Djokovic-Tomic tennis matches will replace the Federer-Nadal battles

Jul 5, 2011 3:00 AM

Tennis anyone? Or have you had all you want or need after Wimbledon and its well-worn grass? Rest easy, and rest your eyes after watching those tough-on-vision end court shots. The U.S. Open will be back at the end of August, and by then you should be able to focus again.

Wimbledon definitely was worth it, however. Not only did we get a new champion in both men’s and women’s play, but we got memorable moments leading to the championship.

Both of the new monarchs – king Novak Djokovic of the Ukraine and queen Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic – exemplify power tennis at its best, and they dispatched formidable foes in Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova with devastating blasts, both on serves and with remarkable and at times amazing ground strokes and returns.

But the two high points for me were the skipping cross-court victory dance of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, seeded 12th entering Wimbledon, after he leveled the legend Roger Federer, and the play of a future champion, the 18-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic.

Federer took a two-set lead in his quarterfinal battle with Tsonga, and in 178 straight previous matches he had won after jumping to that kind of a start. But Tsonga roared back to dispatch him with three 6-4 sets.

Tomic is a coming star, and Djokovic knows it better than anyone else. He struggled to win in four sets, and the kid he beat knows – as all tennis should – that Djokovic-Tomic matches will replace the Federer-Nadal battles that have highlighted the sport in recent years.

Tomic does not lack supreme talent, nor is he short on self-confidence. "I’m proud of myself firstly," he told writer Christopher Clarey after the loss, adding appreciatively, "What a player Novak is. I think I gave it as much as I could today. I was not too far off, but he’s a better player than me… at this stage."

That’s a fair and realistic appraisal. Djokovic now has won 48 matches and lost one – to Federer in the French Open – this year. But Tomic, not yet 19, has a whole decade of his 20s ahead, and Djokovic will have to be as phenomenal as he has been all this year to fight him off.

Mark it down. Djokovic and Tomic. That’s the pair for the future of tennis in the decade ahead, if both stay healthy.

As for Kvitova, who is only 21, she simply blew Maria Sharapova away 6-3, 6-4 in the women’s championship final, and she will be with us for the same long spell ahead.

Sharapova, dewey-eyed with her love affair and coming marriage with the ex-Los Angeles Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic, was asked if her fiancé (who was on hand at Wimbledon providing inspiration) had given her tips on staying calm in crisis. Vujacic was an 87% free throw star for the Lakers, but Sharapova quickly dismissed the idea of his guidance in her game, telling writer Karen Crouse jokingly, "I don’t think I would allow that."

GRASS TO CRASS

So we leave tennis behind and move on, to the dark and dull debate between professional football and basketball owners and their high-priced stars.

I am not sure how much public support or even interest or caring these guys think they command out-of-season, or how much bitterness or contempt they are generating from people worried about losing their homes.

Both got a sharp reality blow from an outfit called Equilar in Redwood City, Calif., over the weekend. Doing a study for the New York Times, the firm revealed that the median pay for the top executives of 200 leading American companies last year rose to $10.8 million, up 23% from 2009 figures.

One of those guys, Philippe Dauman of Viacom, topped the list by taking home $84.5 million.

And he can’t even shoot free throws.