Let me assure you that my headline doesn’t refer to the dashing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, even though Roger did toss the Frenchman out of the Australian Open semifinals like a bag of lawn clippings. The trash I’m referring to is of the verbal variety. It doesn’t stink, but it sure can fester.
Take this snippet from Jo-Wilfried’s presser, after he beat an ailing Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals:
Q. Novak talked about his problems. He had some problems during the match. When did you first notice that he was having problems?
JO‑WILFRIED TSONGA: Five years ago. (Smiling)
Pee-yeew! That’s going to rot under Nole’s floorboards for months.
I’ve transcribed this bit from Jim Courier’s interview in writing – for posterity. There were giggles from all corners:
ROGER FEDERER: “I know Andy would like to win the first title for British tennis in what is it, 150,000 years? Andy, the poor guy, has to go through those moments over and over again but he has done tremendously. I’m looking forward to a great final, he’s a nice guy and we match up well together. I will play the way I usually always play, aggressively. We’ve had some different types of matches against each other. We sometimes like to jerk around on the court and play some high balls at each other. Definitely it will be tactical. It is always a tactical game against him. Andy, if you are listening, I’ll come in on your backhand, you’ll pass me, I’ll drop shot you, you’ll lob me, I’ll hit it through the legs. It’ll be something like that.” (Followed by uproarious laughter)
The banter continued in Roger’s post-match press conference:
Q. Normally the guy who plays you has nothing to lose at all. Andy is in a slightly different predicament. Do you think that will affect his game at all?
ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, don’t know. I mean, look, he’s in his second Grand Slam final now. I think the first one’s always a bit tougher than the second one. But now that he didn’t win the first one, I think doesn’t help, you know, for the second one around.
Plus he’s playing, you know, me, who’s won many Grand Slams prior to that, been able to win here three times so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage.
I don’t feel like the pressure’s really on me having to do it again, because I did it before. I think he really needs it more than I do, you know. So I think the pressure’s big on him.
But we’ll see how he’s gonna handle it. It’s not going to be easy for him, that’s for sure.
It’s light, but potent. And obvious: Roger Federer doesn’t want to lose to Andy Murray. In fact, he seems to be savoring the idea of beating the Scot and dashing the hopes of an entire nation (or at least the Murray-loving part of it). Is it hubris or honesty? Trash talk or plain talk? Offense or defense?
Murray, to his credit, is ready to take on Federer where it counts – the tennis court:
Q. Can you give us your thoughts on your prospective (final) opponents?
ANDY MURRAY: I mean, obviously Roger’s record in slams speaks for itself. He had a great year last year in them making all four finals. You know, he lost the two ‑‑ the two that he lost were incredibly tough five‑setters. You know, if I’m going to play against him, it will take a special performance to win against him. But I feel like I can do that.
We’ll see soon enough. Care to look into your crystal balls?
The men’s final is scheduled for Sunday, January 31 at 7:30pm, Melbourne time.