Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Roland Garros: Weekend Winners

Congratulations Rafael Nadal on securing your 6th RG Title and tying Bjorn’s record.


I honestly didn’t think you had it in you this year – perhaps not even make the final. For shame. How very callous that seems in retrospect.

OF COURSE you would find your mojo against Robin Soderling. Whatever made me think that wouldn’t happen? Well, since you ask – maybe that your win over Ljubicic was the worst I’ve ever seen you play in a RG match you’ve gone on to win (in straights as it turned out). Maybe that, in spite of seven finals, you hadn’t looked yourself all year. And I still think at least one of the two clay court losses to Djokovic demonstrates that. That’s my defence anyway.

The win over Murray in the QFs was, of course, impressive, but only in the final did you come to resemble the player that represents the rule rather than this “dabbler” with the exception. As you yourself indicated, you were a little lucky that Fed blew that 5-2 lead in the first set, but from then on in, the familiar motifs of creating offence from defence, maintaining an impeccable depth that’s been AWOL all year, and making Fed play that dreaded “one extra ball” were only too evident.

Rafa indicated several times in his presser how a win attained after such a struggle is that much sweeter (than, say, one in which he won the final for the loss of only four games). Still, I think this quote goes right to the heart of his troubles this year.

Well, the real Rafa is both the Rafa who wins and the Rafa who plays well and the Rafa who suffers and doesn’t play that well…These two Rafas are real Rafas. The most positive thing is that I was capable of reversing situations and keeping a good attitude in order to reverse the situation.”

Like I said last week, the 1.3 Billion people narrative starts to lose some of its mystique once you’ve heard it 1.3 Billion times. Even so, its significance should be clear – you couldn’t understate it if you tried.

Couched between all the fevered reaction about the future of the Chinese tennis “system” (in every sense of the word), the various competing corporate concerns and the quest to put tennis on the map of the fastest growing economy, is an essential truth that has, rather sadly, been overlooked all too often – that Madame Li is an impeccable tennis player.

I defy you to find sweeter, better-timed, more crisp groundies anywhere on tour. And that’s before you even get to the textbook action, videos of which should be used as a teaching aid.

The talent’s always been obvious, but I didn’t think she had it in her to hold it together mentally  for 7/7 Slam matches. I still don’t – sorry, but there’s simply been too much evidence to the contrary [Not that I would mind being proved as wrong about her as I was right about Franny].

Finally, little disappointed we didn’t get to see hubby Jiang Shan on court during the trophy ceremony. I was keen to see whether it would garner as much coverage as Brian Lynch and  Jada did – because, you know, other players have families too.

But then again (comical pressers aside) that’s never been their style. Her speech was similarly understated, leaving many glam0-philes uncomfortable and disappointed. I found it a refreshing change.

(Pics: getty)

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