Sunday, 29 November 2009

WTF: Wrap Up, Vol. 1

davydenko (GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Davydenko d. del Potro 6-3, 6-4

Not the best match after the week we’ve had, but a fantastic conclusion nonetheless, and the right one I believe.

Nikolay came out playing the tennis, that as far as I’m concerned, he should have done in the three sets he contested against Federer 24 hours earlier.

And big brother Eduardo agrees with me. So there.

del Potro, played well but looked as if fatigue had finally caught up, and lacked the intensity which I’m all but certain he now saves for his bashes with Federer.

There were even a couple of his off-the-cuff, flatter-than-flat “fly swatter” cross courters, usually played on the run stretched out wide, and which might well go down as one my fave newly-introduced strokes of 2009.

Interviewed before and after the final today, Eduardo, Kolya’s brother and coach, didn’t give the impression of being at all overwhelmed by his brother’s big win over Federer the day before, drawing attention instead to the poor opener Fed played.

After today’s win, he said Kolya did what he should have done, by overwhelming Juan with his speed around the court; not that he was much more entranced than before, characterising Nikolay’s play as about “normal”.

Lofty standards yes? But the right attitude to adopt if Nikolay is to take that vital next step and win that elusive Slam, which by the way, is now a realistic question to pose, though still not as easy as it sounds given Kolya has yet to experience the un-watered extremities of playing in a Slam final.

Davydenko d. Federer 6-2, 4-6, 7-5

I’m largely in agreement with Eduardo.

I stand by my assessment yesterday, that if Kolya didn’t serve big, the match would be over in straights. 12-0 is not a H2H to be taken lightly, especially when you take into account that although some of their matches have been close, Kolya’s only ever managed to take a single set from Fed in the last seven years.

And all appeared on course for a 13th win, when Federer opened up by winning the first seven points of the match on the trot.

What I didn’t take into account in my pre-match hype take on things, was the origami-like way in which Fed would fold. He’s lost the opener of every match he played this week, but the three or four games he played after coming out and holding serve here, might well rank amongst his worst.

What has largely been forgotten though, is that Davydenko played one of his poorest matches of the week too.

Sure Fed served a very tacky 40% of first serves in that opener – Davydenko served at 38%. And though Fed lifted his form in the next two sets, Davy continued, much in the same, somewhat listless vein.

His shots, normally the benchmark for ‘early-risers’ (my term of endearment for players that take the ball early), normally so reliable, looked largely tentative and ineffectual out there . And that way it remained, until the awesomeness that ensued in the second half of the final set.

All quite shocking really, when you consider how well he’d been serving all week, but against Big Rob in particular. His serve and net play have been much improved over the last year and a half, and Federer quite rightly drew attention in the pre-match interview to the fact that the last time they played was at Estoril last year – a match they didn’t even get to complete.

All the other losses were accrued at a time when Davy was as metronomic as ever, but maybe a little more thoughtless as regards point construction – not that dissimilar to Dementieva actually, with the amount of balls that landed aimlessly down the middle – and certainly far from the polished article we’ve seen this week.

Fed raised his game in the second and third, just like he has in all his matches this week, and had he not gone origami on us so conspicuously in that first set, maybe it would have been a straights dismissal after all.

I liked it that Davy pulled himself together in those final four or five games, where he, not so much raised his level drastically, as much as he played to the form Eduardo know he’s capable of, and I for one, love to see.

But, like Eduardo, I would have much preferred to have seen the Kolya that raced out of the blocks today, quickly extinguishing any rays of hope Delpo might have entertained.

We may see it yet – he’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last player to have fully blossomed during his last few years on tour.

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