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.”
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.”