Wednesday, 25 November 2009

WTF: On Belief and Cuckoos' Nests

delpotro (Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

del Potro d. Verdasco 6-4, 3-6, 7-6

Ok so I guess we were due for a drop in quality, right about now.

Today’s bash between Delpo and Dasco didn’t stink per say.

It was actually a thoroughly well fought, competitive affair. But it was a match that was allowed to get more competitive than it should have, by virtue of a tendency for both players’ to seize up, just as any window of opportunity to make any kind of lasting impression in the match opened up.

I’d describe it as a poor man’s version of the Djoko/Slick-Nik match up from the day before (that really was a bash in every sense of the word) and not feel as though I’ve been harsh towards anyone.

There was nothing incredibly sophisticated going on: two heavy handed, ultra-aggressive players trying to wrestle control from each other and open up the court.

‘cept Djoko and Nikolay did it so much better.

verdasco (Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Part of this is down to athleticism. Nando and Delpo are incredible athletes in their own right, but neither are in the same league as Djoko and Nikolay.

Probably more telling though, is the fact that neither one of Dasco or Delpo were on the same performance trajectory as those other two coming into this event.

If anything Dasco, over-performed in both his matches, losing belief as he so often does at those critical junctures; and as for Delpo it was his belief alone that carried him through this match – he’s been something of a facsimile of the guy that stole Fed’s thunder in New York.

That unfortunately, all but spells curtains for Nando as far as this event is concerned; and though Delpo has this win under his belt, you have to rather stretch your levels of belief, or better still, to adopt an altogether more defiant belief system to expect him to follow up against Federer.

Though I sense I’d better cover my a*s by saying that stranger things have happened.

Federer d. Murray 3-6, 6-3, 6-1

federer(GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Let me start by saying that I was rather dismayed by the indecisive, uncommitted figure that showed up in the guise of Federer for the first set.

After spending the best part of last week fanfaring about how he now knows how to play Murray, and how it’s always the attacking player that holds the key to success, Fed came out and played such a tentative mess of an opener that I was almost glad Murray put him away as soon as he did.

I had no strong loyalties here.

All I really wanted to see was an equally contested three setter that knocked the pants off the Djoko-Nikolay match from the day before; and both these guys, favourites as they were to win this group, seemed best qualified to do that.

murray (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

To say Federer upped his game in the second set would be like saying Nadal hits a good topspin.

Not only did he have a gameplan, but he was out to very publicly validate his claim to mastery over Murray’s game.

I’ve been witness to this brand of snarky, dominating play before. He uses it against players that get under his skin (Murray, Djoko), or against styles of play I believe he has no respect for, and whom he presumably thinks have no business playing tennis. Think Dr Ivo and the Delpo of last year.

If Dasco was hit with shock therapy a couple of days back, then consider this Tennis meets “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, with Murray the one forcibly restrained and attached to the ECT machine.

I don’t care that he bagged the first set: this is the single most stinging defeat I believe Fed has ever inflicted on Murray– made all the more poignant by how ineffective he made him seem in the second set, and how mentally worn down Murray looked in the decider.

That last set in particular, with Murray unable to buy even a single groundstroke, much less a first serve. was perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen him play.

"I served terribly and that was the main difference in the match.

"In the first set, at least when I was behind in games, I was coming up with big serves, being able to dictate the points. But after that I served pants.

"It was probably the most double faults (eight) I served in a match maybe this year.

"You can't serve at 40% against Roger because you give him so many opportunities to dictate play, but that's what I did.

(Source: BBC)

I must confess I don’t quite understand why this is. It’s not as if he hasn’t been on the losing side before, and the loss he suffered to Fed at Flushing last year would have to be considered more of a heartbreaker.

Maybe it’s an acute awareness that that ‘winning’ record he continues to have over Federer is looking increasingly tenuous and more academic with every passing month. This is the second consecutive caustic dismissal Federer has inflicted on him in a three set match, the last one meted out with equal indifference in the semis back in Cincy

I don’t believe we can, with any seriousness, now doubt Fed’s claim to Mastery over Murray. The gameplan seems clear enough, even if he might encounter the odd hiccup in it’s execution.

Wanna know what I don’t find surprising? That it’s the same bludgeony, in-yer-face, brand of aggression that Cilic, Dasco and Gonzalez put to such good effect against Murray during the Slams this year.

Why should we be surprised that Fed’s interpretation looks more polished?

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