How will Nadal’s recent injuries affect Wimbledon?

When this year’s Wimbledon kicks off in two days, tennis’ best player will be absent. Yes, ladies and gentleman, 78th-ranked Potito Starace of Italy has decided he is in no condition to defend his honor this time around.

Obviously, the man I’m really talking about is Rafael Nadal, who becomes only the second men’s champion in 35 years to decline to defend his Wimbledon title. After losing exhibition matches earlier this week to Lleyton Hewitt and Stanislas Wawrinka, Nadal decided his knees were too damaged to put up a worthy performance at the only grass-court Grand Slam. But the truth is his knees have been damaged for a while. When Nadal lost in the French Open quarterfinals to Robin Soderling (a capable player, but one who had never before even been a to Grand Slam quarterfinal), tennis fans knew there was something wrong with the gifted Spaniard. The fact that Soderling was later defeated by Federer in straight sets in the finals further added to the speculation.

Of course, this leave’s the door wide open for Roger Federer to not only capture a record-setting 15th career Grand Slam, but also reclaim the No.1 ranking, which he previously held for 237 weeks. I’m expecting Federer to win at Wimbledon, particularly because he is well-rested and prefers grass over any surface. Fed’s previously won the tournament fives times, almost taking his sixth last year before losing to Nadal.

Many knew this would happen, that Nadal’s all-or-nothing style of play would eventually catch up with him. We just never knew when. Still, while a partially battered Nadal might be able to beat a completely healthy Federer, nobody on the ATP should get the best of Federer if he plays like he did at the French Open. Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, and Fernando Verdasco all have a chance at going deep into the tournament, but as far as making the finals goes, I’d put my money on Murray. He won the last grass-court tournament at the Queen’s Club and seems to handle that surface well. The guy gets better tournament by tournament and lost last year in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Without Nadal, the most exciting finals we can hope for at this point is Murray vs. Federer.

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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

While every year has its own host of surprises, there are always those stories that simply fit the trend. Sure, it can get repetitive, but if we don’t look back at history aren’t we only doomed to repeat it? Every year has its fair share of stories that fell into this category, and 2008 was no different.

Our list of things we already knew this year includes the BCS’ continued suckiness (Texas-Oklahoma), how teamwork wins championships (KG, Pierce and Ray-Ray), and the #1 rule for carrying a handgun into a nightclub – don’t use your sweatpants as a holster. (Come on, Plax. Really? Sweatpants?)

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

Brett Favre can’t make up his mind.

The biggest story of the summer was all the drama surrounding Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. This saga has been covered to death, but there’s one detail that never seemed to get that much play. At the start, it looked like the Packers were making a bad decision by moving on so quickly even when Favre decided he wanted to return. But when the news broke about Favre’s near-unretirement in March, the Packers stance became much more clear. They were ready to take him back after the owners’ meetings, but he called it off at the last minute. At that point, the Packer brass was understandably finished with Brett Favre, much to the chagrin of a good portion of the Packer faithful. – John Paulsen

The Chicago Cubs’ title drought is not a fans-only phenomenon.

The 2008 Cubs were easily the best team the franchise has assembled in decades, but they still couldn’t win a single game in the playoffs, and the reason is simple: the pressure finally got to them. Sure, they said the right things to the press about how they didn’t care about what had happened in the past, but don’t believe a word of it; there wasn’t a single person in that dugout that wasn’t fantasizing about being part of the team that finally, mercifully, ended the longest title drought in sports history. Once ESPN picked them to win it all, however, they were doomed. Ryan Dempster walked seven batters in Game 1, which matched his total for the month of September. The entire infield, including the sure-handed Derrek Lee, committed errors in Game 2. Alfonso Soriano went 1-14 with four strikeouts in the leadoff spot, while the team as a whole drew six walks and struck out 24 times. The team with so much balance in the regular season suddenly became the most one-dimensional team in baseball; take Game 1 from them, then sit back and watch them choke. And now that this group has lost six straight playoff games (the team has lost nine straight dating back to 2003), it isn’t about to get any easier. Get a helmet, Cubs fans. – David Medsker

If you’re going to wear sweatpants to a nightclub, leave the gun at home.

If winning a Super Bowl is the pinnacle of an NFL player’s career, than shooting yourself with your own gun in a nightclub has to be rock bottom. Case in point: Plaxico Antonio Burress. Just 10 months after helping the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg while at a nightclub. Apparently the (unregistered) gun was slipping down his leg and when he tried to grab it to keep it from falling, the lucky bastard wound up pulling the trigger and shooting himself. And that wasn’t the worst of it because as Plaxico found out, New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. He was arrested, but posted bail of $100,000 and is scheduled to return to court on March 31, 2009. If convicted of carrying a weapon without a license, he faces up to three and a half years in jail. He shouldn’t expect special treatment, either. The mayor of New York wants to be sure that Burress is prosecuted just like any other resident of NYC. The Giants, meanwhile, placed him on their reserve/non-football injury list and effectively ended his season. While “Plax” definitely deserves “Boner of the Week” consideration for his stupidity, what’s sad is that in the wake of Washington Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor’s death, most NFL players feel the need to arm themselves when they go out. Maybe players can learn from not only Taylor’s death, but also Burress’s accident so further incidents can be avoided. – Anthony Stalter

Read the rest after the jump...

Top 8 in ’08 released a list of the eight most TiVo-worthy moments of 2008, complete with YouTube video.

It’s a solid list, though there’s a certain swimmer and a certain clutch three-pointer that are curiously missing.

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