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Faces of Defeat 11/24/2010 - 10:09 AM

Defeat
by Hannah Wilks.TW Contributing Writer

The World Tour Finals brings its own unique challenges, not least the round-robin format in which each victory, while crucial, still requires ratification by other results. Pride comes before pitfalls and even a defeat still holds out the possibility of redemption.

More than any other tournament, the World Tour Finals rewards the ability to pick oneself up and carry on. Today I decide to watch how the pros handle it when things don't go their way.

The first thing I see when I come to the O2 is Lukas Dlouhy, sweating and pale, mumbling volubly at the camera after his flubbed volley into the net costs him and his partner Leander Paes the first set against Wimbledon champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzchner. Dlouhy is clearly a fan of the inaudible monologue; Paes, on the other hand, stays theatrically frozen after his errors, pantomiming his disbelief.

On the other side of the net, their opponents err on the side of seriousness. Jurgen Melzer yells, swipes angrily at the air, hefts his racquet as if to throw it down. Philipp Petzchner hangs his head, trailing meekly around after Melzer, waiting for the fist-bump that absolves his latest error. They’re so open and earnest in their desire to win that when Petzchner lands the winning volley and it’s Melzer’s turn to walk to him for a hug, it’s impossible not to feel pleased for them.

If there is one thing—apart from a first serve—that Andy Murray is lacking today, in his critical battle with Roger Federer, it’s visible passion. His performance is woeful from the beginning, and I’m waiting for the convulsive clutching at his face, the angry berating of himself and his camp, the furious snatched punch at his racquet strings—everything that fuels the meme of the player who’s too negative to win. It doesn’t come. He just sighs after each unforced error, shoulders rising and settling in a weary exhale, and then gets on with it, his racquets all in one piece even if his game is in tatters.

As things go from bad to worse, he’s perfectly calm and I want to scream. I want him to yell, I want the smashed racquet; I want blood, sweat and tears—or at least two out of the three. Anything to get the blood flowing, get the feet moving—even getting the ball over the net would be a start. His calm persists even after a 6-4, 6-2 defeat. In his press conference, he’s matter-of-fact and dignified; challenged on his degree of intensity, he turns the question back on the press: "If I went out there and I smashed the racquet or started shouting, I’d come in and everyone would say to me, you were in a bad mood today, mentally you weren’t strong enough. . .I just tried to stay calm, tried to find a way, and it didn’t happen today."

In other words, sometimes it simply isn’t your day. Can it really be as straightforward as that? Federer seems to think so. He goes out of his way to remind the press of the contrast between this match and the last they played against each other in Shanghai, admitting his surprise at the ease of his win. "Tennis is not rocket science," he reminds the room. Anyone can have a bad day, he says with the vague complacency of those good enough to make their own luck.

How quickly things change in tennis. Murray was all but in the knockout stages after Sunday’s masterful performance against Soderling. Now we’re throwing around words like thrashed, crushed, dominated, and muttering mathematical permutations darkly to each other.

Soderling was down and out, fatigued and overhyped after his win in Paris; now he’s in with an excellent chance of repeating last year’s semi-final feat. The Swede, incongruously cartoon-bright in his acid yellow shirt, faces David Ferrer, the perennially-patronized Spaniard in a match that’s far more of a contest than Murray v Federer. It seems we’re still asking each other who Robin Soderling is and what he can do. David Ferrer carries no such questions with him on to the court. The limits of his abilities are known, implicit in the vaguely surprised tone that introduces him as a former finalist at the year-end championships; and the lack of reaction when he’s hit off the court testifies to the same truism that his ultimate fate is less in his hands than that of his opponents.

Defeat2 The thing that draws the incoherent shout from Ferrer is the unforced error. The pounding power of Soderling, against which the Spaniard’s never-say-die attitude is no defense, does not frustrate. It motivates. At the worst moments, when Soderling batters his way to the net, leaving Ferrer stranded behind the baseline, the Spaniard simply raises his hands: What can I do? And at the best, when he finds the passing shot and guts out a marathon hold, the clenched fist says: Don’t feel sorry for me.

One can never tell from From Soderling’s body language that he’s playing beautifully. The Swede is wound as tightly as a clockwork soldier, and uncoils to swipe savagely at the ball. Ferrer has no answer for his pace and power, but the better Soderling plays, the angrier he seems; he stalks stiff-legged between points and addresses vituperative comments to his box.

When Ferrer’s indomitable defense momentarily puts the second set in doubt, Soderling gestures savagely as if to exclaim, You see!? I told you I couldn’t do it. And when Ferrer frays under the pressure of holding serve, handing Soderling a seemingly well-deserved victory, the Swede faces the crowd with the slightly guilty air of a child who’s been given something he hasn’t entirely earned.

Charged—slightly bafflingly—by Mark Petchey with defying the stereotype of the placid Scandinavian with his ‘Latin character’, he splutters, Really?! with the guilelessness of the dull. In his press conference, all dimples and diffident charm, he gives the lie to his dour reputation. Disarmingly modest, he defuses leading questions, casting himself in the familiar role of underdog against Federer’s pedigree. He’s already thinking about his next match, but I’m still occupied with the one that just finished.

I risk missing the last train to hang on for Ferrer’s press conference. If I was seeking illumination into his psyche, a better understanding of the process of picking oneself up after being outplayed, I’m sorely disappointed. He arrives texting on his Blackberry, answers questions in his soft voice, fingers curling contemplatively around his mouth. He did his best. Robin was better, he did his best, and he’ll do his utmost on Thursday, too.

"I fight everything. I fight, and with Andy too." He states it with the finality of an ultimate truth.


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Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 02:59 PM

Nam1, you mean "everyone" in Rafa fans? They all have decided that Rafa would lose to Djoker today. C'mon, have you see Rafa's most recent new and improved serve? I'm sorry did I say "new" and "improved"? I meant to say "back to old" and "puny and slow". oh ha.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:00 PM

Nam 1 Hi!

I am here and my live coverage is just starting

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:02 PM

I hope this time Rafa brings out a little boy in hand

First match he came on court alone.I hope the little boy wasnt too upset not many times you get a chance to come out with the no 1 player in the world

Or maybe he is still wating back stage lol!

Posted by CherryNYC 11/24/2010 at 03:03 PM

I'm heading out everybody -- Happy Thanksgiving- -- since I am without Tennis Channel, I will be following the posts all weekend. Enjoy!!!

Posted by Kristy 11/24/2010 at 03:03 PM

Hi, Nam1. I don't know where everyone is, and I don't know where Rafa's match is. The doubles must be running long.

CL, if you're there, thanks for the Rutland suggestion -- I have gone that route, love the scenery, but it gets in at 9 pm and my mother can't drive at night so someone else will have to pick me up and it seems a lot to ask for them to go to Rutland (from Woodstock)... sigh, it's endless, the problems that arise when you don't have your own car.

I think Djokovic will either beat or almost beat Nadal. And I want the match to start 'cause I don't have anything else to do!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:03 PM

Jason was just saying this match will be delayed by about ten mins

Cause the doubles match was later than anticipated

Posted by Heather 11/24/2010 at 03:05 PM

Oh everyone's leaving work and I'm still here for another hour and a half.....booo

Posted by @work 11/24/2010 at 03:05 PM

I am here too. I was just intently watching the scoreboard and hoping the match wouldn't go to three sets... got my wish so Nole and Rafa should be up shortly.

Posted by Tuulia 11/24/2010 at 03:08 PM

hope you found it @work :)

coffee check,
something sweet to eat w it check
chocolate supplies close in case of emergency check
brandy check

I think I'm ready...

Posted by wilson75 11/24/2010 at 03:08 PM

alex: If Murray is playing tennis for crowd support and not titles, he better retire right now.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:08 PM

I wonder if Kylie will be here for Rafa's match

Just showing the end Of Rafa's match with Roddick and the camera's showed her standing up and clapping when Nadal finally won the match

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:09 PM

GB are you around

Just post me a Frazzle and I know you are here ok

Posted by Kristy 11/24/2010 at 03:09 PM

Hi, AM. Kylie Minogue?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:10 PM

Oka players are in the tunnel waiting to come out

Novak is first of course

Rafa probably still doing Jumping Jacks somewhere

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:11 PM

players walking out the hallway now.

Posted by Kristy 11/24/2010 at 03:11 PM

Jeez, we still don't have streams.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:11 PM

Kristy Indeed.Probably get free tickets lol! she was there with her currnent flame

Posted by Mick1303 11/24/2010 at 03:11 PM

Rafa-Fed finals still outnumber semis multi-fold. We've seen them a lot and more recently than those semis, which now are a distant memory. Semis now most likely means that Nadal finishes second. Which in turn means that he'll lose to Djoker or Berdych. Which in turn means that he'll get a bit less points. Fed needs all the possible help in order to overtake #1.

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/24/2010 at 03:12 PM

AM, I could watch it live on Tennis Channel, but the one TV that's got it is in the room that's too far from the WiFi router. It's more fun watching and being here simultaneously. I'll give it a go via stream, then switch to the TV if I must.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:12 PM

Hey Rafa remembered to bring the child on court with him today lol!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:14 PM

Tina

Well whatever works well for you

Posted by Master Ace 11/24/2010 at 03:15 PM

Steve Ulrich will be the chair umpire for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/24/2010 at 03:15 PM

Novak chasing the errant coin... they redo the toss

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:16 PM

Umpire is Steve Urlich

Hurry up Rafa also try to win in 2 I have a manicure today ok

Okay the coin went amiss and they had to do another toss

Novak will serve

Posted by Nam1 11/24/2010 at 03:16 PM

hey everyone

As usual I am reduced to jelly legs before Rafa's match; hiding out at work; what's the point of going home , I will just hide behind my sofa between swigs of alcohol..

I dont know what to think for this match; Rafa did win the ONE match I begged for. Am I greedy to want more?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:17 PM

I love this tune by the Stones

Gimme Shelter is one of my favs

I have seen them performed this live too

Yay!

Posted by dana 11/24/2010 at 03:17 PM

Does anyone know if the match is being broadcast online?

Posted by Tuulia 11/24/2010 at 03:17 PM

anyone have a stream that works? fromsport streams stop every couple of mins. :(

Posted by alex 11/24/2010 at 03:18 PM

Ludicrous to suggest that muzz would be trying to win titles for that, and I certainly wasn't suggesting it. My point was that having your home crowd shout more loudly for the foreigner than for you must be something of a disencentive. If cheering doesn't have some kind of an influence, even on someone as apparently insular as muzz, then what the heck, why bother having fans? Whay do all these tennis commentators talk of 'home crowds' etc. if they have no potential bearing on outcomes.

My comment was not, as you'll have noticed, just about muzz, but London and England. Seems like they could do with some scrutiny too.

Posted by alex 11/24/2010 at 03:20 PM

and by the way, wilson, it's not an excuse. Fed was effortlessly great and would have had every chance of beating an on-song muzz last night.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:21 PM

Sorry I have live coverage here in Sydney

Posted by alex 11/24/2010 at 03:25 PM

I was actually trying to offer another possible explanation for hanah's observation that muzz seemed to look so nonchalant both during and after his defeat last night, without his normal outburts of anger.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:25 PM

streaming are ridiculously lousy today. It's either choppy or dead.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:26 PM

This will be the 23rd time these 2 players will go toe to toe says Jason

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:26 PM

Hmmmm Nole serving to Rafa's f/hand good tactics

Posted by @work 11/24/2010 at 03:27 PM

Tuulia,
This one is working for me so far (knocks wood three times)
http://tinyurl.com/34jxwtc

Posted by wilson75 11/24/2010 at 03:27 PM

alex: I'm sure if Murray was playing Rafa there would be a similar crowd response. Even Murray acknowledged that he would get crowd support than Roger. Wasn't the crowd heavily in his favour during the match against Soderling?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:27 PM

Great 2nd serve by Nole there

Nole with love service game

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:28 PM

And lousy ROS continues by Rafa. Geez. 3 blown ROS and easy service hold by Djoker.

Posted by Arun 11/24/2010 at 03:28 PM

lol, AM.
At least you don't have to listen to Ted Robinson and Shrias.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:29 PM

Thanks Steve for the over rule that 1st serve of Rafa's was good

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:31 PM

Arun I miss my Doug

I am getting sick and tired of Jason and Robbie quite frankly lol!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:33 PM

Rafa use the kicker serve out wide pls

Posted by alex 11/24/2010 at 03:34 PM

Yes wilson, probably right about rafa. But gee, if the home player can't get more support than (no disrespect) Robin Soderling, you have to ask what on earth's going on?!!

Yes, compare muzz's performance (with rapturous support) against sod with his performance (with underwhelming support) against fed, and you have very strong support for my point. But don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting there isn't much more to it than crowd support, just that it could well have been A factor.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:34 PM

Flip Head look what happened with the serve down the middle

Remember the good lefty serve you were in the right side of the court as well

Posted by @work 11/24/2010 at 03:34 PM

It's looking like another heart attack inducing serving performance by Rafa :( BP for Nole

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:34 PM

and the pattern continues. Mighty struggle on every service game by Rafa followed or preceed by easy service game by an opponent. now ad out.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:35 PM

Good 2nd serve Rafa with slice and kicker

Well done Rafa

Posted by Kristy 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

The streams are pathetic today. I think I'm going to go to a movie (possibly a Godard film in Manhattan if I can face the subway). I can't think of any other way to get out of my grumpiness.

Enjoy the tennis ... go Rafa, go Nole.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

Tense moments for Rafa and all us fans.

Posted by Nitish 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

Going to be a mighty slugfest!

Posted by alex 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

well, two screens on here ... manchester united/glasgow rangers and rafa/djoker.

I'm not going anywhere soon:)

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

Arun I miss Doug Adler

I am getting sick and tired of Robbie and Jason quite frankly lol!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

Hello thats when you use the tee serve

Thanks Rafa!

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

nice ace from Rafa!

Hi Everybody!

Posted by @work 11/24/2010 at 03:36 PM

But he holds! for now anyway...

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:37 PM

Maradonna is fully using his daily free courtside seat. Now he's on Rafa's box. How does that feel, Djoker? Perhaps, a stab in the back?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:37 PM

Thats when to use the tee serve Rafa

Another good 1st serve and he holds

He always likes to use the tee serve on big points

Posted by Colette 11/24/2010 at 03:38 PM

Kristy & anyone looking for a decent stream, try this:

http://www.fromsport.com/v-0/10/174/v-117561.html

Posted by Tuulia 11/24/2010 at 03:38 PM

thanks @work :)
I get "connecting to channel" every once in a while in the middle of screen, but mostly working fine, seen several points already, big improvement on fromsport streams

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:38 PM

8 serves and only 1 returned in play. Geez. just horrible ROS.

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/24/2010 at 03:38 PM

another love service game for Djokovich

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:38 PM

Kristy: I'm on a fromsport.com stream and it's been fine so far.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:38 PM

Just Horsen Hi!

Nole yet to drop a point on his 2 service games well done

Posted by wilson75 11/24/2010 at 03:39 PM

alex: If Murray's worrying about crowd support then he's more mentally weak than I thought. It shouldn't be an issue. I just think that on the big occasions like yesterday and at the GS he gets very tight and so doesn't play well.

Posted by imjimmy 11/24/2010 at 03:39 PM

Nadal is not going for his UsOpen money serves (out wide on deuce and down the middle on the ad court) which have a lot of pace and go to the fh of his opponent. He has to change this up against Djokovic, coz Nole will murder Rafa's safe backhand serves..

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:40 PM

now that was a beautiful point...

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:41 PM

Well played Nole with the b/hand down the line and then comes in with the volley

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 03:42 PM

AJDE DJOKO!!!

Posted by @work 11/24/2010 at 03:43 PM

Nole being very vocal early on, so much for those who were thinking his mind was going to be on DC. He wants to win every point! :)

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:43 PM

Thats the way Rafa good anticpiation at teh net and good foot speed too,

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:44 PM

Nole going for the opposite effect as MAndy as he's already yelling at himself.

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:46 PM

88mph BH passing shot from Rafa.

..for once in my life I actually like Nole's kit better then those circus colors Rafa has on.

Posted by alex 11/24/2010 at 03:46 PM

wilson -
... and nothing better at adding to/intensifying a 'big occasion' than a big crowd ...
On mental weakness, muzz perhaps IS weaker than you thought. I have no doubt personally (first serve aside, although he seems to be able to beat even the best with little over 50% 1st serves in) that the mentla aspect is muzz's achilles heel. I just don't know what's going on in his psyche a lot of the time, with these turbulent mood swings, moodiness, self-flagellation etc.. I would hope that his new coach is someone who will be adept in that department because his actual game isn't lacking to win slams.

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 03:46 PM

Now this is pretty good tennis. No turkeys being served atm.

Nole seems to have found his serve.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 03:47 PM

Does anyone know who won the davis cup for men last year?

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:47 PM

nice footwork from Rafa there to draw the error from Nole.

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 03:48 PM

Rafa makes Nole pay for those 2 mediocre approach shots. 1 BP for the Spaniard.

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:48 PM

AO Open: it was Spain, I believe.

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 03:49 PM

AO Open, the Spaniards.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:49 PM

Come on Rafa keep pushing

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:50 PM

Vamos Rafa you recovered soo well on that f/hand

Ad to Rafa!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:51 PM

Pfft shank what the hell Rafa?

Please

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:52 PM

Rafa third time lucky with b/point

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 03:52 PM

UGHHHH!!! Damn!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:52 PM

Vamos Rafa

Great at the net

Rafa breaks!!!!!!!

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 03:53 PM

Ugh, there's that dumbass DS again. Dumbass!!!!!!!

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:53 PM

Rafa breaks by a luck then promptly call for a trainer for re-taping. Take that, Djoker!

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 03:53 PM

Thanks just horsen and NP

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 03:54 PM

hi y'all, this match is going to be a goodie, which way is the question?
i wanna nap , i spent the better part of the afternoon watching japanese anime with eng subs yeah!
as usual rafa and nole bringing the drama in ,four games in...ha!

well well well look who break, and first too...well at least nole forces him to be agressive and on his toes from the get go!!

Posted by Andrew 11/24/2010 at 03:54 PM

Nadal with the first break, on the third chance. Djokovic BH DS, pickup, bouncing ball rally - you'd bet on Nadal there. Nadal leads 3-2, with a break.

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:54 PM

arghh...having stream troubles.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:54 PM

Great reflexes at the net by Rafa

Ok Rafa just consolidate this break

I have a manicure appt later remember

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:57 PM

Hmmmm just great down 30 love on your serve

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:57 PM

oh boy, here we go again....HOLD RAFA HOLD!

yay! 15-30 now.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:57 PM

Thanks for the good thinking wide serve Rafa

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 03:58 PM

and about to give it back real fast 0-30...
and a good serve to get at 15!

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 03:58 PM

Bravo Djoko!

Posted by imjimmy 11/24/2010 at 03:58 PM

Thanks for the match calls NP. I had to get out to work and cannot watch this.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:58 PM

Great execution by Nole there with that b/hand down the line

Just great to watch

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