Down Under Day 14: Tonight’s gonna be a good good night.
There is only one soundtrack to the Rod Laver Arena: before the start of every session, Black Eyed Peas blasted out of the arena speakers promising tonight to be “the night”, a good good night, a night to be lived up.
A good, good night it certainly was. The highest of highs to end what’s been the best 3 weeks of my life: Kooyong shenanigans, working and attending 10 of the 14 days at the Australian Open, seeing all the top players live, meeting fellow tennis fans, new friends, new tan, and a healthy bank account.
To top it off, Roger and Serena did it for Doots.
And what of the match? Even though he won 3 slams in the last two years, this was by far Roger Federer’s best slam performance of late.
To put it simply, he was sensational.
A typical point in the match: Murray engages Federer in a backhand rally, a tactic that would normally pay off with Federer shanking a slice into the net.
I watch breathlessly as Roger patiently hits his backhand cross-court to Muzz. Back and forth, forth and back and suddenly, out of nowhere, Federer finds a forehand, Murray finds himself scrambling, but keep your eyes on Roger because somewhere along the way, he has gotten himself a full meter within the baseline to finish off the point, and you’re left wondering just how and when it all happened.
You gotta feel for Muzz. Life is that much harder when all parts of Roger’s game turn up to a match.
For Andy, it wasn’t a bad match from him. He played well in sets 1 and 3, but probably let the Federer momentum get to him a little in the second set.
His serve percentage was a little low in the first two sets – it’s no coincidence that when he found his serve in the third set, he led most of the way, only to tense up in the end. Huge cred to Fed, he played the clutch points to … perfection.
And you’re not human if you did not soften when Mandy broke down during the trophy presentation. The runner-up speech is one of the cruelest things in tennis, but also the most poignant – to stand up and concede victory to a prize so close, yet so far away.
I felt for Andy Murray then, to have played tremendously well during the tournament, only to run into Federer on ‘one of those days‘. I felt less for the haters who this time last year claimed Roger’s tears robbed Rafa of his spotlight. So … what are they saying about Mandy this year?
One last note on “the man”: pre-tournament, many thought his semifinal streak would end with Davydenko. A grand total of 0 tennis “experts” on EPSN picked him to win the tournament. (Clickey) During the offseason, I read predictions that Roger Federer would never win another hard court slam in his career. Only grass courts for the “old guy”. There were rumors of an injured wrist, a losing streak to top 10 players and – apparently – 12 guys in total with a shot at winning this tournament.
In the end, there was only one. The No 1.
His semifinal streak lived on for another tournament. The “old guy” stayed healthy, and dare I say – he’s half a step faster now than he was this time last year and certainly faster than he was in 2008. Meanwhile too many of his young challengers were plagued by injuries and bodily niggles.
He proved every single one of those so-called ‘expert’ wrong. He proved me wrong – I felt sure when I bought a men’s final ticket that I had jinxed his chances to win. Instead, I got to see him win the first hard court slam of the season live, beating 3 top 10 players along the way and improving his record against Murray to 5-6. And when two of those five victories came in slams, I think we can disregard the slight advantage Murray still has in the H2H.
While Wimbledon 2009 felt like a last hurrah – the catharsis of an intense few months starting from Madrid in May through to Cincinnati in August, Australian Open 2010 feels like … a new horizon.
“What’s the difference between 15 and 16 anyway?” joked a certain *ahem* spoilsport after the match.
The difference is one slam, and one slam is what Andy Murray still doesn’t have. One slam is two weeks, AUD$2 million, a name engraved on metalware. Yet one slam is history. For some players out there, one slam carries with it enough glory to last a whole career.
Ultimately, the difference between 15 and 16 is more than just one slam. It’s that 15 is one better than the record, while 16 is the gateway into truly unchartered waters.
Lastly, a shoutout to all the fellow Fedophiles I met over the last 3 weeks – Jodi, LJ (happy birthday yer oldie), Nina, Cecilia, PJ, and the all the chatty RF.commers whom I forgot the names of. If the last 3 weeks had been fabulous, it was only because you guys made it so.