Tomas, as usual, beat me to the punch with the synthesizers, so I’ll just provide the Will Smith.
Rafa’s not scheduled to play until Saturday night, but as is typical, he’s keeping busy in the interim. He went “blue suit” (sans tie) at the players’ party on Tuesday.
Sony Open Tennis (@SonyOpenTennis) March 19, 2014
marc lopez tarres (@marclopeztarres) March 19, 2014
Yesterday, he practiced with David Ferrer. Word on the Twitter (and in fact, from the Rafa, below) is that Rafa lost a practice set, 6-7, which has ignited some concern. As I recall, however, the commentators in Rio revealed that Rafa had in fact lost a practice set to Pere Riba while there, so losing to Ferrer in a TB is actually a substantial improvement.
Yesterday evening, Rafa played the world in poker while being interviewed by poker player Daniel Negreanu. This was a fun set-up and it was nice to see Rafa in a relaxed setting, talking one-on-one with someone who is a professional “athlete,” so to speak, but not involved in tennis, and trying to concentrate on both the poker game and the conversation simultaneously, with varying degrees of success.
Among many interesting tidbits (Negreanu’s giddy disclosure that he grew up next door to Daniel Nestor was particularly amusing), Rafa alludes to his funk, i.e. losing “too early” in IW, and also sounded sad when talking about his back injury and his missed opportunity for the 14th Major, which may or may not be related to the funk (although I maintain the funk was kind of present even in Doha and early rounds of the AO, with the patchy play and struggles against players he normally wouldn’t struggle against). Obviously it’s understandable that Rafa is/was/will always be disappointed by what happened in Australia, but at the same time, (and as he says), it’s just part of the sport, and really, life–it’s akin to someone coming down with laryngitis before their big solo performance, or getting stuck in traffic on the way to a dream job interview, or other situations in which important opportunities are thwarted by bad timing of illness, injuries, and other accidents/unforeseen circumstances. It sucks. But it happens, and there’s no point in dwelling. And the good news for Rafa is that he has the opportunity to create more opportunities, as daunting as that prospect can seem after working so hard to create an opportunity and then missing the opportunity. Opportunity. But that’s what champions, or at least multi multi Major champions, do (in addition to drinking responsibly).
Finally, I am going to talk about the IW final now because everyone knows the best post-match analyses come four days later. I did watch the match, or most of it. I thought it was pretty good, quality-wise, and ostensibly exciting, and yet, paradoxically, also somewhat predictable: Djokovic sulked through the first set as Federer reaped the benefits of that and of being, to steal poker guy’s term, Mr. Agresivo; Djokovic finally ambled into the match midway through the second set and casually won it as Mr. Agresivo began his inevitable transformation into Mr. Errorivo (admittedly, that doesn’t have the same ring); Djokovic looked to be on track to win the third, and the match, in routine fashion, but then didn’t, but then kind of did anyway (7-3 in the TB) and then barely celebrated (where was that restraint in Australia in 2012??). So in short: Federer is still good, but not good enough; Djokovic is still inconsistent and not nearly as good as he used to be, but still consistent and good enough to beat Federer in big matches (obviously Federer did beat Djokovic in the Dubai semis a few weeks back, but I do think a Masters final is a different animal, motivation/will/care/pressure-wise, than a 500 semi). So again, exciting, and yet, not.
Also, Federer’s position right now is a bit strange to me. It’s like he’s the star of some sort of Roger Federer Appreciation Tour rather than a hard-nosed competitor on the actual ATP World Tour. Of course I understand that he has millions of fans and they’re excited to see him playing, and playing well, but the press is in on it too lately, overwhelmingly and even moreso than in the past (as impossible as that might seem), implying and at times outright demanding that every tennis fan in the land appreciate Roger Federer because he is amazing and we are very lucky that he exists and who cares what he does or doesn’t do or wins or doesn’t win just the idea of him potentially winning anything is amazing because he is amazing APPRECIATE HIM. It’s rather discomfiting, and insulting/off-puttingly presumptuous, this insistence. There’s also Roger, who’s never exactly been lacking in the self-appreciation department in the first place, but who has seemed even more self-appreciative than usual lately (#selfiebinge) and who oddly, to me at least, looked happy as a clam after losing an important and winnable match that his opponent tried to choke away. Of course I understand he’s excited to be playing well and feeling healthy again, and of course it’s important to be a gracious loser, but I would have expected a little bit more disappointment from him, from a competitive standpoint. The goal is to win after all, not just be appreciated and appreciate oneself and one’s sport. But apparently the appreciation was enough.
I changed my mind. Cue synth!