SALT LAKE CITY — Welcome to From Left Field! Here are three stories worthy of your clicks on this Thursday morning.
1. Roger Federer is bored, invents new ways to entertain himself
Roger Federer, already almost certainly the greatest male tennis player of all time at age 34, is still the second-ranked player in the world and dominating on a regular basis. He's only lost a single set thus far on the way to a semifinal berth in this week's U.S. Open, and he seems to be inventing new ways to enjoy himself on the court with so few challenges in his way in the early rounds.
It's ostensibly "strategy," but it feels more to this eye like a guy who needs to invent mountains for himself to climb. Check it out:
[SABR](https://instagram.com/p/7bgEEHAoYi/) A video posted by @monk4131 on
Apparently, Federer is calling the system SABR — an acronym for "Sneak Attack By Roger." As an opponent raises up for a second serve, typically slower and easier to return, Federer darts up right to the edge of the service line and looks to get the ball back over more quickly than expected. Its actual efficiency is up for debate, but Federer is busting it out with regularity thus far at the U.S. Open. Here he is doing it three times in a single game in an earlier match:
His Swiss countryman, Stan Wawrinka, apparently copied the tactic in his own quarterfinal match Wednesday. The two will meet in the semis Friday — we'll see who's sneakier.
2. Baseball players never need to throw, right?
You'll only see it the first time around if you're watching carefully, but wait a little for the replay if not.
Catch it? That was St. Louis Cardinals center-fielder Randal Grichuk fielding a drive to center, then pitching the ball off to right-fielder Jason Heyward so Heyward can throw it back to the infield.
If this seems strange, that's because it is. Part of baseball fielding is throwing the baseball. A big part, in fact. But Grichuk was playing in his first game since a stint on the DL for a strained right elbow, and apparently was under strict orders not to exert any sort of major effort while throwing the ball. His teammates were made aware of the circumstance.
This all just begs the question: why doesn't Grichuk stay on the DL a little while longer? If Gordon Hayward couldn't physically shoot a basketball due to some lingering injury, I'm confident Quin Snyder wouldn't insist on him playing his normal role. Seems like a curious decision for a team on its way to the postseason. Then again, I'm not a baseball guy.
3. Mirotic rips Serbian flag, later claims ignorance in apology
This one looked pretty bad when it first began to make the Internet rounds. Following a somewhat unexpected loss to Serbia in the FIBA Eurobasket tournament Saturday, Spain forward Nikola Mirotic was caught on camera angrily tearing a Serbian flag after it was draped in his face as he walked off the floor.
Mirotic, who plays for the NBA's Chicago Bulls, was quickly vilified online for what's viewed in likely every country in the world as a serious offense. On Tuesday, though, Mirotic offered his own explanation of the events.
I am deeply sorry about my reaction after the game. I did not realise that it was a flag let alone the serbian one (1/2) — Nikola Mirotic (@threekola) September 9, 2015
I was looking at the floor due to the tension of the game and I felt something on my face. I would never offend any symbols. (2/2) — Nikola Mirotic (@threekola) September 9, 2015
The explanation does seem plausible enough, though it's tough to tell from the raw video whether Mirotic really had a chance to see what he was tearing as he ripped into it. In either case, it seems a pretty solid idea for Nikola to perhaps take his next few vacations somewhere other than Serbia.