Monday 8 September 2014

The King Is Dead: The New Guard!

While following the U.S. Open 2014 Grand Slam (GS) semi-finals on Saturday I flipped from a state of ecstatic surprise to beyond utter dismay and disgust! No I am not "bi-polar" labelled throughput of gutter social workers, or given to fickleness and mood-swings. The late evening disgusted mood was caused by Roger Federer's defeat to Marin Cilic. The latter player and US Open No.2 seed whom I venerate(d) as Royalty of tennis, moreover as the tennis world's current King, was the bane of my evening.  My stubborn refusal to accept that "The King is Dead" from Federer's lack of titles (ie 1 grandslam from finals), was finally delivered its death knell on Saturday!

My initial euphoria  stemmed from the first of the semi-final matches on "Super Semi Saturday". The conquering of World No.1 Novak "Nole" Djokovic by an Asian from Japan and U.S. Open top-10 seed Kei Nishikori was indeed historic, and deserved my elated awe struck feelings about a surprise win. At the time of the match I was out to dinner in central London with a group of friends (see pic below to remember Super SF Saturday), which included both a Japanese and Taiwanese ladies, and following the match results on "Live Scores" on Tennis.Com (not point-by-point coverage though!)  Due to my not religiously following tennis these days I had not realised that the former Asian-heritage legend Michael Chang (1989 French Open Champion defeating Stefan Edberg in the Final) was Nishikori's tennis coach. Just in case my alluded references are not joined-up in the reader's head: Chang is a America New Jersey-born son of Taiwanese immigrants. The other mentioned legend Edberg is of course Federer's current coach.
Friends with National Interest in Nishikori's
As I write this Monday morning and reading some headlines LineBallTennis (LBT) - Clapham & District are hailing that the King is Dead and that the Changing of the Guard is truly ONLY NOW underway. 

Previous instances of players breaking through for the majors "Grand  Slam" finals included our own Andrew Murray (or conceivably on 18th September to be independent Scotland's "own") and Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka. Other than these two breakthrough instances the triumvirate of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic have won 33 of the 35 Grand Slams up to this year's opening 'Slam' The Australian, which was won by Wawrinka. The other 2 slams were won by yo-yo Mr Murray. The last time these three top players were missing from a GS final was at the 2005 Australian Open when Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt.   

During Wimbledon this year I tweeted my neighbourhood TV presenter and former British No.1 Andrew Castle @AndrewCastle63 to dismiss his commentary about the "changing of the guard". At that time of the year, 1st week of July, the would-be GS gatecrashers were Ernests Gulbis, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. They had all reached the semifinals of GSs for the first time that year. I additionally mentioned Cilic in the 'new guard' in my tweet!  (@AndrewCastle63: who's the pundit and who deserves a guest-slot gig on TV!)

After Federer's tame defeat to Cilic - without wishing take anything away from the 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters) contemporary and countryman of Goran Ivanisevic (defeated Tim Henman to win Wimbledon in 2001) - here is why LBT prounce the death of the King of Tennis.The press interview reflected a character who simply cannot handle the mental pressures of the physical chess game any longer. He is no longer the brash youth with unbound natural self-belief. He has slipped at the final and penultimate hurdles of GSs far too often, and this last time is pathetically inexcusable. Yet Federer finds many reasons / excuses for having lost in his post-match press interviews quoted in the papers, which LBT analyse below: 

''It's fairly simple, I think: Marin played great and I maybe didn't catch my best day. That's pretty much it in a nutshell.'' Federer at U.S. Open 2014 post-match interview

This is not the sorrowful regretful post-mortem comment I expect to hear from an experienced record GS winning champion after losing an increasingly rare chance of more honours. Federer's whinging that "...I maybe didn't catch my best day" is insincere and lacks humility for the opponent; after knowing full well that these GS occasions are the matches all top players live to play.  Especially Federer in aiming to become an undisputed all-time champion. Djokovic's reaction after his equally sensational defeat was more sincere and self-deprecating: "Just wasn't myself".

The reason LBT write-off Federer's chances to add to his record 18 GS trophy tally is that he unprofessionally threw away his best chance away.  Federer was probably feeling invincible after a narrow escape against Frenchman Gael Monfils in the previous round, when he was 2-0 sets down and having saved 2 match points, to win through to the semi-final. Further complacency about the Cilic semi-final encounter may have crept in when Federer discovered that his opponent in the final would be Nishikori, and not the marginally superior nemesis Djokovic. As a fan of Federer, who believed his close GS matches in recent years against Nadal and Djokovic still held him in contention for further GS victories. My exasperation with his efforts at this hurdle sees a heart of a blubberer waning champion

Federer's analysis of Cilic that  ''...he played with no fear...'' reveals ultimately his own personal psychological weaknesses in certain pressure situations we strongly believe. Now I am going to watch a Japanese inclusion in the world elite hall of tennis fame. [ Editor Time-stamp: 10pm U.K.]