In comfort and pain.
Dootsie’s Universal Theory of Everything,
(also known as 1 + 2 + 3 = win)
1. Pure fucking brilliance
2. TRANSFER of pure fucking brilliance
3. PURE FUCKING EXCELLENCE TRANSFERRED.
= WIN. Coincidence? Idunfinksobitch.
This is the fate that has befallen Scotland in the last 24 hours:
“Andy Murray falls apart and exits US Open with a whimper” – Guardian
“KO’d Murray: I don’t know if I’ll win a Grand Slam.” – The Sun (doth set)
“SHOCKED AND STANNED!” – The Mirror
“Murray a casualty of Waw” – Skysports
The last two puns are only slightly lame. Slightly.
What’s to say about the match? Wawrinka should’ve won the first set, but didn’t. Murray could’ve won the last one, yet he let it go. But really, it was just 4 sets of bizarre ebbs and flows, see-saw momentum that somehow always ended up swinging Stan’s way. At the end of the day, no one saw this coming.
Stanislas Wawrinka? That Swissy growing a double chin, always second best to – yer know – the other Swissy that’s the best?
To beat Murray? Pre-tournament favourite, winner of the US Open Series, taking out Nadal and Federer in straight sets back-to-back. Proud owner of this supposedly prized asset named “newfound aggression” …
You cannot be serious.
The truth is, I’ve never seen a killer in Stan. His usual forays into giant-killing terrains inevitably ended in dismay. The exception being Monte Carlo 2009, 2 days after Federer made a post-wedding last minute decision to take Mirka shopping in a tax-free haven.
In other words, it counts but it doesn’t count. The man is dubbed Ewok for a reason.
Perhaps there is a killer in there after all.
Make no mistake: Stan played aggressively, took it to Mandy with some inspired shotmaking. But he was only able to do so because Murray went back to his passive-aggressive hole, unwilling to pull the trigger. He gave Stan too much breathing space, played with exasperation, rather than inspiration, and Stan? He simply thrived on these vibes.
And we’re back to where we started: another year, another slamless season. Tennis Karma dictates that I do not kick a player when he’s down, so here’s my attempt to look at it without kicking.
As human beings, we all have comfort zones. We have habits, mindsets, behaviors and signposts that keep us grounded and make us who we are. We can continue to push outside those comfort zones and challenge ourselves, but this works particularly well if it is done on our own terms and at our initiative. When we’re pushed outside our comfort zone against our will, we start to cling on to those habits, default mindsets and signposts of comfort, because those are always the reference point to our identity.
Yes. I realise I’m making little sense with this bullshit here.
Late 2009, Rafael Nadal was struggling, both physically and mentally. Low in confidence, not trusting his own body, Nadal reverted back to the sort of game on hard court that I saw him play in 05 and 06 (essentially BYO-Clay-Court). Rafa was still dangerous, but he wasn’t lethal. The gravy on top – the improvements he made to his game – came after his confidence was gradually restored.
A Fed example – early 2009, when Roger effectively suffered from the same physical and emotional problems (bad back, crisis of confidence in the media), he began hitting his forehand with the desperation of a man starved for exhilaration. How many times did we see him move around his backhand to shank a forehand STRAIGHT INTO THE FUCKING NET? (Too many, I tell ya).
The point being that these characteristics form – if you like – the comfort zone. When put in a situation of distress or self-doubt, the first thing Rafa reverted back to was his more defensive, more clay-court game, regardless of surface he was on. Same with Roger, who went to his forehand like his life depended on it. These are the leopard spots that don’t change, the default mode. Everything else is a matter of how much gravy these players can summon up and put on top of their game.
In the case of Murray, his comfort zone is his passivity. There is no question that he can play aggressively on his own terms and his initiative. But when under pressure, on a bad day, Murray’s go-to for “weathering the storm” is to wait for his opponent to give him something. Very often they do, but this passivity is no defense against a streak of inspiration. Verdasco, Cilic and Wawrinka all taught us as much. Murray, as good a player as he is (or can be), is still very much vulnerable to the whims of form, environment, his opponent’s inspirations and most of all – his own exasperations. That exasperation (misery?) is also a part of his default mode.
I’m not going to speculate if Murray has a slam in him. Yes, time is ticking, but right now, it is still on his side. But what I take away from this loss is that rather than waiting for the holy trinity of factors (environment, form and opponents) to fall into place for his first slam, Muzz will have to learn to deal better with being put outside his comfort zone against his will.
Last but not least, since I link everything back to Fed without fail, does this not underscore the retarded consistency of Federer at slams since 2004? The fact that he has never been burnt out or hampered by injuries to the extent of being upset in the first week? (We came close this year, but no cigar).
The next time someone in the media starts touting Djokovic or Murray pre-slam at the expense of Fed, remember this: Federer has won 16 times Djokovic’s slam count, and as for Muzz’s slam count – OH SHIT –
Karma’s a bitch. She’ll get me back.