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Wimbledon Day 9: Smile

Posted by gauloises1 on June 30, 2010

Tomas Berdych d. Roger Federer, 64 36 61 64

I seem to recall describing Rafa’s 2009 loss to Soderling at Roland Garros as ‘tectonic’. This isn’t quite that, but it comes pretty damn close. The king of Wimbledon has been handed his earliest loss on Centre Court since 2002, at the hands of someone who played exuberant, fantastic tennis that made him look at times both glum and mediocre. It’s a thing.

There will be plenty of good match analysis elsewhere, but I’ve just rewatched most of it and for me the match could be summed up in two moments. Both came in the last game, when Berdych was serving for the match. With Tomas struggling to land first serves, Roger worked his way back in to break point, only for Tomas to miss his first serve again. The second serve came in, nothing special, to the forehand – and Roger dumped it in the net, stiffly and brokenly, all his fluidity having temporarily deserted him. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred you’d back Federer to make that return, especially given his astonishing abilities to make the big play when it counts. Today, it looked like his arm had simply seized up and stopped working, refusing to hit through the ball. It was a miserable shot that distilled a miserable day.

The second moment, the one that I’m taking away from today, actually came a few points earlier. 15-30 down, Berdych had just been passed at the net by Federer, a shot that was greeted by a huge cheer and a roar from the defending champion. Again he missed his first serve and in the ensuing rally, Federer had him well on the run when he hit a defensive lob that just landed inside the baseline. Berdych worked his way back into the point, up to the net, and hit a backhand volley that everyone, I think, expected to go wide. Instead it struck smartly off the line for 30-30. Berdych turned away from the net, bit his lip, and smiled broadly. It was a great smile; half that of a little boy who knows he’s got lucky, got away with something and is almost embarrassed by it, and half that of a man who knows deep down that he’s earned his luck, because he’s playing the tennis of his life and it’s his day for once on Centre Court. It was the same smile on match point. He’s probably still smiling now.

I’m not insensitive to how painful this loss must be for Roger Federer and his fans. I promise, I’m not. I just want to take a moment to celebrate what I watched today; a player coming into a Wimbledon semi-final against the defending champion, and playing with such expansiveness and joy that it put the anxiety-ridden fans to shame. It was infectious. Berd flu; I think I’ve caught it.

Normal cynicism will resume shortly.

13 Responses to “Wimbledon Day 9: Smile”

  1. kefuoe said

    Completely agree. I was just watching the re-run and couldn’t help noticing how free and easy Berdych seemed to be playing– really enjoying himself and staying positive. It was a joy to watch his joy.

  2. irefusetotellyou said

    Berd flu + 2

    and I do sympathize with Fedites, particularly as I normally root for him, but today was just Berd’s day.

    YAY. Now, the more important question … how will he fare with Novak (and a final, maybe)!?

  3. evie said

    When he hit that volley and giggled, I wondered if he was also thinking of that volley he stoned a couple years ago when he was two sets up against Fed with a break point. That one turned the match; this one let it play out in the same direction: Tomas winning.

  4. neilintoronto said

    +3, he really got to me today. Its fun to see someone who’s been talked about forever, having so much potential, putting it together both with his game and his head. That smile is pretty amazing.

    • neilintoronto said

      And apropos of nothing really, i pat myself on the back for choosing him over Sods when making my tennis pool picks.

  5. Kris said

    This reminded me of when Tomas beat Roger earlier in the year. Tomas had blown chances in that match and there was a point near the end that was a close call that eventually went against him. Tomas smiled off that point and didn’t lose another point after that.

    I had a feeling before the matches today that this would be the toughest of the four, one that could be won if Tomas was ready and could deal with having the lead.

  6. crazyone said

    Gauloises, great post. I really hope Berdych can take the entire thing, and despite myself, I did enjoy his smiling. And I want to let you know, that when Fed loses like he did today, yours is the only personal blog I feel safe in frequenting. I know you’ll be fair and I know your readers will be as well. Thanks for that 🙂

    • gauloises1 said

      I’m really touched by that, c1.

      The pressure’s on now though because I don’t feel like I do a great job of being fair to anyone else in the draw when it’s Murray at Wimbledon …

  7. AmyLu said

    I can’t stop giggling at your Berd flu line — my brother used to torment with me that line after Berdych beat Nadal in that Madrid dust-up of 2006.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this match. I had to turn away when he went down a BP in his last service game, as I didn’t have much faith in him to hold it together. Really happy for him — have always enjoyed watching him play when he’s been on and so wonderful to see him play to his potential in the past few months. Semis in RG and semis here is nothing to sneeze at!

  8. Bismarck said

    anxiety-ridden fan here. 😛

    love it, gauly. every pic and every paragraph. lOve with a capital O.

    *hit a backhand volley that everyone, I think, expected to go wide. Instead it struck smartly off the line for 30-30. Berdych turned away from the net, bit his lip, and smiled broadly. It was a great smile*
    like Kris the berd smile after that volley reminded me of miami where he smiled off a FH dtl getting ruled out a hair by hawkeye and hence putting him MP down.

    re the last pic… unfurl your wings and fly, berdman! fly, glorious creature! onto the wimbles title!

    • gauloises1 said

      Bis 🙂

      You are the true and ultimate Berdy fan, and I thought of you the whole time today. So glad you got to see your man play like that.

  9. harini said

    Gosh, Berdy’s smile is lovely. I am so happy for him – it was a win he definitely earned.

    Definitely a tough loss for Fed. But right now, I’m going to revel in Berdy’s win – and that smile 🙂

  10. Silvia said

    I giggled after him when he turned away from the net, lol. He looked so genuinely happy that I was happy for him. Great job in semis, too.

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