I'll state this for the record: If the Federer that had shown up in the final yesterday was the same mug pretending to be a 13-time Grand Slam champion that showed up at the Miami/Indian Wells/Rome semi-finals (not to mention Doha), he would have lost the match. Nadal would've bagged it in three sets. Even though he was extremely solid in his own service games and played fantastic on the only break point he got in the first set, I was still at the edge of my seat in the second, even after he got the break. Why? Because in his two most recent semi-final losses, he was up a set and a break, and he ended up losing the match (Miami and Rome). Gone are the days when I could relax and enjoy the match without worrying my ass off about him when he's leading by a set and a break, because his recent performances have shown me that he CAN lose it all, even when he's winning.
So when he was up 6-4, 4-2 last night, I knew it wasn't over until it was REALLY over - and the reason he won wasn't because Nadal was too tired to run down his shots. Nadal did well to force two break points when Roger was serving for the match. What decided the match was the tactics that Roger showed up with, and the fact that, for the first time in a really, really long time, he executed his gameplan to near-perfection. He didn't win because Nadal was exhausted - because Nadal is NEVER exhausted. Isn't that what his fans love him for? That he's able to win an epic five-set Grand Slam final after he's won an epic five-set Grand Slam semi-final? Isn't it a little bit two-faced of them to now say that Nadal was too tired to play at his best? Don't get me wrong - I know he wasn't playing at his best. But he wasn't playing at his best in Australia either, and that didn't stop him from winning.
The crucial difference between the AO final and the Madrid final is that Roger showed up confident, with a well thought-out gameplan, and the full commitment and readiness to execute his gameplan. This may just be my bias as a Roger fan, but I fully believe that Roger is unbeatable when he's playing close to his best tennis (when he's playing his best tennis, he's not from this world). He works as hard as anyone else, perhaps even harder, and where he loses out to Nadal in terms of physicality and fitness (no one can match Nadal in those areas), he owns him in terms of natural talent and ability. I have said this before and I will say it again: Nadal is a manufactured tennis player. He was born to be an athlete, a sportsman, and therefore he is able to condition himself to become the match-winning tennis machine that he is. Roger, on the other hand, was born to play tennis. He's gifted in ways none of the top 10 players are, and all this talk about him being the greatest of all-time, while initiated by his ability to win, and to win consistently, is actually underpinned by an acknowledgement and appreciation of the sheer talent that he is on the tennis court. And because of this innate ability, he is the all-court player that Nadal isn't. Nadal may be getting there, but it doesn't come as naturally to him as it does to Roger.
This is not to say Nadal is a less worthy player/#1, at least objectively. I have my own feelings on tihs, obviously, but all I'm saying is that they're two very, very different players. And it's because of this fundamental difference in their approach to the sport, and innate feel for the sport, that makes Roger able to win Nadal on Nadal's favourite surface, and on his home turf. It's the completeness of his game, and his ability to switch up his game and adapt to his opponent's, to expose his opponent's vulnerability and make them look woefully mediocre. He's done that to Nadal before (Shanghai Masters Cup 2007, semi-final) and for the first time ever on clay, he did that to Nadal last night.
Do I think Roger would've won the Australian Open final if he'd played near his best? Yes, I do. But that's not quite the same as saying he was too tired or injured or whatever to challenge Nadal. It's once again reinforcing my firm belief that Roger's game will beat Nadal's every single time, all things remaining equal (i.e. both are playing their best tennis, injury-free, fatigue-free), because Roger is the natural tennis player that Nadal isn't. Would Nadal give him a hard time? I'm sure he will. He always does, and he's going to continue giving Roger a hard time despite this loss. But I believe Roger will still emerge victorious.
This was exactly what happened last night. Roger fixed whatever needed to be fixed, be it in the head or in his game, and he knew what he had to do and he did it. And I also firmly believe the result would be the same even if Nadal hadn't taken four hours to beat Djokovic in the semi. Besides, it's no one's fault but Nadal's that he needed four hours to reach the final - and to his credit, he said the semi didn't affect his performance in the final.
I knew that this was coming. I knew that, if Roger had won, people would try to undermine it and make excuses for him by playing the Tired/Injured card. I know I shouldn't give a shit, but it's just SO DAMN ANNOYING that this can even be said. Whoever's watched the match can see with his own eyes that Roger won the majority of the points with clear winners, some of which Nadal tried to run down but couldn't put back into play - BECAUSE THEY WERE CLEAR WINNERS. Pushing Nadal behind the baseline, then hitting a drop-shot - that's all Roger. Drawing Nadal to the service line and then hitting a defensive passing winner - that's also all Roger. He showed up last night - he FINALLY showed up, after so many matches of him sleep-walking and going through the motions, and he doesn't get credit for it.
It pisses me off like you wouldn't believe. At the end of it though, I tell myself: A win is a win is a win. I can have all these theories about how Roger would've won the AO final if X and Y had happened, but the fact is, Nadal won. A win is a win, is still a win - no one cares that Roger faded in the last and was serving like crap for most of the match.
I want to enjoy this win as much as I can because, honestly speaking, I don't know when the next one is going to be. But all this shit floating around which I try to avoid but can't 'cause they're carried over to Roger's forum when people bitch about it - it's spoiling my party. And I'm damn irritated.
And therefore, I love Andy Roddick even more for twittering the following:
ok so i have had a lot of q's about the rafa/fed match from yesterday .... here goes... roger was the best player last week and not just in the final. he played extremely clean confident tennis throughout... that being said rafa is still the best clay player in the world. and i am very suprised some of u have turned so fast... i guarantee u roger would tell u the same thing. rafa is the favorite for the french [note: Roger did say that - me]. roger definitely made a statement and this certainly adds another element of intrigue for roland garros!
In response to some joker who said, "in addition, rafa played 4 hrs of competitive tennis the night before and obviously he wasn't 100% yesterday", Andy said:
i dont agree with this point... if his style gets credit for wearing other people down then it needs to be pointed out that sometimes he is gonna pay the consequences of physical encounters as well.... all part of the game and does not take away from feds win
I love Andy Roddick for many reasons. One of them is his valiant efforts to defend Roger when people are writing crap about him. He's called Roger the "best player ever" in his Twitter, and his obvious respect for Roger makes me very happy.
And you know, I'm honestly over the Nadal hate. I respect him for being so damn good at doing what he does, even if I don't like what he does. He also has obvious respect for Roger, which is reciprocated, and they were so cute yesterday during the awards ceremony (picking confetti out of each other's hair, whispering to themselves and giggling over I don't even know what, and Rafa tugging at Roger's sleeve and whispering something to him was SUPER cute). Do I still want him to go down? Hell to the yes, but if he grinds out another title win when Roger crashes and burns, all credit to him. If he legitimately beats Roger in another final (i.e. without resorting to dirty time-delaying tactics. I was shocked he didn't call for the trainer in yesterday's final), I'd be damn pissed and upset, but if he was just too good, then he was just too good. I think watching that breaker between him and Djoke really changed my mind about him. He never struck me as much of a shot-maker, and that breaker proved me wrong.
Okay, this rant turned out way longer than I'd planned. Oops. I'm tired, so I'm moving on now.
Mag, Chloe and I watched Wolverine today at Plaza Singapura. It was um. A wasted opportunity. The movie, I mean.
The only X-Men I know is from the movies so maybe I'm talking out of my ass, but whatever it is, Wolverine has always been my favourite character. Hugh Jackman's feral hotness definitely helps, but I've always been drawn to his hot angst and animalistic anger. Point is, he's intriguing - and this Origins prequel could've been so much more than a plot-driven, brainless action flick if it'd been handled by, oh I don't know, Christopher Nolan.
The difference between Batman Begins and Wolverine is so stark, even the most idiotic person ever to have lived will be able to spot it (even if it's solely because Batman Begins is in a sense a "boring" action movie, precisely because it has heart and is driven by character, not plot). Christopher Nolan was tasked with the same job as Gavin Hood: create a backstory for one of the most famous action figures/superhero/whatever. Explain what makes him tick, his motivations, what drives him, who he is, his strengths, his humanity, his vulnerability. Nolan did that to perfection, made us understood why Bruce Wayne became Batman.
Gavin Hood? Not so much. If at all. The convoluted plot twists undermine the emotional resonance that could've been, if only; but even then, the initial motivation that drove Logan to become Wolverine was so cliched, I was literally waiting for That Pivotal Moment to happen. The movie felt like it had no plot, but in fact, it HAD a plot. It was just a stupid one, and more egregiously, it had no heart. It was not a movie made to analyse a character that is intriguing in ways to which the movie did not to it justice; it was merely a movie to fill the summer blockbusters quota and to pack cinema audience.
It kind of sucked, even more so if you think about all the things that could have been done with the material. I don't know how true it is to the original series, but even if the original is so...stupid, for lack of a better word, a better director would've made diamond out of coal. I mean, seriously, the whole 'orphan seeking revenge' thing isn't original either, but Nolan made it compelling because he wanted to make a film, not a movie; more importantly, he wanted to make a film that revolved around his character, not a movie in which his character revolved around the events. Even great action films like The Bourne Identity mix action with substance so brilliantly, such that you root for Jason Bourne not because the movie expects you to root for him, but because the movie - film, actually - draws you into his world of confusion and anxiety and makes you want to root for him. It's character-centric, not plot-centric - and it's precisely because of this that I love the Bourne Identity and Batman Begins.
Wolverine? All I can think of is: WHAT A HUGE HUGE WASTE. Logan also had some sort of a morality crisis going on at the start of the movie that was promptly dropped when limbs began to fly and bodies get slammed against walls and shit. Forgive me for wanting my movies to have a brain and a heart, but that's the way I like my movies. And Wolverine failed - utterly.
Even more unforgiving, some scenes were so unintentionally funny that the three of us cracked up. The script was also SO badly written that I totally cringed at the obviously trying-to-be-witty lines (most of which belonged to Logan's brother. I can't even remember his name). The most hilarious was the part towards the end when Young Cyclops told the escapees where to go, and the female character went, "But you can't see."
Duh. Thanks for stating the obvious. What was the point of that line? To make me laugh? Because, yeah, I laughed. Hard. And so did Mag and Chloe.
Speaking of whom, despite the disappointing movie, I had a really nice time with them after the movie, sitting around eating and talking and laughing at random people who wear low-cut tops that expose half their boobs. Afternoons should be like this: relaxing, carefree, endless.
Mag gave me a lift to Yio Chu Kang in the evening where I watched Tong play a squash match. Why did I go? Because I was bored and curious. More curious than bored. He always hung out at the squash courts back in JC but I had better things to do then so I never gave much of a damn. Recently though he mentioned he was playing matches and since I'm so free now, I thought it'd be fun to go have a look-see.
He was worried I'd get bored, but I don't see how I can possibly get bored watching SUCH A FAST GAME. If I can sit in front of a TV and watch tennis for hours, surely I can watch squash for like, less than an hour. Tong totally should've won in straights (it was a best-of-five) but he dropped the third because...on second thought, nevermind. But yeah, anyway, he thought I wouldn't know what's going on, but please friend, 1) I have eyes; 2) I have a brain; and 3) 1 + 2 = I caught on, at least basically, after a few minutes. The more nuanced stuff escaped me completely, but it did take me a few months - or more - to understand most of the nuances to tennis (the tactical and technical stuff).
Tong said he played like crap, as did his team-mate whom I sat next to, but to my virgin eyes, he was really good. I'm totally not biased when I say this but it was kind of obvious he was going to win even after he lost the third. He was like a rabbit running around the box (haha the squash court looked like a box to me, sorry) and his opponent...not so much. So yay for Tong! Next time I will bring my pom-poms.
We played tennis after that and it was a very interesting affair. I'd bitch about all the damn slicing, but...volenti non fit injuria. Dammit. I WAS warned and I happily said, "I shall rise to the challenge!"
What a challenge it was. I still cannot remember which damn way the bloody ball is going to bounce when it's sliced (now I know though). It's not like I can't tell when the person at the other side of the net is slicing me a shot; after watching the countless hours of tennis I've watched, I can totally see it coming. It's just that I don't know where the HELL to go, how fast to get there, and even when I get there, I misjudge the bounce and it bloody bounces STRAIGHT AT ME. The result is really awkward attempts by me to get the damn ball over the net - super ungraceful, actually super FUGS.
Tong slices really nicely though. I'm very impressed. If it didn't trouble me so much, I'd be even more impressed. I felt like Del Potro trying to have an answer to Roger's sliced drop-shots in the Madrid semi, scrambling like a fool towards the net to hit the damn ball back, but stopping midway because, well, he/I can't. It's damn sad. DAMN SAD. I play with this other dude who also slices the ball at times and it just...SO IRRITATES ME. Purely because I can't handle it, mind you. It's all in the stupid bounce, not the height (or lack thereof) of the bounce. (I guess the bright side is, he stopped the moonballing the last we played. I hate moonballs more than slices. Stupid ball so high how to hit back wah lau.)
I'm actively trying to change the way I hit my backhand. I COVET Caroline Wozniacki's backhand, as well has Dinara Safina's, if only purely because of the way they hold the racquet straight, pointing upwards, when they get ready to hit a backhand (Del Potro does this too, as does Djoke I believe. Don't know about Nadal and Murray; haven't watched them too closely, for obvious reasons). There's nothing wrong with dropping it and holding it parallel to the ground; Andy Roddick does this, as does Gilles Simon, and it's obviously not hurt them. But I prefer the former simply because it looks better, and that's how people hit a forehand anyway. Might as well mirror image both wings, right?
THE PROBLEM IS, I can't freaking do it. Every time I tried the damn ball flew way out of bounds, and I think I'm past the stage where all I aim to do is to hit the ball over the net. I'm now trying to hit it in, not out - and oh my god, the number of times I made poor Tong run after the ball today was quite hilarious, and would be really hilarious if it weren't so tragic. At least he got a good exercise, right? Yeah man.
And speaking of a good exercise, I have never ran so much while playing tennis before. He dropped the ball short, then suddenly hit it long, and I'd be mid-court and then scrambling back trying to hit it back but failing. OMG. I was SO tired and it was only one hour of tennis, effectively! He's damn evil right? I think so too.
Oh, and lastly? I need to stop destroying the lovely and conventional forehand follow-through. I've fallen into the bad habit of yanking my arm upwards instead of across the body to the shoulder when I'm hitting a forehand - which is damn bad. No one does this. Even Nadal loops around his head. All I do is...I don't even know. A running forehand makes sense, but not when I'm stationary. Seriously, I've never seen anyone hit upwards when they're standing on the spot, not moving at all. It's just so much more convenient because you can definitely clear the net, but it's so, so wrong. The super pro guy I play with at NUS once told me Nadal is late for his forehand, and therefore he does the lasso follow-through (i.e. he deliberately takes it late). So if I keep hitting upwards, which isn't what I deliberately do, it means that I'm also late for the shot.
ARGH. Still got no consistency. This sucks to high heavens. I wonder how long I can take myself sucking at this before I give up. Even though it's purely recreational (I'm ignoring Tong's mean jab at me, "Can play in tournaments." WHATEVER TONG), it pisses me off like you wouldn't believe, the fact that I can't do it well. And add the fact that I'm SUPER impatient and cannot take the excruciatingly slow rate at which I'm "improving", you get a very frustrated Yelen every time she misses shots that 1) she thought she was ready for; 2) she thought she was in position for; 3) she thought she had a good look on; and 4) she thought was a basic, dead-easy shot. Totally upsetting!
Okay, I have to go do other things now. Like shower. This stupid entry took way longer than I'd intended and I'm falling asleep which means I better shower before I fall asleep.
I got my period today out of nowhere. Thank goodness the cramps have just started. I'm playing tennis tomorrow night again. I'm such the hero.