Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Oz: On the benefits of neutrality.



"I wasn't playing poorly in the third and fourth set, but Gilles took it to me," Federer said. "Clearly, he's a great player first of all. Matches against him don't come easily ... hopefully we don't play each other anymore!"

-- Federer


"Yes, I was tired. I had to run everywhere for three hours. But I was feeling good…."But the problem is that I left second round. Tomorrow you will forget it."




Don’t count on it Gillou. Something tells me we won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry.


Aside: When was the last time you heard Fed admit to not wanting to face-off with another player (even in jest)?


My twitter timeline was awash with three parts adrenalin to every two parts of fully-flatulent frenzy, and fifty-fifty in favour of both men.





Federer d. Simon 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3


Not being especially invested in either player was fun. Sorry but it was :p


I get, and I respect, the unqualified ecstasy that goes with watching your player come through a trauma-inducing dogfight (I’ve been there), and that there’s perhaps nothing darker (this side of a Dinara double bagel) than coming out of the wrong end of a 5-set kitchen-sink face-off  (been there too).


It’s just that sometimes, on some level, the drama of the moment, the quality of the tennis and the exhaustively ritualistic farce being played out in front of you transcends all of that – as it arguably did between Hewitt and Nalby on day two.


Shoot me, but I think that’s kinda fun too. Not least because you get to point and laugh at your twitter timeline. Sorry, I did that too.





Fed ran away with the first two sets before Simon began to get under his skin the way he’d twice done before.  *Cue Gillou fans going hoarse with expectation*


Fed would squander a two set lead and 4 MPs (*Fed fans writhing in what was by now almost erotically-charged agony*) before eventually breaking to go 4-2  up in the fifth set and serving it out, thereafter, almost as well as he did at the WTF last year.


At the end of it all, as both parties collectively smoked a fag over the remains of Rod Laver arena, the mood was almost idyllic – eerily so.


Everybody seemed to be above making pathetic excuses for either player and there was almost an implicit moratorium on trashtalk. The battle had been won, and lost. That is all.




Up until last night, Simon had a squeaky-clean, two-for-O record versus Fed. That record is no more.


But only today did I truly understand why it had ever existed in the first place.  Prior to tonight, I confess I had thought of it as something of an exceptionally impressive anomaly – not quite a flash in the pan, but due in part, at least, to Gilles’ late-2008 surge of form and Fed’s…lack thereof.


I was wrong.


Conventional wisdom says that Gilles is simply the latest incarnation of those that outlast Fed and frustrate him into making an error (see Canas, Murray and to a lesser extent, Rafa) . Conventional wisdom can go to hell.


It’s true that Gillou has one of the fastest (and skinniest) pair of legs out there that enable him to run down most anything and everything – it’s also true that he doesn’t rush to pull the trigger.


What’s not true is that this makes him a grinder, not least because when he does pull the trigger, you’re hit with the kind of deceptively flat pace that was (and still is) beyond Canas, Hewitt and Muzz.


Far more likely that Fed is not wired (not, at least, by default) to cope with the incomprehensible gibberish and lack of rhythm Gillou presents to him.


Far more likely too, that Gillou’s a better player than most people give him credit for. Funny that.

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