Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Here Be Monsters

Today is not a tennis day that made me happy.

There is Rafa. Oh, Rafa. I didn't actually realise how much I loved you until I saw you struggling to play through pain - and it must have been a lot of pain to hamper you so badly. What a sad way for your quest for the Rafa Slam to end.

And then there is Justine, retiring for the second time. Her elbow is too fragile for her to continue. I guess we can just be grateful for the time we had.

These are obviously not exactly connected issues, so let's start with Rafa. In fact, let's start with David Ferrer, who played an outstanding match. I want to take absolutely nothing away from the killer performance he put in here. I have seriously never seen him rip so many winners. And even though I knew he was the Energiser bunny, I had no conception of how fast he was. That seriously surprises me every time.

And when you're Rafa, and you're clearly injured - even if you are being so gracious and not talking about it - the Energiser bunny, who will make you play ball after ball after ball, is the last person you want to play.

Rafa was such a gentleman about his performance. He didn't want to talk about his injury, he said, because he didn't want to detract from the performance of his opponent. Full credit here. More than full credit. This is the kind of behaviour that led him to getting the sportsmanship award as voted by the other players.

Murray's road to the final suddenly got a whole lot easier. He may have lost a set to everyone's new favourite Dolgopolov (whom we all Dolgopolove) but he is still the form player on this side by a mile. With Soderling and Nadal swept out of his path, he practically has a free ticket straight to the final. Great as David Ferrer played - and even though he has a winning record over Murray - I don't see Ferrer doing much to hurt the Muzz.

But I would have said that about Nadal, so go figure.

And then the other tragic news - the second retirement of Justine Henin. I thought there was no way she would ever come back from her first retirement, but this time it's final. Her body physically will not let her play. She can't. And so we have lost her.

I adore watching Henin. Her backhand is the most beautiful shot in women's tennis and now we have lost it forever - and when he eventually lose Francesca Schiavone, we may lose the one-handed backhand altogether. But it's not just her backhand - and her game - we're losing. We're losing Juju. We're losing everything she has brought to tennis. And she's losing her chance at a Wimbledon title.

We'll miss you, Justine. I cannot tell you how much we will miss you.

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