Wednesday 4 July 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 9

Novak Djokovic (RS) bt. Florian Meyer (D) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Roger Federer (CH) bt. Mikhail Youzhny (RU) 6-1, 6-2, 6-2

My mother got me in to watching tennis, so a lot of this is her fault. It's been 25-odd years now, during which time we have watched many tennises together and exchanged many strident views about which players we like, which players we don't like and the way we think that the game should be played.

My mother is resolutely an aesthete. She likes her play to be clean and elegant with lots of skilful shot-making. Her favourite players of all time are Evonne Goolagong, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. I also appreciate the fine art of the game of tennis but am more of a pragmatist. I realise that the object of the game is ultimately to win, and that only a fool wouldn't use every weapon in their arsenal to achieve this. So whilst my favourite player of all time is Roger Federer, I am also willing to accept that the high-impact style of Rafael Nadal - whilst not as artistically notable as Federer's game - is equally admirable. But at the same time, neither of us have ever been won over by the big servers - or rather, the big servers whose game seemingly relies on that and that alone.

I got to thinking about WEAPONS when I was watching Novak Djokovic's quarter final with Florian Meyer. Novak Djokovic did a serve at 128 mph. This is a very fast serve when you think about it, but in tennis terms it's fairly weedy. The mark for a truly fast serve has been around 150 mph for a number of years now: Andy Roddick was the first player of the modern era of reliable speed measurement to break the 150 mph barrier, serving at 155 mph in the 2004 Davis Cup. This mark stood until last year, when the giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic walloped a 156 mph serve in the same competition. Last month, though, Australia's Samuel Groth served at 164 mph at the Busan International Open in South Korea.

Roddick, Karlovic and Groth. Between them are just one Grand Slam singles title, won by Roddick at the 2003 US Open. Even on the grass at Wimbledon, where the speedy serve was long thought to reign supreme, Roddick's best performance is to be a three-time beaten finalist. Karlovic, too, has a career best Grand Slam performance in SW19, a beaten quarter-finalist in 2009. Groth, meanwhile,  is yet to even qualify for the final tournament.

The continued failure of these players -  whose game is so predicated on their serve firing on all cylinders -makes me perhaps wonder if somehow my mum and I have hexed those players on the tour with one Popeye arm into performing poorly. In theory, players with a relentlessly massive serve should make short work of Wimbledon, but aside from Pete Sampras - who allied his huge serve to an outstanding all-round game - and the accidental 2001 Men's Singles Champion Goran Ivanisevic, no-one yet really has. One of "our" players will always emerge and give you your comeuppance.

This power that we wield is formidable indeed. But it is not in itself one-dimensional. We're perfectly capable of turning on players who, theoretically at least, we should like. Lleyton Hewitt, for instance.

What a git.

No comments:


You have reached the bottom of the internet