Calling the crowd partisan would be like calling the Berlin wall divisive.
It’s getting a bit much when people shout out during your ball toss, but Berd isn’t the first, nor will he be the last, to play in such conditions. It goes with the territory.
Federer d. Berdych 6-3 5-7 7-6
The match was as intense and exhausting as only a Director’s Cut of a Stanley Kubrick movie can be: you know you ought to be along for the ride, yet come away unsure whether what you’ve just witnessed qualifies as a visionary work of genius or is simply too provocative for it’s own good.
Part of me wants to liken Fed’s play for a set and a half to the AO final this year, a comparison only undone by a stifling, almost Agassi-like, urgency to get things done: it’s rare to see him intimidate his opponents with sheer speed.
Yet when Berd did manage to impress himself upon the second set and at 5-6 down, Fed served his first DF of the match.
Not normally a problem, except he then served another - just like the proverbial London Bus, and (in keeping with the London Transport analogies) setting in motion another Northern Line runaway train – a whole sex-catalogue of errors that saw him lose the set and end up staring defeat at 2-5 down in the next. You really can’t write this stuff.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Though, as with Kubrick, many, sometimes uncomfortable, questions remain.
» Should we laud Fed for rallying back from the brink of defeat?
He did have the crowd behind him.
Though nowadays none of that normally comes in to it: he either wins playing moderately well, gets blown off court by a Kraken in a match no player would have won, or else gets engulfed in the fury of his own manky, shanky comedy of errors.
Clawing his way back after such an erratic episode is relatively unchartered territory.
There’s also the question of his losing to the “big hitters”: already well-chronicled – though to lose to the same one three times in succession, both at and outside of Slams, would have been catastrophic.
» Or should we, rather, bear down on him for unleashing so many errors in the first place?
The early parts of that final set were not purty.
At one point he was 1/10 on break points.
At 1-1 he, somehow, managed not to break Berd’s serve despite having been 0-40 up.
At other times he simply looked to be flailing around as desperately and pointlessly as some kitsch remake of Clockwork Orange.
Like I said, not purty.
The take out from this match is, I suspect, any, or all, of the above.
His form from the first set in particular, with it’s potent serving, chancey wrong-footing, dancey movement and early ball-striking suggests we should be taking his hopes of ending on “at least” 20 Slams very seriously.
On the other hand, what he should be taking seriously is the threat posed by
this spontaneous and (you have to think) innate urge he sometimes has to “go loco” – a threat that can loom larger than the Kraken on the other side of the net and plays out like the outtake reel from hell.
One where we are granted a none-too-rare 15 min courtside window into a nightmarish vision of pervasive pessimism, surreal symbolism and, occasionally, gross-out humour.
You can’t write this stuff. But I suspect Kubrick can.