Thursday, 13 May 2010

Madrid: “Anything Mills and Boon can do…”

To tell you the truth I’ve not yet ripened into that space I’m usually found in during the first few days of a Masters event.

Normally, the sight and sounds of Baggy/Ferrer and Serena/Nadia (in leggings I might add) thrashing it out at an event that continues to dare you to think of it as “just another” ATP-1000/Premier-Mandatory, would be enought to send me into a fevered frenzy of speculation.

Right now, I feel nothing.

You have these two to thank for that.

Within hours of their first joint presser as PM and Deputy PM the two were being likened to the principal characters in an intensely woolly Richard Curtis production, the lead roles going, of course, to Colin Firth and Hugh Grant (Presumably the analogy extends to any future clash the two may have over Voting Reform). For others, it was an upmarket gay wedding metaphor.

There was joshing, arm-touching, and much figurative smooching as the two bent over backwards to convince us in the most genial spirit that this ConLib (or “ConDem’ed” as others have put it) coalition – the UK’s first since World War II – was not doomed to failure. Before walking off together – literally up the Wisteria-clad garden path of Downing St’s back yard – to begin attending to the lofty matters of state…and to each other’s lapels.

Various Centre-Left post-mortems are underway debating the degree to which the LibDems either “sold out”, or whether, in fact, it was Labour infighting that scuppered what many saw as a crucial opportunity for Voting Reform and uniting the two leading Centre-Left strands of British politics.

How long this party-political bromance will last is, at this point, anyone’s guess.

It’s all left me feeling rather inebriated, and somewhat insulated from the happenings in Madrid.

So inebriated, in fact, that it didn’t completely knock me out when Henin lost to Rezai in her opening match. Or when Shaza flamed out to Safarova in hers. Or when I was told Kuznetsova, Azarenka & Safina were all out before I’d seen a single ball hit – or even seen the draw for that matter.

It didn’t help, of course, that many of these results wouldn’t have surprised me if they'd hit me squarely in the chops, even without the sense of vacancy imposed by a hung parliament.

I was only ever partially convinced by JuJu’s win in Stuttgart, Shaza’s not a good bet on clay at the best of times, Azarenka’s injured, Dinarik has only just re-entered the fray and, well, no one’s better at taking the Mickey and making it *not* happen than Kuzzie.

Serena’s three and a half hour opener in which she triumphed eventually against Vera Dushevina, seemed as much a battle with herself, and was by most accounts, an error-strewn match known more for Williams’s piercing screams than the nature and quality of the ball striking. The longest match of her career, I’m told.

When you see her like that, you’d be right in thinking that winning matters to her – yes, even outside the Slams. Unsurprising then that the strains left her unable to follow up, going out 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 earlier today to Nadia Petrova.

On the other hand, what to make of this quote from her (being reported in forums and through various twitter feeds):

"This isn’t a player favorite tournament to be honest. No players are really gung-ho about playing here."

If the statement does turn out to be hers (as I rather suspect it might) then I reeaallly wish she hadn’t made it. Not only is it tactless, but she really shouldn’t presume to speak for the locker room.

That said, and however tactless it may be, it isn’t that different in essence to what Murray said of Dubai.

Why should it surprise us that certain carefully distilled (and somewhat inopportune) personal victories, such as squashing Dushevina in a menial opener, seem to matter more to her than pandering to the perceived import of any single event?

If we’re honest with ourselves, the sense of foreboding that’s been with us since around IW/Miami, seems set to continue to manifest itself in a raft of “upsets”, most of which seem to be rapidly losing their ability to actually upset us.

Haven’t seen a single men’s match, though I did hear that both parties to a certain apolitical Bromance made it through their respective matches in straights.

They’re scheduled to meet in the final, if anyone’s interested enough to actually believe it will happen.

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