There’s sometimes a tendency to underestimate just how much Fed enjoys winning the few titles that have eluded him (Shanghai, Monte Carlo and Rome for the chronically pedantic). And those that do have something to say on the subject seem hell-bent on painting it as a uniquely obnoxious clinical condition (Jeez what a hegemon) .
For me, the anomaly is how he ever managed not to win Paris: perhaps the only understandable loss is in 07 when he went out in R3 to that utterly ridonkulous version of David Nalbandian that’s been known to occasionally show up – who (having already won Madrid) then went on to win the whole damn thing. Having gone through Rafa, Novak and Fed (not easy in 2007), ain’t no one gonna argue that he owned that fall.
But perhaps the fact that it took Fed so long here is just one of the many anomalies we have been told to accept in relation to Paris. A place where even a firebrand like Marat won a shockingly steady three of his five Masters titles. The place where Henman won his ONLY Masters title. Go figure.
This year, all the talk has, quite rightly, been about the decision to slow down the one remaining surface that happened to, you know, BE FAST. Quite frankly, it was an anomaly we could have lived with , even if it was giving rise to the anomalous results so many seem to find so grotesque – I’m not so sure it was responsible (reality, as always, tends to be just a little more complex).
But there's already been more than enough virtual ink spilt on that subject. And honestly? Its obscured something just as relevant: IT'S STILL A FAST INDOOR COURT.
It's fertile territory for jokes of course (of which there have been many), but the truth is, however slow it is, it's not going to suddenly start playing like a clay court – Fed made much the same point after his quite impeccable win over Berd, perhaps his single best match this year.
Not only that, but following his regular post USO lay-off, Fed tends to excel on the fast indoor courts that form the mainstay of the end of the season – a period when most others are worn-out, beat-up, and bitching in various degrees about the length of the season.
Whatever unique advantages these courts confer upon Fed are going to continue to exist even in a slightly compromised form. And that, more than anything else, is what makes him the rational bet going into London.
Clay court Fed will likely remain my particular favourite long after he’s retired – I find the curious, elemental spectacle of Fed’s adapted play working the contours of a surface that should be out-of-his-element until it’s very much in-his-element to be utterly seductive.
But Indoor-Fed shuts you out of a match in a way only a walking scorched earth policy can. And a lot of times that’s just as good.
Explain to me why they did away with carpet again?