Rafa, Sharapova, Exaggerator and an unsettling week in sports

 Rafael Nadal, seen here in 2014, won’t be at Wimbledon this year. Photograph by Valentina Alemanno.

Rafael Nadal, seen here in 2014, won’t be at Wimbledon this year. Photograph by Valentina Alemanno.

Am I the only one to feel as if the past week was something of a letdown?

First, we had a Belmont Stakes finish – Creator over Destin by a nose – that would’ve been thrilling had Exaggerator not finished 11th. That’s right, 11th. The horse that challenged Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and bested him in the Preakness finished 11th. Something crazy about that.

At least Lani – the Nick Kyrgios of racehorses – has been improving. He finished third. No wonder everyone’s still talking about American Pharoah. Last year at this time, we were floating on the miracle of a rare feat. This year with the upset of Nyquist and then Exaggerator – meh.

The tennis news isn’t that much better. Maria Sharapova has been banned from the tour for two years for using the prohibited meldonium. Two years: That’s a lifetime in tennis. Still, it’s hard to understand why an athlete wouldn’t do everything possible to ensure he or she wasn’t taking a banned substance. Why even wait for a list or an email? Why not let the authorities know what you’re taking – or thinking of taking? She’s been cleared of intentionally cheating. But as the International Tennis Federation noted, “She is the sole author of her own misfortune” – something that should’ve occurred to one who has starred in perhaps the most individualistic of sports.

So no Maria, who is appealing the decision. And no Rafa for the time being either: Rafael Nadal’s injured left wrist won’t allow him to play at Wimbledon, never his strongest tournament anyway. I hope Rafa can recover in time for Rio and perhaps more Rafanole, my favorite – and I think the best – tennis rivalry. But right now Rafa’s a question mark. And Roger Federer’s comeback (injured knee and then back) hit a speed bump as the up-and-coming Dominic Thiem held on to beat him in the semifinals of the Mercedes Cup.

It this the beginning of the end of two of the all-time greats?