Happy new year bitches. Long time no blog.
As some of you might be aware, I kicked off 2014 by heading to Brisbane to bask in the sweaty glow of Turderer, and the final loss aside, it was a glorious week. One that had me itching to log onto wordpress and start tapping away again. And ain’t that one of the most liberating feelings in the world.
1. Sensational sports headlines went up all over Australia today: Ashes Whitewash! Hewitt beats baffled Federer! Let’s party like it’s a new millenium!
Theoretically speaking, there is of course no shame in losing to Lleyton. Even as a tour veteran with a bionic foot, Hewitt remains a smart, strategic and persistent player, and more crucially yesterday – not one to falter on key points. In his three set victory over McFudd, Lleyton played some of the most inspired tennis we’ve seen from him in years, and his victory speech showed just how much a title in Australia meant to him at this stage in his career, a poignant moment for fans on both sides of the fence.
It is still hard, after all these years, to come to terms with the fact that tennis goes on the week after, or even the day after a grand slam. But tennis doesn’t stop for one victor or one tournament, and here we are, the-Monday-after-the-Monday-after Wimbledon, with 4 brand new trophy shots to savour.
But oh how I lie! We didn’t quite get the 4 ‘brand new’ winners I alleged this Sunday, as Serena Williams saved a set point to take out lucky loser Coco Vandewhuuuut 7-5, 6-3 for her second straight Stanford title. It’s Serena’s 43rd title, which ties her with Venus for the most among active players, and she did it just 8 days after winning Wimbledon, while playing her B game, jetlagged and binging on Desperate Housewives til 6 am in the morning.
So we have that last point in common at least. Though I might have to work on the whole B-game-and-winning-at-life thing. Read More…
It was a match that everyone thought was a given. No one thought Novak Djokovic even have to physically exert himself the tiniest bit to beat Lleyton Hewitt. After all, Djokovic is younger, faster, and better. Hewitt? He’s old (30 years old) and gimpy (mangled left toe) and simply not in the same league. It was going to be a beatdown. People were taking bets on how many games he’ll get. I think the maximum number suggested was 8 games.
I didn’t give him half a chance in hell to make Djokovic work. Sure, when it comes to grit and determination and being fucking stubborn, Lleyton is second to none (back off, Rafa). But even if the heart is willing, the body is not able. With his physical limitation, he was just not going to withstand Djokovic’s barrage of (tennis) balls.
I went into the match, actually dressed in green and gold, to support him – just because I have a feeling that it’s Old Man Hewitt’s last Australian Open, and I want him to go out on the best note. Even so, I was just hoping for a dignified 3-set beatdown. Maybe something along the lines of 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
When they started playing, Hewitt found himself down a double break in 20 minutes, and even as he got one break back, Djokovic powered through to take the first set 6-1. Lleyton didn’t manage to hold serve at all, and continued to lose serve until his sixth service game. The second set ended with a relatively uncompetitive 6-3 scoreline. Right, I thought woefully. So this is how it’s going to go down.
Then the third set began. And within a blink of an eye, Hewitt was down 0-3, and has managed to hold serve twice for the entire duration of the match so far. Groaning inwardly, I prayed that he wouldn’t get bageled. One game, I thought. Just hold serve FOR ONCE, and we can end this fairly respectably.
But just as I forgot who he is and what he stands for – the whole I’ll-fucking-give-up-when-I’m-fucking-dead attitude that is deeply ingrained in Lleyton Hewitt’s soul and mangled toe – he reminded me that this ain’t over till it’s really fucking over. He broke Djokovic’s serve, and suddenly it was back on serve.
Aussie supporters in the Rod Laver Arena who had been a bit subdued throughout, suddenly came to life, cheering and stamping and urging on the gimpy grandpa in red on court. With Djokovic serving at 4-all, Hewitt gritted his teeth and piled pressure onto his serves and to the amazement and joy of the arena, he broke to gain a 5-4 lead. But of course Djokovic wasn’t going to let him have it easy. He pushed Hewitt on his serve, firing winners and trying to crack down the old man, but this old man would have none of it. In a tremendous, tremendous showing of pure grit and guts, he held on like a barnacle, and served the set out.
Lleyton Hewitt took a set off Novak Djokovic. After he was down 0-3 in that set.
And RLA was ON ITS FUCKING FEET. I leaped up so fast that I nearly fell headfirst into the row of chairs in front of me. My newly converted tennis fan/Federer fan buddy screamed so loud that I’m fairly sure I’m now 40% deaf in my left ear.
Even so, I think we all know the inevitable, even Hewitt himself. He could barely walk, barely move freely, each point had him grimacing in obvious pain, but still, he refused to give up. As said, those words do not exist in his dictionary. He ran down every ball, he stretched out to retrieve, he hit and walloped the balls and still scampered around the baseline, going for every single shot fucking possible. And the crowd was with him every single step of the way, cheering and yelling encouragement as Hewitt threw himself around the court. To be honest, it was amazing to watch him, knowing what he had been through, and what he was still probably going through.
He held up well in the fourth set, keeping it competitive, until his serve began breaking down. Ill-timed double faults contributed to that crucial break of serve, and soon Djokovic was serving the set out. Faced with 3 matchpoints, 40-0 on Djokovic’s serve – and I can see he was still refusing to give up. Running down a Djokovic return, he stretched himself out, and smacked a winner. Still hanging in there. But that was it. On his second match point, Djokovic took the match – but the standing ovation? It was for Lleyton Hewitt.
No one gave him a chance to make this competitive whatsoever, including myself. But again, he proved what one can do with that pure, unfettered determination. Three months ago, he wasn’t sure whether he would still be able to play tennis. Three months later, he socked it to the world number 1, doing what the other players in the earlier rounds could not do.
Many a bad thing can be said about Lleyton Hewitt, as we all know. But witnessing this man on-court tonight, all I can say is despite everything, he defines what it means to be a warrior, and what it means to never give up, not when you are still out there. If you’re still out there, you bloody well fight till the end. And this is not limited to a tennis court. This is life. His life. Our lives.
He brought me to tennis (yeah yeah mock me all you want, people) and whilst that affection had withered over the years due to a variety of reasons (and NOT mainly because of someone called Roger Federer, although that can be a partial reason), in recent times I am just reminded of why I took a liking to him, because regardless of whatever condition he is in, if he is on court, he lays it all on court. No looking back, no regrets, no what-ifs. If he kills himself losing, then so be it. If he kills himself winning, he’ll be back on crutches to play the next match. Hell, he’ll even play lying on a stretcher if he can find his way around that. Somehow in his old age he has become more likeable in some sense, and that gritty spirit is certainly admirable. His mental fortitude and his will to fight is extraordinary and is something that all athletes – not just tennis players – should aspire to have. I think I’m actually fucking proud to call him my first favourite, as opposed to being mortified (as I used to be).
If this is his last Australian Open match, then it’s a bloody good one, and an appropriate swan-song, to have pushed the world number 1 in the classic Hewitt style. And I am very proud to be part of that, to be giving him an admittedly slightly teary standing ovation as he left the court. And as I leave Melbourne Park, I think I took a slice of Lleyton’s life lesson back with me, to apply in my own life.
Well done, Lleyton. Hold your head up high. We’re all extremely proud of you.
P.S. I hope Bernard Tomic’s parents allowed him to stay up past his bedtime to watch, because he can learn like a million things from this match alone.
P.P.S. General wrap to come tomorrow. Now I need to sleep.
Into the second week of Australian Open. Needless to say, the first week has its fair share of dramas and tears and all that jazz. Since I was at Melbourne Park for Day 4 – Day 6…I just want to put some of my thoughts together. For something more intelligent and articulate, head over to Matt’s mid-week wrap post.
– Andy Roddick. I’ve never really been a major fan of his, but there’s something in him that evokes sentimentality in me. Basically most of the guys in the Grumpy Old Men club (aka Federer’s cohort) do that to me. So the second round-match between Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt was a must-see for me (went through so much grief getting a ticket, it wasn’t funny). It started well, but didn’t end well. Roddick had to retire at 2-sets-to-1 down due to a hamstring injury. He gave it the best he could out there, lasted as long as he could for the crowd and for himself, but with the Olympic year, some things are just not worth risking. But we did get 3 sets of tennis, where, to me, it was like a blast to the past – two Grand Slam champs battling it out. Pity we didn’t get a conclusion befitting to the calibre of these two. But get well soon, Andy. It would make my year to see you and Serena with that Olympics mixed doubles gold medal around your necks.
– Lleyton Hewitt. Say what you want about him, hate him all you want but no one, NO ONE can deny the spirit, determination and the grit of this man. A lot of people call him delusional for still playing, but if you’d watch his win over Milos Raonic yesterday – man. In the fourth round of his home Slam, and he was in tears. He still wants it. He still loves this game. And it has been a hell of a road for him to get here today, with all the injuries and surgeries. What carried him through is the desire to get back on court and compete. He’s a fucking stubborn competitor and he’ll retire on his own terms.
Rafa Nadal gets kudos for being mentally tough, and rightfully so. But Lleyton Hewitt’s mental toughness – especially in that last game of the match yesterday – is amazeballs. I wasn’t fazed about the outcome of the match – I’m happy with a Hewitt win or a Raonic win, but yanno what, in the end I’m ecstatic Hewitt won because the old fart well and truly deserved it. Of course, Djokovic is going to eat him for breakfast with gluten-free bread the next round but hey, wildcard into the fourth round. That’s an achievement.
– Milos Raonic. First match on the big stage, first match with over 10,000 people cheering on your opponent. He was a little unnerved, and the slight stage fright is understandable. In the end, lack of experience and lack of ability to handle pressure in key moments cost him the match, but from what I’ve seen of him, this kid’s got game. Give him more time to develop and I believe he’s more of Pete Sampras than Ivo Karlovic.
– Bernard Tomic. I hate this little shit and I don’t see myself liking him anytime soon. He’s a massive douche with a huge ego, a big mouth and stupid antics like “faking out opponents” – first Verdasco with the whole “I’m giving up” act and then Dolgopolov with the “let him think I’m challenging but not really HAAAHAHA” act. Look, in the long run, I’ll be honest and say it probably didn’t affect the outcome of the matches but it doesn’t discount the fact that Tomic is crappy. What pains me the most is that he is good. Bernard Tomic can play tennis …and he is mentally sound. For a 19-year-old, he is so fucking mentally sound. Definitely more mentally sound than Crazy and hence he pulled off the upset win in 5. Someday this brat will be at the top of the rankings and someday he may win a Slam and when that day comes, I’m going to be royally pissed off.
– Alexandr Dolgopolov. A disappointing Australian Open for my favourite Crazy Ponytail. I didn’t think he’ll be able to beat Tomic based on his first two matches, but I still hate the fact that I was right. His tennis had been a joy to watch – mostly – but his mental fortitude needs reassessing. All year last year, he could be playing the dumbest tennis and losing 6-1, 6-0 but yet he still looked like he was having fun on court. Always impassive, sometimes smiling, but I’ve never seen him lose it. Well, he lost it against Kamke and lost it again – MASSIVELY – against Tomic. If he was mentally steadier, he would’ve won. But he wasn’t, and it is what it is.
I hope he’ll bounce back, stronger than ever, and with that crazy-ass-I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and start having fun on court instead of being all angsty and angry. I take back what I said wanting him to show more passion and emotion and even anger. I don’t think I ever want to see a pissy Ponytail on court again. Bad enough I have to watch him lose in front of me, but to lose in a cracked-up fashion against that little shit. Ugh.
– Roger Federer. He lobs 7-feet-tall people, at the net. He is hot potatoes. Also, he is a perfect 10 -10 wins out of 10 – when I’ve seen him live. So so lovely.
– Grandpa Returnerers . Who said 200kmph ++ serves are unreturnable? Federer and Hewitt proved this theory wrong. On Friday, Federer casually whipped Karlovic’s 207kmph first serve across court for a winner. Yesterday, Hewitt was returning Raonic’s 222kmph – 228kmph first serves. RETURNING them…for winners. As someone said on Twitter…#weakeraMYARSE
– Svetlana Kuznetsova. Girl, I love you but you’re crazy. Like all the good ones are. I still hope for Sveta to win another Slam…#delusionland or not.
– Maria Sharapova. Serena Williams. Both scary strong and scary good so far.
– Novak Djokovic. Whipping through his matches with ease, and basically killing his opponents, but no one is giving him a challenge so far. Rusty will give his 200% but I don’t think he’ll even come close. Djokovic’s first real challenge should come in form of Ferrer should he get there but MAN I want that Djokovic/Murray semi-final. WANT IT LIKE WHOA.
– Zheng Jie. Mikhail Kukushkin. Nishikori Kei. The feel good stories of the Open so far, with Zheng Jie and Kukushkin pulling off stunning wins over higher ranked opponents. And Special Kei – first Japanese man into the second week of a Slam. It’s hard not to get the fuzzies when you read about how hard these people work to get to where they are now. Props to Kukushkin especially for beating Viktor Troicki and Gael Monfils. Last year I watch Dolgopolov kicked his ass – HARD – in the first round. This year he’s in the fourth round (and my wacko Crazy is on his way home WAAAAAAAHHHHHHH).
And that’s the wrap as according to my rambly brain. Onward to the second week. More drama? Definitely. More frazzles? Why is that even a question?
P.S. Photos are my own.
P.P.S. A fan perspective on Hewitt/Roddick and Dolgopolov/Tomic up at Tennis Grandstand. I’ll like to say it’s more coherent but I think I also ended up rambling.
So, let’s have a quick wrap on day 2 before we proceed to the 64 men and women still alive in the singles’ draw. I was not at Melbourne Park today, due to the fact that I have to earn a living and such (although I manage to grovel for a day off tomorrow…tsk tsk I have no dignity when it comes to tennis) and I was really overwhelmed by the heat yesterday, so it was right that I took leave from tennis.
Being in Australia…the biggest news of the day, even bigger that Bratomic’s defeat of Verdasco yesterday – would be Sam Stosur’s straight-sets defeat to Sorana Cirstea.
Is it surprising? Kind of. Is it unexpected? Not really. Is it sad? Well, yes.
I didn’t see the match, not one bit of it, but Twitter told me that Cirstea was playing brilliant and Sam was playing mediocre, and that made all the difference. Let’s face it, Australia is desperate for an Australian to win Australian Open. The best bet, all things considered, is Samantha Stosur. She was never known for being mentally strong – although I had hoped that the US Open win last year signified a positive change – and I do believe in the end, the pressure got to be a bit too much for her.
Well, at least this will make people look the other way when the next tournament rolls around. And then I certainly hope for Sam to power back, because girl’s got the game, and she has the heart. Remember RG2010 and USO2011? No one even gave her half a chance and she somehow steadily sneaked her way into the finals. I hope for that to happen again, sooner rather than later.
The other Australians fared better – Jelena Dokic, James Duckworth and Matt Ebden recording victories to progress to the next round. Huge moment for Duckworth in his AO debut – I saw him play (and lost) the wildcard playoffs last year, and I think he actually has potential. He’s only nineteen, so if he works hard and does not lose the passion…he may be a name to be known in the future. But Jarka Gadjosova joined Sam on the losers roll, losing to Maria Kirilenko.
The old man Lleyton Hewitt also pulled through – in four sets – in his typical fashion. Played some solid tennis to get to a 2-sets-to-love lead, and then opponent (German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe) suddenly gained momentum as Hewitt lost the will to land first serves…therefore leading to Hewitt losing the third set. The momentum continued and soon Mr.Famous Five Sets find himself facing yet another 5-setter as he trailed 1-5 in the fourth.
(By this time, I was all ready to cliff myself. Serious.)
But what they say about Lleyton Hewitt is true…don’t ever count him out, whatever you do, and never let him back into a match, because chances are he will then hang on like a barnacle and never let go. That was precisely what happened. Stebe got nervous, lost serve once, lost serve twice, and soon Hewitt was up 6-5…but up against Gramps Hewitt (as well as the whole parochial arena), he buckled, dumped a forehand into the net, and Lleyton celebrated like he just won the final.
He earns himself a second-round match with his pal in the Gramps club, Gramps Andy Roddick (who beat Robin Haase in straight sets, avoiding the drama of last year). I will be there for that match (I hope) and I will cry like I did during Hewitt/Nalbandian last year, because it will not end well for me. Even more so when I think it may possibly be Hewitt’s last AO and Roddick’s second last or third last or even last.
As for other matches…
1) Bad day for the male Russians as Mikhail Youzhny headsmashed himself out of the tournament against Andrey Golubev, in a hysterical match with 17 breaks of serve. Igor Kunitsyn lost to Pablo Andujar in straights, and Dmitry Tursunov lost to Janko Tipsarevic after losing a long tie-break in the second set (he was one set up). New Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr survived though. I know I keep saying I want to kick the Colonel off my bandwagon…to be honest I’m not completely sure why he’s still there.
2) Andy Murray got taken to four sets by Ryan “The Ego” Harrison. As I’ve heard, MAndy started dismally, not serving well and basically just playing like his ass was hurting him. However, when he got a grip of himself in the second set, he was never really threatened, wrapping up the match in four sets. Interesting observation: some people seem to think he was toning down on the swearing and yelling and muttering because of Mr.Lendl. Mr.Lendl may be good for that attitude yet, hey?
3) Juan Carlos Ferrero – couldn’t keep up his strong performance for the first two sets and ended up losing to Viktor Troicki in 5 sets. So close to pulling off a great win.
4) Ernest Gulbis provided the bipolar match of the day, whipping Micheal Llodra in the first set and then got whipped in the next three. Dude’s never going to sort himself out, is he?
5) Other notable Frenchmen – Simon, Tsonga, Benny, Monfils etc – all got through, in contrasting fashions – straight sets, four sets, five sets, retirements. Special mention to Nicolas Mahut, who oust Rad Steps in straights.
6) The other big-named women – Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova and Shrieky Sharapova all breezed through the matches. My worry about Gisela Dulko proved to be utterly in vain as Shrieky dismantled her completely, only giving her a game.
7) Uber sad that Sammy was the only seed to fall from the women’s side – although Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova needed three sets to beat their opponents.
That’s the wrap post in short for the day. And of course, there will be more to come.
P.S. oh, Djokovic won as well. I nearly forgot about him because…well, I don’t care enough? LOL.
Where do we start the story of Stanislas the Manislas? He who was made extra manly on this Sunday in history. PJ below has but already expounded on his manliness so I guess let’s start at the beginning of the day.
My inner circle of federites arrived early hoping to catch our man practicing but alas as he was playing the 1st match he was done by the time the gates opened. Instead I amused myself by reminiscing about my childhood tennis watching days seeing these guys out on court.
Lleyton was practicing and he looked sharp and ready to go. He looked like he was going to “Cut a bitch” today. I was scared for Stan, but then I didn’t even know if Stan was playing, I spent the majority of the day thinking I was going to cheer on poor Marco who was going to be destroyed.
Rog started off blisteringly against Tomic, taking fast aggressive grass court tennis to the teenager. Shutting down his slices with venom, and like always showing who’s freaking BOSS.
But then Mirkaland happened along wind, leaves/twigs and stuff littering the court and tarpaulins blowing off makeshift broadcast towers in the 3rd…causing complete distraction. Tomic then took it with his own brand of aggressive tennis, and I was impressed with his effortless power. If the kid can dial his game and tactics on the hard courts, he’s going to be top 20 for sure.
But then by the 4th, it ended just as fast as it started. Rog was pushed but he was never really in danger.
So…tied at 2-2…we heard that Stan would be playing the final deciding rubber. I had all but given up hope for a Suisse win. Gimpy Useless Stan against Lleyton “I will cut your heart out with a spoon and eat it in Davis Cup ties” Hewitt on a dinky grass court in Sydney? All signs pointed to a steamroll by Hewitt.
So I took my leave of the court in the break between matches and chilled by the railing outside waiting for Roger to come by. Dude took his freaking time, the 1st set was over before I went back in again and all because I wanted to take photos like below for all you perverts out there.
So I get back into the main court. On serve 2nd set. Then Stan pulls a break near the end to take the set. Okay we thought, he has a set, he can lose without embarrassment. And then the 3rd set happened. Breaks were traded like the WTA and at 5-4, Stan had BP 30-40 to take the set. Rusty drops it short at the net, Stan comes in for an easy backhand pass up the line…and he MISSES IT by inches….OUUUUUUUUUT.
I threw my hands up and went “STAN YOU NOB!!!!!!!” I thought that was it. Rusty comes back, drives off another few BPs in that game and holds later to take it to the tiebreak. Up a few early minibreaks, Stan brainfarts 1304987102397109273 set points and loses the 3rd in over 70min. We all thought, this is it…Hewitt will roll through the 4th.
I should also mention that at this stage it started getting ridiculously cold in the stands, the sun was going down, PJ had a flight to catch, we ALL wanted the match to be over and done with so we can go home to hot chocolate or something.
But then something happens in the 4th. Rusty double faults a few times, clearly not having enough leg strength to push off on the serve and suddenly…Stan wins the 4th…the stands are going FUCKING NUTS!!!!…WE WERE GOING FIIIIIIIIIIVE…my Swiss flag was out and I waved it obnoxiously around all the Aussie supporters around me.
Suddenly we all started caring…like WHUT??? but 2 hours ago, we were all happy for Stan to just lose and get it over and done with…what the hell happened? It was getting tense…and dark. So cold and dark that I stopped taking pictures. We all feared the worst, BAD LIGHT, will it get called off before it finished?
At 2-2 Stan somehow broke again, I don’t remember much of it other than utter disbelief that he broke, and then cheering like a madwoman. At 4-3 Pat Rafter had a long argy bargy with the UMP, I thought it was going to be called then but no…2 more games the UMP said. Stan Holds…5-3 and it finally gets called. Mutters of discontent ring around me. Personally I was glad they freaking called it, I couldn’t survive a “real life version of Wimby 08” and I don’t think Roger would have appreciated it either.
So we all got on the buses and went home, with none to return the next day. It would be up to fate we gathered. But in our conversations afterwards we were all incredulous at Stan’s effort, pretty much summed up in this gem of a quote by Princess Rog. That night we would all do anything for Stan.
After such a performance the Day before, there was no way that I would be happy unless Stan won the match. It only took 1 game on the morning of the 4th day to decide it. Against a seriously injured Hewitt, all Stan had to do was keep the ball in play and thus as anti-climactic as it was…the tie was won. Le Suisse was back in the world group and Australia again has to spend another year in the wilderness of group I.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to talk about Hewitt. What an absolutely tenacious human being. You know, I used to hate him with vigour, everything he embodied irked me. But in his old age (for a tennis player) he’s really hard not to root for. And he left himself out there on that court, he fought, he struggled and he almost took it. He put in possibly the most effort of all the players in this tie and it must be gutting to not have pulled out the win.
Davis Cup is a maker of men and fraught with more drama than Dynasty. It’s where tennistical battles are fought, leaving courts bloodied in the wet salty tears of a country’s favourite sons. One only has to watch the utter agony of Djokovic retiring to Del Potro to understand that there is something intrinsically more to Davis Cup than just tennis.
So it is that which makes Stan…THE MAN…of this tie. He went in a gimpy boy, sulking at his own misfortunes and came out a man whom made his own destiny in the twilight of a Sydney spring. We can no longer question his commitment and tenacity in Davis Cup. After this gutsy performance Wawrinka has proved himself and we are all better for it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of mishmash wraps and photos from the Davis Cup tie. I myself felt nothing but complete privilege to witness 3 days of amazing tennis and drama…and of course…Roger Federer on grass. Certainly a dream come true and nothing less. It was a completely epic and captivating tie and will leave me an experience to cherish forever.
We hope to bring you some FPF before Shanghai kicks off with more tennis next month.
~photos by moi – Day 3 all here
LJ has dibs on the proper blogging on the conclusion of the super spectacular Australia-Switzerland Davic Cup tie – so wait for it!
But I just want to say my bit on this…how AWESOME is My Friend Stanley!? Honestly. I gave him something like negative three zillion chance to beat Lleyton Hewitt in that deciding rubber. Simply because:
1) Stan is injured (leg). From the matches on Friday and Saturday, it was quite clear that he wasn’t moving very well.
2) Grass is his worst surface, he doesn’t like grass and he’s quite crap on grass.
3) Lleyton Hewitt, the classic DC warrior. Before Rafa Nadal, there’s Lleyton Hewitt. No matter how injured or how gimpy or how old this guy is – he just doesn’t give up. Those words are not in his vocabulary. The surface favours him, the home crowd advantage favours him and the Davis Cup mentality favours him. Lleyton can suck at all other tournaments in the universe and he simply just doesn’t suck at Davis Cup. I firmly believe if he were to collapse and die on court, he’ll find some way to resurrect himself, and win the match with a C’MAAWWWWWNNNN right at the opponent’s face.
All the above is true. But then, a very different Stan showed up…a very very determined Stan, who was like, “fuck all about this crap surface, the Fanatics heckling my second serve, the leaves falling on my head and that freak across the net who doesn’t know how to die…I’m going do it for Rogeeeeee!!!” (Maybe not that last part, but then again, may that last part is the catalyst…heh heh heh)
He came out thinking he can win. He came out WANTING to win. He came out PLAYING to win (third-set mental cramping aside). And that made all the difference. At the end of it, Hewitt DID end up being half dead and was barely able to walk, but still gritted his teeth and walked on the court. Sadly, he couldn’t save the tie. As determined as that heart was, the body wasn’t holding up.
I’m pleased that Stan/Switzerland won (there’s no other outcome I would want after Stan’s tremendous showing yesterday, would have been absolutely devastated if he didn’t pull through today), but seeing Hewitt dragging that battered body off-court, it kinda broke my heart a little. He would’ve been crushed beyond crushed at not being able to do it for Australia. Say what you may about him – but this man is all heart when it comes to his country.
I hope this will bode well for Stan, going forward in his career. He’s a proper Davis Cup hero for Switzerland (although not in the magnitude of Fernando Verdasco or Novak Djokovic, seeing that those two won the Cup for their country), winning that crucial match AGAINST ALL ODDS. No one gave him a chance, and he came out and whacked everyone’s doubts into submission with his one-handed backhand. Regardless of Hewitt’s injuries, beating this man – who clawed back two sets to love down and a break down to hand McFed his most painful defeat in the 2003 Davis Cup – in his home court, is very very massive. And Stan should reap lots of inspiration from that.
I’ll end this quick blog entry with an open-letter to Stan:
YOU RULE ALL AND YOU’RE AWESOME-POSSUM!!
P.S. Photos are mine. I have a bunch to be edited, uploaded and shared…whenever I get to it. *lazy* For now, here’s a small batch from Day 1.
This entire Davis Tie has been a genius chess move by Pat Rafter (or whomever else orchestrated it) and here’s why:
1. They picked the best surface possible. They picked an ordinary grass court. Marginally better than your local club. It was adequate but it’s not up to tournament level (Halle/Queens). Now grass is the hardest surface to shift to. Your lower body, especially the quads and hammys take a lot of strain, reaching the low balls and making sure you stay upright on dinky grass. For Roger coming from a deep showing at the US Open meant extra strain and soreness. For Stan with a leg/foot injury, it wasn’t ideal either.
I don’t know if international peeps understand but the court is literally built on the centre court of a row of grass courts at a prestigious golf club here in Sydney. They then build stands to seat 3700 people on the 2 sides. It like attending a big community tennis tournament.
2. They picked the best team possible: Hewitt, wimby champ, Tomic wimby quarter finalist, Guccione big server, tall huge wingspan, great at the net. And yes Rog has 6 Wimbys but Stan has never made it past the 4th round. Grass is arguably his worst surface by FAR,
3. They picked the best tactics. Putting Tomic up against Wawrinka, knowing that he had a better chance winning than against Fed. Teaming Guccione with Hewitt for the doubles, which meant resting Tomic for the reverse singles.
4. They were the best prepared,
“Gooch’ and I were up for it – we’ve been preparing for this for the last couple of weeks.” – Hewitt
In all honesty today’s rubber was brought to you by Chris Guccione, Tennis Journeyman, who was damn clutch today. After an easy giveaway break in the first game, Guccione was impenetrable and even though the Swissies lost, they really couldn’t really have done much against Guccione’s serve even if playing their best. But it’s sad to hear that the achilles injury he suffered sometime during the 3rd set may cost him his career. That’s tennis I gather, heartache and happiness in one sport.
As for the Swissies, Fed left his heart on the court, he didn’t play well but he was trying. Stan, not so much. After much discussion with fellow Federites today we’ve concluded that Stan is perhaps just a bad Davis Cup Player. There’s a sort of mentality a player needs to succeed in Davis Cup, some have it without as much singles success (Nalbandian, Hewitt) and some just can’t seem to rise to the challenge like Wawrinka.
Yes he was injured, but the entire tie you could feel this air of “Get me the fuck outta here” from Stan. Yes his leg was hurting and he hated the grass, hated the court, but could he have dug deeper? is the question.
anyhow, after a tough 4th break tiebreak, Australia came through 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).
Final day reverse singles looks grim for a clearly gimped and hobbling Swiss team. Tomic having been well rested on the 2nd day looks good to cause an upset against old man Rog. And Wawrinka is waiting on order from the docs to see if he plays the final tie. Switzerland may need a miracle to get through but I’ll be there along with the others cheering them on.
Even if it is Marco Chiudinelli in the end…
Rest of Today’s Photos by Moi, Here
So finally returning to Sydney after 9 years, Wogie Mcfed and his fellow Swissies take on the bright lights of Aussie tennis. The ground is the hallowed grass at Royal Sydney Golf Club. A Club so exclusive that for mere plebeians it probably takes 20+ years just to get on the waiting list.
Luckily due to the current ironic plebeian nature of tennis spectatorship, a bunch of us got to mush the golden paddock beneath our feet and it was glorious.
First up, young Tomic took on a slightly hobbling Ewok. Grass being Ewok’s least favoured surface it was clear that he pretty much just wanted to get out of there. After taking the 1st set, My Friend Stanley promptly rolled over to Tomic’s junk balls and excellent poise in 4 sets, 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-3.
Tomic showed maturity and patience, outlasting Stan the man in most rallies and waiting for his opponent to implode on the rest. Stan looked far from best and he realised that his man, Rog, needed to save the day.
Before Rog took the court, myself and my merry band of Federites tried a bit of stalkage at the walkway to the court. Alas, he kept alluding me, the others may have got better pics, but for me he hid behind bushes and his physio before he miraculously appeared red and ready on court.
Rog started fast against Hewitt who was having an AWESOME serving day. But once Hewitt adjusted his returns, Rog turned to his furdish ways an couldn’t find a 1st serve and subsequently lost the 1st set 5-7. My entire row of Federites went white as sheets and by the time he went down a break early in the 2nd we were all swearing precociously at him.
But thankfully, he finally figured out that he was here to play tennis and not just look pretty against the green backdrop. Hewitt fought valiantly but there was a clear night and day between the pace of his strokes and that of his Swiss nemesis. It all ended happily for us 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-3 with some insanely high quality stuff in the 3rd and 4th sets. Revenge taken for that epic 5 set loss back in 2003, which in actuality, let’s not forget, started the Reign of Fed the Great.
So first day over 1-1, doubles tomorrow, hopefully more Wogie and *finger* crossed Swissies come out with the win.
Now I’ve see Roger Federer play on grass, I can finally attest to him being an absolute religious experience. For at least 2.5 sets today, anyway 😉
~photos by moi, the rest are here
I’ve been thinking a lot about how our opinions of a player may change over the course of their career, about giving second chances and keeping an open mind. There was a time when I hated Roger, hated Hewitt, and hated their entire generation for their polarising personalities and odd mishmash of mutant styles.
Thankfully, that time has come to pass.