Match in a game.
By this stage of Woger’s career, 90% of tour matches come and go with a degree of mundanity. The early rounds in particular are cast more often than not as simply a means to an end – the finals. But once in a while, an early rounder pops up that has all of tennis world salivating at the stylistic spark, the chemistry, the respect or disdain between Federer and his opponent, and in Cincinnati, this came in the form of a new bromance deserving its own moniker – the del Pooperer.
Take just one game for instance:
It’s 5-all in the second set, Federer has had numerous opportunities to break early on, and being on an apparent mission to challenge Roddick’s status as the worst breakpoint converterer on tour, the darling boy had missed all of them with enthusiasm.
Del Potro walks up to serve for 6-5 and bangs down two unreturnable serves faster than Novak Djokovic confronted by gluten.
30-0, my heart sinks. The window of opportunity to avoid a tiebreak is creaking to a close.
But if Wogie’s heart sank with mine, you wouldn’t know it as he sneaks in to the net sprightly on the next point to draw an error from del Potro.
The next point, Federer moves around his backhand to blast a forehand down the line like it offended Mirka’s honour, and then he’s up at the net again – finishing off what he started before del Potro could regain control of his limbs from gravity.
Pure defence, as McFed deflects an array of rocket-speed forehands launched at his twin mangoes by del Poop until del Potro nets, frustrated by the sheer impenetrability and lack of pace from Federer –
and FUCK ME GENTLY WITH A CHAINSAW, the man takes it. And he takes it whipping a forehand winner cross court while my ovaries sang an ode to joy …
I painstakingly recount this because rarely does a single game tell the story of a match but this one came pretty close.
For most the match, Roger absorbed the pace from del Potro. He played positive, aggressive tennis. He visibly gave himself encouragements, even in the most mundane of moments – the 40-15s, the 2-alls. He was engaged, not indifferent. He served at 75-85% for the match, and when he came to the net, he came in looking like he knew what he wanted to do, not because he thought he might try it, yer know – just to see what it feels like.
Federer played with the kind of mindset and attitude he had today not just because he wanted to win, but because he wanted to win against del Potro. And watching him serve out the match today, I saw the same player who served an ace on match point against Djokovic a few months ago in Paris, or yanked the first set from Nadal’s hands in Madrid: determined, focused, hungry, authoritative.
It is these types of matches that make me wonder why we so wish for easy draws for our favourite players, and why we want them to avoid certain land mines en route to a title.
Of all of Federer’s slam wins, Roland Garros 2009 and US Open 2008 will always be the two that resonate me with the most, and they do so not because they were won with style, but because they were won with hunger, grit, and focus; because success isn’t always meant to be easy; and because early round matches shouldn’t always be means to an end, but rather part of the journey itself.
Go Roger. Go del Pooperer.
xx dootsPS. Having said that, Wogie – if you lose to James Blake next round, I will brutally execute Federbear with a HOT SPORK. DEAL?