June 11, 2011 Leave a comment
Two players. Coming from the opposite sides of the Eurotunnel. One, ranked below the best 200, was invited by the tournie to join a field that included the world #1. The other, a top-60 whose strokes are like the ones you would see in a videogame. None of them a very known face for the casual tennis fan, playing at one of the most traditional tennis events ever.
It could have been a Simon vs, Del Potro. But they forgot to warn Adrian Mannarino about that – he knocked them both out of Queen’s, in the same day (and then you realize he had lost, in the very last week, to Stephane Bohli of Switzerland in the first round of a grass challenger he was the top-seed). Last week was last week, and this week he was in the quarterfinals of the AEGON Classic.
It could have been a Wawrinka vs. Querrey, the fourth seed vs. the defending champion. But they forgot to warn James Ward about this – he knocked them both out of Queen’s; the former in straight sets, and the latter in three sets and two days.
It could have been a buzz-killer. But they forgot to warn Adrian Mannarino and James Ward about this. With a semifinal berth on the line, Ward – ranked 216 and making his debut at ATP top-level play and playing in front of his crowd – jumped ahead by taking the first set, 6/2, and quickly putting himself one break up in the second, keeping it until he had 5/4 and then he only needed his service and four points to seal his way to the final four.
It could have been a Cinderella story for the Brit crowd, but Mannarino was not ready to let it go. He broke back, got back on serve and after two holds, second set tie-break. It could have been a blowout, but no. They both gave the best, and the breaker went on. 7, 10, 15, 20 points, no winner. It could have been an easy one, but Ward failed to convert seven match points. It could have been finished without a drama… or could it not? The French grinded out a second set triumph after 30 points, with a 16-14 scoreline.
Ward could have just melted, gone down in flames. And that would be o.k. Fella is a young dude (only 24), missed seven chances, few players survive this in one piece. But James wasn’t o.k. with that. And even though Mannarino quickly broke from love the opening game and put himself up 2/0, Ward held on, served a strong game and broke right next. All tied, 2/2.
Mannarino could have been broken again when he served 15-40 at 3/4, but he confirmed. Ward could have been broken again when he served 15-40 at 4/4, but he also denied this pleasure to his French counterpart.
Ward could have wasted two more match points when Adrian served 15-40, 4/5. But, well, this time he did not. Ballgame. Ward, 6/2, 6/7 (14), 6/4, and the wildcard reaches his first ever ATP-level semifinal. An extra layer of drama and epicness into a not-anticipated-at all match.
Never change, Tennis. Never stop being such this fascinating sport you are. Never stop surprising me. Because that’s why I love you so much.