Hopefully the weather will break today (Sunday) up in Montreal, so the women’s final between Martina Hingis and Ana Ivanovic can finally get under way. If not, we will have to pick apart some more the past week’s craziness from Cincinnati, where the men’s field underwent a good butchering before two manly men could finally emerge.
We had the rather unlikely pairing in the final of Juan Carlos Ferrero, resurrected from an early death these past two years or so, and Andy Roddick, resurrected from a winless season so far this year and a game that seemed headed south until about two weeks ago.
Did we wish it had been Roger and Rafa in the final instead? But of course, dahlings. However Roddick and Ferrero worked just fine. It’s one of those finals where we can say we are just happy to see these two guys there, rather than whether it was brilliantly played or not. It was brilliant only on one side. Roddick just never let Ferrero get his teeth into anything. It has been that way their last several meetings.
So at least the wealth was spread around in Sunday’s final. That helps the game. And I mean that both ways, wealth in opening up the game and in actual dollars. Ferrero pocketed $200k for his second place effort. Roddick got $400,000.
Roddick made a serious case for the Class Act Award of the week, with his comment post-victory about how deserving Juan Carlos was to get himself back into the game. People gave up on Ferrero getting his game back on track as they pretty much have with Roddick this year. So Roddick let it be known how ugly that can make a guy feel. That little moment of gracious empathy with Ferrero resonated to the happy applause of the crowd.
Ferrero made a serious case for being there. He climbed over a pretty impressive stack of bodies this week, including Number 5 seed James Blake in the second round, and Number 7 seed Tommy Robredo in the semi-finals. And the shocker of course was his upset of Number 2 Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. I liked especially the fact that he showed you don’t have to be a Superman to beat Rafael Nadal. But you do have to do a number of things really well, like serve with steady consistency, step in when you get chances and go for shots, and know when the big points arrive and be ready. It also helps if you catch Nadal when he is having a less than stellar day. Somehow Nadal seemed muted by the heat, he looked like he was suffering out there. Ferrero sweated too, but he seemed by far the heartier player.
It became pretty much apparent also this past week that Rafael Nadal will not, and is not, making an instant success on the hard courts this season. The man from Majorca has struggled harder than we might have thought on these surfaces. Partly it may be due to the heat, which was oppressive along with that heavy midwestern humidity. Do they get such heat on Majorca? Nadal spent a month there after the final of Wimbledon. Roger took the same amount of time off, and retreated to the blast furnace that must be Dubai in early August. The time away seems to have hurt Roger less than it did Rafa.
Well, up until Federer ran into Andy Murray, who made his new coach look like Socrates with his win over the world’s number one. When Roger Federer plays a flat match, which was pretty much how we could characterize this one, sometimes he radiates a feeling of disinterest. He must have stopped off at the Waffle House, as my co-writer said the other day in her piece. Along with Rafael Nadal, because they were both as flat as pancakes this week.
In his post-match interview Roger made comments about how difficult he found the schedule, with back to back Masters events in Canada and Cincinnati. Roger has to expect he is going to be around for all the rounds each of the two weeks. So he is correct, it is probably a lot of tennis. But then isn’t that partly why you took that month off in Dubai? To recuperate from a rather strenuous spring and also in preparation for these two weeks? Besides, you have to be here, it is a Masters event. Unless you want to pull a Sharapova and withdraw for a measly reason and get slapped a hefty $150k fine.
The schedule though favors the players coming to Cincinnati; it is the big event starting two weeks before the Open, giving you at the end of it one week rest before the Open. If you played the Toronto tournament before the Cincinnati week, and not Cincy, then you are left with two weeks off before the Open. That sounds like two weeks too long. Unless you want to play in the smaller event in New Haven this coming week, which most of the big names will not. This is a scheduling glitch that should be addressed, but probably won’t.
The men’s draw in Cincinnati was pretty much ravaged by mid-week, revealing yet again how so much of men’s tennis these days, in early stages of draws, is just given over to absolute carnage. Anyone can nearly beat anyone, and they do.
If only we could say the same of women’s tennis. Which for various reasons only seems to get good and bloody around the quarterfinals. What devastated the women’s field this week were all the pull-outs before the tournament even began, and the high-ranked retirements that occurred as the draw advanced.
Kim Clijsters re-injured her already battered left wrist. At times like this I am glad to have a one-handed backhand instead of a two hander. In watching the replay of the fall on court that injured her, it was clear that she put the arm out first to absorb her fall. But that jammed the wrist. Could we speculate whether she should have tried to roll onto her shoulder instead, and spare the wrist? Easy to second guess now, the natural impulse is probably to do what she did, which is the one thing that would probably be the worst thing for that wrist.
I don’t know how you guys would fall on court, but if I had a chronic wrist like Kim’s I would take great pains to guard against re-injuring it. Now she’s out again for two months because of this, and you have to ask, how badly does she want to stay in the game?
Well, the rain stopped in Montreal long enough for Ana Ivanovic to deliver the coup de grace to Dinara Safina, 6-1, 6-4, after their match carried over from a rain delay on Saturday. But her final with Martina Hingis was delayed, so ESPN planned to tape it and show it “at a later time.” Whatever that means. Probably 2 a.m. Monday night or some awful time like that. I like Ivanovic’s game. She might be able to take it to Hingis with that powerful game of hers.
In the required reading department, you should check out the brilliant essay in the August 20th NYTimes piece by David Foster Wallace, “Federer As Religious Experience.” I can’t get the link because the date has passed, but it is well worth the read.
Yes, our man has finally achieved apotheosis. Who would have thunk it? My God.