Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Federer At The End Of The Mahuniverse

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I were just a fan of tennis instead of a fan of tennis AND some particular players. Yes, Mr Federer, I am looking at you.

If I weren't a Federer fan, I would be able to be excited about the prospect of a fifth set in the second round against Gilles Simon. I would be glad to see more tennis, to see the battle, to see who would blink first, whose game would stand up to it. I would be able to objectively analyse the match, saying, 'oh, Simon raised his game there, Federer stopped playing so aggressively on the return there, and that is where the problems started.' I certainly wouldn't be trying to curl into the foetal position in my seat in Rod Laver Arena, so nervous that I was almost shaking.

But then, if I weren't a Federer fan, I wouldn't have had that brilliant rush of adrenaline when he finally did win the match. I wouldn't have screamed and laughed and almost cried, and I certainly would not have hugged four random strangers who were doing pretty much exactly the same thing. Perhaps I might live longer if I weren't a Federer fan. But the highs - and yes, to have the highs, we do have to have the lows sometimes, though I'm glad it wasn't tonight - make it worth it.

Take out Federer, substitute Nadal or Djokovic or Murray or the player of your choice. It works with anyone. Sure, we can appreciate a great tennis match, a real battle - something like Hewitt/Nalbandian last night, in which I had no real emotional investment, so I could enjoy almost objectively - but when your heart is in the match (and your throat, half the time)... well, those are the ones you remember.

What I'm trying to say is this - we need our heroes. Tennis isn't the same without your guys to get behind. (Or 'root on', as Wilson ads on Facebook keep telling me today. Insert 'yes please' type innuendo joke here.)

Federer is mine. And in tonight's match, I smiled, I laughed, I was almost calm... and then I raged and screamed and almost cried. And then, at the end... it is more than relief, more than joy. When your hero pulls through, it is euphoria. And I was, believe me, euphoric.

And I was also pleased I managed to survive a Federer five set match live. I never thought I would be able to do that. I am stronger than I think.

And I have another hero in my stable, of course, who was not quite so lucky. I watched all four sets of Mahut and Troicki today, and I cheered my lungs out. But I suppose having a journeyman hero is a little different from having a champion. If Federer had lost today, there would have been tears and bitter retribution. With Mahut out in the second round, I can simply be proud of what he has achieved.

Because seriously, that dude is AWESOME. His ranking is definitely going to go up after this tournament, considering he didn't play it last year, and he deserves it. He has been taking it to players who should probably be crushing him all year - and can we forget, of course, John Isner, ranked about a hundred places above him? He challenged Murray in Perth and beat Starace. He put paid to Dabul. And he played Troicki hard today - he played well, and even though he did not win, getting a set was a great result. I think he can be proud.

But I do have to talk a bit about villains, in all this talk of heroes, and after watching the Mahut match today, I think it is definitely true to say Troicki is in my stable of villains. He is probably the worst behaved tennis player I have ever seen. I seriously thought he was going to punch one of the linespeople today - he screamed right in her face. He argued with the ref, he argued with the crowd, he argued with Mahut... the guy just cannot get enough arguing. I mean, I understand that he's a 'volatile player' or whatever, but I seriously thought there was a chance he might get defaulted from the match for bad behaviour, because he was behaving foully. We saw the same thing in Sydney where he played Simon (who is definitely not in my villain's stable, despite taking Federer all the way) and if he continues like this, I really hope he gets in some serious trouble.

That is the end of the Australian Open for Mahut, because his doubles partner, Benneteau, is out with some kind of Serena-esque injury. I'm really sad about that, because it means I probably won't have the chance to see him again... which means I have failed in my tournament goal, which was to touch his hair. (I want to touch the Ma-do more than I want to touch the Federlocks, and that is saying something.) But just because Mahut is out does not mean I am jumping off the bandwagon.

Oh no, gentle reader. You will be seeing A LOT of Nico Mahut this year. Trust me. He's a blog hero now. You cannot escape.

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