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Weekend Highlights

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

It was a very eventful weekend filled with high drama and great plays.

Weekend Highlights

What a weekend!  We had the Australian Open finals on the men's and women's sides.  The NHL All-Star game and Skill Challenge took place.  The Winter X-Games kept rolling on.  The NBA and NCAA had some fantastic basketball games.  It was certainly a great weekend to be a sports fan.  Let's briefly go through a few things that jumped out to me.

Novak Djokovic Wins Epic Final vs. Rafael Nadal

Because the Australian Open is held in Australia, there is a terrible time difference.  The final started at 3:00 in the morning on Saturday night, which is way too late for me.  ESPN replayed the final at 9 on Sunday morning, but that is also, too early.  Work with me, ESPN.

So I had to rely on accounts of the game to get filled in, and from the sounds of it, this was perhaps one of the great tennis matches in recent history.  Djokovic outlasted Nadal in five sets to win the final that lasted nearly 6 hours.  Brian Phillips opened his article at Grantland.com with gem:

You have just played the match of your life, or one of them, one of the many matches of your life, in the Australian Open final, where you fought back from the brink of defeat against one of the most dominant athletes on Earth. You fought for almost six hours, clawing at chances, screaming at yourself and scowling, until your opponent, who never shows weakness, visibly started to weaken. While he gasped for air and crumpled to the ground after rallies, you somehow got stronger. (But then, that's what you always do: You get stronger.) The power of your ground strokes, as measured by their average speed, was higher in the sixth hour of tennis than in the first. You broke the unstoppable champion early in the fifth set. The crowd believed in you. You had control of the match. And then, in a way that managed to seem both impossible and unsurprising, the champion got a second wind, and you lost.

That's how amazing Novak Djokovic has become.  Nadal is one of the most physically gifted tennis players I have seen in my time watching the sport.  When others wilt during the grueling matches, Nadal gets stronger, as Phillips wrote.  But Djokovic is almost just as gifted in fitness and skill, if not more so.  Djokovic seems to have a stronghold on the game right now, having won the last three Grand Slams.  But it's not like Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray are going away anytime soon.  It's a great time for tennis right now, that's for sure.

Ricky Rubio Continues to Amaze

I could have probably spent the entire weekend holed up in my room watching Ricky Rubio highlights until my eyes bled.  I am head-over-heels in love with Rubio's game.  His passes send me into hysteria.  And what makes them even better is that he strikes without a moment's notice.  The passes just happen, and you are left to digest and figure out what just happened.  Check out his most recent highlight, a perfect lob to Anthony Randolph from last night:

I especially love the fact that Rubio is showing off his swagger.  He had this look that just screamed, "Bring it on, baby."  Don't ever change, Ricky.

Also, as Andrew Lontos already pointed out, LeBron James had a crazy highlight yesterday.

Patrick Kane Has Skills

I believe the NHL has the coolest format of the four major sports.  The teams are selected by captains, and the skills competitions are really entertaining.  Their value was displayed Saturday night, when Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane stole the show with some props and trickery.  Take a look:

That first shot was incredible.  My jaw dropped when I saw the highlight in the bar that night, and I had pretty much the same reaction when I saw it again.  I only fear that Shaquille O'Neal will lash out at Kane for adorning the Superman cape and glasses.  "There's only one Superman, and that's Shaq Diesel, the Shaqtus, The Big Aristotle."

Iowa State Upends #5 Kansas; Syracuse Escapes; Anthony Davis Gets Abused

Kansas had passed every Big XII test they had taken this season and had been playing their best ball of the season heading into Saturday's game against Iowa State.  However, Royce White and the Cyclones took down the fifth-ranked Jayhawks 72-64.  White led all players with 18 points and 9 rebounds (and not to mention 5 assists) as Iowa State dominated Kansas inside.  The Jayhawks were out-rebounded 34-19, which doesn't happen often to a strong Kansas frontline.

Elsewhere, Syracuse narrowly avoided defeat in controversial fashion, beating West Virginia 63-61on Saturday.  The referees missed a pretty blatant goaltending call that would have tied up the game down the stretch.  See for yourself:

Bob Huggins was rip-roaring mad, and he had every right to be.  That basket ties the game up, and who knows what happens after that.  Shame on you, referees.

As long as we're passing out shame, here's some directed towards LSU's big men for beating the tar out of Kentucky's Anthony Davis on Saturday.  It's one thing to get physical with a guy to send a message, but it's another thing to go out of your way and keep beating on a guy.  Take a look at the abuse Davis took:

On that first play, Davis was pulled down by his jersey.  Davis' head banging against a knee wasn't the intended result, but that's what happened.  It was a pretty obvious foul from what I saw, and it resulted in Davis getting shaken up.  The next play rightly resulted in Malcolm White's ejection, and hopefully he gets suspended for quite a while.  There's no place for fouls like that in the game.  Finally on that third one, the shot Davis took didn't look inadvertent to me.  But is he still doing on the floor when Kentucky is up by more than 20 points with under five minutes left to play?

Shaun White Earns Perfect Score in Super Pipe

Shaun White continues to break the boundaries of what is possible in snowboarding.  And he does it all while wearing tight zebra-print pants.  Check out his insane final run that earned him the first perfect score in X-Games history (for the event):

The Flying Tomato strikes again!

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