There was a certain child-like glow in his eyes, an immature but infinitely satisfying “FUCK YEAH” as he sent a ball into the roaring crowd.
Soderling’s handshake was brief, too brief with the umpire(clickey), but in a way, that’s what I’ve always liked about him. The guy’s blunt. You know when he’s annoyed, when he’s disappointed. You know when he’s satisfied. He doesn’t play minion. Nor does he play fanboy to Federer or Nadal. Being a lone wolf marks him as a menace to the tennis world order, but it also hides a more tender, yoking side of him.
Alas – enough about Soderling, there’ll be occasions when I fangirl over him a little, but not in this post, for he wasn’t the standout of the night.
There were theories before the match began about the effects of the wind on either player’s game. Some said it might annoy Federer, throw him off a little. More tended to believe that the wind was going to render Soderling impotent, and thus subject to a thrashing. Neither came true.
I don’t think I’m understating it when I say that Soderling played his best tennis of the tournament. In truth, his tennis hasn’t been all that spectacular. But as I expected, Zod raised his level for Federer. There was some gusty and gusty hitting from both sides. Both players defended well, which – given Soderling’s reputation and Federer’s recent “struggles” – came as a pleasant surprise.
Soderling had his chances: he could’ve broken early in the first set, but a challenge rescued Wogie McFed. He broke back after getting down a break in the second, but could do no more. He attempted to serve out the set at 5-3 in the third, but found himself broken like a baguette before conceding the next 3 games. The reason for all this was remarkably simple:
When Roger Federer’s going around converting 5/6 break points, winning 86% of his first serves, getting his racket on almost every single one of your serves, and half-volleying off the baseline like he has an assistant named “Slim”, YOU’RE FUCKING SCREWED.
Soderling did exceptionally well in each set, but at the end of the day, he couldn’t hit through Fed, he couldn’t ace him (only 2 aces came in the third set, too little, too late), he couldn’t out-gun him and certainly couldn’t outrun him.
Like I said, it was all so remarkably simple, yet utterly thrilling to watch. If Federer wanted to make a statement before coming into the match, he’s made it. And he made it without losing a single moment of concentration. Equally remarkable given his recent tendency to take second set mental funkytimez.
So there’s that.
Now comes the dampener: Novak Djokovic.
You thought he was harmless. You thought he’s just about the most underwhelming player in the top 10 (well, I do). You thought he’s turned into a bit of a bunny when it comes to Fedal. Yet, the guy played Federer close – knife edge close – in Toronto and hasn’t lost a set since his first round scare against Victor-Rhymes-with-Onion.
The tougher part of “making a statement” to the field is that you then have to back up the statement. Over and over again until it is truly over. Otherwise, a statement in the quarterfinals means jack shit.
I just wonder if Federer’s been forced to make his statement too early this tournament.
PS. Reports of Federbear rights violations and/or acts of torture are completely false and without merit. The darling boy is eating cookies (well … I am) as I write this. HOW COULD YOU EVEN ACCUSE ME OF SUCH A THING?
WHY DON’T YOU JUST PUNCH ME IN THE OVARIES YOU FRIGGIN ADORABLE LOSER OF A 16-SLAM CHAMP?!