Dead Man Winning.
Posted by gauloises1 on February 28, 2011
Juan Martin del Potro d. Janko Tipsarevic, 64 64
I can’t. Stop. Smiling.
JMDP won. He won. I’m just … there is sunshine in my heart right now and kittens gambolling along my veins, drowning in all the wine. It’s how they would have wanted to go.
Ahem. So that was a pretty terrible match. This wasn’t the JMDP we saw crushing Mardy Fish last night. He came out flat and lifeless, barely moving, and dropped his second service game to give Tispsarevic the break for 3-1. Both he and Davin had been talking before the match about how tired he was, making semifinals and then a final three weeks on the trot, which might have been it; equally, he had played all his matches in Delray Beach at night and I thought the different conditions in the heat might have been responsible. Or he could have been nervous. Whatever, this was genuinely-lethargic JMDP as opposed to that’s-just-what-he-looks-like JMDP (the way you can tell is that the former misses, a lot).
It was crushing; Tipsarevic had the lead at 4-1 and there looked like absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t run with it. I was mentally composing an agonised post-mortem which spoke defensively about the difference between winning a final and winning any other match, and publicly appealed to the tennis gods for just a little bit of luck to get him over the hump. Of course, the luck in question was already operating, because he was playing Tipsarevic. He flaked to drop his serve, JMDP dredged up the occasional big serve from the very depths of his being, and Tipsy just couldn’t get himself back into it.
JMDP said in his post-match interview that he was ‘completely tired’ and added that although Tipsarevic was the better player, he was a little bit luckier at key moments. That’s more or less how it felt. If JMDP was flat in the first set, he was frankly two-dimensional in the second. I have never seen him push the ball around like that; he couldn’t get any timing on it, was rolling in his serves and generally looking about to die on the court even when he was a set and a break down. Yet Tipsy couldn’t get his feet under him and Delpo kept – maddeningly – doing just enough to stay ahead. It was just about the most agonising, brain-dead tennis you can imagine.
But who cares? It doesn’t have to be pretty. A win is a win is a win, and when JMDP watched Tipsy’s ball out, dropped his racquet and lifted his arms in the air, no-one was thinking about how he got there. We were thinking about where he’s been; missing an entire season of tennis, sitting at home instead of defending his US Open title, dropping out into the hinterlands of the far 400s. Just in case we’d forgotten, he kissed his right wrist multiple times while acknowledging the applause of the crowd. I’d kiss it too. And, you know, carry on from there.
A word for our gallant loser though. Seriously, the fact that a player like Tipsarevic – who, as I tweeted in an attempt to pre-empt my own probable bitterness, has given tennis fans hours of entertainment and some of the most memorable matches of the last few years on the biggest stages – doesn’t have an ATP title, even a 250, just underlines how tough it is to perform in a final. There is no way he won’t get one before he retires. It just wasn’t his day today.
But it was Delpo’s. It should put him back in the top 85, and there will be (and already is) a lot of talk about what a ‘statement’ this is to the rest of the tour. I don’t care about that right now. He won. He won a final. He’s holding a trophy. He’s a champion again.
… Yeah. I’ll be crying.
(You can see video here of JMDP giving a victory speech in Spanish (thanks to everyone who tweeted and translated it for me) – reportedly he’s thanking the spectators for enduring the heat, the little kids in the crowd who supported him, the faithful Franco and Martiniano, and his friends and family back home.)