January 18th, 2011

emotional roger


I'm gonna watch the repeat telecast of Roger's match at 3 a.m. because I love him that much. I was deliberating over whether to just wait for the match torrent and download the match, but I really, really, really need to watch his 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 demolition of the kid who gave Nadal a bagel set in Doha two weeks ago.

And because I'm such a Fedtard, I must say that the theory held by a percentage of the human race regarding why Roger was as dominant as he was between 2004-2007 will never, ever fail to rile me up, even a little. To say that he held the #1 position for a consecutive 237 weeks because no one was around to challenge him does not even begin to scratch the surface of his greatness. Reaching #1 is difficult until you get there - and when you do get there, it's even more difficult to remain standing at the top of the pack - and Roger managed to stand head and shoulders above the pack.

People who aren't tennis fanatics and who aren't familiar with the rankings system don't understand how damn tough it is to stay #1, let alone to do so for such a long time. A player gains ranking points according to how deep he goes in a tournament, but if he does not reach at least the same round as he did a year before in the following year, he loses his ranking points. This means that if a player wins a Grand Slam and gets 2000 points, propelling him to the top 5, if he skips the tournament altogether in the following year, he loses the whole 2000 points and drop to below #60 in the following year. In other words, the pressure is on every single goddamn tournament that you play in, to do at least as well as you did the year before. The pressure is even higher for the top players to maintain their ranking.

Bringing this back to Roger, he was #1 for 237 weeks in a row. Out of those 237 weeks, he won 3 Grand Slams in a year 3 over a period of 3 years. This means that he was consistently at the top of the game, beating everyone, defending not just his titles, but his ranking points. And we're not talking about a good top 5 player; we're talking about the fucking world number one. He got there not by luck, but by winning, and he stayed there for so long by winning consistently. Tennis is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one; half the battle of the game is in your mind. Roger was incredibly mentally tough to sustain his concentration over such a long period of time, because it is this concentration that had been lacking from 2008-2010, causing him to lose to players that he would never have even dropped a set to in his dominant years.

Which brings me to my next point: the lack of competition. I wonder where people get this idea, because if you look at his recent losses, it's clear that the issue isn't that players are getting better; it's that Roger was just too good. Too damn good. Look at the players that he lost to last year: Baghdatis, Berdych, Gulbis, Monfils. Are these guys the next grand slam champion? Even ANDY MURRAY hasn't won a slam yet. Sure, they're solid players, but they're as likely to go down as one of the greatest players of all time as I am to win Wimbledon.

The truth is, the opposition isn't getting better; the truth is, Roger is just slowing down. And it's expected that he'd eventually slow down: beneath the god-like ease of him tearing up the competition for most of his career, he's human like everyone else. He ages, he's aging - and yet, he's still beating players 10 years younger than he is.

I'm unable to comprehend how he was able to win over and over, year in year out, and lose 4, 5 matches in a year. I like to be astounded by the boundlessness of human determination and strength, of the ability of a human being to make possible the impossible. How does his body sustain him? How does his body keep up with his raw ambition and talent? How does his concentration propel him so to the apex of his chosen profession?

I would like to dissect him and find out. But I can only admire his resilience, his determination, his tenacity, from afar. I would probably never get the chance to talk to him, but I'm happy knowing of him, and having someone like Roger Federer to inspire me to become something greater than myself.
Charah coffee

(Australian Open 2011) Round 1 - Nalbandian d. Hewitt 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1), 9-7

Nalby was down a break in the fourth set and facing 3 break points. I thought he was a goner. I really thought the match was done and dusted.

Then later on the fifth set, when Nalby served for the match at 5-4 and got broken, I thought that was the end of him.

A few minutes later, Nalby faced two match points on his serve. I thought, "Oh okay, this is it. There's no avoiding the inevitable."

Nalby played a sensational half-volley on the first match point. After holding serve, he applied pressure on the Hewitt serve, shortening the points, fighting off cramps to pull out the big guns and fire winners when he needed them most. At 0-30, 7-7 on Hewitt's serve, he took one hand off the backhand and hit an incredible backhand passing winner to force three break points. Hewitt then double-faulted to concede the break.

At match point, Hewitt continued to apply pressure on the Nalby, rushing the net and forcing Nalby to hit a forehand lob. Hewitt could only turn back and stare as the ball dropped into the court behind him.

Oh my god. David Nalbandian is one of my favourite players because of the incredible shots that he plays when his game is on. Today, he was patchy, going off at times and making ugly unforced errors. But his talent came to his rescue when he needed it the most. He played some seriously incredible shots: slice backhand down the line for a winner, insane backhand down the line winner, and that half-volley to save the first match point. But he's not the most reliable player to bet on to serve out a match, and he got broken the first time he tried. I hoped so hard that he wouldn't find himself receiving at 8-all; I almost expected him to get broken again.

But he hold on so beautifully, and finally earned his hard-fought victory after four hours and forty-eight minutes. I seriously can't quite comprehend how the two of them are still alive at the end of the match.

It's definitely a shame that they had to meet so early. I knew I HAD to watch this match, as a tennis fan, because the match-up simply oozes with the potential of a high quality encounter - and the match definitely did not disappoint. I'm so glad I was home in time to watch from the end of the third set on. It was a rollercoaster of momentum shifts, a display of beautiful point construction and seamless defence, and two guys giving it all that they had just to be standing on the winning end of the match when it was all over.

I feel bad for Lleyton. He's one of the best returners on the tour, and he gave Nalby no free points on his serve. Granted, Nalby's serve sucks, but the number of balls Lleyton was able to get back would have pissed the shit out of me if I had been Nalby. More importantly, I feel bad for Lleyton because he really, really went down fighting. Being Australian and playing in front of the home crowd, it would have meant a lot to him if he had won.

That said, Nalby completely outdid himself. I really did not expect him to win after trailing a break and two sets in the fourth set, and I'm beyond happy that he did.


In other Australian Open news, I am STOKED that Ana Ivanovic has lost. I cannot stand her immature fistpumping after every point won/lost by her opponent, cheering even her opponent's unforced errors. Seriously, learn some sportsmanship before you attempt to compete at such a high level.

Also, it's hard to believe that Dinara Safina contested in the final of this tournament two years ago, in light of the fact that she lost 6-0, 6-0 to Kim Clijsters.

An interesting fact: Ivanovic and Safina are both former #1s.

How do the women deserve equal prize money in Grand Slams as the men again?