I don’t claim to fully understand why Feli’s match with Fed went to three tie breaks. I only know that its HIGH time we buried many of the utter myths surrounding clay.
As I’ve blathered on about many times before, and as Carlos Moya said again yesterday, the era of surface specialists is OVER (not at all the same as saying that surface specialists won’t continue to exist btw – relics of a bygone age often do).
The vast majority of the more convincing up and comers and, in particular, all of the players at the very top, have the results they do, not because of their proficiency on clay or any other surface, but because of their proficiency at tennis.
Tweaks and adjustments must, of course, be made – but it’s self-evident, I hope, that whilst their respective style may differ, all of Fed, Rafa, Nole, and, indeed, Sod, play the same brand of winning tennis on all surfaces.
To a lesser extent, the same holds true for Murray and Feli – and when they lose on clay, it’s for exactly the same reason they lose anywhere else: mental dysfunction.
The point about Feli is that he has one of the best serves in the business, and, when he’s thinking straight(!), can hit through the court and close out at the net in a way that’s served him so very well on grass: none of that’s suddenly gonna disappear because he’s on clay.
Nor am I surprised to see him pull off a performance that would see him triumph over at least half of the current top 10 (possibly his best clay court match ever). Infrequent sure, but it’s hardly the first time and probably won’t be the last.
Yes that shocking “smash” at 5-2 in the final set tie break will probably return to haunt him, and yes, Federer, clearly vulnerable, only pulled through by the slimmest of margins. And yes, Federer being Federer, it’s probably fair to expect just a little more.
The fact remains, however, that he got through playing at a fraction of his best and will likely benefit from the encounter. It’s not the first time we’ve seen that either.