Tuesday Food for Thought
My flu meds and electoral rage have given me a rare moment of lucidity, so let me write this in the only way I know how – numbered, listed, for and against. The acknowledged limitations of my education.
1. With Roger Federer’s win this weekend, speculations have begun as to what role Annacone played in his two weeks of good form. The most popular theory seems to be that the biggest change brought about by the Federcone was in the attack game – serve and volley, chip and charge, this is what Annacone and his past protégés are all about. I wonder though, how much of this victory was due to a change in coaching and not to other factors – i.e. more rest, a fired-up Federer post-Wimbledon loss. I’m firm believer that as a genuine blue chip, Roger Federer’s stocks are only capable of sinking so low, and any emotional investments I make will one day be returned in abundance. At Wimbledon, he hit the nadir, and as if you needed to see Wogie McFed’s sourpuss face after losing to Berdych to know that he’s had enough.
In fact, the single, consistent message we got from those associated with Feddykins during his 6 week break from tennis post-Wimbledon was that he practiced like a maniac and sought outside help. If there were positive indications that Mr Federer’s stocks were on their way up, they came earlier than Toronto 2010, and came at least partly out of a desire to ‘get’em back’.
I’m not trying to discredit Annacone’s role here. As far as coaches go, sans Daren Cahill, I can’t think of a better match for the Fed than the Cone. But isn’t it a little premature to make out grand theories as to what Annacone may or may not have done for Federer based on pure speculation and Federer’s newfound willingness to attack, conquer and spit on his opponent’s remains?
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m hesitant to buy this “new coach, immediate success” story. As the Fed himself says, let’s reevaluate post-US Open. We may have very different, and possibly not very nice things to say about the Federcone then.
2. And where does all this leave Severin Luthi? He was court-side as usual last week, and his presence sparked the general mixture of emotions from Federer fans: love for his absolute loyalty to Fed, exasperation – the same kind you get when you see the most beautiful woman dating … well the antonym of “the most beautiful man”, and general WTFuckery – the inexplicable relationship between the two which Federer himself calls “coaching”, if only we believed him.
In a way, Luthi’s tight-lipped media-shyness over the years hasn’t done him any favours with the so-called tennis connoisseurs out there. We have no real evidence that he has a mind independent of Roger, or an authority to guide, instruct or direct Federer to try something he doesn’t want to try. In this sense, Luthi has been reimagined by the media and by fans into something more akin to a confidant, rather than a coach. I wonder if that’s true.
But then again, perhaps Luthi’s discreetness is precisely his biggest asset, for Federer has shown him more loyalty than he has to anyone else on his team, save Mirka. Hey, what do I know?
3. Personally, I’m thrilled to see Federer back at No 2, but for reasons more vain than practical. I was never worried that Fed wasn’t going to move up the rankings again. After all, dude is defending a shiny total of 5 points between Shanghai and Bercy, and don’t get me started on the rankings bonanza post-Australian Open next year. Sneak attack on the rankings, don’t say you weren’t warned, ATP.
But back to the present: essentially, the difference between a No 2 seed and a No 3 seed at the Open is the difference between getting Nadal for the semifinal or Murray for the semifinal. Which is really the better choice here – rankings be damned?
I wanted to avoid a Federer v Nadal semi for sentimental reasons, but who am I to say that a 50% chance of getting Murray for the semifinal is really the better draw over a 50% chance of getting Nadal? Not based on recent results anyway, although I would never bet against Nadal, not even in my feverishly delirious state. In either case, Djokovic seems to be the bunny of the lot … until the bunny turns into something far more sinister and carnivorous. Come on, it’s a slam after all, the only prudent thing to do is to be scared shitless of everyone.
4. In the clusterfuck of my life over the last weekend, I almost missed the fact that Serena Williams has pulled out of the US Open. Let me be the first to slap an asterisk onto that trophy, since we’re such fans of asterisks in modern tennis.
But her absence (along with the absence of Henin) has indeed decapitated the field. Who’s going to win it now? Svetlana? Sure, she’s in good form, but when her form is good, the last thing she needs to know is that the seas have been parted for her to win a third slam. GodforbidWozniacki? Fortune favours the brave. Aggression wins slams. May those remain truths universal. Will Kim Clijsters defend her title? For some reason, I don’t see it happening. Happy to eat my humblepie should I be proven otherwise. Venus? Perhaps. If she doesn’t lose to someone ranked outside the top 40 in the first week.
And somewhere in a hotel room in New York, hope lives on in Sharpie’s heart.
What say you?