So I went to bed at 2. I got up at 5:30. I feel kind of floaty and hazy and squinty and smooshed and I’m sweating a little bit (hopefully?) from too much coffee. I spent an inordinate amount of time this morning rifling through drawers and hampers, repeatedly asking if anyone had seen my pants, even though I was alone, before giving up and electing to wear leggings instead, which yes I seem to be suggesting are not actually pants even though I generally am firmly on the side of the “leggings are definitely pants” side of the great “Are leggings pants?” debate. (They’re totally pants. They were pants when I was 11 and they had stirrups and I had a green pair that I wore with a green shirt and brown ankle boots that in retrospect made me look a little like I was auditioning for Peter Pan, and also I had a pink pair which I wore with a pink silk blouse and a crochet vest because I knew even then if you’re not wearing mostly pink from head to toe, you’re not really living. And they’re pants now, even though yes, it was a little weird at first purchasing pants that are basically the same pants I wore when I was a kid and at first I was like, is this even allowed? and then I realized, yes, yes it is.)
I have a lot of thoughts and thoughts and thoughts and yet can’t find quite properly words the them articulate fashion clear in. Words have maybe jumbled but I or the they’re. Time I by irrelevant all be will unjumble the them they old and news day new started have and will anyways! Fun is this!
So, in short: The Australian Open has begun!
Also so–it’s been a while. Or, as Staind tried to claim in 2001, awhile.
Oh. That’s an actual word. How was I supposed to know? It’s not like the English language is my professional specialty or anything. *humming loudly* (although it still should have been a while, by my calculations, which granted I’m not feeling that confident about right now.)
Much like Rafa has proclaimed to feel in regards to his tennis, I am feeling a little rusty, a little lacking in the rhythm, in regards to my blogging. Which part of my blogging game is going well right now? Nothing. I mean, I just referenced Staind. And have used the phrase “in regards to” twice. And opened the post with an extended discussion of leggings. And included a paragraph of literal nonsense. I’m not saying my posts before my hiatus of late were all spectacular–probably only about 99.78% or so–but as Rafa has said in regards to tennis and despite the fact that I have at times expressed disapproval of such expression because I feel like he sometimes puts too many constraints on playing well and he needs to get better at just going out and playing well instead of needing x y z lmnop all to be present to play well, because that’s just not a realistic expectation, and to his enormous credit and to my substantial delight, he did exactly that–i.e. just went out there and played well–last night, but anyway, it does turn out he has a point, i.e. the more/more regularly/more patternistically you do something, the easier and more automatic and natural it becomes, and when you break the pattern, things are a lot harder upon return. So much like Rafa, I would be lying if I said I thought I was a favorite to win the AO Blogging Tournament, which is definitely a real thing, at this point in time. If I am here on the blog in one week, maybe I will say another thing because will have the feeling that I’ve written a few posts, and if I’m able to win a couple of posts, then probably I will have little bit more rhythm, I will have more confidence, and then I’ll probably just go ahead and win the whole thing because let’s face it, I only have one AO Blogging Tournament title, and I really should have like, four, except I pulled my groin that one time, and then I hit the tape with that passing shot, and then I had that immobilizing back injury. (Blogging is a lot more physically demanding than one would think.)
Of course now that I’m typing, ostensibly mostly to
gush over recap Rafa’s first round match against Youzhny last night, I’m feeling a little disoriented, because I missed the end of the season and the very beginning of the season here, and I do have some regrets about that and feel like I’m not quite ready to move on. For example, I feel like I still want to just slide in a mention of how the men’s 2014 French Open final was unfairly left off a lot of the year-end lists which is a shame because it was actually a really good match, suspense/drama-wise, the whole way through, and quality-wise, mostly through, and even when it wasn’t quality-wise, the drama made up for it, and seriously, it was a good match. Great points, good hitting. Two relatively evenly-matched players who both really, really, really wanted to win. Both visibly struggling both physically and mentally at times and both visibly struggling to overcome the mental burdens of the physical burdens and the physical burdens of the mental burdens and it was very very special. And, as I highlighted back in June, based on the statistical measures typically applied to judge the goodness or badness of a match (which don’t even take into account the extra, significant bonus the match got due to its relative import/all that was “at stake,” etc.), it was a strong match, and in fact stronger than the women’s French Open final, which was universally considered great. So I’m just saying. French Open men’s final. Great match. Amazing moment for Rafa, yes, but also in the history of the sport, and, I would argue, sport. Got a little overlooked. Deserved a little more recognition. thank you.
So Rafa played Mikhail Youzhny last night. This morning. Yesterday afternoon. When I first saw the draw, saw that Rafa’s first round opponent would be a former world #8 who had beaten him four times, including once at a Major (granted he did go 18-23 last year and lost to world #171 Nikoloz Basilashvili in straights in the first round of Doha) I was a little
horrified concerned. But then, the more I thought about it, the less bad it seemed. Youzhny is not that tall, he doesn’t have a huge serve, Rafa is super-familiar with his game, and that game is a game that Rafa likes, overall–i.e. long rallies from the baseline. So while it was a dangerous match, sure, pretty much all matches are dangerous for Rafa these days anyways. “Safe” matches–i.e. those against guys outside of the top 100, or teenagers, or short guys, or one-handed backhanders–aren’t safe anymore. Everything is dangerous. The only possible opponent I wasn’t that worried about was Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, and then I remembered he broke Rafa’s serve when they played in Acapulco in ’13, and so he was dangerous too. So when everyone is dangerous, no one is dangerous, and of all the no ones to be dangerous, it’s better it’s a no one who is someone Rafa knows, you know? Yeah.
So how did Rafa play? He played strong. He played solid. He played clean. He played smart. (2015 is the year of using adjectives to modify verbs.) He didn’t win a point for five points. Then he won a point. And then it was on. Like Rafa Kong.
Okay, so maybe not like, full Rafa Kong, but there was definitely some hints of Kong-ness here and there, some passing shots that should probably be illegal, some volleys that should have landed Rafa in jail. Mostly, though, again, it was just incredibly, resoundingly solid, steady, clean, uncomplicated, more exciting than business-like but essentially business-like, and other words that mean roughly those things. Rafa served and returned well, made very few unforced errors, hit the balls where they needed to be hit, how they needed to be hit, kept his energy high and even but calm but focused throughout the entire match, and looked like a guy who’s like, really good at tennis. Yes, Youzhny got tired (granted, that was in part because Rafa wore him down) and put up less and less resistance as the match went on (save for a small surge in the third set, after which Rafa wisely upped his own intensity so as not to lose control of the match), but he’s still a quality player himself and for Rafa to beat him the way he did means something good.
Of course after this impressive performance, a lot of the naysayers and detractors and enthusiastic senders of Tweets à la “the average combined ranking of the last 10 players who have beaten Rafa while wearing polyester shirts when the relative humidity was over 48% but no less than 55% and a cloud shaped like a puppy dog sitting on top of a stack of books floated through the sky is 1,056.” following his loss to Berrer all of a sudden are like, “Rafa’s back!” which is ridiculous. It’s “RAFA’S BACK!,” clearly.
But seriously, one match, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t mean that much. It’s a great start, but that’s all it is. A start. An encouraging start, but a start. A really wonderful start that reminds you–this guy! This guy is that guy! The guy who’s like an embodiment of kinetic energy and pop and spark and intensity on the tennis court and then he takes off his headband and shakes out his hair and grins with his whole face and makes a joke about his party shorts. This guy.
But still, a start. It’s really hard to predict if and how Rafa’s form will hold up/continue to improve if/as he progresses through the tournament and meets tougher and tougher competition because, as he continues to emphasize, he simply hasn’t played many matches recently. I can see Rafa winning/having won in the first round and everyone relaxing and then Rafa regressing a bit and going and losing in the second or third round. I can see Rafa winning up until the quarter or semi and then getting run over. I can see Rafa winning up until the final and then getting run over. I can see Rafa winning up until the final and not getting run over but not winning. I can see Rafa getting injured, because unfortunately that’s been the norm for him in general and especially in Australia most of the past few years and so I can never not think of it as a possibility. I can see Rafa just winning. (That’s obviously my favorite see.) And just in general, I can see Rafa very well, because he’s wearing hot pink (or pink pow, to be exact). Because he knows! Because he’s living.