Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wimbledon- Some Final Thoughts

It’s over. The Grand Slam considered the most prestigious and hallowed of them all has crowned it’s 2007 King and Queen. Tonight Roger Federer will dance with Venus Williams at the post event ball along with all the men and women, boys and girls who are part of their court.

After all the controversy about schedules and the weather I’m sure the AELTC will congratulate itself for staging both the Women’s and Men’s finals on their appointed days. Already you hear the glossing over of the protests from both players and fans as they hype machine goes into overdrive to convince the critics of this years event that their protests were just tempests in a teapot, that in the end the tradition was upheld and all is right with the world.

So what is this bad taste in my mouth? Why do I feel that the real winner of this years Wimbledon Men’s final says he’s on his way to Stuttgart for a clay court event while, dare I say it, the preordained winner will dance and drink champagne tonight? I say preordained for a reason. Even the most faithful apologists for the random draw admit that Rafael Nadal came into this final despite all the pitfalls and snares laid in his way. Due to the weather, which of course is an act of the Deity and therefore unable to be changed, Rafa played a total of seven days straight. He had to start and stop several times before putting away his third round opponent. Was there rest in between? No. To his credit he walked onto Centre Court seemingly ready to take the championship that has so far eluded him. Last year he was obviously not ready despite making the Final. This year he was ready and match tough.

But not even an athlete of Rafa’s abilities can withstand back to back to back to back to back to back to back play. The human body needs to rest. With the build up of toxins in his body the mind may have been willing but the flesh had become weak. An old injury flared up, patella tendonitis, and while in his post match interview he says that he had his chances but failed the bitter disappointment showed on his face. Would one day of rest, playing the Final on Monday, have made a difference? That’s a moot point now isn’t it?

I said in an earlier post that the winner of this Wimbledon will have an asterisk next to his name. I didn’t mean the one about five straight. I mean the one where an exception should be noted about the how of the win. So many have said that Roger is a great ambassador for the sport of tennis. He does wonderful charitable work in his mother’s native South Africa. I don’t begrudge him that part of his life. But then he made the following statement:

Q. What do you make of the level of criticism that the club has taken from some other players about scheduling, not playing Sunday?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, you know, I hear a lot about it. I read it.

I don't think it's really the right way to go after the tournament. You know, I mean, it rains a lot here sometimes, so we do have that problem. But Wimbledon is doing so many great things next to it.

They've risen prize money. They're building a new roof over Centre Court. They built the millennium building in 2000. Then we're not upset when they do those things.

When it rains once, we have a scheduling problem, I don't think we should start going after the club right away. I disagree with the players, what they said.

Federer Post Match Interview

If he, like Richard Gasquet, his semi final opponent, had played a five set match and then been set to play at noon the next day I wonder if he would’ve been singing the same song.

My criticism is not only aimed at Roger Federer and the AELTC. The women had similar, if sometimes more subtle, problems on their side.

The last person many people wanted to see on Centre Court on Saturday was anyone with the surname of Williams. That there was a chance that both of those women could appear on that sacred grass was something to be prevented at all costs. Richard Williams had already predicted that his daughter Venus would win the Ladie’s Championship. Fool they called him behind his back.

Meanwhile Serena Williams seemed to be blazing her own path to Championship Saturday until she was felled by injury. Forget the images showing the muscle of her calf in a knot. That she managed to get up and not only finish but win her match against her Slovakian opponent put her on the front pages of sports sections around the country. But Daniela Hantuchova, her opponent, said during her presser after the match that in her eyes nothing was wrong in the third set, that Serena was moving fine in her opinion. The next time she’s scheduled to play Serena comes on court with a heavily bandaged calf, one tightly bandaged ankle, and a wrist taped almost motionless. Yet some, picking up on Hantuchova’s jealous words, said she was play acting. That she lost to Justine Henin by one break of serve in the third set made the haters more upset it seems. All of a sudden there were stage whispers about her not being injured at all. Richard said it was a slight tear and that his daughter should go home or at least not play but what does that old man know they implied. Yes they played the video of her falling over and over and I for one didn’t mind them doing so. The whispers had gotten so loud visual evidence had to be supplied to show that there were obviously other issues and agenda's behind their talk.

The woman across the net from Venus on Saturday, Marion Bartoli, deserves a little bit of a shout out. Her father, a doctor, has not trained her in the way France or any traditional tennis academies do. Mary Carillo jokingly recounted some of his training techniques making her peers laugh. But Maid Marion as she has been called for over a year on TAT delivered a beat down to Justine Henin and walked onto Centre Court carrying a bouquet along with Venus Williams. Neither woman is a media darling and while there had always been the outside chance that Venus would make it Marion, the “big girl” with the heart of a lioness was definitely never seen as being a Wimbledon finalist. Venus survived the jinx court twice, low seeding, and back to back to back play in order to walk onto Centre Court with Marion. All of the Williams family was there to support Venus. Dr. Walter Bartoli sat alone, his wife at home too nervous to watch her daughter play.

When it was over the most touching event of the tournament took place. Richard Williams and Walter Bartoli exchanged high fives and talked for a few minutes after exchanging a hug. Then Dr. Bartoli broke down in tears finally letting all the pressure and emotion out. His consoler was Richard Williams. How ironic that these two men who have bucked the system in their respective countries should share that moment.

That is the lasting memory I take from this tournament. The sportsmanship shown between Marion and Venus during and after the awards presentation is what sport is all about. Of course Marion was disappointed. She’s an athlete and she plays to win not come in second. Rafa in his post Final press conference refused to be suckered into bitterness and rancor by the reporters. He said he will be fine.

And so will tennis. The Hard Road to New York as Kirkus
of Talk About Tennis has named it - The US Open Series as it is officially called has begun. There are serious questions for American tennis that need to be aired and discussed openly and that won't be solved by trying to stack the deck against the European players who dominate at this time. Does Andy Roddick have another slam in him or has his time passed? After Venus and Serena retire who will carry the torch for American women in the WTA?
Is it time to review the basic premise of American tennis - hit it hard and if that doesn't work hit it harder - and find a solution that allows for many different approaches that will allow our young up and comers a chance to compete on the international stage? Is it also time to stop undermining our best players because they don't fit a particular mold?

I said the issues need to be aired, not solved over the remaining months of this year. I'm an outsider, a fan of over twenty years, looking in at this sport I love. Do I have all the answers? Not by any means. As I said I'm on the outside looking in.

But when the behind the scenes machinations get so bad the victims of it start to publicly protest something is very rotten in Denmark as the Bard once wrote. Yes Wimbledon is over. But the issues raised over this fort night will not be swept under the rug.


Joey said...

Very thoughtful and articulate. Thanks! I agree wholeheartedly...esp that Federer would not have been so generous had he been in Nadal's shoes, playing all those matches. He was very lucky and Nadal very plucky and I hope he beats the crap out of Roger next time!

tristann said...

This tournament has also left me with a very bitter taste. I think the final result would have been easier to take had it been closer to last year's. In that case, all the scheduling shenanigans of the AELTC, while not in the least forgivable, it would at least appear that it had not had such an impact on the final result. Federer was after all the four-time defending champion. But to anyone watching this final, there is little doubt that Rafa was very close to winning this. He was clearly outplaying Fed at this point and had the momentum on his side. But the second I say the trainer by his side I knew it was over for him. The rain, the insane schedule, the tough draw ... this had to be the last drop that would make the cup overrun, and sure enough, that is exactly what happened.

We are already hearing and will hear for days to come about Fed's incredible mental toughness and champion's heart in fighting back and taking the fifth set and the championship. The fact that this incredible moment came deep into the fourth hour of a five-set match, when his opponent had been forced to play seven days in a row, two of his other matches also being five-setters, just does not seem to factor in the picture, it appears. Sorry people, but to me Roger Federer is an absolutely amazing tennis player, but he is not a champion, not in this match at least. He is merely the winner, that is all.

Rafa appeared crushed after the match, who can blame him. He had to know he had come so close to winning it, and had circumstances been different he most probably would have won it. God only knows what was going through his mind. Hopefully, with uncle Toni's help, he will be able to take whatever positives he can from this match and move forward. He has much to be proud of and has gained the admiration and respect of many.

Sorry for the long post, but I had to get this off my chest and here or Craig's site is where I feel most comfortable doing so.

Savannah said...

Tristann long responses are welcome.

Roger did win. All that blather about his champions heart is just b.s. and deep down he knows it. As I said it was preordained and nothing will change my mind about that.

I had the sound off since I was watching network coverage but put it on when I saw the trainer come out. Someone else will have to say whether or not the 7 days straight on the court was mentioned by JMac and company. I did hear JMac say it made no sense to call the trainer while beating the crap out of Federer. Of course it didn't if you're used to players faking their way through tournaments. It did if he was hurting and knew he needed attention. The implication was not very nice.

I think the AELTC put the word out that nothing other than banalities were to be mentioned about the rain and what happened with the schedule by main stream media. That is purely my opinion since I was not a fly on the wall.

You are correct about the real result of this fiasco. Rafa's star is rising while Roger's seems to already be dimming. I say this after visiting fansites, my usual sources of information about what we outsiders are thinking and feeling. The reputation of the AELTC has been tarnished. Roger was right to cry. And for me this win will always be noted with an asterisk.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with most. Federer is only a winner of this match. It seems to be more than unfair. LTA could of played this final on Monday and give Rafa a full 24 hours off. But most importantly they should have put him on court first on Monday. He would of completed his match. Roger Federer should be ashamed of thinking himself a champion. Sportmanship is fair, how fair was that your opponent played for 7 days if he was not on court his was held up in a locker room, all the while Roger is having the time of his life. Where is this a fair competitive match. I am so upset about the decisions that were made to allow Roger Federer to walk on court and take the title from a player who actual had to play tennis to get to their Final Yuck

Savannah said...

What would have happened if Gasquet had been rested? Djokovic? I think Rafa beats Novak but Gasquet played inspired tennis to reach the semi's.

Anonymous your statement is spot on. Rafa had to really play tennis to reach the Final. One day of rest and fresher legs, and who is the Wimbledon king?

Albert said...

One more day of rest before SF and Novak Djokovic would have been in the final. But of course RafaTards will never see it that way...

Also Fed with Rafa's draw (he had a similar one last year) would have easily reached the final without playing as many days or hours.

So let's stop all this BS about giving out asterix, everyone hating Rafa etc. ...

Craig Hickman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Hickman said...

albert, I'm not a RafaTard and I can tell you that Novak isn't going to beat Rafa on grass, rested or not.

Any player who wins a Slam under these circumstances considers him/herself extremely lucky and you know it.

This isn't about hating on anyone. It's about common sense.

Being a Tard of any player, and that includes Raja, can make you blind.