Friday, 15 May 2009

Theories: The Oasis

Time to talk a little Roger.

See I have a theory, or I should say
another theory, given the amount I've attempted to peddle these months gone by. Not all of them very secure.

I'm beginning to think that a return to those old fashioned routs of guys he has intimidating H2Hs against, might turn out to be the best curative for Roger and his tennis right now. Not a groundbreaking insight, but there it is.

That's the way things are meant to work. If you're struggling with the exhaustive and relentless grind of the pro circuit, or just a little under the weather - you go off and play Challengers for a while; and after beating up on lesser individuals in locations as far afield as Izmir (where you can find none other than Joachim Johansson this week) or Sarasota for a while, sometimes only in front of only a handful of people -- and in some cases having to retrieve your own balls -- you'll hopefully reemerge revived, more appreciative of how good you have it and brimming with confidence. Back to the world of business class flights and VIP boxes. Or so the theory goes.

It's how Agassi nursed his way back to a more healthy ranking after his well-publicised fall from grace.

No need for anything as dramatic as that in the case of Roger though. I think the equivalent form of rehab for him lies in playing guys he's confident of beating - top players of course, so it actually means something, and providing of course such fruitful draws are conferred upon him.

The matches he's played over the last few months -- even those he's won -- all have a laboured, constricted feel about them. There's no flourish, little enjoyment it seems, and worse still - a stifling sense of urgency about needing to find his form.

But all that might be about to change. If my theory has any sense to it at all. His match against Roddick today was certainly not 2007 all over again. But there were those occasional moments of brilliance that have all too often recently, remained in the background, shimmering away invitingly in the distance. Like a tantalising oasis that -- depending on your take -- serves either as a reminder of how close he might still be to those great things of years gone by, or a more sobering realisation that things have moved on, and spells of ethereal tennis like that are likely to be few and far between.

But make no mistake about it - this is the best draw Roger's seen since the onset of the clay court season. Villainous, vilified Robin Soderling, a guy he owns 8-0. James Blake, 8-1, his only loss to the man coming amidst that tumultuous period at the Olympics last year, surely now vindicated as the anomaly-of-all-anomalies. And then there's Andy Roddick. Not even going to get started on the sparring partner analogies - I respect the year he's had too much. But he's now a very unflattering 18-2.

And can you believe they threw Nikolay in there too, imbuing his section of the draw with an unmistakable 'pre-mono' quality.
In fact the only guy missing from this feel-good class-of-2007 reunion is David Ferrer, that other member of the '8 and oh' club.

The only thing that slightly flies in the face of the theory is that Andy Roddick, for two sets at least, played the kind of tennis that maybe just
does suggest that things may have moved on a little from 2007. He's certainly moved on posting a very healthy 26-5 for the year to date. A quarter final appearance is not at all what you might expect from him in his first event on clay this year. His first since getting married in fact.

Of course I'll only really be vindicated if Federer makes it to the final beating Murray in the process (nothing at all convincing about getting past Juan, a guy you creamed 3-0-0 in your last match) and puts in a convincing effort opposite Rafa; but I'm thinking even beating Murray here might not mean all that much given how unconvincing
he's been on clay (I'm not yet convinced Andy will even make it past Juan). But that does surely offer up an opportunity to regain some of that lost confidence.


And the answer to yesterdays poser, that you've no doubt already googled anyway, was of course squash's GOAT
Jahangir Khan.

There's always a debate to be had about comparisons being made across different sports; I just think that picking up a major
without dropping a point transcends all of that pretty convincingly. Not to mention how it squares up with winning Slams without dropping a set.

How's this for a training regime:

For his training, he would often start his day with a 9 mile jog which he would complete in 60-120 minutes at a moderate pace, followed by short bursts of timed sprints. Later he would weight train in the gym finally cooling down in the pools. He would follow this routine 5 days a week. On the 6th day he would match practice and rest on the 7th day.

He also said that he has experienced running on every surface - from custom-built tracks to asphalt roads, grass & farm fields to sea shores & knee-deep waters. Sometimes he would also visit the northern areas of Pakistan to train in high altitude fields under low oxygen conditions. All in all it made Jahangir one of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world [Source:Wikipedia].

(Federer Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports)
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