Why, why, what is this? Jodi with a few spare seconds of her life to write? Is it because she is sitting in an airport? Yes... it is.
I have been following Roland Garros - oh yes I have, even if I haven't been writing about it - but the time difference between Australia and Canada and France is so mighty that I am not quite sure when it is or what time it is anywhere. So instead of writing about the past day's play as would be my normal wont, I'm just going to write a little more generally over what's going on. Specifically, about the major players.
If we were giving out scores on a report card for a tournament so far, despite the fact that he is flying under the radar and is not the favourite to win - in fact, he is being almost actively counted out - you have to give Roger Federer the highest marks so far. Being not the rose but near the rose has done him no end of good. He has been imperious so far this tournament, with shades of the godlike Federer we know is in there. People have said that he is ageing, that he is past it, but that tennis is still there. And if he plays it... I don't think there is anyone that can stand against him.
The question is, can he play it? Will he play it? If he brings it against Novak Djokovic, and Djokovic continues to play in the way that has won him this epic streak... that has the potential to be one of the greatest matches of our time. If Federer plays his ultimate tennis, I'm going to pick him every time, no matter who the opponent, no matter the place, no matter the time. But a) even so, Djokovic is a tough match and b) will Djokovic let him play his best stuff?
Djokovic is the next best performer, his Roland Garros report card marred only by the set lost in the tough tussle with Juan Martin del Potro. The biggest question with him so far is how he will be affected by the long break in the middle of the tournament, given the withdrawal of Fabio 'Captain Controversy' Fognini. Personally, I don't think it will affect him that much, given that beating FabFog probably would have taken him all of four seconds anyway. He's probably the betting favourite for the tournament, and there's a reason for that.
But now he has to face Federer. A Federer who he's playing like he did back in the day. A Federer who used to administer admonishing swats to Djokovic's figurative backside. (Australian Open '07, anyone?) It's a match that I'm not going to pick, but honestly? the man that wins this match will probably win the tournament.
This is a harsh thing to say given that Rafa is still in the draw. But we all know what's going on there. He's not playing with confidence, he got taken to five in the first round, he's depressed, he's pessimistic, he's down on himself, he doesn't have the essential Rafa-ness that so oftened surrounds him like a cloud of glory at Roland Garros. And now he has to play Soderling, the man that dished him out that one defeat here... even if Rafa did smash him like a guitar in last year's final.
But you know what? Rafa's still there. He may not be playing well, but he's still fighting. And even though I did it, what, two paragraphs ago? it would be a very foolish person who would bet against the mighty R Nadal at Roland Garros.
The one 'big' contender left who really isn't a contender is poor wounded badger Andy Murray. He has about 0.00000000001% chance of winning the tournament, considering a) he ain't no claycourter and b) he is injured like whoa. And yet I have somehow gained more cred for Andy Murray in this tournament than I have for a long time. To be playing on virtually one leg and to come back from two sets down against Viktor 'vile minion of Bert' Troicki... well, that was impressive. And if he can come through Chela and make it to the semis... that is very, very impressive stuff from an injured non-claycourter.
Of course, given how close Wimbledon is, is it smart? Maybe not. But it is brave. And I guess I just find that very, very appealing.
And before I go, a few words on the women's tournament - FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE FOR QUEEN OF THE WORLD. If she repeats her 2010 victory, I will be very, very glad.
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago