Watching Roger Federer playing in the zone is like watching tennis porn. And the only person who feels dirty afterwards is the dude on the other side of the net, who has been made to look comprehensively ordinary.
Jo-Dub Tsonga is not an ordinary player. He is one of the most obscenely talented players on tour right now - save Federer himself and the now-retired Safin, I can't think of anyone with more natural talent. Today he was not at his best - he was a half-step slow, exhausted by the two five set matches he played to get through to his match.
But against a lot of other players, that might have been good enough. It would have been good enough to compete, at any rate, to grab some games, maybe a set.
Against Federer, he looked like a schoolboy.
There is an aura around the zoning Federer that is palpable. It is tangible, you can sense it , almost like a smell. When he dances around his (excellent) backhand to crunch that forehand in the corner, when you know that the next serve is going to be unreturnable, that that backhand is going to sail sweetly into the corner, that that volley he hits is going to be untouchable... you can sense it. As viewers, you can look at Federer and know exactly what he is thinking. Because he is not thinking. He just knows. He knows that this court is his kingdom and there is nothing he can try that will not work.
He is John Donne's To His Mistress Going To Bed with a tennis racquet. And it is achingly, achingly perfect.
Across the net is a guy trying to turn Donne into Marvell, to mute the perfection, to make it look less than it is, to mitigate it, to combat it, to do something, anything. But unlike Marvell, there is no one that can succeed when Roger Federer is in his happy place.
And here's hoping that when Roger Federer lines up in the final on Sunday against Andy 'Toothface' Murray, that he is not thinking. He is knowing - knowing that he is home, in his happy place.
3 months ago