British Eurosport – that’s a Television channel apparently – is where good announcing goes to die. During Monday’s singles match between Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Canada’s Milos Raonic, Virginia Wade battled incompetence while Ross Hutchins struggled to justify his place on the weakest three-person commentary panel ever assembled. However, it was the third man in the booth who attracted the collective rage of Canadians rising early out of bed to watch their countryman perform. It was through the network that the motherland took one last shot at trolling their son, employing Greg Rusedski on their tennis panel as Raonic attempted to achieve the unfathomable.
My anger, while extremely petty, is not directed at them, however. I thought Monday morning would be the start of something huge. The columnists of our esteemed national newspapers would swoop in for a 500-word piece on the monumental feat in Melbourne. How would Rosie Dimanno manage to write a terrible lead while also getting the story terribly wrong? The headline would include a play on ‘while you were sleeping.’ Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Federer will play in the quarterfinals of a grand slam for the 35th consecutive time after a straight sets victory over Raonic. A Canadian has not made the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era. While the jingoistic, flag-waving douche bag in me wanted to see Raonic make Canada ‘proud,’ this morning’s result is for the best.
Clad in pink and a rarely utilized undershirt, Federer made it look easy. He usually does. He’s my favourite athlete of all time. The reason, while slightly bizarre, is straightforward. Life isn’t linear. Terrible things happen from time to time because that’s just how it goes. That’s why it’s nice to have constants. It’s nice to be able to count on something remaining true no matter what the hell is happening in the ‘real world’. Roger Federer is that rock.
Bernard Tomic was supposed to take him down in round three. The Australian 20-year old is the anti-Federer. Type his name into Google and the auto results generate a myriad of hilarious answers including hot tub, speeding tickets and girlfriend. Click on the latter at your own risk. Their personalities differ, but the shot making is similar. Tomic employs the squash slices, the penetrating one-hand back-hand and a nasty forehand whip that’s carried Federer to the top. Both players use drop shots from any area of the court. Both can win matches with their serve alone.
The difference is mental. Forgive me for the cliché, but tennis matches are won and lost in the mind. Tomic was extremely confident before his date with Federer on Saturday night. In the post mortem – Federer won in straight sets after a tricky second set tiebreaker – Tomic said he realized the daunting task he faced when the public address man at Rod Laver outlined Federer’s incredible resume. “Oh crap, it’s Roger.”
Hampered by a foot injury that flared up during practice on Sunday, Raonic didn’t make any excuses. At 22, he knows it takes another gear to beat one of the big four.
Even though I was limited in some things, there’s some things to compete with Roger, to compete with Novak, to compete with Andy, to compete with Rafa that I need to do better.
Federer faces Jo-Willy Tsonga in the quarters. An epic throw down with Andy Murray comes next. 31 is the new 20. Now that was terrible.
In Praise Of Stan
Stanislas Wawrinka was born in the wrong decade. The Edison to Federer’s Da Vinci, ‘Stan the Man’– Brad Gilbert everyone – was strictly known as the Swiss number two. On Saturday night he altered that perception for five hours and two minutes. Pushing world number one Novak Djokovic to the limit, Wawrinka played phenomenal tennis.
For sure, I think the best I have ever played. I fought like a dog like always. At 4-4 in the final set, I thought I might have won the match, but he was just better.
After the match Wawrinka congratulated Djokovic on twitter. There’s room for good on social media, amongst the jackals and insidious clowns.
I have no scientific backing for this, but I think the assessment is fair. People are less likely to buy candy that screams ‘diabetes.’ Nonetheless, Maria Sharapova launched her new ‘premium brand’ candy company this week, investing $500,000 of her own cash.
‘Smitten Sour’, ‘Quirky’ and ‘Sporty’ are just three of the available flavors. If you see me purchasing a ‘Quirky’ candy bar in the near future, please feel free to punch me in the face. Sharapova has been dominant so far in Australia. She will battle Ekaterina Makarova for a spot in the semifinals.
Serena Williams v. Sloane Stephens is the most tantalizing quarterfinal matchup on the women’s side of the draw. After demolishing Maria Kirilenko, also known as Alex Ovechkin’s fiancé, Williams was asked if she would become Stephens mentor. Serena shrugged off the question. I’m surprised it took this long for this brand of lazy questioning to emerge from the press corps in Melbourne. Yes, Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams are black. Stephens’ parents were both phenomenal athletes. Serena Williams’ father really wanted his girls to play tennis. Their stories, where they came from etc. are incredibly different. Stephens is the youngest player in the top 40. Tomorrow night’s match will be a good one without the inherently racist narrative.
Men’s Quarterfinal Draw
Novak Djokovic (SRB) 
Tomas Berdych (CZE) 
David Ferrer (ESP) 
Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 
Jeremy Chardy (FRA)
Andy Murray (GBR) 
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 
Roger Federer (SUI) 
Women’s Quarterfinal Draw
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Serena Williams (USA) 
Sloane Stephens (USA) 
Na Li (CHN) 
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 
Maria Sharapova (RUS)