Whew, hang on, folks, the end is in sight! We know that because the level of play has started to fall off after ten days of hectic upheaval and upsets galore. It was probably bound to happen simply because so much outrageous stuff has occurred already. Like the decimation of the seeded players, especially on the men’s side of the draw. The number one male and female player bit the dust in rather shocking fashion. We had to be brought back to earth. Today we crawled our way into the semifinals hoping for something normal we could sink our teeth into. Surely we could count on at least one of the matches being half-way decent. But today, no cigar, babies.
The first match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray promised a really good semi-final. Same age guys, they know each other well and their games well too. They have been two of the hotter, most interesting players this year. But like many a match-up that looks great on paper, the actual event can often be lacking in drama. Such was the case today. Unless one considers it “dramatic” to watch one of the more dismal performances I have seen on the men’s side in quite a while. Let’s be plain: it was a disgraceful performance from Andy Murray.
If I were Brad Gilbert, I’d want to reach for my spanking rod at this point. 6-0, 6-1. Guy, next time just phone it in, don’t bother waking us up, puleese! I hope some intrepid reporter at his presser piped up with, “Do you think you played like a real woman today, Andy?” For those of you who may not know the story, Andy Murray made a faux pas in describing one match he played with an opponent as one where “we both played like women.” He was flamed on all sides for that one. Wouldn’t you love to be the fly on the wall and overhear the first crack out of Gilbert’s mouth to his star pupil? Maybe the thought even crossed Gilbert’s mind, “What did I sign up for?”
Well, certainly not this. Murray came out like he had just tumbled out of bed. The energy wasn’t there, the shots weren’t there. Instead, Djokovic played like he was the guy with the all-around game, which I still don’t believe he has much of. His natural inclination is to stay on the baseline; he comes forward only when he must. He served big, he came to net and he ran Murray ragged with his expert drop shots. These two guys have only one guy between them in the rankings here in Miami, but today that gap looked like a chasm.
The evening match featured Ivan Ljubicic and Guillermo Canas, a match that also promised lots of goodies. Ljubicic probably felt like this was his golden moment. Federer was gone and Ivan must have liked his chances. After all, he pushed Roger in all three sets in last year’s final, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. If he felt like he was entitled, he should think again.
Canas again came out and outplayed his opponent. Ljubicic had three break points early in the first set and he could not convert any of them. That experience must have been so debilitating that the big Croat never recovered. Even though he did not lose a point on his serve until well into the first set, it did not matter. He played too cautiously when he should have been expanding on his already pretty big game. His brain just didn’t seem to be working out there. He could not play the big points well.
Sound familiar? Federer had the same problem against Canas. Here I was thinking Ljubicic had the game to stand up to Canas, more so than Federer. His strokes seemed longer and deeper, he’s taller, his backhand up the line was working well, and he was serving well – at least through the first set. Canas on the other hand struggled to hold and fought off numerous break points. Eventually, that gave him confidence. Canas turned the corner after breaking Ljubicic late in the first set then served out to win the set. Ljubicic waved his racquet a bit in the second, but you never felt like he was going anywhere. It wasn’t the dismal performance of Murray, but certainly a letdown in terms of how well Ivan has played before in big matches. The final score was 7-5, 6-4.
Canas? Wow! I am over the loss Federer took on the chin because Canas has convinced me he belongs back on the big stage. This man has the heart of a lion. But on Sunday he will be playing a man ten years his junior. He’s not yet a full blown lion himself but look out for Djoko, he has some claws. Patrick McEnroe picked him to beat Canas and I am inclined to agree. But Canas may end up having a supreme week wherein he can accomplish everything.
If he wins, let’s take him out into the bay, surely he can walk on water too?
As for the women, well, thank God for Serena. She has certainly redeemed the women’s side, what with the loss of Sharapova and Kuznetsova. Clijsters and Hingis went too, along with one of my favorites, Jelena Jankovic. She went out rather early to make it two early exits in successive events. Henin and Williams are playing the best tennis right now so we should be able to hope for a decent match in the final.
Djokovic versus Canas should be excellent too. These guys are at the peak of their competitive abilities; they have ferocious, and voracious appetites out there on court. They know how to grapple with an opponent. Djokovic has more finesse in the end, more natural ability, and better court sense than Canas. But it could likely be a very close duel to the end. We need a few more three setters here. At least give us one in the final. Let’s hope all the manly parts hold up physically so we can get through it successfully.