- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

By any measure, it was a storybook All-Star finish for Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., who recently announced that his incredible 21-year Hall of Fame baseball career would end at the conclusion of this season. In his 19th, and final, appearance in Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game and on the 10th anniversary of his hitting the game-winning home run in the 1991 midsummer classic, Ripken smashed a 93-mph fastball, the first pitch he faced, over the left-field fence at Safeco Field in Seattle on Tuesday. In additon to making him the oldest player ever to hit a home run in an All-Star Game, Ripken's clout lifted the American League to a 4-1 victory and earned the 40-year-old legend his second All-Star Game MVP award.

The sold-out crowd expressed its appreciation for his "Iron Man" career by greeting him with a thunderous standing ovation as he strolled to the plate in the third inning. With his typical class, the pride of Baltimore acknowledged the cheers by stepping out of the batter's box and doffing his helmet. Seconds later, Ripken, who holds what may well be baseball's most untouchable record by playing in 2,632 consecutive games and is one of only seven players in baseball history with at least 3,000 hits and 400 home runs, belted his historic home run. Nobody needed any hyperbole to describe Ripken's heroics. "Magical," American League manager Joe Torre simply said. National League manager Bobby Valentine called Ripken's blast "one of the most amazing feats I've ever seen."

As it happens, Ripken wasn't the only competitor this week to demonstrate to the world his considerable athletic prowess on grass, the most natural and appropriate playing surface in all of sport. On Sunday, Venus Williams, the 21-year-old American tennis phenom, captured her second consecutive Wimbledon singles title in convincing fashion. Maximizing the strength, power and speed from her imposing 6-foot-1, 160-pound muscled frame a combination of athletic skills that nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova says puts Williams in a class by herself the world's No. 2-ranked women's player seemed to recapture last year's form, which produced a 35-match winning streak, including her first Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles and an Olympic gold medal.

On Monday, Goran Ivanisevic, a 29-year-old Croatian who was ranked 125th in the world and who required a special invitation by the All England Club to compete at Wimbledon this year, captured the men's singles title in one of the most electrifying matches in Wimbledon's 134-year history. Having lost three Wimbledon final matches during the 1990s, Ivanisevic finally prevailed under the most improbable circumstances, having become the first so-called wild card to advance beyond the quarter-finals. Emerging victorious in front of a raucus, un-Wimbledon-like crowd on Peoples Monday so-named because earlier rainouts delayed the men's final match for an extra day, when club officials sold 10,000 Center Court tickets on a first-come, first-served basis Ivanisevic provided a personal perspective to his achievement. "I don't even care now if I ever win a match in my life again. If I don't want to play, I don't play again. This is it. This is end of the world."

It was quite a week in sports. As Cal gracefully and heroically winds down his legendary career, Venus serves notice that Martina's extraordinary record may not be safe. As for Ivanisevic, well, you heard where he stands.

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