Woeful Wednesday returns! And I’m going to ignore the money-grabbing acts of the BNL Internazionali d’Italia in order to focus on far different topics…
Talk About Crashing Out! Roger Federer’s First Loss Of The Season…
Losing is one thing. Losing to the world no. 116 in the second round of your first tournament back after an incredible 18th major title? That is another.
Losing after holding three match points in the second set, leading 5-2 in the third, and 5-1 in the final set tiebreak? If your name is Roger Federer and your other name is the GOAT, that is frankly abysmal.
In a way, you have to feel sorry for the 35-year-old. During his short stay in Dubai, the Melbourne champion stressed that he was not the favourite to win the title – a statement that I, among others, brushed away as talk to relieve pressure. Nevertheless, in his duel with Evgeny Donskoy – a zoning and unlikely assassin – on Wednesday, it appeared the rust that many expected to appear in January was turning up to the party a little late. This was not the razor-sharp Federer that stormed to an epic Australian Open triumph. This was an extremely hot and cold Federer, who seemed dialled in one moment – like when he perfectly executed every point to break to love and stay in the match – and in dire want of an actual strategy the next. Many times over, he went along with the fast – almost too fast – pace of the rally as though subconscious, and ended up spraying wide or into the net.
All the same, no credit can be taken from Evgeny Donskoy. The 26-year-old may be a former world no. 65, but Wednesday undoubtedly produced the result of his life, as he brought out scintillating tennis when behind on the scoreboard. The all-out gamestyle he opted for – nailing his serves wide, and kissing the sidelines during rallies – was his only hope of survival against the no. 3 seed. And in the end, when all hope appeared lost, it saw him thriving instead. His head was as clear and focussed as his lethal winners from the baseline, the mid court and the net, and the Russian should be proud.
A look at the statistics, and you might wonder why Federer emerged the loser in this second round clash in Dubai. The Swiss landed a far greater percentage of first serves, hit 12 aces to two double faults in comparison to his opponents haul of six to three, and saved one of four break points faced to Donskoy’s one of five. Yet unforced errors flowed from Federer’s racquet – most uncharacteristically – at the most critical of times. Donskoy was right there for the key moments of both tiebreaks, whilst Federer rose and fell with apparent symptoms of ADHD.
“I should have somehow closed it out,” the forlorn legend reflected post match. “Don’t know how it got away, but he did very well. It’s a rough one for sure.”
Issues are always easier to identify if one slows down and takes a deep breath. All the same, it’s down from Cloud Nine and back to business for the Swiss maestro.
Eddie Jones’ Rugby Comments In A Tennis Context
Personally, I love rugby. I do not often watch it, because tennis simply takes over. But the one tournament that I am fully wrapped up in each year is the Six Nations.
Rugby is complicated. There are a lot of rules. For those who do not watch it, you may want to skip this section right now. For those who want to read on anyway, this commentary is not so much about the technical aspect of the game as quotes from a high-profile coach.
Here is what you need to know.
On Sunday afternoon, England – the defending champions – were hosting Italy at Twickenham Stadium.
Italy are basically known as the team thrown into the international event to make up the numbers. Italy are always thumped, pounded, humiliated by the Lions. Italy should have been hammered.
Nevertheless, at half time the score was 10-5 in favour of the Azzurri. In a carefully formulated game plan, the blues refused to commit to attacking formations called rucks – thus flowing around the England team as they looked to pass backwards to each other (one cannot pass forwards in rugby.) The offside line had been erased by the Italian game plan.
To me, this was a brilliant move – exploring other options after years of being slaughtered by one of the world’s best teams. To England head coach Eddie Jones, it was quite the opposite.
Jones was not happy at being embarrassed in the first half of England’s 36-15 victory. No – that is an understatement. He kicked all his toys from the pram, spat his dummy out, and howled. Loudly. Noisily. And rather pathetically. Time after time, he moaned that Italy’s performance “wasn’t rugby” – going so far as to tell ticket holders to ask for a refund. The Australian sarcastically congratulated the visitors on their performance, basically accusing them of using pathetic tactics to make up for being such an inferior team.
Frankly, I found Jones’ whole rant ludicrous and laughable.
In my mind, I always relate things to tennis (e.g, Dan Biggar’s preparation before a kick is the rugby equivalent of Rafael Nadal’s before a serve). Thus, there were my thoughts when I first saw Jones’ narrow minded comments:
Serena Williams is the best female tennis player in the world. She possesses a phenomenal serve full of power and variation, and a forehand and backhand that can annihilate the most elite of opposition with raw, precise power.
Agnieszka Radwanska is also in the world’s top ten. The Pole plays with next to no power, spends half the match hitting squash shots or drop shots, and is rarely off the back foot as she scrambles to keep the ball in play – before slotting away a winner out of nowhere.
Radwanska is completely dissimilar to Williams on a tennis court. But it does not change the fact that both of them are tennis players.
Sunday’s controversy is a prime example of grown men so engrossed and obsessed with how a sport SHOULD be played, that their hearts break at the idea of any slight tweak that tears away from tradition – whether or not it’s legal.
What Italy did was within the rules of rugby. And they played with a rugby ball in their arms, between two try lines and two sets of posts. Thus, they were rugby players playing rugby.
Whether Eddie Jones liked it or not.
Eugenie Bouchard Update (Because Apparently Every Corner Of The Media Has To Have One)
Since the Australian Open, Bouchard has broadcast a PR-reeking date with a random guy to the world, spent some time in Puerto Rico doing half-naked photoshoots, spent even more time circulating the resulting images far and wide, and lost 7-6 6-1 in the Acapulco first round to a woman playing her first competitive tennis match in 13 months.
And yet the Canadian is annoyed when people question her dedication to the sport.
“There’s nothing wrong if you have success and it opens the door for other activities,” Bouchard said last month.
Fair enough. But one has to ask the world no. 46 and zero time Grand Slam champion:
Thanks for reading! Got anything to add to Woeful Wednesday? What do you think of the above content? Let me know in the comments section, or tweet @_tennisjournal!