Sunday, January 28, 2007

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression...something Gonzalez now knows..

I'm still bleary eyed from being up all night -or should I say I awoke very early this morning, as I was left with the unenviable task of debating which was preferable - staying up all night and then going to bed around 6 after the match or going to bed early and just staying up? I opted for something in between which proved to be foolish as it left me little sleep on either end of the final) so I'll make this entry short which as it turns out is appropriate as Federer once again failed to provide significant drama in his resounding victory for his 10th Grand Slam title.

If Federer is going to be beaten - especially by someone without the surname Nadal - one has to keep the pressure on early and play fearless tennis. Fernando Gonzalez has played in such a manner all tournament and it yielded him two set points in the first stanza against Roger, on his terrific serve. But no matter how how well Gonzalez had played in Melbourne up to this point, competing in a final against Federer creates tension and nervousness that one can't hope to prepare for.

Gonzalez was clearly rattled on the second set point as he lined up what should have been a relatively easy forehand winner but he swung too hard - perhaps wary of seeing the swift Federer already moving into posoitoin - when just a solid stroking of the yellow orb would have been enough, and the ball fell limply into the net. After that point, the outcome was never in doubt.

This is how it almost always is with Federer; an opponent has an early chance to put pressure on, take the lead and force Federer to play from behind which he is not accustomed to. But the balance shifted with Gonzalez' confidence going down and Federer's skyrocketing and the die was cast.

Gonzalez started slicing his backhand more, forgoing the offensive, flat drives he had so successfully played in his previous matches and court positioning was also one of retreat, standing several feet behind the baseline whereas in the first set he was stepping into the court, as he had all tournament long.

As the television commentators, especially Mary Carillo and Dick Enberg, tell the viewer all the time one runs out of pages in the thesaurus when trying to describe the Swiss star's level of play. So I will refrain from raining superlatives. And while I'm briefly on the topic of commentators, while ESPN did a fairly decent job all around, the constant chatter is tiresome which is why watching tennis late at night with the volume low is one of the benefits of Australian Open tennis viewing here in Gotham.