Top 5 Games of Last Week (6/30/14 – 7/6/14)
#5.Wimbledon – Grigor Dimitrov vs. Novak Djokovic
Won in four sets by Djokovic, on paper, this looked to be an unremarkable match. OK, so Djokovic had one hiccup that cost him a set. Big deal. The previous match, Cilic had pushed him to five sets. But if you watched Friday’s semifinal, you know better. This wasn’t a routine four-set win for Djokovic, this was a coming out party for Dimitrov. The highest ranked Bulgarian in history, the 23 year-old nicknamed “Baby Federer” is here to stay. So says his punishing forehand, his fluid backhand, his toe-tapping movement, and his dominant serve. Djokovic, the game’s best returner, took advantage of a couple hiccups from the brash youngster, but watch out, Big Four. This is your notice. Dimitrov will be back, and your days are numbered.
#4. World Cup – Netherlands vs Costa Rica
Who says scoreless soccer is boring? Tied 0-0 through the first 120 minutes of play, the excitement and near misses made this feel more like 2-2. Costa Rica bent but would not break under the Dutch onslaught, and Costa Rica nearly made the Dutch pay for their aggression with several well-executed counter-attacks. Dutch striker Robin van Persie’s multiple missed opportunities almost came back to haunt the Netherlands, but a remarkable performance by Dutch backup goalie Tim Krul sent the Netherlands onto Wednesday’s semifinal vs. Argentina.
#3. World Cup – Brazil vs. Columbia
Brazil won the battle, but they might lose the war after star striker Neymar injured vertebrae in has back, keeping him out for the remainder of the tournament. For much of the match, Brazil and Columbia played some of the fastest paced soccer of the World Cup, moving up and down the field in as little as three or four quick passes. The goals, though, came off of set pieces. One of the goals of the tournament came on a free kick from David Luiz, and arcing bomb that crashed into the back of Columbia’s net. The resulting 2-0 lead proved too much for Columbia, even with World Cup goal-leader James Rodriguez scoring late in the match.
#2. Wimbledon – Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic
Who thought we’d see Roger Federer back in the Wimbledon Finals, or any Grand Slam final for that matter? Roger did. Rejecting the narrative that 30 or older makes you a has-been, the 32-year-0ld 17-time Grand Slam champion made yet another run. And produced yet another classic, even in defeat. For the better part of five sets, he and Djokovic produced some of the best tennis we’ve seen this tournament, Federer finally blinking in the final game of the fifth set. For those who want to remember how he failed yet again – not having won a Grand Slam since 2012 – don’t forget how he competed in those first four sets. This graybeard still has something left in the tank. He’ll be back.
#1. World Cup – United States vs. Belgium
It sounds strange, but coming up on a week after the match, that’s the proudest I’ve ever been in defeat. The US succumbed their injuries and talent disparity last Tuesday, falling 2-1 to a Belgium team that ranks amongst the top teams in the world. The 2-0 in extra time, the USMNT never gave up, scoring one goal and pressuring the Belgium unit until the final whistle blew. While the defeat left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth immediately after the game, I look back on the US’s run and appreciate it for what it was: a run that was never predicted, was never supposed to happen, and by all rights shouldn’t have happened based on individual soccer talent. But that’s where the US defied expectations; they galvanized as a team, and that made all the difference. Klinsmann, love him or hate him, correctly identified a group of players who would work well together. Without that team effort, we never would’ve gotten revenge, and we never would’ve cheated death. To the USMNT, I’m proud of you.