My two weeks of immersion in the OZ Open came to a close early this morning at 4:40 AM. I was too much of a wimp to watch the entire thing live, because Fed makes me anxious. His play can be so effortless that at times he seems to lose concentration and then he’s in a knock down drag out match lasting 5 sets when he could have won it in 3.
The tournament began with 128 men but in the end only two were left standing: Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Andy Murray – like any great hate, I can’t remember where and how it began, it has simply been nurtured to fullness over the past year. Before I could appreciate your all court game and your skills as a tactician, mover, and returner, I was struck by your generally sloppy, hang-dog demeanor. You just did not look like you were having fun and you tended to get pissy when things were not going your way. You also seemed to like to taunt your opponents, making them pay for their inadequacies instead of risking your own neck by dictating play; your passive aggressiveness was not endearing.
Yet this morning, when you tearfully apologized to the British fans for failing to bring them home the championship again, I felt your pain. I suddenly saw your desire to live up to all of your hype and potential. I must admit I was a bit nervous when you came on court, I thought you were going to be the aggressor for a change and take it to Fed as you had taunted, but in the end, you reverted to form and played defense. Isn’t that something we all can understand? We know that we have to step out of our comfort zones to bring our best selves but it’s a devil to do it consistently and with full self-belief. Now, that you have been soundly put in your place by your elder statesman, as Djokovic has been since his mother’s infamous ‘The king is dead, long live the king’ comment,I just might be willing to see you emerge as the Grand Slam champ at Wimbly or the US Open this year.
Roger Federer – what can I say about you that others haven’t! I remembered you making waves many years ago when I was more of a casual tennis fan. When I returned to the game in ’08 you were coming off a painful lost to Rafa at Wimbly and others were questioning your ability to stay at the top of the game. I had my own doubts but that changed when I saw you in Cincy in ’09. It was my first time seeing you in non-nosebleed seats and I was struck by your thoughtfulness on the court. You approached each opponent as if he were a puzzle to be solved; if you had the measure of his game, you were efficient, even brutal; if you didn’t, you seem to massage the ball, looking for your way in, your opportunity to dictate play. Many discounted you in this final, expecting Murray to achieve his first big win, but you knew something that they didn’t: it’s hard to go to the Grand Slam well, which you have done 23 times, and even more difficult to let go, trust your game, and deliver, which you did in straight sets. It was an amazing display. I cannot wait for the French Open, where maybe with a little luck; you may be able to repeat.
As always there are pretenders to any crown but the legitimate heir always emerges, tested and ready to demonstrate why he is just that much better than all the rest. Who’s ready to take it from Federer in the remaining slams? I cannot wait to see!