Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Flat Stanley

Okay, so I chose the headline because I thought it was funny. The book Flat Stanley made me cackle with mirth for many hours as a child. I actually don't think Stanislas 'Stanley' Wawrinka was that flat at all. I just can't resist wordplay.

Let me qualify. Stan wasn't playing his bestest tennis ever, that is for sure. But it wasn't necessarily his fault. He wasn't playing his bestest tennis ever because his ol' mate Rog wouldn't let him.

It's hard to play your friends. Stan talked a bit about how he had to imagine there was no face on the other side of the net. Roger clearly doesn't have the same problem - nor could he afford to, being on the top of the game and having a committed bromance with rival Rafa. But quite apart from that, it's hard to play your friends because they know all your tricks.

Roger knows Stan's tricks. He knows all about the backhand down the line, and the angled backhand crosscourt, and the backhand in general. He knows about Stan's serve and his forehand and his volleys. This goes both ways, of course, but Roger has a LOT more tricks. You just have to look at the game played at the end of the second set to know that.

In a way, because Stan knows all his tricks, Roger had to play exhibition style tennis to beat him. This is a Stan very different to Stans we've seen before - this is Lundgren!Stan, who is aggressive and not afraid to get in his opponent's face and who rips winners like whoa. It reminds me a little bit of the early days of Dinara Safina and Zeljko Krajan, actually. This is a Stan like we've never seen him before, using his gifts - his backhand in particular - and his mind to play smart tennis.

So Roger had to play smarter. He had to reach into his bag of tricks and pull out some magic. He had to pull a rabbit out of his hat. And he did. Several rabbits and a few of those really long scarves with all the different colours and oh, what's this? a straight sets win! And next to that, Stanley - even the new, improved Stanley, who did not play awful - looked a little flat.

Roger will play Djokovic next, who overcame Berdych in straight sets in the Battle of Sesame Street. (Bert vs Big Bird, in case that is unclear.) Djokovic played some scintillating stuff, though he should probably never take up a career as a poker player - he hammed up rather than played down his vision problem, and it is to Berdych's detriment that he didn't take more advantage of that. But Djokovic wouldn't let him play well, at the end of the day - he played really, really well.

And so the semi-final will be a festival of frazzles for the Federer fan!

In the ladies, Li Na is firming as my tournament favourite - she played awesomely against Petkovic and has proved she can get it done against Clijsters, who will probably be her finals opponent. And then there was Schiavone - oh, Frankie. She played so valiantly against Wozniacki - winning the first set in very stylish fashion - but fell in the end. After you play nearly five hours, this is understandable. But the heart, the courage and the willpower she displayed to stay in this match was astounding. She is the kind of player that young tennis players should aspire to be - the type of player who never, ever stops fighting.

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