Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bawl boy

My favourite quote of the day comes from the comments space on the TennisWorld blog, after the unheralded (and unheard of) world number 137 Ruben Hidalgo threw away a 5-1 lead – along with a priceless, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to beat Roger Federer – in the final set of a Monte Carlo Masters match:

“Hidalgo will sleep like a baby tonight. He will wake up crying every two hours.”

Harsh but true. I was scoreboard-watching the match (saw the repeat later) while following the TennisWorld discussion, and it was an escape to beat all escapes – lots of credit to Federer, of course, but he almost certainly wouldn’t have got out of that situation if he had been facing even a slightly more experienced player. It was one of those familiar, and cruel, sporting moments. Hidalgo was playing with freedom and confidence for most of the final set – right up to the moment where he was just two points away from the match. In sight of the biggest achievement of his life, the freakish enormity of what he was about to do must have sunk in. “I’m going to beat Roger Federer!” he must have thought to himself, and off he went on a walkabout. He’ll still have a good story to tell his grandkids 40 years from now, but it won’t have the ending he would have wanted.

(The European clay season is finally underway. I’m nervous because this should be the year that Rafa finally loses some of his unreal dominance on the surface, especially given the number of points he has to defend and how packed the schedule is. But Vamos! anyway.)


  1. is Federer on the decline ?
    His performances have not been as good as earlier and has suffered a number of defeats
    What do you think ?

  2. Anon: he's definitely declined relative to his own ridiculously high standards of the past few years, but I don't think there's much cause for alarm for Federer fans. More than anything, this is a testament to the unreal level of his earlier performances: if Pete Sampras during his prime had had a season like Federer has had in 2008 so far, there would have been very few eyebrows raised.

    As a Nadal fan, I'm more worried that Federer will work his way out of his mini-slump around the time the French Open takes place!

  3. It's Federer vs Nadal in the Monte Carlo final for third straight year. I guess the Djokovics and Davydenkos, despite their early triumphs this year, will have to wait a little longer to be the tsars of tennis.

  4. Empress of Blandings: can't tell you how relieved I am, after all these weeks of Rafa producing consistently excellent results but failing to close out tournaments. Was very tense about his slump in finals. He still has a cruel number of points to defend this season (coupled with the ATP's madness in shortening the clay season because of some stupid American college basketball), but I'm not as worried about him now.