Axios Sports

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September 16, 2022

🎉 Happy Friday! You made it.

Today's word count: 1,605 words (6 minutes).

Let's sports...

1 big thing: 🎾 Federer's farewell

Roger Federer

Roger Federer waves to the crowd during a Wimbledon ceremony in July. Photo: Shi Tang/Getty Images

"The Big Three" are now just two.

Driving the news: Roger Federer will retire from professional tennis after next week's Laver Cup, concluding one of the most illustrious careers in sports history.

"I know my body's capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. ... Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.
"I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible."
— Federer's retirement statement

By the numbers: Federer's 20 Grand Slam men's titles rank third all-time behind only Rafael Nadal (22) and Novak Djokovic (21) — rivals who joined Federer in creating a golden era of men's tennis.

  • 20 Grand Slams
  • 369 wins in Grand Slams
  • 237 straight weeks ranked No. 1
  • 103 titles in Singles

Wild stat: Nadal and Djokovic may have more major titles, but Fed's prime (2004-2009) will never be topped. He won 14 of 24 majors, finished runner-up six times and failed to reach at least the semifinals just once.

Chart: Axios Visuals
Chart: Axios Visuals

What's next: Federer said he intends to keep playing tennis, "but just not in Grand Slams or on the tour." He and his wife, Mirka, have two sets of twins.

❤️ Read: "The reliable, graceful and fallible Roger Federer" (NYT)

Bonus: 🐐 Two legends

Roger and Serena

Roger Federer and Serena Williams after winning Wimbledon in 2003; taking a selfie in 2019. Photos: Alex Livesey/Getty Images; Paul Kane/Getty Images

Two all-time greats — both superstars of the highest order — have bid farewell to tennis in a matter of weeks. It's a lot to take in.

Yes, but ... Williams is already hinting at a possible comeback. "I mean, you never know," she told "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. "I've just been saying that I think Tom Brady started a really cool trend."

2. 🏀 Thomas' triple-double keeps Sun alive

Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones

Jonquel Jones (L) hugs Alyssa Thomas as the clock winds down in Game 3. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Alyssa Thomas recorded the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history to lead the Sun past the Aces, 105-76, in Game 3 and keep Connecticut's title hopes alive (Las Vegas leads 2-1).

  • 16 points
  • 15 rebounds
  • 11 assists

What they're saying: "She's a beast. I went to a UFC fight the other night; I would not want to get in the cage with her," Aces coach Becky Hammon told ESPN. "She is just tough. Tough, tough, tough. And then a playmaker."

In related news ... The All-WNBA teams were announced ahead of Game 3, and they feature four players competing in these Finals.

  • First Team: A'ja Wilson (Aces), Breanna Stewart (Storm), Candace Parker (Sky), Kelsey Plum (Aces), Skylar Diggins-Smith (Mercury)
  • Second Team: Thomas (Sun), Sabrina Ionescu (Liberty), Nneka Ogwumike (Sparks), Jonquel Jones (Sun), Sylvia Fowles (Lynx)

3. ⚾️ Rays make history with all-Latin lineup

Rays lineup

Photo: Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The Rays made history on Thursday by starting nine Latin American players in an 11-0 win over the Blue Jays — on Roberto Clemente Day.

  • Cuba: Yandy Diaz (3B), Randy Arozarena (RF)
  • Dominican Republic: Wander Franco (SS), Manuel Margot (DH), Jose Siri (CF)
  • Colombia: Harold Ramírez (1B)
  • Venezuela: David Peralta (LF), René Pinto (C)
  • Mexico: Isaac Paredes (2B)

The big picture: All nine players, as well as base coaches Chris Prieto at first and Rodney Linares at third, wore No. 21 to honor Clemente, the late Hall of Fame outfielder from Puerto Rico.

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

Robert Sarver

Robert Sarver. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

🏀 Call for Sarver to resign: Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi, the team's second-largest stakeholder, has called for majority owner Robert Sarver's resignation. On Tuesday, the NBA banned Sarver for one year for workplace misconduct.

💵 Record sale: A jersey worn by Michael Jordan in Game 1 of the 1998 NBA Finals — part of the hallowed "Last Dance" season — has sold for $10.1 million, the most ever paid for an item of sports memorabilia.

🏈 Helmet shortage: With supply chain problems slowing down manufacturing, high school football coaches around the country are scrambling to find protective gear for their teams.

🤝 NFL + Bundesliga: The NFL and German Bundesliga will collaborate to help grow business in their respective markets under a new partnership. The Seahawks and Bucs plays in Munich this November.

5. ⚽️ Record crowd expected at Snapdragon

Snapdragon Stadium

Photo: Courtesy of San Diego Wave FC

It's been quite an inaugural season for the NWSL's San Diego Wave, whose first match in their new stadium will set the league record for single-game attendance, Axios' Jeff writes.

By the numbers: The third-place Wave sold out the 32,000-seat, $310 million Snapdragon Stadium for Saturday night's game against fellow expansion side Angel City FC, priming them to shatter the previous record of 27,248 (Sounders vs. OL Reign, 2021).

  • The Wave played their first nine home games at the University of San Diego's 6,000-seat Torero Stadium.
  • Snapdragon, which debuted two weeks ago for a San Diego State football game, was built on the site of Qualcomm Stadium, former home of the Chargers (1967-2016) and Padres (1969-2003).

The big picture: This is the latest in a recent string of record-breaking women's soccer crowds.

  • Two Champions League games this spring set single-game attendance records for a women’s soccer match.
  • The Women's Euro final in July had the largest-ever crowd for a men's or women's match in the history of the Euro tournament.

🏟 Watch: Aerial views of the stadium (YouTube).

6. 🏈 The return of Brownie the Elf

Brownie the Elf

Photo: Courtesy of the Browns

When the Browns take the field this weekend, a long lost friend will join them at the 50-yard line: Brownie the Elf, Jeff writes.

Driving the news: Fans voted this offseason for the team's first midfield logo since 2016, and they chose the classic stiff-arming elf that debuted with the team in the 1940s before being phased out in the 1960s.

  • Brownies come from Scottish folklore and are not unlike house elves from "Harry Potter."
  • They would do household chores at night as long as you left them snacks. Neglect them and they could turn nasty.

The backdrop: "Brownie is a connection to our history when the team was really good," one fan told The Athletic (subscription).

  • The original Browns were perennial contenders: 11 championship appearances and seven titles in their first 12 seasons (four in the AAFC, eight in the NFL).
  • But ever since Art Modell bought the team in 1961 and got rid of legendary coach Paul Brown and Brownie the Elf, the franchise's success has all but run dry.
  • The new Browns — back in Cleveland since 1999 after Modell moved his team to Baltimore — brought the original Brownie back during training camp in 2018. Now he's on the field as a bona fide 12th man.

7. 🌎 The world in photos

Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

KANSAS CITY — Patrick Mahomes (24/35, 235 yds, 2 TD) and the Chiefs rallied to beat Justin Herbert (33/48, 334 yds, 3 TD, INT; injury) and the Chargers, 27-24, in Amazon's "Thursday Night Football" debut.

Boxing rivals
Photo: Steve Marcus/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — One of boxing's most heated rivalries will finally reach its conclusion Saturday when Canelo Álvarez defends the undisputed super middleweight championship against Gennadiy Golovkin.

Rainbow
Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

HOYLAKE, England — A rainbow forming over Royal Liverpool Golf Club, host of the 2023 Open Championship.

8. 📺 Watchlist: PLL Championship

PLL graphics

Images: Courtesy of Premier Lacrosse League

The Premier Lacrosse League's fourth season concludes Sunday afternoon (3pm ET, ABC) with a title game between the Chaos and Waterdogs at Subaru Park outside Philadelphia.

  • State of play: Seven of the eight PLL teams make the postseason, and the No. 5 Waterdogs (5-5) and No. 7 Chaos (2-8) each pulled off two upsets to reach the final.
  • Rewind: This is old hat for the defending champ Chaos, who are once again living up to their name. Last year they finished sixth before running through the playoffs en route to a title.

More to watch:

9. 🏈 Football trivia

Bobby Petrino

Bobby Petrino in 2011. Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Missouri State head coach Bobby Petrino returns to Arkansas on Saturday, 10 years after the motorcycle accident that led to his ouster.

  • Question: Prior to Arkansas, which NFL team did Petrino coach?
  • Hint: NFC.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 📺 Chart du jour: Full stream ahead

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals

Amazon's "Thursday Night Football" debut was a sign of the times.

The big picture: Streaming has officially topped cable as the most popular method by which Americans consume television content, according to new data from Nielsen.

Enjoy the weekend,

Kendall "Don't leave us Rog" Baker

Trivia answer: Falcons (went 3-10 in 2007)

🙏 Have a great day! Follow us for more (@kendallbaker and @jeffreytracy). Friends can sign up here. Thanks to Phoebe Neidl for copy edits.