I have a terrible nervous tic with Federer Slam matches that I'm sure a psychologist would find interesting. When things get tight - when Roger's not looking good - I start trying to fix things.
Not him, obviously - as he is far far away and, you know, on a tennis court, away from my frazzling. But things around me. I distinctly remember the Federer/Tipsarevic match a few years back that went deep into the fifth - in fact, there's a ye olde worlde blog post on here about it somewhere - going out into my overrun backyard and weeding. I couldn't fix Roger, so I had to fix my yard.
The same thing happened today. Roger was down a set, he was down a break, and he was playing like what could politely be described as 'absolute crap'. He was misfiring off every possible wing and would have made a few shots... if the court were three metres wider. Added to which Nikolay Davydenko was on fire like whoa. It was completely depressing.
So I started cleaning.
I started with the last vestiges of my unpacking from the Epic Tennis Adventure. I put on a few loads of laundry. I folded some only ones. I sorted through epic stacks of paper on my desk and threw most of them away. I put books back on bookshelves. I rehung clothes. I went all spring-cleaning-like.
And while I cleaned, while I fixed up my house, Roger fixed up his game and won a casual thirteen games in a row.
Then I stopped cleaning and all of a sudden! Kolya held serve. Well, we couldn't have that, so I started the pile of mending that had grown up around me over the past few months. I sewed on buttons. I hemmed things. I mended torn seams. I fixed things up.
It didn't work immediately - apparently it's not a fine art, my fix life = fix Roger act - and Davydenko won some games, and did some breaking, and it was all on serve. I looked up nervously from my mending and looked for more things to clean. But I persevered with the mending and Roger persevered with his winning. He got one break and was serving for it... but Davydenko suddenly became a zombie who wouldn't lay down. I set down my mending for a second to polish my window sill before I picked it back up again.
And it worked. I fixed it. As I sewed on the last missing button, as the last vestiges of sun set over Canberra, Roger Federer defeated Nikolay Davydenko in four crazy sets to reach his twenty third consecutive Grand Slam semi final.
I don't want to claim any credit for this (well, maybe a tiny bit). But it did seem oddly poetic. And made me wonder whether I should check myself into a mental hospital.
Back to, ah, more sane tennis talk - this was a really topsy-turvy match, but it really did show just what the difference is between Roger and Kolya, and the difference is this: gears. Roger was playing craptastically, so - seemingly without warning, after Kolya missed one single shot - he shifted gear and suddenly became King Roger of the Land of Fedgasm. Kolya certainly missed more after this, but it was a combination of forced errors and what I saw called 'mentally forced errors' the other day. Kolya played worse because Roger made him play worse.
Kolya did lift his game in the fourth set - and considerably - but it was kind of like he found himself (and the lines) a bit more after being shellshocked for thirteen games there. Federer came down from Cloud Nine (to approximately Cloud Seven) and so Kolya was able to compete more. But what is so good about his game - his consistency - may also be what is stopping him from going from extremely good to great. He has no upper level to shift to. This also means it's harder for him to go down, but if he can't work out the answer to a player, then he's in big trouble. He doesn't, at this stage, have anywhere to go.
I know one thing he can improve. He can get rid of those Viking axe chop two handed volleys and get some nice new ones. Then we'll be cooking.
But all this criticism aside, Kolya had a great tournament, and had he been in a different section of the draw, I think he could have gone further. I would have been very interested to see Murray and Davydenko play each other. That would be a really interesting match up of games.
But I digress. Kolya has found himself lately and while I think he's still getting used to some aspects of it - his newfound status as media darling, for example - he is here to stay. I would not be surprised at all to see him win some more big tournaments and to have some more deep Slam runs. And Irina Davydenko might just be my favourite WAG since Mirka. Any man that can pick Kolya up by his head (see photos from Kolya's victory in Shanghai) is fine by me.
Roger will now play the winner of the currently-in-progress Djokovic/Tsonga match. Who comes out of this match is anyone's guess at the moment - it's a total gunslinging shootout at the OK Corral at the moment. I'm not overly fussed over which it is - I think Roger can beat either of them. But I wouldn't mind them tiring each other out a little.
And a quick word to the women - Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You both had your matches completely won today before you threw them away. Not to take anything away from Li Na and Serena Williams respectively, who stole these matches back, but there has to be some serious losing going on to throw away leads that big. Oh, WTA. What a sad little place you can be.
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago