I've sat through tight Federer matches before. I've been to live Federer matches. But I've never been to and sat through a tight Federer match, and it just about killed me.
On paper, it wasn't that tight. Four sets, with the fourth a very tidy bagel... fine, right? Just a brain fart for a set and then an otherwise fine day at the office... but no. Those of us who were there can tell you an entirely different story.
First of all, tennis gods, what kind of first round draw is Igor 'I took you to five sets at the US Open that one time' Andreev? I know he hasn't exactly been in form lately, but if nothing else, his girlfriend beat Sharapova yesterday. Hello, inspo? And his forehand is an evil beast machine. That's all I'm saying.
I didn't actually have tickets to this match, but was gifted with one by a kindly passerby about halfway through the third set... aka 'most nervewracking set of the year so far (and yes, I know it's only January)'. This was the most topsy-turvy bastard of a set ever, and I had about five heart attacks in it. Andreev was up a break, and then Federer came back, and then he was serving for it, and then Andreev came back, and then Andreev was serving for it, and then it went to a breaker... honestly, I think Federer won this one on will alone.
Though that shouldn't be underestimated. Will. Andreev certainly lost his when he lost the third set - you can bet that if he was two sets to one up, he would not have been taking a bagel in the fourth. I guess that's part of what makes a real champion.
But this wasn't the only match I saw today - so let me expound. It didn't rain today - hurrah! So I spent the majority of my day wandering about the grounds (where every second person was wearing an RF cap - he's a brand name as well as a person now!) and I opened my daily account with a Federer practice and a Nadal practice. My Roland Garros cap is now my most prized possession, as Roger signed it... yes, I am a sad fangirl.
ANYWAY. Tennis. Today's Maria Sharapova Award for most random upset went to Robin Soderling, who managed to lose a match he'd pretty much already won when Marcel Granollers came back from two sets to love down to win it in five. I saw the first set of this match and although it was 7-5 to Soderling, it was far less close than the score suggests. So I really have no idea what happened here. I hope the Yoker isn't injured, because that would be completely crapulent. Better luck at your next Slam, I guess, Robin... and I do believe that is a little Slam called 'Roland Garros'.
Runner up for this weird loss award goes to Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was also two sets up, whom I also saw early in the match, and who managed to lose when winning seemed inevitable. Bizarre. Again, hopefully no injuries for JCF.
I caught the end of Ernests Gulbis's match as well - I know he was the Great Disappointment of 2009, but I just can't quit him. Unfortunately, he didn't provide me with much ammunition here... he lost in straights to Juan Monaco (who bears a resemblance to those old Catholic school pictures of Jesus - if Jesus was totally buff). He smacks the cover off the ball, and when his shots go in, then wow, Ernie... but his shots weren't going in. And this isn't the WTA.
I was also very disappointed in Dominika Cibulkova. She should be able to do better than losing to Vania King. And Mr Tommy 'I beat Andy Murray to win the Hopman Cup' Robredo should not be losing in the first round to Santiago Giraldo. I was not disappointed, however, in Tommy of the Haas variety. I caught the third set of his match against Simon Greul, and I have never noticed what beautiful hands he has at the net before. Absolutely stunning. I'm not sure what section of the draw he is in, but whoever is in it should watch out. He is such a talent... just so unlucky. I confess, I looked at the sky to see when the piano would fall on him.
Someone else who is massively talented - hello, Julie Coin! I've just returned from the night session and I was so, so impressed with her, even if her victory came at the expense of Alicia Molik. She's got a real wheeler-dealer style that appeals to me - similar to Gulbis in that sense, I suppose. She is very aggressive and goes for everything. When she misses, she misses badly, but when she doesn't miss... whoo boy. And she has hands at the net like... like... someone with really good hands at the net.
Molik will be kicking herself, and rightly so, because she should have won this match. You don't get a set and 5-2 up and get away with not winning a match, really. Coin did start to play with more confidence, but Molik should have squashed her before she really let loose. Nonetheless, Molik could have played a lot worse, and for a comeback, well... I've seen worse.
This was not the most interesting night session ever. It was full of Australians, and largely, I am not that interested in the major Australian players - not when you have a whole world full of tennis personalities to choose from. The first match up was Hewitt versus some Brazilian called Ricardo Hocevar - you'd be lucky if this made a show court at another Slam, but in Australia, bam! Rod Laver. It was a good match from a Hewitt perspective - he totally whaled on Hocevar, which has got to be good for his confidence. But I really would rather have seen the (still ongoing) Gasquet/Youzhny clash.
Tomorrow's night sesh looks like big fun, however - and I will be there! It opens with Henin and Dementieva and then we have Tomic and Cilic. Fun times!
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago