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.