Pro-style Monday

At some point in the middle of the American night, Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open in a five-set match that nearly ran six hours, the longest ever Grand Slam singles final. With the win, Djokovic became only the fifth man to win three consecutive Grand Slams (the others being Nadal, Sampras, Federer, and Rod Laver). Nadal, on the other hand, became the first to lose three consecutive Slam finals.

The Sunday before the Super Bowl is reserved for the Pro Bowl, reviled as the worst all-star game of any professional sport. I heard that the AFC “won.” I also heard that this was the worst playing of the non-game yet, even drawing fan booing early on. In a related story, national commentators continued to praise the NHL all-star game apparently without realizing it too was played on Sunday.

Finally, the Winter X Games came to a close last night, and snowboarder Shaun White scored a perfect 100 on the superpipe to win his fifth-consecutive gold medal in that event.

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Special teams Monday

On Friday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves hung around long enough and took advantage of a Los Angeles Clippers’ offense that, despite dominating most of the game even without Chris Paul, stagnated after Mo Williams, who couldn’t miss, got himself ejected. Minnesota won the game on a Kevin Love 3-pointer off an in-bounds play with 1.5 seconds remaining. The 101-98 game-winning margin was the T-Wolves only lead of the night after going up 2-0 to start the game.

In college action, Michigan State was all over Purdue in East Lansing, 83-58, the Boilermakers being a much better team in West Lafayette than on the road. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been able to right its ship, dropping a tough one in overtime to #15 Mississippi State, 78-77. Other notable games included Virginia Tech upsetting UVA in a low-scoring affair (47-45), Notre Dame upsetting previously undefeated #1 Syracuse, and Florida State salvaging its season with an upset of Duke in Durham just a week after it blew out free falling North Carolina. There also was this neat fact:

Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died after a battle with lung cancer.  Beyond the longevity of his tenure, recent information about his handling of the Jerry Sandusky situation has obscured and clouded Paterno’s legacy. One has to wonder, though, whether Paterno would be alive today if he had been allowed to remain in his post. It isn’t a sensational suggestion: he and others addressed this very question in years past (in an article, probably in Sports Illustrated, for which I spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully searching on Sunday). The other footnote on this story right now is the mishandling of the death announcement by the media– particularly CBS Sports, which lifted a premature story without attribution from Onward State, a PSU student site, and then attempted to blame that site when the error was revealed.

Sunday featured the NFL playoffs’ final four and saw New England and New York advancing to the Super Bowl. In each game, the losing team appeared to be in control at the end, only to commit crippling special teams errors that delivered the victory to their opponent. When the teams meet in the Super Bowl, Eli Manning will have the opportunity to double his brother’s championship total, while Tom Brady could join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls. Super Bowl XLVI will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, which the Giants won 17-14, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter catch by WR David Tyree.

In the Australian Open, Serena Williams lost 6-2, 6-3 to Ekaterina Makarova. Williams was the last American alive in the tournament.

Heat, light, and passion: An Australian Open preview primer

Because my schedule doesn’t allow me to watch tennis happening in any Australian timezone or even try to navigate ESPN’s website to figure out when it’s playing (it is remarkable how difficult it is to find TV listings on TV network websites), here are some previews and updates from the Grand Slam Down Under and new tennis in the new year:

Traditionally, this tournament is thought of as the lesser of the four Slams, and in its early years, many pros skipped it. If you’re not paying attention because you think today’s players don’t care though, Marcos Baghdatis politely requests that you reconsider that position:

He does not like those rackets.

Was linking to those tournament previews late on day three of the event just an excuse to post that video and write Australian-related words? Koala dingo joey fosters wombat outback platypus melbourne dodo crocodile hunter opera house kangaroo.