We’re moving across the country from the dry heat of Southern California to the sticky stuff in Miami where both tours begin a nearly two-week event called the Sony Ericsson Open. Somehow the mugginess of Florida doesn’t promise much respite after the desert furnaces of Indian Wells, but it’s good to get out of town. I can think of a handful of players who probably think the same way.
Having received a surprising comeuppance in the desert, it would be wise to bet the entire house on Roger Federer this week. I expect him to come out with blood in his eye and smoke pouring from his ears emitting both “fire and music” as the inestimable Margo Channing once said. Appropriately we suppose, his opener occurs this coming Saturday night. It features entertainment ripped from the pages of Super Bowls past, replete with fire and music, sound and light, and a rendition of our national anthem from some secret superstar singer. If Roger is not laughing hysterically at the thought of all this hyper inflation, as I am now, then he should go out and win, convincingly, with style and panache, just to show who’s in charge. You’ve bought pizzas for all the ball kids, Roger, and you hung around like a really good guy and schmoozed the world in Indian Wells after your loss. But now we want to see you on your feet and swinging. Entrails scattered around the court would be nice too. Andreev’s or Querrey’s. One of them you’ll meet in your opener.
It would be nice to see him face Nadal again in a final. They have not met since the semi-finals of the year-end ATP championship in Shanghai. Roger won in two sets on the indoor carpet surface. I hope you guys meet again so I don’t have to keep watching my Shanghai tape to remind myself of how great it is when Federer meets Nadal. That match featured some serious heavy ground strokes from both players in long rallies. Nadal played a wonderful match but Federer was just sublime. Fans and inspectors need more of that intensity. If we are to experiment further with the round robin format, let’s use it to get Federer facing Nadal in more finals. Why fool around with anyone else, let’s just cut to the chase.
It’s good to see Nadal with a big win under his belt. He was having a long hiccup there. I am not a diehard Rafa fan, but it’s important for the game that he runs into Roger more often. Now that he’s finally gotten into a final, maybe he’ll get a taste for staying in them. The match on Sunday was a lot more vital for Nadal to win that Djokovic but the fact that he won and Federer lost doesn’t really import any dramatic changes anytime soon in the shape of the men’s game. Federer is far ahead of the pack, even far ahead of Nadal, yet Nadal is also far ahead of the pack.
Hopefully the pack can generate a few more rivalries of its own since they really can’t touch the top two players. Murray and Djokovic would be a good rivalry since they are the same age and are already familiar with each other’s play. It may be more of a rivalry now rather than later as I see Murray rapidly developing an all-court game. He has hands in the great tradition of Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe.
Djokovic has the drive to succeed but can he add more to his game? He can serve big but from what I saw of him against Nadal, his serve may not be big enough. Nor consistent enough. His forehand is his weapon de jour but that’s about all that’s in his bag. I don’t feel particularly drawn to his personality or his style of play. I have seen it all before. Federer has spoiled me rotten. I want to see every new player showing his particular gift; something unique. Djokovic is more of the same. I am happy to see my co-writer agrees with me in this regard. He will make the top ten after last week but I hope Murray follows closely on his heels because he has the more interesting game. Too bad Novak wasn’t playing a five-setter because he might have been able to get his teeth into it a bit more.
Blake-Roddick should be more of a rivalry too. Both guys of late appear so fragile at times against those foreigners that maybe they just need to play each other for a change. Maybe then they can channel their aggressive styles better. Speaking of Roddick, some photos of him on a crotch-grabbing spree between points at the Aussie Open this year are circulating around the internet. Not current, but timely anyway. The way Nadal took it to Roddick on Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Andy repeated that gesture on occasion. Just to make sure they’re all there. Wouldn’t you? Nadal will leave a trail of manly men clutching their balls this spring.
Kudos this week also to Tommy Haas who is showing great stuff this year. He should have beaten Murray and he knows it but both guys emerged as winners from that dust-up. We kind of neglected the women last week so congrats also to Li Na for livening up the women’s draw, and how about that Daniela Hantuchova’s win over Kuznetsova? Five years is a long time between titles. Better late than never we suppose. She showed a lot of composure and strength in winning only her second tour title.
It’s good to see, if not exactly new faces, then new winners in the winner’s circle. Sometimes it’s revealing when the top seeds go out of a tournament. Good things emerge in their wake.