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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 just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:58 PM

nice point construction from Djoker.

only now it's double break point. ick.

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

AO OPEN, welcome.

Nole's got 2 BPs. No dumbass play, plz.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 03:59 PM

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 03:59 PM

Oh well it was fun while it lasted Rafa?

Geez.

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 03:59 PM

and Rafa hands the break right back.... :(

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 03:59 PM

When Rafa breaks, it's real struggle, but when Djoker breaks, it's so easy. Geez. 3-3

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/24/2010 at 04:00 PM

Reaching for that bottle of brandt ...

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:01 PM

aaaand a wtf swing wide out to give it back, thanks rafa says nole , i was only getting a bit frustrated...!!!

drama drama drama will nole give it back again? naaa don't look so..

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:01 PM

Well, what do you know, Rafa just donates it right back to him with a craptacular BH shank. 3-all, Nole back on serve.

imjimmy, I wasn't planning MCs per se, but sure, I can take over if you want. Too bad you had to be stuck at work right now.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:02 PM

Rafa bad error there

Honestly???

Opens bottle and Gulps

Posted by Arun 11/24/2010 at 04:03 PM

NP: I haven't ever asked you about it.
Among the active players who are your faves apart from Tsonga? Delpo?
Also, who do you prefer between Novak and Murray?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:03 PM

B,point for Rafa

Yeah right

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:03 PM

TO DJOKO!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:03 PM

Nole's no longer getting as many 1st serves in, plus Rafa is reading his serves better. 1 BP for Raf.

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 04:03 PM

Come On Rafa! BREAK HERE! NOW!

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:04 PM

Nole saves it with a 1-2 punch. Deuce.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:04 PM

Good 1st serve by Nole there his ad

Posted by wilson75 11/24/2010 at 04:04 PM

AM: Don't start drinking yet, it's still early in the match.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:05 PM

Great rally by both players

deuce again

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:05 PM

Rafa 2nd serve okay?????????????????

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:05 PM

Nole fires an ace, but Rafa takes the next point after an extended rally, with an inch-perfect bullet into the deuce corner. Deuce #2.

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:06 PM

is this a match or is THIS a match? loving the intensity, what an exchange, rafa really sucks your energy whether u beat him or loose!!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:06 PM

b/point again for Rafa

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:07 PM

Friggin hell Rafa

That was a 2nd serve too

Geez.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:07 PM

ad to Nole

Rafa???>

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 04:07 PM

for somebody who has a reputation for returning serve from Mallorca Rafa was a pretty far ways up in the court that last one.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:08 PM

Ugh. Thankgod!

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:08 PM

4-3. no-----. We want Fedal final! Djoker, fall over!

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:08 PM

crap crap crap, i really hope u don't regret the break u gifted away rafa, pffff...

Posted by imjimmy 11/24/2010 at 04:08 PM

Thanks NP. Sucks to leave midway. I was actually watching this at work during the lunch hour :) Anyway, looked like a good match, pity can't watch it..

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:09 PM

Okay taking 1 valium hasnt taken the edge off me

Hmmmm.

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 04:10 PM

ok, Rafa 'cause you didn't break, guess what you have to do now. HOLD SERVE!! and I'll repeat HOLD SERVE! (also preferably you should do this w\o going to deuce!)

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:10 PM

this one is new? nice djoko!!!

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:11 PM

Arun, Tsonga used to be my fave (after Safin), but now he plays too much like the other guys and, of course, is out injured too often. I really can't single out any1 active today as a "fave."

Between Nole and Muzz, I prefer the former 'cause he's proven himself able to eliver in clutch situations. But I like pretty much all the top players, if not equally. There's something to like about 'em all.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:11 PM

Djoko! :D

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 04:12 PM

what's up w\Nole? contact trouble?

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:12 PM

imjimmy, so you working FT today? R U going home for Thanksgiving?

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:13 PM

Oh come on Nole get your lens in properly

Already taken time off in this game

Posted by Laver the Greatest 11/24/2010 at 04:13 PM

Rafael Nadal.

tennis player, can't be.
Cole-miner, maybe.
Not very beautiful to watch, certainly.
Tennis backlash, your name is R.N

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:13 PM

Darn it, Djoker, don't pull this trainer card. Do it when you're serving. tsk tsk tsk.

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:13 PM

eliver = deliver

Posted by just horsen 11/24/2010 at 04:14 PM

Nole seemed a little flat-footed on that point.

Rafa actually holds at love!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:14 PM

Well Rafa a love service game

Pity that didnt happen before Rafa???

Trainer comes on Nole has to go to the toilet to change his lenses

Hmmmmm

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:14 PM

Man, Nole's hitting moonpies now. WTF happened?

Posted by imjimmy 11/24/2010 at 04:14 PM

Nah NP. Gonna be stuck here..might drive around a little bit on the weekend, somewhere close. Unfortunately didn't books tickets in advance, and now it's too expensive to fly home..

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:15 PM

NP He cant see and has to go to the toilet to change lenses

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:15 PM

thank you eye contacts for bothering djoko ROS!

he wants to change his lenses, and he is!! we wouldnt want to hinder the result of the match, now!

VAMOS RAFA VAMOS RAFA!!!!

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/24/2010 at 04:15 PM

What the hell, Nole ?

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:16 PM

man, now Djoker bring out the bathroom break card. tsk tsk tsk. he might have intentionally jammed his finger into eyes to stop Rafa train who is getting better on his service game. Man, I can't be any more Rafa KAD than this if it I tried. That's how much I want Fedal final, people.

Posted by toonie 11/24/2010 at 04:18 PM

Hi all what's the score?

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:18 PM

that girl was funny how about a kiss n1? lol, gee nole what's the hold up?

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:19 PM

I really, really dislike this stupid "Billionaire" song. How can any1 like such dumbed-down pop?

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:19 PM

what is Djoker doing in the bathroom? Is he cleaning the whole toilet and taking a shower while he went there? Geez, this is taking for ever. Finally coming out.

Posted by Arun 11/24/2010 at 04:19 PM

Cheers, NP.

Posted by Nitish 11/24/2010 at 04:20 PM

Good that Nole took the time out before HIS serve.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:22 PM

that trainer/bathroom card worked brilliantly for Djoker. Geez. 5-4 now.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:22 PM

gee what a new pair of lenses do Nole?

Lets hope these new ones stays in and a love service game to boot

Fancy that?

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:23 PM

imjimmy, that sux. Hopefully you've got a hearty meal prepared at least.

AM, I saw that, but I didn't see the accident that brought about the optical malfunction.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:24 PM

YES!

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/24/2010 at 04:24 PM

Hmm, it didn't affect Nole's serving.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:24 PM

Gee what a pair of new lenses do Nole?

Lets hope these ones stay in for the whole match

Honestly????

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:24 PM

NP Whatever does it matter really

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:25 PM

judging by his next service game, those must have been some mighty fine contacts that Novak changed to.

Did we have a Taylor Dent/contacts scramble a year or so ago. My commies were trying to remember if it had ever happened before.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:26 PM

Love service game by Rafa

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:26 PM

Love game by Rafa. 5-all.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:26 PM

Love service game by Rafa there

Come on Rafa you know my thoughts on t/breaks

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:27 PM

Rafa really need to work on his ROS on hard court for this break (From the end of this week to before exo, around Dec 22). That should be the next big thing he could bring to AO next year. Just set up a ball machine in a angle and blast 140mph ball after ball.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:28 PM

Ugh...

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:28 PM

AM, just wanted to know exactly what happened, that's all.

Small opening for Rafa. 15-30.

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:29 PM

or so 'good' either...lol..

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:29 PM

NP By the look of it Nole got some dust or something in his eye?

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:29 PM

Ugh, Nole just DFed to give Rafa 2 BPs. Dumbass!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:30 PM

Rafa breaks there is some justice in the world lol!

Rafa will "try" to serve for the 1st set 6-5

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:30 PM

Uncle Toni and Maradona are in serious conversation. Wonder what they are talking about. 6-5 Rafa up a break and serving for the set. oh yeah.

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:31 PM

Novak digs hole and jumps in.

I think he will 'go away' a bit now..save himself for latter matches and DC. No one knows better than Novak how much it can take out of you to try and come back against Rafa once you are down. And the RR format gives him some strategic choices.

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:31 PM

And he just donated another pt!!!! Dumbass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AM, that's why contacts suck.

6-5, Rafa to serve for the 1st set.

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:32 PM

Aussiemarge - "There is no try!" - Yoda.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:33 PM

Crap Rafa this a similar thing what happened before you lost the first point on serve

Thinko okay

It would also help if you got a first serve in

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:34 PM

"There is no try!" - Yoda

Make that "No try there is!"

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:35 PM

CL Hmmmm

Gulps on 2nd bottle of whatever

Drugs arent working my body I feel is immuned to Valium

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:35 PM

So, Rafalites...are these 'new serves' from Rafa or 'old serves' or something in between?

Oohh.. i wonder if Novak does have a slightly scratched cornea?

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:35 PM

"There is no try!" - Yoda

Make that "No try there is!"

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:36 PM

rafa you took your eyes of that bloody ball at the net

Get a bloody first serve in

Of course the guy that cant see gets a b/point

DIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:36 PM

Oops, sorry for the double.

Nole's got a BP. Got kinda lucky there, with that moonpie just catching the baseline. Threw Rafa off rhythm.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:37 PM

COME ON... Ugh

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:38 PM

Another BP for Nole.

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:38 PM

And not just any moonpie...a miss hit to boot.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:38 PM

another b/point for Nole

Just give him the bloody match ,game title whatever

Rafa think

Okay not a bad point Rafa

deuce

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:39 PM

Odoit Rafa

Noles 100000000000000000000000000000000000 b/point

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl VAMOS RAFA WINNER OF ALL FOUR GRAND SLAMS) 11/24/2010 at 04:39 PM

i don't wear contacts, but i'll tell u sometimes your eyelashes rim bothers you and you can't stop picking at it , usually for me its a lash thats lost its battle to gravity, sometimes its just a little beed that forms where the eyelash was plucked out too harshly and that hurts best to stop touching until it goes away!

but anyhoo back to tennis and rafa is way too distracted by nole eye rubbing, still gotta love rafa do or die shots in icky situation,oh dear can't he get two of those in consecutively rafaaaaaeeellll....

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:39 PM

Too good there by Rafa. Deuce #2. But Rafa misses the tramline again just by a couple inches. BP #3 for Nole.

Posted by AO OPEN 11/24/2010 at 04:39 PM

UGHHHH!!!!!!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:40 PM

Okay I prefer your 2nd serves to your first

deuce

I am dying here Rafa ok

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/24/2010 at 04:40 PM

C'mon Rafa just serve this out already! Djoker is doing his best to help you here.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/24/2010 at 04:40 PM

Does Rafa actually want to win this match ?

Posted by NP 11/24/2010 at 04:41 PM

Nole dumps a CC BH into the net. Deuce.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/24/2010 at 04:41 PM

*FAINTS*

Ad to Rafa and set point

Closes eyes and keeps drinking

Posted by Master Ace 11/24/2010 at 04:42 PM

0-15 Rafael nets BH
15-15 Novak FH wide
Typical first set that takes over an hour to complete b/w these guys
30-15 Novak BH return long
30-30 Rafael gets to drop shot then get to CC shot but nets volley
30-40 Rafael nets BH
Novak 1/2 BP(Rafael 2/6)
40-40 Novak nets BH
40-A Rafael FH wide - Rafael challenges but to no avail
40-40 Rafael with effective angled FH that stretched Novak wide on FH reply
40-A Rafael FH long
40-40 Novak BH wide after Rafael drives FH
A-40 Novak FH long
Rafael takes the set 7-5 as Novak nets FH return

Posted by CL 11/24/2010 at 04:42 PM

A very good point by Novak..right up to that last shot. He keeps trying to give up this set, but Rafa won't quite take it..until Noval hands it to him on a big miss platter.

Show of hands - how many think Novak will retire from this match?

Posted by Master Ace 11/24/2010 at 04:43 PM

11-14 Rafael 12-20 Novak W/UFEs

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