Net gains: Mayoral rivalry continues on the tennis court

single-meta-cal November 17, 2017

As the grand rivalry that is the annual Mayor’s Cup tennis match looms Sunday afternoon, it’s worth hearing from L. Jon Wertheim, who covers tennis for Sports Illustrated:

“It’s rare when you get two athletes at the peak of their talents. …. Stylistically, it’s a nice contrast. And the personalities: it’s not fire and ice, but there’s enough contrast. But just from a quality standpoint, it’s phenomenal.

“And the other thing, what makes it unique is the genuine fondness between the two of them. Selfishly you sort of wish they had this deep-seated resentment. But there’s none of that.”

Wait. Sorry.

That’s Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer he’s talking about.

Any similarities to the Tommy Battle-Paul Finley rivalry would merely be coincidental.

He’s been practicing for months. He’s ready to come after us.”

Mayor Tommy Battle maintained bragging rights for Huntsville last year in an 8-4 victory over Finley, the mayor of Madison. The rematch comes Sunday at 3 p.m. at Athletic Club Alabama. The exhibition match culminates a three-day indoor tournament, a benefit for Susie’s Wish, in memory of the late WAFF reporter Susie Edwards.

“Pretty hard to trash talk after I got beat 8-4,” Finley said.

Battle refused to be baited into any bulletin-board fodder to further inspire his opponent. Instead, the two wrestled in debate over injury. These are not, to be sure, “two athletes at the peak of their talent.”

Battle: “Paul Finley has been sandbagging his performance, saying his back has been out, that his hip hurts and he’s been hobbling around on one leg.”

Finley: “I’ve been walking around today like a question mark.”

Battle: “I know he’s been practicing for months. He’s ready to come after us. He’s not hurt. He’s just sore from practicing so much.”

Finley: “I didn’t pick up a racquet after last year’s match until two weeks ago.”

They’ll stick to tennis

Battle is indeed a more avid tennis player; Finley plays pick-up basketball, racquetball and runs. Any of those, Finley said he’d welcome a different Mayor’s Cup competition.

“We’re not going to expand this into another sport,” Battle said. “I’ve got one I can beat him at.”

There is, to reference the Federer-Nadal quotation, “a genuine fondness between the two.” However, Battle said this:

“It will be hard-fought. Both sides will give it their all and we’ll both play with honor and valor.

“And then,” he added, “we’ll try to hit each other with the tennis ball.”