Archive for September, 2009

Mum’s the word and a new crown-prince is born

September 15, 2009 2 comments

As the old truism goes – all good things come to an end. An important bit is left unsaid, IMO. All good things come to an end because the old must give way to the new. A year that began with a flood of embarrassing tears for Roger Federer and hit the highs of a first French title and sixth Wimbledon victory, ended with a 5-set loss to a younger, hungrier and on the day, better player. No shame in that. Ask Roddick – he’d give an arm and a leg to have just one bad year of Federer’s. A year ago, a Fed loss would have me acting like a petulant school-kid for the better part of a week. Thanks to #14 and #15 in the bag, not so any more. He can’t win ‘em all and heck, for any potential crown-prince to become a powerful king, he shouldn’t win ‘em all.

The stats are staggering. 17 of the last 18 Grand Slam finals, 21 overall. 22 straight Grand Slam semi finals. The list goes on. Has he had bad days during his tenure at the top? – of course, in plenty. However, as it turns out, he has them very rarely in a Grand Slam and they usually do not coincide with the guy on the other side playing out of his skin. With the laws of physics and averages looming large, he had to go down sometime – and he did last night. Del Potro has been playing incredible hard-court tennis all season. His height, serves and booming returns off both wings are a force for anybody to reckon with even if he’s having a bad day. This fortnight, his has been an inspired, free-wheeling brand of tennis and he was too hot for Roger to handle. That – and Roger’s serve letting him down when he needed it the most. I don’t recall when I last saw Rog serve so poorly – just 50% on his first serve for the entire match and 11 double faults?? When was the last time we saw Roger do that? How about… never!  Rog was also uncharacteristically woeful on break points – only 5 of 22 converted. He played abysmally against a guy who was not afraid to knock the stuffing out of the ball on each shot and quite deservedly paid the price. Testament to the quality of his game that he still made it a 5-setter in spite of playing badly by his standards. No sweat. Roger will be back to win more slams. He will still win more matches against Del Potro than vice versa. Roger on a good day is too smart and has too many weapons. The win is good for DP – he’ll now start believing more in himself, having tasted blood and I predict will be a future #1. I hope he blends a little more variety into his game and will find a way to not lose to the likes of Andy Murray, the other crown-prince designate (though most of the noise is from sorry-ass Brits wailing for their first champ since Fred Perry).

An annoying side-effect of this win by Del Potro has been the resurgence of the Federer naysayers in public and private life. Hate the man, by all means. I personally can’t understand it. Maybe it’s his hair, his tears of joy and pain (I find that quite annoying too, to be honest), his preternatural calm (most of the time. Not yesterday though.), his uncanny knack of figuring most opponents out. The list probably goes on. I have no idea, but whatever it is – I find all of these reasons good enough to not be a fan and to revel in his losses. However, it has been my misfortune to meet some who disagree about his tennis being of a sublime quality. They attribute his success largely to luck – and seem to have missed a crucial part of their education where probability theory was taught. Such people don’t really understand the game beautiful and the exquisite shot-making that has pushed all the others into playing better. Boil your heads. Nuff said.

For me, the real feel-good story of this open was Kim Clijsters. What’s not to like about a former champ with a golden locked toddler coming back out of retirement to beat a bunch of women with over-sized egos (and one with an over-sized foul mouth and over-sized everything).  As Bud Collins might have said – (if he were as big a sucker for alliteration as I am) – this mighty mamma made many misty-eyed. I don’t follow the women’s game much – other than a perfunctory peek at a particularly pretty Russian or Czech once in a while. Whatever one’s opinion might be on the quality of the current women’s game, it takes quite a lot to come out of retirement, baby in tow and win a Grand Slam. Way to go Kim!  My money is on Justine Henin putting her tennis shoes back on. I’d surely pay to watch that backhand again.

Categories: Tennis