The events at golf's first major, the Masters in Augusta, GA, and in the Los Angeles Lakers game against the Golden State Warriors made Friday, April 12th historic, and almost cataclysmic. At the Masters, the youngest player, 14 year-old, Tianlang Guan, and the best player, world #1 Tiger Woods could have possibly turned the sports world upside down by rulings. Then to see Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' franchise player and 15-time all-star go down with what looked like a torn Achilles tendon; sports fans had to take a moment.
Guan, the Asia-Pacific amateur champ from China, was assessed a penalty shot at the Augusta National Golf Club on Friday. His playing group included the oldest player, Ben Crenshaw at 61, and Matteo Manassero. Everyone was extremely slow on Friday; backing off many shots, waiting for the wind, and pacing/sighting putts multiple times. Guan was made an example of and penalized after his 2nd shot on hole #17 when he exceeded 40-seconds, violating Rule 6-7.
There something so comforting and ceremonial to adhere to some old traditions. However, it is so refreshing and inspiring to see some new customs pave the way, or set the standard.
Having played with white balls for many years, it was nice to see the optic yellow balls come into play for increased visibility. Yet, playing with white golf balls seems so normal.
It was nice to see Jackie Robinson, #42, playing baseball because talent comes in all shapes and colors. It was exciting to see Tiger Woods win his first Master's green jacket awarded to the tournament champion, because hard work pays off no matter who you are.
What trumped all of this was when I saw former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stroll down Augusta in a green jacket as an Augusta National Golf Club member proving that no matter when it's done, doing the right thing is timeless and foremost. Rice's jacket signified her membership along with Daria Moore, as the first two women to be admitted to the Augusta Golf Club as members.
Serbian Novak Djokovic the defending champ and #1 seed will play Scot Andy Murray, the #3 seed, for the Australian Open's Men's Championship on Sunday, Jan, 27th at 5:30 PM or 1:30 AM EST in the U. S. Djokovic has won 10 of their 17 matches to date with Djokovic having the last two wins in the final two ATP events of 2012. Both are right-handed 25-year-olds, and Murray at 6'3" is an inch taller. This match could go either way depending on who wants it more.
Murray earned his finals place by beating Roger Federer in the semi-finals for the first time in a major 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 in exactly four hours. Murray did not play the tie-breakers well getting passed at one point on a wicked crosscourt backhand winner by Federer. Yet, Murray stayed with it. Possibly the 31-year-old Federer did not have the legs after back to back five setters.
Djokovic had a much easier route, or rout, to the final by soundly beating clay court specialist David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in 89 minutes. Djokovic struck 30 winners and 16 errors while Ferrer had only 11 winners with 32 errors.
Australian Open Women's Singles Final Preview: Where To Watch Online Live Stream of Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na
The Australian Open Women's Singles final which will be played at 7:30 PM on Saturday, January 26th in Melbourne (3:30 AM EST in the States) features the defending champion Victoria Azarenka the #1 seed from Belarus against Li Na, the #6 seed from China. Azarenka has beaten Na five out of nine times, but never in a Grand Slam. Azarenka has played consistently well this past year except when her opponent was Serena Williams, and stands a good chance to repeat if her nerves don't get in the way.
Azarenka sighed in huge relief after injured Serena Williams (ankle and back) was defeated by Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals. During Azarenka's 6-2, 6-4 semi-final win over Stephens in the second set, Azarenka took a 9-minute medical time-out and left the court prompting boos from the fans in the stadium.
Azarenka had a "blocked rib" according to her video press interview after the match. "I almost did the choke of the year right now, ... at 5-3, having so many chances and I couldn't close it out. I was a bit overwhelmed realizing I was one step away from the final. Nerves got into me, for sure."
During the US Open there was talk that Sloane Stephens was the next Serena Williams or next great American champ. Wednesday or last night for those in the States at the Australian Open, Stephens pulled off a remarkable upset by beating Serena 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Her talent shown brightly as the 29th seeded player earned a place in her first Grand Slam semi-finals against the #1 seed, Victoria Azarenka who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1.
Stephens has reached the third round of the U. S. Open before but this was her first quarterfinal appearance. Although, anxious at times, Stephens showed her quickness, mental toughness, and a better game plan than when she first played and lost to Williams (3-6, 4-6) a few weeks ago in Brisbane. Stephens attacked more, winning 18 of her 20 approaches or volleys in the 2 hour and 13 minute match.
On the other side of the net, Williams injured her back in the second set, smashed her racket, and recorded her worse statistical outing in unforced errors with 48 as compared to Stephens 39. In the Aussie press room, Williams stated that "This was my worst ever two weeks."