes. This means that Novak was paid P297,450 per minute while Azarenka was paid a whopping P1.28 million per minute on court!

6) DAVIS CUP. Remember our two Davis Cup hostings last year at Lapu-Lapu City? In the first one last March 2011, it was the Phils. vs. Japan. The head of the ITF delegation who arrived to preside over the ‘Battle of Mactan?’ His name is Wayne McEwen. Well, this guy is Graeme Mackinnon’s country-mate and he was one of the top officials running the Australian Open. It was Councilor Harry Radaza, in a text message last Sunday, who informed me that McEwen was in center-stage. True enough, in the Awarding Ceremony, McEwen stood alongside Nadal/Djokovic. Nice guy, this Wayne, when we spent some time with him here in Cebu.

7) HIGH-DEFINITION. I’m talking about cable TV. I watched from the room of Charlie, my brother, and he subscribed to SkyCable’s HD channels. What a sight! On Channel 136 (ESPN HD), it’s as if you’re right there in the Rod Laver Arena.