Andy Murray had righted a wrong. After beating Federer in the semifinals–his first victory against the Swiss Maestro in Grand Slam competition– Murray couldn’t be overlooked. This was a 50/50 final. I boldly (code:drunkenly) claimed the Muzzah would win in four sets. Twitter is the devil.
Tennis players are incredibly open after a match, at least more so than their contemporaries in the ‘other’ sports. Canned cliches from professional athletes are where articles go to die. “At this level, it can come down to just a few points here or there. My biggest chance was at the beginning of the second set; didn’t quite get that. When Novak had his chance in the third, he got his.” Well said, Andy.
The intrepid nature of Djokovic’s style; a devil may care, ‘I’ll go for my shot when I please’ tact, is fun to root for. To Steve Tignor, Nole is a contortionist. Jon Wertheim called him the ambitious arriviste –good god Sports Illustrated is insufferable.
Wertheim has a point. I was a fan of the old guard. I still am. Federer will always be my favourite, but there were things that bothered me. The ridiculous cardigan slash suit jacket at Wimbledon, the treatment of countryman Stanislas Wawrinka and the litany of ‘RF’ hats that plague tennis courts worldwide chief among them. Rafa Nadal’s excruciatingly long delays between points and hyperbolic fist pumps annoyed the hell out of me.
Djokovic was different. Federer and Nadal knew they would get through in the end, no matter the difficulties they faced. Their aura left opponents defeated before a point was played. Djokovic didn’t have that belief; he looked afraid. Melbourne 2009 was the bottom. Djokovic, defending his title, succumbed to the heat in a quarterfinal against Andy Roddick and retired in the fourth set. The narrative was made. ‘He doesn’t want this enough.’
Four years later he’s the most dominant force in tennis.
Murray started well, dictating the first set tiebreak, sending the contortionist into intractable positions. The second set ended in another breaker. This time Novak hit deep, probing the nether regions of the court with ease. He challenged Murray to beat him on the baseline. The Scot capitulated ten points later.
Against Federer, Andy was allowed to control play. Djokovic didn’t afford him the same opportunity. Murray was broken at 3-4 in the third set — Nole won 6-3. He broke Murray at 1-1 in the fourth set, flashing a knowing smirk at the camera. That was Federer and Nadal at their peak. ‘I got this.’
At 7:28am EST history was made. Djokovic became the first Men’s player to win three straight titles in Melbourne. Physical acumen can only take athletes so far. It’s the mental aspect that separates the great from the good. In the post-match press conference, Novak Djokovic showed his mettle.
“There is so many athletes, professional tennis players around the world and it’s such a global sport, they want to be the best in what they do. They want to succeed. Many of them, they don’t succeed in the end. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity and to succeed. I mean, what else can you do but to be happy and try to, you know, bring that joy to the other people around, especially in the tournaments. Everybody has bad days. I’m not always funny or laughing. It’s normal. But generally I’m aware of the fact that it’s an incredible trip for me, you know, being a professional tennis player.”
At the end of the presser Novak handed out chocolate to the assorted media. Djokovic The Best.
Li Na is a battler. While I chastise myself for anointing someone a ‘battler’, check this out.
Victoria Azarenka went back to back in Melbourne, defeating Li in three sets. The Chinese star rolled her ankle twice, but kept on going. Stefan Kendal Gordy — better known as Redfoo — was in Azarenka’s box. He’s been there all tournament. The less said about that the better. Azarenka was the object of the fans scorn at Rod Laver after a dubious injury timeout during her semifinal with Sloane Stephens. They didn’t care for her grunting either. By the end she had won them over (Apparently Vika texted Stephens an explanation). “It’s been tough. You have to go through rough patches to achieve great things. That’s what makes it so special. That I went through this and can still kiss the trophy.”
Redfoo grabbed the mic and free styled an unheard verse from the seminal classic ‘Party Rock Anthem.’ The crowd loved it. LMFAO announced they were reuniting. Peace in the Middle East was achieved and a group of high school teachers from a rough neighborhood in Chicago won the lottery.
I’ve said some scurrilous things about you, sleep, but it’s time to make amends. I took you for granted. In 119 days the French Open begins. Rafa Nadal–missed you– and Maria Sharapova will defend their titles. I’ll see you there.