Another one of the Grandpa Generation is off to the sunset after US Open – for Andy Roddick is hanging up his racquets after US Open.
There’s no way any decent tennis fan would have missed the announcement that one of the most colourful (if not exactly the most agreeable) personalities of the tour is retiring. With him meeting one of the stars of the Generation After Nadal-Djokovic-Murray, Bernie Tomic – it was supposed to be the marquee match of the US Open thus far. Fair to say some expected Bratomic to end the career of A-Rod. After all, he’s 11 years younger (on paper anyway ;)), supposedly stronger and faster, nearing the peak of his game whilst Roddick is on his swan song.
Arthur Ashe was packed to the capacity for that match, nearing the crowds of a final even. If Roddick was to go out, he would go out with a bang and in front of thousands of Americans.
But Roddick was not done yet. Read More…
Ah, gay Paree and clay Paree. I’m not a huge fan of clay-court tennis, or Roland Garros in general – my best moments of the Slam stands alone at Ferrero winning and Federer winning. Adding on the magnificent time difference from Land of Oz plus hectic times at work…let’s just say I haven’t feel so disconnected from a Slam in a very long time.
But still, it is a Slam, and it still invokes feelings of excitement and anticipation in me, even if, so far, I haven’t had the opportunity to properly watch a full match that features another player not named FederBrainfart, or read up on full tennis analysis and news etc etc etc. And things have been happening. Man, have they been happening.
Perhaps the biggest news thus far is Serena Williams losing to Virginie Razzano in the first round. It may be worth noting that Serena has never ever lost in the first round of a Slam – until now. It was a match full of drama and momentum swings and stuff that’s Hollywood-worthy, or so I heard. Serena was up 5-1 in the tiebreaker in the second set, lost the set. She was trailing 0-5 in the third, and clawed back nail and tooth and guts and spleen to come back to 3-5. Razzano needed 9 match-points before finally managing to win the last set 6-3.
LJ’s last words on her Dubai wrap: “…I don’t really care how Fed does really…Rotterdam/Dubai have been so much fun, I’d think we’d be a bit spoilt if big things happen in the 1st US swing, but hey…tennis is weird that way.”
I like to say that I echoed her sentiments except that a (not at all) secret part of me that wants Federer to win every single tournament under the sun…and guess what?
The Old Man decided to spoil us, by winning the freaking tournament. And yes, tennis is weird and wonderful that way.
To say he didn’t begin the tournament well is an understatement. The tournament had been dubbed Indian Unwells for a virus that managed to drift around and attack everyone in attendance (official name: Coachella Valley-wide virus. Unofficial name: IW virus). 6 players, including Monfils, withdrew even before the tournament began. And throughout the week, players continued to be waylaid – Schiavone, Seppi, Kohlscrubber…to name a few.
Well, well, well. Who said old men can’t boogie? Because Roger Federer, aged 30 years, 6 months and 11 days, just ran, slid, skipped, hopped, danced and boogied his way into his 71st career title. Not to mention a 12th straight year with at least one title to his name.
And thus ends the first Grand Slam of the year. The guy with the trophy is Novak Djokovic and the guy with the plate is Rafael Nadal. And as we sit back and watch, the tennis media/world explodes with excitement at the new GOAT…
(I just want to interject here and say that I’ve never really believed in the GOAT debate. GOATS, to me, are these. Other than that, I feel that the eras/surfaces/players/competition – all too vastly different to arrive at one single absolute conclusion. But I disgress.)
Anyway, some post final thoughts to wrap up the dizzying explosion of tennis, tears, dramas, sweat and sunburn…
AO2012 final – a replay of the AO2009 final. Replace Federer with Nadal, and replace Nadal with Djokovic. The one who came off a gruelling semi-final defied the odds of physicality and fitness to win. The one supposedly more well-rested, the one with the supposed advantage…lost – not because of a lack of skill or talent, but to that mental demon floating around the head.
Rafa had all the chances and the momentum. Crawled back from a 0-40 hole in the 4th set, dug deep to win the tiebreaker, was up a break to lead 4-2 in the fifth. But then when Djokovic found that extra something, Rafa lost that extra something. When Djokovic broke back in the 5th, that was when the doubt crept into Rafa’s head. And mentally, that was that one hurdle, a magnanimous one, that gave Djokovic the ultimate advantage. The same advantage that Rafa had over Federer in the 2009 final (and in all their finals/meetings, I may add).
Rafa’s post-match conference spoke a lot of positivity, as did Murray’s post-match conference. These two guys have lost absolute heartbreakers, but to arguably the best player of the moment right now. Murray will move on – I have no doubt – and I feel that he will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season. He’s at a good place, despite the loss.
Rafa? There is a lot of discussion and debate surrounding his mental state with this 7th-straight loss. As a Federer fan, who has watched Federer suffer and struggle at the hands of Rafa, believe me when I say that I know how Rafa fans feel. It’s frustrating and annoying to see your guy lose to that one other guy on a constant basis, and no matter what Rafa (and Federer) may have to say about it, we just know that it’s mental. Of course it’s not 100% mental but can we really deny that the block in both their brains against their respective conquerors had to do with the losses sustained over and over again?
No matter how mentally strong one may be – even to a toughie like Rafa – it has got to hurt. It has got to raise questions. And it has got to affect the confidence.
But where does Rafa go from here? For that fact, where does Federer go from here?
I’m not entirely sure that Federer will ever solve the Rafa riddle. As LJ had noted in one of her tweets, tennis is a game of match-ups sometimes, and the match-up between the Federer-Nadal game gives Rafa the bigger edge, not to mention that mental advantage. Of course, the old man may still find a way now and then – I won’t ever count him out – but I’m pretty sure he’ll end his career with that deficit H2H to Rafa.
And hey, I’m okay with it.
As for Rafa…he finds himself on the undesirable end of this rivalry with Djokovic. What had hurt Federer – game wise – will not hurt Djokovic. It will be back to the drawing board for him, and he will have to figure out Djokovic in a way that he never needed to figure out anyone else. It will be a challenge for him, but I’m sure that he will rise to the occasion. I’m not ready to write him off as the eternal loser in this rivalry. Because we all know that isn’t set in stone, not yet.
Roland Garros will be very interesting, especially if Rafa and Djokovic happens to meet again. As the best clay courter the tennis world has ever seen, Rafa will have the edge. And beating Djokovic on his beloved Parisian clay may be what Rafa needs to boost his confidence once again. Although if I can be selfish, I am, of course, rooting for a certain pair of Grandpa Pants to spoil the potential of a Rafa/Djokovic final.
I think I’m approaching that zen point of Federer’s defeats – to Rafa, or otherwise. Yes, the losses still hurt. Yes, they still make me feel like crap. But I think the time it takes for me to get over it has lessened gradually. At the end of it, I’m just glad I still get to see him play. I’m glad that he’s still around. After all, I’m not a Federer fan because he wins (in fact I kinda loathed him when he was all dominant and winning everything circa 2004-2006). I’m a Federer fan because he embodies what I admire in a sportsperson – the determination, the spirit, the passion he has for the game. Because he plays a friggin’ beautiful game of tennis, and because his pants are friggin’ hot. Everyone loves a winner, but strangely enough, I became a bigger Federer fan than I was when he was at the losing end (Wimbledon 2008) because then you see what kind of stuff that he’s truly made of.
Rafa fans, you have a lot to be proud of when it comes to your man. Even if he doesn’t figure out the Djokovic riddle (but I doubt this), he’s never a loser. His willingness to fight, his never-giving up spirit, and the fact that he always leaves it all on the court, each and every time – that speaks volumes about him as a person.
I think the level of men’s tennis is at dizzying heights right now. The Top 4 is probably the strongest Top 4 we’ve seen in recent years. It will be interesting to see if any outsiders can wrestle their way into this circle. This sets up for a very intriguing 2012 season…even if I may encounter heartbreaks and heartaches along the way, I’m excited to see all of this unfolding.
As for the ladies’ side…they have a new #1 – Victoria Azarenka, who captured the spot by winning Australian Open and blasting Shrieky Sharapova off court with a bagel. Ladies’ tennis looks as exciting as the men’s and even less predictable. The last 4 Slams are all won by first time Slam winners – 2 young ‘uns (Kvitova and Azarenka) and 2 oldies (Li Na and Stosur). Will this trend continue throughout 2012? Not if Serena Williams has anything to say about it. Her Australian Open campaign is not successful according to her lofty standards, but she’s back, and back with a vengeance.
This year’s Australian Open has been good for me. I was a cover girl as a tennis tragic who visited online tennis forums. I got to cover an adidas event and see Tsonga, Woznicaki and Simon up-close. I’ve written a lot more about tennis than I ever had in the past. Most importantly, I saw a lot of great matches, saw a lot of 5-setters, saw the players grind it out, saw Federer playing some wonderfully fantastic and pretty tennis, saw the heart and soul and guts of Lleyton Hewitt. The results wasn’t what I wanted, but that isn’t something I’ll dwell on when I think about my experiences at the Happy Slam this year.
And thus this concludes my guest bloggage for Australian Open. I’ve been rambly and most of the time not making a lot of sense, but it’s been a LOT of fun, as usual. Thanks again to dear Dootsiez for letting me occupy this spot on the fence.
And now back to you!
If this is not Australian Open, I wouldn’t bother…no, not really. As sadface and grouchy and kinda devastated I am over Roger’s loss, I like to think I can still appreciate a good tennis match. And let’s face it, yesterday’s match – after sucking for 1.5 sets in hilarious comedy of errors – ended up being a great one. The match showcased shots, talent, stamina, physical and mental strength, and the fact that I think that may be a match more about the loser than the winner.
The general consensus after the match was that Andy Murray has arrived. I’m not entirely convinced – just because of the way he sort of mentally disappeared during the 4th set after a hard-fought 3rd set, and the way he could not mentally hold on to push Djokovic after successfully breaking him when he was serving for the match. Those are opportunities he HAS to take and by not taking them, he ended up on the losing side, and the “could have, should have, would have” side of things (my my, how familiar). Having said that, his post-match conference showed a maturing player, confident about his chances for the rest of the season. I doubt that he’s going to go into post-tournament meltdown ala 2010/2011. Mr.Lendl is good for him. And Mr.Lendl will ensure that the for the rest of the season, it will be more about the Big 4 rather than the Top 3 + Murray.
So, the final tomorrow. Nadal versus Djokovic. Playing for the history books, playing for confidence, playing for that humongous mental advantage for the rest of the year. How much bigger can it get?
Despite that 6 straight losses last year, you’ll have to be insane to count out Nadal completely. And despite that gruelling semi-final and lesser rest, you’ll also have to be insane to count out Djokovic. For me, there’s no clear-cut winner in this one. In my opinion, skill/game wise, both players are similar in their baseline styles. Nadal has a killer forehand. Djokovic has a killer backhand. Their chances will be hugely dependent on how well they serve on the day.
Mentally? Now this is interesting, isn’t it? Going back to 2009, I believe Nadal was able to beat Fed purely because of the mental edge. Fast-forward 3 years later, Nadal finds in himself in Federer’s shoes. Will he follow the same footsteps – ultimately losing the match because of SIX LOSSES lighting up in his brain in neon lights – or will he defy all odds and pull off a spectacular win? Rafa is one of the toughest out there when it comes to fighting spirit, let’s be honest. But then again, I’ve never seen him as lost as he did during last year’s US Open final…so it had to be said that tomorrow will be very very interesting indeed.
Why do I think Nadal will beat Djokovic:
1) Extra day’s rest. With his style of play, that extra day’s rest is VERY VERY handy. Djokovic is at a slight disadvantage just because of the physicality in their games.
2) PJ’s theory of Something’s Gotta Give. 6 losses in a row? No one beats Rafael Nadal 7 times in a row, no?
3) Rafa played the best tennis I’ve seen from him in a while in the match where he beat Grandpa Fed. If he keeps up that sort of performance and pulls off those crazy defensive shots, he’s well in it.
4) Djokovic’s “breathing problems” although let’s face it, it’s questionable but if it’s affecting him (like truly), it’s advantage Rafa.
5) Ya think Rafa wants to put a stop to this nonsense of Djokovic beating him all the friggin’ time? YA THINK???!?
Why do I think Djokovic will beat Nadal:
1) Repeat of AO2009, replace Fed with Rafa and Rafa with Djokovic. Adrenaline and history (6 straight wins across all tournaments – from the Mickey Mouse to the Masters 1000 to the Slams) says he will.
2) He’s gotta be supremely confident he can do it, 5-setter semis or not. He played a 5-setter against Fed in USO last year. Didn’t affect him.
3) He beat Rafa 6 times last year. On all surfaces. Obviously knows how to beat him.
4) I think there’s something about Australian Open that brings out the best in him. It’s where he won his first Slam, and since he won last year, I’ve been seeing a certain kind of edge and confidence this year that seemed to suggest he couldn’t lose (but then again, my gut feelings are often lame and wrong).
5) He’s not the same player he was, mentally and physically, as proven yesterday. He’ll hang with Rafa. Hang like a barnacle and may just pull it off towards the end.
6) Ya think he wants to keep Rafa as his bunny, and therefore have a VERY REAL shot at Djokovic Slam at RG – especially if Fed ends up on Rafa’s half again? YA THINK?!!?!?
Well, I hope we’re in for a good match tomorrow and not a total snooze-fest like last year. However I’m not nearly big enough to say I’ll be truly happy for whoever that ends up winning because frankly, I kinda couldn’t care less. #sourgrapes #bitter #smallperson #sosueme
But I’ll say this: May the best man win, and may he be truly deserving.
(And Federer’s pants are still the hottest.)
P.S. don’t forget to read Matt’s excellent write up on the Djokovic/Murray semi-final.
Oh gee whiz. This preview seems so effing familiar. Is it because I’ve done it before? AND before? This is the third semi-final preview post I’ve done featuring the same four dudes, albeit different match-ups.
Anyway, I’m a big ol’ bubbling pot of emotions and anxiety and excitement, accompanied with ulcers, nausea and all of that, so if this doesn’t make an iota of sense, forgive me.
OMGOMGFRAZZLEPANTSWTFBBQOMG I CAN’T TAKE THIS. And in a way, I really can’t.
Why I think Federer will beat Nadal:
1) Federer seems to be in better form. If he serves well, returns well, play like he did against Tomic and Delpony, his chances are more than just realistic. Simply put, he has to take his opportunities and make full use of them, because Rafa is not going to give up many of those opportunities.
2) It’s not clay. I like his chances better when it’s not clay.
3) He should have some confidence based on their last meeting at WTF – even if it’s a different court, different scenario and different things on the line.
4) I think the old man still has something to prove…to himself, most of all. I have no doubt he will give his all, and may his all be enough.
5) Rafa is struck by The Curse of Australia Day. Fireworks do not like him.
6) Because, as usual, my heart says Federer. It always always ALWAYS says Federer.
Why I think Nadal will beat Federer:
2) By duh, I mean Federer’s propensity to brainfart to epic proportions when playing Nadal. See Miami 2011, RG 2011. Especially in RG when Fed’s been the better player all tournament – turning in the most fantastic performance of the year to boot Djokovic – and yet he fell to Rafa in the final, after essentially farting away the massive first-set lead. UGH UGH UGH to the MAX.
3) Nadal has beaten Federer in Australia. But not vice versa. In other words, Nadal knows how to beat Federer in Australia.
4) The Curse of Australia Day may work along the theory of Something’s Gotta Give.
5) In the words of Steve Tignor: History shows that whenever Federer plays Nadal, Nadal wins.
As for the Djokovic-Murray semi…
Why I think Djokovic will beat Murray:
1) Djokovic has beaten Murray in a Slam – the same Slam – in a final.
2) He will be keen to repeat his year of 2011. That’s gotta provide extra drive and volley for him to power through Muzzface.
3) Ranking suggests it.
4) Djokovic has proven in that he can outrun Hewitt (although half-crippled) and most ofall, Ferrer. He can certainly outrun Murray.
5) Muzz has not been challenged (except for Harrison) and need not play his best tennis thus far, and may find Djokovic too suddenly challenging. Djokovic got that kink out of the way with old man Hewitt unexpectedly pushing him.
6) Confidence wise, I think Djokovic’s got it more than Muzz.
Why I think Murray will beat Djokovic:
1) Mr.Lendl in his corner. I think that’s a huge positive for Muzz and may help him greatly as far as the mental side goes.
2) If a half-crippled Hewitt can take a set off Djokovic, Muzz has got to fancy his chances of taking three sets.
3) It’s not a final. He’s less likely to choke and implode mentally.
4) Point 5 for Djokovic may also work in Muzz’ favour. The lack of challenge so far means he has yet to peak and may peak and pull off this big feat in the semis.
5) He’s the only one in the Top 4 without a Slam. You think he’d want a chance to rectify that? YA THINK?? (déjà vu)
I’ve said my piece, essentially. May the best men win.
(As in the best player because Federer will always be the best man as far as I’m concerned)
Semi-final stage has been set, and we all know what’s going to be on the menu. Before I go into dissecting the fine dishes for tonight and tomorrow night…some random thoughts to wrap up the events of the last few days.
1) Federer-Delpony. A match that I was excruciatingly nervous about, just because of USO09 angst. Yes, Delpony isn’t the player he was – but still, I couldn’t discount the damage he can potentially do, with that forehand. From the start, I thought this would be the quarter-final match up – helped that Mardy Fish got hooked and grilled by Falla. At first, seemed like my worry was displaced as Federer started brilliantly in the first three games to break Del Potro (recording something insane like 8 winners and 1 UE in those games). All cool if he keeps up, right? But noooo…dude got broken and I was sitting in a meeting at work feeling my stomach curling up in ulcers. But as Delpony was serving to stay in the set, a couple of great returns from the Old Man seemed to rattle him, and he tossed in a double-fault to give Fed the first set. Set 2 seemed to roll around like the first – early break for Fed but a tough service game as he was attempting to serve out the set. I was so worried that it’ll be a repeat of USO09 (NIGHTMARE! NIGHTMARE!) but Fed hung tough and served it out. Third set was pretty much kinda smooth-sailing and straightforward with Fed taking a double break and serving out the match prettily, much to my relief.
2) Nadal-Berd. Berd will be kicking himself in the head FOREVER on that flubbed volley on the second set tie-breaker…which would’ve given him the second set and a two-sets-to-none lead against Rafa. As it goes – if you let Rafa back into a match, it will most probably be curtains for you, and that was what happened with Berd…went bye bye Berdy in 4 sets. He had his chances – the second set, and early break in the third set – but just couldn’t capitalise on them. I’ll refrain on commenting on the so-call controversies though, because in the end, it is what it is. Doesn’t make a difference either way.
3) Muzz-Nishikori. Nishikori had nothing left in the tank after his 5-setter against Tsonga (which was quite brilliant, by the way. He really showed a lot of steel to outhit and outlast Jo) AND baking two hours in the sun for mixed-doubles before his match with Muzz. I expected an easy straight-sets win, and that was what happened. The general consensus was that he didn’t play that well (apparently served kind of horribly) but Kei-chan had no energy/legs left to really pose a huge challenge. Still, a fantastic run for Nishikori and top 20 is beckoning. He’s a good kid with quite a solid game, definitely one of the potential ones to break out in his career. Hope he continues to do well, and inspire more tennis players in the Asian region.
4) Djokovic-Ferrer. Oh, Lord F. I cannot believe you were straight-setted by Djokovic. You were supposed to be able to run faster and longer than gimpy old man Hewitt (who had one leg for half the match)! But as it is, Ferrer CAN run faster and harder but Hewitt had the edge over him in arsenal and shots, as well as guts and heart and spleen. Lord F had his chances in the second-set tiebreaker, but suffered mental lapses to allow Djokovic to take control and take the set. Might have been different if he had been able to take a set…but he didn’t and went down tamely in the 3rd.
So for the third time in the last 4 Slams – the Top 4 is in the semis. I honestly think the depth in the men’s game – when it comes to the Top 4 – is probably the best it has been in recent years. Of course, I still think #3 is the tops. :)
5) The unlikely quarter-finals between Shrieky Sharapova/Ekaterina Makarova and Petra Kvitova/Sara Errani yielded the likely results. I thought Makarova had half a chance seeing she was spectacular against Vera (I didn’t see the Serena match) but Shrieky was simply too good for her. Kvitova, however, didn’t play well, but it was enough to beat Errani in straights. But if she doesn’t pick up her game today against Shrieky…I think she’s goners for sure.
6) Azarenka outhit and outshriek Radwanska to make the second semi-final and Kimmie beat Wozniacki as expected. I know Woz was number 1, but her game just isn’t good enough to combat Kim’s power hitting and aggressiveness. In losing to Kim, she loses the number 1 ranking, thus ending the complaining and discussion of a Slamless #1…for now. When AO is over, the WTA #1 will be a Slammy one – because it would either be Kvitova, Sharapova or Azarenka. And Azarenka will have to win AO to assume that spot. Hip hip hooray - no more mocking the WTA for a while at least!
And on we roll to Semis Day 1. (Get your frazzlepants on)
It was a match that everyone thought was a given. No one thought Novak Djokovic even have to physically exert himself the tiniest bit to beat Lleyton Hewitt. After all, Djokovic is younger, faster, and better. Hewitt? He’s old (30 years old) and gimpy (mangled left toe) and simply not in the same league. It was going to be a beatdown. People were taking bets on how many games he’ll get. I think the maximum number suggested was 8 games.
I didn’t give him half a chance in hell to make Djokovic work. Sure, when it comes to grit and determination and being fucking stubborn, Lleyton is second to none (back off, Rafa). But even if the heart is willing, the body is not able. With his physical limitation, he was just not going to withstand Djokovic’s barrage of (tennis) balls.
I went into the match, actually dressed in green and gold, to support him – just because I have a feeling that it’s Old Man Hewitt’s last Australian Open, and I want him to go out on the best note. Even so, I was just hoping for a dignified 3-set beatdown. Maybe something along the lines of 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
When they started playing, Hewitt found himself down a double break in 20 minutes, and even as he got one break back, Djokovic powered through to take the first set 6-1. Lleyton didn’t manage to hold serve at all, and continued to lose serve until his sixth service game. The second set ended with a relatively uncompetitive 6-3 scoreline. Right, I thought woefully. So this is how it’s going to go down.
Then the third set began. And within a blink of an eye, Hewitt was down 0-3, and has managed to hold serve twice for the entire duration of the match so far. Groaning inwardly, I prayed that he wouldn’t get bageled. One game, I thought. Just hold serve FOR ONCE, and we can end this fairly respectably.
But just as I forgot who he is and what he stands for – the whole I’ll-fucking-give-up-when-I’m-fucking-dead attitude that is deeply ingrained in Lleyton Hewitt’s soul and mangled toe – he reminded me that this ain’t over till it’s really fucking over. He broke Djokovic’s serve, and suddenly it was back on serve.
Aussie supporters in the Rod Laver Arena who had been a bit subdued throughout, suddenly came to life, cheering and stamping and urging on the gimpy grandpa in red on court. With Djokovic serving at 4-all, Hewitt gritted his teeth and piled pressure onto his serves and to the amazement and joy of the arena, he broke to gain a 5-4 lead. But of course Djokovic wasn’t going to let him have it easy. He pushed Hewitt on his serve, firing winners and trying to crack down the old man, but this old man would have none of it. In a tremendous, tremendous showing of pure grit and guts, he held on like a barnacle, and served the set out.
Lleyton Hewitt took a set off Novak Djokovic. After he was down 0-3 in that set.
And RLA was ON ITS FUCKING FEET. I leaped up so fast that I nearly fell headfirst into the row of chairs in front of me. My newly converted tennis fan/Federer fan buddy screamed so loud that I’m fairly sure I’m now 40% deaf in my left ear.
Even so, I think we all know the inevitable, even Hewitt himself. He could barely walk, barely move freely, each point had him grimacing in obvious pain, but still, he refused to give up. As said, those words do not exist in his dictionary. He ran down every ball, he stretched out to retrieve, he hit and walloped the balls and still scampered around the baseline, going for every single shot fucking possible. And the crowd was with him every single step of the way, cheering and yelling encouragement as Hewitt threw himself around the court. To be honest, it was amazing to watch him, knowing what he had been through, and what he was still probably going through.
He held up well in the fourth set, keeping it competitive, until his serve began breaking down. Ill-timed double faults contributed to that crucial break of serve, and soon Djokovic was serving the set out. Faced with 3 matchpoints, 40-0 on Djokovic’s serve – and I can see he was still refusing to give up. Running down a Djokovic return, he stretched himself out, and smacked a winner. Still hanging in there. But that was it. On his second match point, Djokovic took the match – but the standing ovation? It was for Lleyton Hewitt.
No one gave him a chance to make this competitive whatsoever, including myself. But again, he proved what one can do with that pure, unfettered determination. Three months ago, he wasn’t sure whether he would still be able to play tennis. Three months later, he socked it to the world number 1, doing what the other players in the earlier rounds could not do.
Many a bad thing can be said about Lleyton Hewitt, as we all know. But witnessing this man on-court tonight, all I can say is despite everything, he defines what it means to be a warrior, and what it means to never give up, not when you are still out there. If you’re still out there, you bloody well fight till the end. And this is not limited to a tennis court. This is life. His life. Our lives.
He brought me to tennis (yeah yeah mock me all you want, people) and whilst that affection had withered over the years due to a variety of reasons (and NOT mainly because of someone called Roger Federer, although that can be a partial reason), in recent times I am just reminded of why I took a liking to him, because regardless of whatever condition he is in, if he is on court, he lays it all on court. No looking back, no regrets, no what-ifs. If he kills himself losing, then so be it. If he kills himself winning, he’ll be back on crutches to play the next match. Hell, he’ll even play lying on a stretcher if he can find his way around that. Somehow in his old age he has become more likeable in some sense, and that gritty spirit is certainly admirable. His mental fortitude and his will to fight is extraordinary and is something that all athletes – not just tennis players – should aspire to have. I think I’m actually fucking proud to call him my first favourite, as opposed to being mortified (as I used to be).
If this is his last Australian Open match, then it’s a bloody good one, and an appropriate swan-song, to have pushed the world number 1 in the classic Hewitt style. And I am very proud to be part of that, to be giving him an admittedly slightly teary standing ovation as he left the court. And as I leave Melbourne Park, I think I took a slice of Lleyton’s life lesson back with me, to apply in my own life.
Well done, Lleyton. Hold your head up high. We’re all extremely proud of you.
P.S. I hope Bernard Tomic’s parents allowed him to stay up past his bedtime to watch, because he can learn like a million things from this match alone.
P.P.S. General wrap to come tomorrow. Now I need to sleep.
Into the second week of Australian Open. Needless to say, the first week has its fair share of dramas and tears and all that jazz. Since I was at Melbourne Park for Day 4 – Day 6…I just want to put some of my thoughts together. For something more intelligent and articulate, head over to Matt’s mid-week wrap post.
- Andy Roddick. I’ve never really been a major fan of his, but there’s something in him that evokes sentimentality in me. Basically most of the guys in the Grumpy Old Men club (aka Federer’s cohort) do that to me. So the second round-match between Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt was a must-see for me (went through so much grief getting a ticket, it wasn’t funny). It started well, but didn’t end well. Roddick had to retire at 2-sets-to-1 down due to a hamstring injury. He gave it the best he could out there, lasted as long as he could for the crowd and for himself, but with the Olympic year, some things are just not worth risking. But we did get 3 sets of tennis, where, to me, it was like a blast to the past – two Grand Slam champs battling it out. Pity we didn’t get a conclusion befitting to the calibre of these two. But get well soon, Andy. It would make my year to see you and Serena with that Olympics mixed doubles gold medal around your necks.
- Lleyton Hewitt. Say what you want about him, hate him all you want but no one, NO ONE can deny the spirit, determination and the grit of this man. A lot of people call him delusional for still playing, but if you’d watch his win over Milos Raonic yesterday – man. In the fourth round of his home Slam, and he was in tears. He still wants it. He still loves this game. And it has been a hell of a road for him to get here today, with all the injuries and surgeries. What carried him through is the desire to get back on court and compete. He’s a fucking stubborn competitor and he’ll retire on his own terms.
Rafa Nadal gets kudos for being mentally tough, and rightfully so. But Lleyton Hewitt’s mental toughness – especially in that last game of the match yesterday – is amazeballs. I wasn’t fazed about the outcome of the match – I’m happy with a Hewitt win or a Raonic win, but yanno what, in the end I’m ecstatic Hewitt won because the old fart well and truly deserved it. Of course, Djokovic is going to eat him for breakfast with gluten-free bread the next round but hey, wildcard into the fourth round. That’s an achievement.
- Milos Raonic. First match on the big stage, first match with over 10,000 people cheering on your opponent. He was a little unnerved, and the slight stage fright is understandable. In the end, lack of experience and lack of ability to handle pressure in key moments cost him the match, but from what I’ve seen of him, this kid’s got game. Give him more time to develop and I believe he’s more of Pete Sampras than Ivo Karlovic.
- Bernard Tomic. I hate this little shit and I don’t see myself liking him anytime soon. He’s a massive douche with a huge ego, a big mouth and stupid antics like “faking out opponents” – first Verdasco with the whole “I’m giving up” act and then Dolgopolov with the “let him think I’m challenging but not really HAAAHAHA” act. Look, in the long run, I’ll be honest and say it probably didn’t affect the outcome of the matches but it doesn’t discount the fact that Tomic is crappy. What pains me the most is that he is good. Bernard Tomic can play tennis …and he is mentally sound. For a 19-year-old, he is so fucking mentally sound. Definitely more mentally sound than Crazy and hence he pulled off the upset win in 5. Someday this brat will be at the top of the rankings and someday he may win a Slam and when that day comes, I’m going to be royally pissed off.
- Alexandr Dolgopolov. A disappointing Australian Open for my favourite Crazy Ponytail. I didn’t think he’ll be able to beat Tomic based on his first two matches, but I still hate the fact that I was right. His tennis had been a joy to watch – mostly – but his mental fortitude needs reassessing. All year last year, he could be playing the dumbest tennis and losing 6-1, 6-0 but yet he still looked like he was having fun on court. Always impassive, sometimes smiling, but I’ve never seen him lose it. Well, he lost it against Kamke and lost it again – MASSIVELY – against Tomic. If he was mentally steadier, he would’ve won. But he wasn’t, and it is what it is.
I hope he’ll bounce back, stronger than ever, and with that crazy-ass-I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and start having fun on court instead of being all angsty and angry. I take back what I said wanting him to show more passion and emotion and even anger. I don’t think I ever want to see a pissy Ponytail on court again. Bad enough I have to watch him lose in front of me, but to lose in a cracked-up fashion against that little shit. Ugh.
- Roger Federer. He lobs 7-feet-tall people, at the net. He is hot potatoes. Also, he is a perfect 10 -10 wins out of 10 – when I’ve seen him live. So so lovely.
- Grandpa Returnerers . Who said 200kmph ++ serves are unreturnable? Federer and Hewitt proved this theory wrong. On Friday, Federer casually whipped Karlovic’s 207kmph first serve across court for a winner. Yesterday, Hewitt was returning Raonic’s 222kmph – 228kmph first serves. RETURNING them…for winners. As someone said on Twitter…#weakeraMYARSE
- Svetlana Kuznetsova. Girl, I love you but you’re crazy. Like all the good ones are. I still hope for Sveta to win another Slam…#delusionland or not.
- Maria Sharapova. Serena Williams. Both scary strong and scary good so far.
- Novak Djokovic. Whipping through his matches with ease, and basically killing his opponents, but no one is giving him a challenge so far. Rusty will give his 200% but I don’t think he’ll even come close. Djokovic’s first real challenge should come in form of Ferrer should he get there but MAN I want that Djokovic/Murray semi-final. WANT IT LIKE WHOA.
- Zheng Jie. Mikhail Kukushkin. Nishikori Kei. The feel good stories of the Open so far, with Zheng Jie and Kukushkin pulling off stunning wins over higher ranked opponents. And Special Kei – first Japanese man into the second week of a Slam. It’s hard not to get the fuzzies when you read about how hard these people work to get to where they are now. Props to Kukushkin especially for beating Viktor Troicki and Gael Monfils. Last year I watch Dolgopolov kicked his ass – HARD – in the first round. This year he’s in the fourth round (and my wacko Crazy is on his way home WAAAAAAAHHHHHHH).
And that’s the wrap as according to my rambly brain. Onward to the second week. More drama? Definitely. More frazzles? Why is that even a question?
P.S. Photos are my own.
P.P.S. A fan perspective on Hewitt/Roddick and Dolgopolov/Tomic up at Tennis Grandstand. I’ll like to say it’s more coherent but I think I also ended up rambling.