Monday, September 14, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

(not Charlton related)

The beauty of sport, is its occasional power to leave its spectators utterly speechless.

Whilst football has its memorable goals for example, sports like tennis tend to attract fans to its ebb and flow and consistent high quality, rather than single moments of extraordinary ability.

But during the penultimate point of his semi-final win over Novak Djokovic, the five-time US Open champion Roger Federer produced an unbelievable shot that will be replayed countless times surely, as a stunning and deserved legacy of his greatness.

It seems that having newborn twins has not slowed down the Swiss. There is no shortage of career statistics that demonstrate his superiority over all rivals, but two in particular always astound me.

Firstly, he has not failed to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since the French Open of 2004, a run of 22 consecutive forays into the last four, from which he has ended up as champion 13 times.

Second, during this amazing five-year period of dominance, he has played 124 Grand Slam opponents who were at that time outside the top 5 in the world, and he has not lost to any of them.

It is extraordinary to think that on not one single occasion, has he let his guard down once to a player ranked outside the world's top five. The only players he's lost to during this period are Marat Safin, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic.

Our own great hope Andy Murray ended his favourite tournament with a damp squib, losing in straight sets to talented Croatian, Marin Cilic.

Murray is the game's ultimate counter-puncher, frighteningly quick and able to grind opponents down with his baseline scampering, and delicate shotmaking.

Unfortunately however, just like he was at Wimbledon (to Andy Roddick), one fears that his lack of a truly 'big shot' will leave him vulnerable to a big hitter who finds his range.

During his 4th Round match, Murray lost six consecutive games to Cilic, something you never witness with the likes of Roddick, let alone Federer.

The Scot has the talent to one day win a Grand Slam, but he needs to develop a 'plan B' if he can't truly develop a killer weapon, else he may continue to find his luck runs out at some point during the seven-match run that victory entails.

Federer's brilliance will thankfully take some of the tournament headlines away from Serena Williams, yet to learn the sport's final verdict following her disgraceful outburst during her own semi-final against returning mother, Kim Clijsters.

I've never found it particularly difficult to dislike the Williams sisters; all of that faux niceness, the dubious sisterly battles and the post-match tributes to Jehovah, as if he was their coach.

Serena's on-court interview after her quarter-final meanwhile, was one of the most ridiculously contrived attempts at product placement that I've ever seen.

As she fumbled furiously to ensure that her Gatorade bottle was firmly in the camera's glare, did she honestly expect viewers to believe that elite sportswomen rehydate by consuming a drink with 14 grams of sugar?

Anyhow, if it could be proven for example that a footballer had threatened to kill a linesman, then he could quite reasonably expect to be banned for years, possibly for life.

So given that TV footage proves that Williams did exactly this, it will be interesting to see how much more she is punished, than by the $10,000 fine delivered so far. She probably got paid more than that today to drink Gatorade.

Unbelievably as things stand, she is set to play in the women's doubles final on Monday. It is worth recalling that even 'gentleman' Tim Henman was disqualified from Wimbledon in 1995, the first player ever to have been so.

His crime? Accidentally hitting a ballgirl after lashing a ball in anger. It seems threatening violence, is a lesser offence to the accidental outcome of a common show of frustration.

Unfortunately tennis more than most sports, is in thrall to the TV companies and Serena remains big box office. The crazy scheduling of night matches at the US Open during 'prime time' for TV is proof enough.

But putting aside her tirade for a moment, as a purist and lover of the sport, what really galls me about Williams is that compared to the graceful movement of Federer, you can become the world's best female player whilst covering the court with the delicacy of an elephant.

FOOTNOTE: In the post above, I may inadvertently have given the impression that Roger Federer was somehow incapable of losing at all, let alone to a player outside the world's top 5.

Adjectives such as 'dominant', 'superior' and 'stunning' may have led readers to believe that Federer was utterly unbeatable.

In light of his defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro (aka 'Del'), it is now clear that Federer is just another also-ran, who might wish to consider settling in Britain.

I apologise for any confusion this may have caused.


At 10:31 AM, Blogger Suze said...

Personally I don't like either, both ring hollow with faux niceties, but that's beside my point.

It was great to see the woman's champion resoundingly cheered at the end of her match. The first mother to win a grand slam in twenty nine years, the first wild card to win at the US Open...Kim Clijsters showed true class and decorum.

And well done to the young lady from Guernsey who won the girls final, Heather Watson beat Russian Yana Buchina.

I agree with the state the tournament got itself in with the matches being delayed, it was irresponsible of the USTA to allow the order of play to be so dictated. I also love the reason they have no cover on Arthur Ashe...because they'd look untidy!!


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