For the good of Roger’s career, I may retire from blogging. I have obviously jinxed him beyond all hope and for the good of the game and my fellow Roger fans, it might be better if I keep my predictions to myself from now on.
Tennis genius Justin Gimelstob would argue that my premature analysis of the assumed Fed-Nadal or Fed-Djoky final had nothing to do with the fate of this match. No, he seems to think that Mardy is one of the best players in the game, perfectly capable of taking an in-form Roger to the woodshed for a good whupping. (“Look at how Mardy absorbed the power of Federer’s 102 mile-per-hour serve!” Justin exclaimed during a slow-mo replay.) Uh, perhaps it would have been slightly more insightful if he’d asked what the rest of us (including Mardy) were thinking: “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ROGER????” He couldn’t serve, move or even care out there.
Since I jinxed Roger so badly, the least I can do is make some excuses for him. Roger refused to do so, himself, in his press conference, claiming that “(Mardy) came out playing very, very, well. . .That’s why I’m maybe not that disappointed.” If you prefer Roger’s “no-excuses” account of his loss, then you should probably stop reading at this point. I, for one, ain’t buying it:
1. Mirka must be pregnant – she wasn’t in the box as far as I could tell. Since 2000, she’s been absent what, maybe one or two times, max? And she was definitely at Indian Wells this week – we’ve seen her in photos taken at the practice courts. Roger would never admit this, but perhaps the mental preoccupation of Mirka’s pregnancy, combined with her absence in his box (it was boiling hot out there in the mid-afternoon sun), made it impossible for him to concentrate on court. Remember how his Tony Roche troubles caused him to lose to Volandri in Rome last summer?
2. If Mirka’s not pregnant, her absence could indicate another mentally taxing scenario, like a family emergency or a romantic rift. Let’s hope not.
3. Mono can take up to a year of recovery time (look at Mario Ancic and Justine Henin), and playing champion-level tennis in 100 degree heat isn’t exactly taking it easy. The weird thing about Roger’s recent straight set losses have been the speed in which they’ve unraveled – could anyone have watched his sluggish, half-hearted, performance today and seriously concluded that he wasn’t suffering physically? Usually when Roger loses (even last year, against Canas) it’s a match.
4. It was hot, and mono or no mono, Fed wilts in sweltering conditions.
5. Perhaps he’d rather lose freakishly to Mardy than play sick against Djokovic. He obviously caught the scoreline, if not the entire Nadal-Djoky match, in the locker room.
6. Roger’s suffering from bad hair for the first time since he lost the ponytail (in 2005?) That alone is a sign that something’s not right in the Fed camp.
7. On the bright side, Roger still gained lots of points this week since he lost to Canas in the second round last year. Assuming his health is on the upswing, he could collect some more next week in Miami. These points could be just enough for him to hold onto the No. 1 position until the clay court season heats up. This makes the assumption that Rog will play Miami, which I’d say is fairly unlikely at this point.
In an effort to avoid being completely classless (unlike Roger, I’ve known the phrase “sour grapes” for many years now), I must give a hardy “congrats!” to Mardy Fish. He played big and solid today against formidable odds and expectations. You know I’ll be rooting for him in the final tomorrow. Still, us Roger fans must find some order in this chaos – some solid proof that our hero’s troubles are only fleeting and not the sign of a larger catastrophe. Perhaps it’s just a slow start on the way to a spectacular second half of the year? Whoops, there I go jinxing Roger again.
I better retire, fast – at least until after the final!