Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Roland Garros ATP Epilogue

-- Unashamed Ode to
Rafa: The defining moment of the event (and for me the most sobering) is Rafa being downed by Yoker-in-Residence Robin Soderling. Not at match point (though that was pretty traumatic in it's own way), but when he stumbled after losing his footing chasing down one of Robins big swinging forehands that stretched him out wide. A growing sense of unease I'd felt within me since the beginning of the match came to a head with the greatest indication yet, that the battle was lost.

(Photo: AP)

Time stood still. I felt physically sick. It was like seeing a much loved Champ hit the canvas after being sent reeling with a right hook to the jaw. In slow-mo of course. With the usual mix of blood and sweat being spattered everywhere. And with all the 'King is Dead' subtexts that implies. Very Raging Bull.

Someone please put together a montage with that soundtrack, of Rafa's worst moments from the match culminating in that knockdown. I know I'd shed a tear. I very nearly did.

-- I didn't describe Robin's forehand as
unsightly in that last paragraph. I apologise. It moved me so. Normal service will now be resumed.

-- Having said all of that, Rafa going out early this year was a good thing for the event. There, I said it.

-- That's said not as a Fed fan (I'm as much a fan of Rafa's as I am of
Federer's) but as self-appointed Chairman of the Society for the Appreciation of Big-Upset Tennis. Like it or not, such a high profile loss injects a unique sense of drama into proceedings. Drama that makes further eye-popping things happen, drama that stirs the soul. Drama that makes Tommy Robredo do funny things with his tongue and prance around like a baboon in heat.

-- Tommy
Robredo 'going ape' on us after putting an end to Kohlschreiber's fine run here gave us our best victory celebration of the event and a poignant reminder of how warped it all was.

-- And while we're on the topic - Tommy
Robredo - last Spanish man standing - who'd have thunk it? Monteras off to you sir. I was wrong. You da man. And apparently da primate too.

-- I'm not a fan of the way Rafa was treated by the crowd. There was something a little unsettling about their fickleness. Something distinctly Ancient Romanic about the bloodthirsty way in which they were all too eager, seeing him on the ropes, to turn against a four time champion and the undisputed
GC-COAT. Reason #7438 of why I'm not a fan. Look out for the voluminous book.

'Unexpectedly found' in translation: Toni Nadal's take on the way his nephew was treated by the Parisian crowd is understandable but slightly OTT.

On the other hand
"Wanting someone to lose is a slightly conceited way of amusing yourself" is one of the best tennis related quotes I've read in years. I'd be interested to know whether the original quote in Spanish is as good. Kind of 'lost in translation' but in reverse?

In any event it could only be bettered by saying something like,
"Wanting someone to lose seems to demonstrate an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most Parisian indifference to decorum...". But that would be too good to be true.

Novak's early loss here was partly due to the amount of tennis he played in the clay court season. A schedule that included that newly created event in Belgrade his family owns. Way-too-much-Tennis-initis. An ailment he now shares with his countrywoman Jelena.

-- Speaking of
Novak taking part in that family-run event, is it just me, or are the words 'conflict of interest' leaping out at anyone else? It may not matter, I'm hoping his appearance at the event's first outing was largely promotional. Hope Novak learns the lessons Jelena didn't.

-- Juan
del Potro is a better clay court player than Andy Murray. Though I'm not at all sure about those 'big five' pretensions. He still has to win a Masters Title, and has only had two wins over top 4 players (Nadal and Murray). He'd need to put that right as well as turning around the abysmal record he has against Federer, to secure my big-five vote. Though he took a hefty stride in the right direction this week. And if he puts in a good grass-court showing, that'd mean his coarse, heavy handed ball striking -- unappealing and uneasy as it is on the eye -- is effective on all surfaces. Be stupid to try and argue with that.

-- Andy Murray has been fighting a rather separate battle with the British Media trying to convince them that the way he plays tennis is all a rather cunning experiment in stylistic adaptation. Apologies for those that have heard it all before, but the theory goes like this: he attacks grinders that hang back and hit a lot of topspin, and tortures the flatter, more aggressive hitters with those loopy defensive shots of his own.

Whatever it is it's strangely effective. Most players appear flummoxed by the fact that they can't subdue such an 'understated' style of play. It helped him to creep through the draw in the most under-the-radar way imaginable (Which with everything happening around him, wasn't actually that hard). Right up until he ran into Gonzo. And got
bagelled. Further adaptations required.
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