Li Na outshines Maria Sharapova, on and off the courts

Jun 7, 2011 3:00 AM

It was impressive watching Rafael Nadal show his fondness for and facile mastery of clay court tennis again, as he dismantled Roger Federer in a 6-1 fourth set Sunday to win the French championship.

It was easy to understand why Rafa would fall to his knees and kiss that red clay of Roland Garros, for the victory not only continued his mastery of Federer on clay, but assured him of retaining his ranking as number one tennis player in the world.

It was spectacular watching the Dallas Mavericks overcome that 15-point deficit in the final six minutes of game two of their playoff with the Miami Heat, and seeing the incredible skill of Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on the court, as he saved Dallas from defeat.

But the biggest thrill of last week came watching a lady of charm become the first Asian ever to win a Grand Slam tennis title. Li Na of China was exceptional, and when she flashed those perfect teeth in victory she was radiant as well as remarkable.

They can give all the endorsements they want to Maria Sharapova, but Li Na outshines her, and not only on the tennis court.

You will see and hear much more about this Chinese charmer. She adds something special to world tennis.

But back to the basketball court.

It would be nice to think that Dallas and Nowitzki could pull this out and win the NBA title. It is not likely to happen.

LeBron James will get the gold ring he sought when he left Cleveland behind, and he and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will prove too much for Dallas. But it will continue to be interesting before that happens.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, big doings on the racing front.

Gorgeous Arlington Park and the working man’s Hawthorne, and the Billy Johnston harness tracks at Balmoral and Maywood, skipped a heartbeat when the Illinois legislature passed their slots bill last week.

They had better not hold their breaths for the next heartbeat, however, for the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, is playing it cute on signing the legislation.

If he does – and he has 60 days to do so – there will be a dramatic surge and revival of racing in the Windy City, along with a downtown Chicago casino on the lakefront.

If Quinn vetoes the measure, or significantly modifies it in regards to slots at the tracks, the four will continue their slide into mediocrity.

None of this happened overnight.

Phil Langley, who grew up, literally, with Johnston, and is his confidante and right hand man, even though Billy’s two sons, John and Duke, run the tracks, has kept a record of Illinois bills and legislative proposals that have been considered in the last decade. Phil says he could build a wall with the documents, and he knows that nirvana is not quite yet at hand.

It is close, however, and exciting to watch.

Farther east, more veneer came off the image of New Jersey’s rotund governor, Chris Christie.

He took a state helicopter to see his son play in a high school baseball game, then left in the fifth inning in the plane to address a political gathering.

The Democrats and the media pounced on him. The gov and the state paid back more than $3,300 for the flights – $2,151 from Christie’s pocket for the baseball leg.

A Democratic assembly woman, Valerie Huttle, called Christie hypocritical.

The governor called her "a jerk."

This is a guy who’s thinking of running for president in 2016. Remember the old days, when civility reigned?