How did ‘e do zaaaaat?
At some point in our lives as tennis fans, all of us have taken a look at Roger Federer, with his bouncy curls, swooshy polos and trophy-studded life, pulling off an impossible shot while skipping through fields of tulips, and wondered out loud to ourselves:
How did ‘e do zaaaaat?
These questions have come far more often in 2012 than in previous years. It has been pleasantly surprising to discover that even as time takes away some aspects of our former talents, we can still get better. This year, Roger Federer has reacquired that leech-like ability to simply cling onto his opponents for survival, no matter how hard they try to pull him off.
The stats do not lie. In his career, Roger Federer has lost matches that were far more in his favour than this: Nostrils hit 46 to Woger’s 36, made only 26 errors to Woger’s 37, with 21 aces to Wodge’s 7. And perhaps most telling of either player’s ability to survive and slay – Woger had just 2 breakpoints on Nostrils’ serve to Nostrils’ 8.
Whereas Woger could not find his way into Nostrils’ service games all match, he took the only opening he got late in the second set to take the match into a decider. Nostrils, on the other hand, made impressions in most of Woger’s service games, only to flub the shots that would’ve nailed his opponent and taken him to the Serious Challenger level.
Post-match, Nostrils released a series of rather aspirational statements, telling the press:
“I stepped on the court believing I could win and left the court knowing I could win.”
“Thanks to all my supporters for the support and kind words. I had it and I felt I deserved it, I just came up a bit short. Next time!!” He later tweeted.
Believing, knowing, deserving. It was all rather Oudin-esque from the young Canadian. But somewhere between the winning belief and knowledge was the very reality of loss: the groundstrokes he missed with enthusiasm and fear on breakpoints, the return of serves that he just hasn’t quite mastered, the half chances he couldn’t make whole against an elite player … the Future is so close, but we’re not there yet.
And what of Roger Federer?
Twice this year, one of the most promising young ‘uns on tour came at him with purpose and conviction. Twice this year, he was taken to the brim of defeat. And both times, he defended his ground through some trying conditions. Other than easing my occasional doubts about his mental toughness, these are the sort of matches that leave me wondering –
How did ‘e do zaaaaaat?
Really? You matchy-matchied your outfit to Smurf Clay?
In other matches, Nadal eased past Kolya 62 62, uncharacteristically dominating play with his serve and short, aggressive points. Say whut?! No grinding on clay? Given Woger’s S&V tactic later, I dare say this was more of a response to the conditions on Smurf Clay rather than a reflection of Nadal’s clay game this year. The serve dominated on other courts also, as Jo-Willy blasted past Ryan Harrison 62 76 to set up his next round against Dolgo, and del Poop held off Headbanger 64 76 for a straight sets win.
Elsewhere in Madrid, the tournament has official gone from quirky oddball to full-blown batshit insanity. Tennis.com has reported that tournament owner Ion Tiriac is considering changing the colour of balls to fluorescent green or orange for better contrast with the blue clay.
While he’s at it, might I suggest making the balls glow in the dark for the fifth set thrillers on dark, dimly-lit nights at Roland Garros?