August 11, 2011 Leave a comment
For a better comprehension of this post, a quick reminder of the five Masters events held so far and its semifinals follow:
Indian Wells: Nadal def. Del Potro, Djokovic def. Federer; Miami: Nadal def. Federer, Djokovic def. Fish; Monte Carlo: Nadal def. Murray, Ferrer def. Melzer; Madrid: Nadal def. Federer, Djokovic def. Bellucci; Rome: Nadal def. Gasquet, Djokovic def. Murray.
Feel the drama. Five tournaments mean twenty available semifinal spots. These twenty spots were filled by only ten players. Or, as I like to put, four plus six.
I could just go all the way and explain the reasons for this domination and why it sucks, for both the sport and (most? Some?) the fans, but I won’t. Instead, I will dedicate this article to the brave men who inflicted the most surprising results of the year. We could just call it TGFTU. Thank God For The Upsets.
The randomness of the draw’s lottery set another Nadal-Murray meeting for the semifinals. Oh. And many many of us – me included – thought we were faded to endure another Big-4 semifinal. But tennis is a lovely box filled with surprises, isn’t it? With a beautiful, plastic, ballerina dancing endless circles inside.
And the ballerina first spun to Murray. The world number four who, believe it or not, had his most impressive results in 2011 up to date on clay rather than on hard courts, went down to Kevin Anderson with a surprising-but-not-so-much 6/3, 6/1 loss. The ‘not-so-much’ part stand for his losses to Donald Young and Alex Bogomolov at the first American Masters of the year.
Draw open, then. Open to Nadal, right? His foot is not okay, but he is Nadal and OH WAIT.
The plastic ballerina deployed to handle him was more like a macabre voodoo doll made of rags found only in the darkest holes of this planet. And they took the form of a 26-year old Croat to achieve its final goals. The story of the match is, alone, crazy enough, highlighted by Rafa’s squandering of breaks in the final set en route to a tie-break loss and his first opener loss since ’08 Rome. 1/6, 7/6, 7/6 scoreline and biggest win of Ivan Dodig’s career.
We now have left in the bottom half of the French franchise of the Rogers Cup only three seeded players, #6 Fish, #7 Berdych and #14 Wawrinka, plus Gulbis, Kevin Anderson, Tipsarevic and Dodig. Only the first three have already a Masters final in their record, but only Berdych has a title. The other four? Well, they combine for four career titles and are seeking their Cinderella run.
Ain’t it amazing? Of course, people who are fan of Nadal, or Murray, or both, don’t think so. But for tennis and guys like me, who are completely against the Big-4, this is like heaven. The surprise factor, so present in guys like Hicham Arazi or Albert Portas in the past, but so gone nowadays, returning, adds a tad of an extra excitement to the game. Tennis need it. You can’t just blame someone – or someones – for being too good. Hell, no, this is an individual sport, where in the end it’s all about you, your racquet, your opponent, his racquet. Better player wins.
But to avoid the common sense sometimes, to see some different faces, faces you wouldn’t expect, faces you might don’t even know precisely to whom they belong, well, that’s something to prevent the sport from falling into total and complete boredom – a scenario you could miss all the action throughout the week, tune in on Friday and still have that feeling you missed nothing.
With all of my faves out of the party, only thing still left for me is rooting against Djokovic and Federer. Of course. Djokovic’s ridiculous YTD record went from admirable to ridiculous. And Federer, well, he’s just turned 30. Every title now will be a “statement against the big media that says he’s done”. We don’t need that. And we also don’t need a lackluster final between one of them and an underdog.
But you know what we could use? An underdog – the kind of winner that makes a lucky better rich.